Challenge completed!


Manny Sitchon, left, and Rommel Buenaflor, are among the early finishers of the virtual Go The Distance Challenge. (Contributed Photo)

Mission accomplished for Saipan residents who participated in the Go The Distance Challenge.

Veteran triathlete Manny Sitchon led the finishers list in the virtual races organized by Urban Fitness Guam after completing his “Ultimate Challenge,” which involved a 30-mile swim, 300-mile bike, and 100-mile run, last Sunday.

“I thought I have 5K run left, but I recounted by distance and found out I am done with the challenge last weekend. It’s perfect timing since it’s been raining this week, making it a bit more difficult to run or bike,” said Sitchon.

Though he completed the challenge with a nearly a full week to spare (participants must meet the distance of their respective events by the end of the month to complete the challenge), Sitchon admitted there were some hurdles along the way.

Manny Sitchon takes a selfie after his lunchbreak swim in the waters off Civic Center in Susupe. (Contributed Photo)

“The most challenging part was the swim leg because I had to swim at least one mile a day and most of the time, I can only do that during my lunch break from work. There were times that I could not swim on lunch break because the tide was low, so I needed to make adjustments with my schedule,” Sitchon said.

The Tagaman and XTERRA Saipan veteran added that the weather in the last two weeks have been challenging, especially when there were lightning and he felt it’s unsafe to swim in the open water.

Besides Sitchon, other Saipan finishers in the virtual event were Jean Bernardo, Roxanne Soriano, Sharon Abragan, Malou Carlos, Rommel Buenaflor, and Raymund Tolentino in the 100-mile race, Eric Abragan, Florence Antonio, and Buboy Aguilar in the 30-mile swim, and Willy Barbo and Mark Isip in the 300-mile bike. Ricky Castro, who helped coordinate the Go The Distance Challenge with CNMI participants, said about 98% of the around 40 Saipan participants completed and some even exceeded the distance required in their respective events.

Participants in the 100-mile run of the Go The Distance Challenge gather for a photo after their run at the Oleai Sports Complex. (Contributed Photo)

Bernardo finished her’s last Monday and although she also reached her goal early, it was not a walk in the park, especially for a runner like her, who is used to giving up easily to challenges.

“Every day was a battle—mind over body. But I made it because of my running buddies (Arlene Baguino, Jerin Alladin, and Soriano), who encouraged me to accept this challenge,” said Bernardo, who alternately runs along the pathway in Beach Road and at the Oleai Sports Complex’s track oval.

“This is definitely not my last. I want to continue running to stay active and healthy. I may not be fast, but I will get there. Cheers to more running!” Bernardo said.

Buenaflor was also an early finisher, completing the 100-mile run in nine days to give himself a belated birthday gift.

The pathway along Beach Road is the favorite route of runners who joined the Go The Distance Challenge. (Contributed Photo)

“My first target was to finish the race on my birthday, July 11, but I missed it because of schedule challenges,” said Buenaflor, who was not able to run every day and started to hit the road around 6pm.

The New York marathon participant had his longest run on his birthday though—a 20-plus mile course—which he completed in 4:14:47. He ran from the American Memorial Park to the former FEBC in Marpi, headed to Beach Road for a turnaround point across the Marianas Visitors Authority’s office in San Jose, and returned to AMP. Buenaflor then took a rest for two days after his birthday run and then completed the required distance last July 14 after running a little over seven miles.

Buenaflor hopes that the Go The Distance Challenge will inspire more runners, bikers, swimmers, and even those not active in sports, to go out and log some miles, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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