These triathletes come from all walks of life but everyone has something in common with each other

The Philippines will finally host its first Ironman on June 3 in Subic Bay. Which means Filipino triathletes now have the opportunity to join a full distance race on home soil. With only over 300 Filipino triathletes completing an Ironman, it’s a testament to how tough the swim (3.86 kilometer), bike (180.25 kilometer), and run (42.2 kilometer) event is. But here’s the encouraging part, Ironman finishers come from all walks of life. Here are stories of five people who’ve put in the work and finished a full-distance triathlon.


Vanj Endaya, 45, Executive

Vanj Endaya first earned her Ironman badge in Langkawi, Malaysia in 2014. Her second successful attempt was last September in Barcelona, Spain. “Just the thought of crossing the line after so many hours, with the emcee stating ‘You are an Ironman!’ gave me immense satisfaction,” she says. Her game plan: Maintain a steady and sustainable pace throughout the entire race, and avoid the desire to push ahead. “The feeling is indescribable. It was a combination of euphoria, exhaustion, relief, and I think a little sadness that it was over.” After crossing the finish line, the knowledge that her body was capable of much more shifted her attitude towards facing daily challenges—from “I can’t” to “I will.”


Jay Jacinto, 40, Priest

A priest from Naga City, Jay Jacinto earned his Ironman badge in Melbourne, Australia in 2014 at the age of 37. He saw it as part of fulfilling his religious vocation. “By finishing the race, I wanted to help people understand what it’s like to be a priest. I wanted to show that priests can also have fun and live an active and healthy lifestyle,” says Jacinto. Regular training and following a meal plan was tough with Jacinto’s unpredictable schedule. But thanks to encouragement from his peers, he pushed on.   Jacinto recounts nearly quitting a day before the race. “While celebrating mass a day before the race, I prayed to God for courage, and during the Holy Communion the choir sung one of my favorite songs “Be Not Afraid,” giving me the response I was asking for.”


Gianluca Guidicelli, 56, Businessman

The father of actor Matteo Guidicelli is proof that age is just a number. Guidicelli was 52 years old when he completed his first Ironman in 2014. “Since I started in 2010, I knew I’ve always wanted to do an Ironman. I wanted to be ready and it took me four years.” His three children Paolo, Giorgia, and Matteo are all into the sport and are actively competing as part of Team Ford Forza. “We are very much into living an active lifestyle. We train every day and share the joy of it with our family and teammates,” he says. His advice to new triathletes? “Take your time in preparing for the race, the right time will come if you’re ready for it.”


Ani De Leon-Brown, 43, Philippine National Triathlon Coach

A pioneer and fixture in local triathlon, Ani De Leon-Brown has completed 12 Ironman races. She made headlines recently for finishing the holy grail of Ironman races—the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii last year. Aside from her duties as national triathlon coach, De Leon-Brown is also a mom. She was able to complete Ironman 70.3 in Singapore and Ironman Australia just months after giving birth. While she doubted herself, she carried on with training. She had no illusions of being competitive but merely wanted to achieve her goal. When asked if it gets any easier as she notched more races, De Leon-Brown says “ It definitely doesn’t get easier. But you learn more each time.“


Robert Jonah Rivera, 52, Manager

The dream of becoming an Ironman seemed impossible for Robert Jonah Rivera. He once weighed 220 pounds and was unable to run three kilometers continuously. But three years after getting fitter and getting into triathlon, Rivera wanted to test his limits. “I was training every day for six months. It’s hard yet you feel a good sense of satisfaction whenever you’re done for the day. It drives you to improve,” Rivera says. He is also a testament to getting by with the help of friends—something that happened during his Ironman race.  “I saw my buddy Joey Marcelo at T2 and we ran together. We pushed each other, crossing the finish line after 13 hours and 31 minutes.” His advice to aspiring Ironmen is to be prepared. “You need to be wholeheartedly committed to training and finishing the race. Join as many races as you can leading up to your first Ironman. It builds your confidence.”

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