Rio de la Cruz Running coach and race organizer, 32
“Growing up, my family lived in what was like the slums in the movie "Slumdog Millionaire". I didn’t have a computer, so I played Filipino outdoor games like tumbang preso, agawan base, and patintero. I’d also race against my friends. I’d insert my slippers through my arms and run barefoot. These games developed my running skills.
“I became competitive and driven because of my family background: We didn’t have money. We ate only twice a day. I said to myself, ‘Ayaw ko ng ganitong buhay.’ Then I saw the opportunity to improve my life through running. My goal was to be very good at it, so I could make it to the varsity team and not have to pay for my education. I eventually graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) with a degree in physical education.
“After college, I wanted to join the London marathon. I needed a lot of money for that, of course, so I decided to work and save for it. I had a corporate job but quit after five days.
“Then, my main direction changed: I wanted to organize my own fun run, an event that’s better than the ones I had joined. A month after my first, I organized another fun run, and then another the next month, until it became a weekly thing. At first, I did everything for the races by myself: marketing, logistics, and setup. All that hard work gave me feelings of fulfillment and achievement. I’d wake up every morning excited to organize a race.
“I also coached individuals. I got to know a lot of celebrities and CEOs, so my network expanded. My students really improved, and my reputation as a coach spread through word of mouth. I even had to choose between coaching and organizing events. But now, because other people are helping me organize races, I can still coach. I conduct free running clinics twice a week to de-stress.
“Kung naging maganda ang buhay ko noong bata ako, hindi siguro ganito ang magiging trabaho ko. For example, kumakatok ako noon sa mga kapitbahay para magtanong kung magpapatapon sila ng basura. Because of the hardships I experienced, I became business-minded. Also, because of running, I became disciplined and good at time management. Hindi hadlang ang kahirapan, as long as you have drive and a goal in life. At the same time, dapat wala kang inaapakang ibang tao.”