August Benedicto sprinted towards the finishers’ arch, seconds from completing all 70.3 miles of IronMan Mactan’s swim, bike, and run. As he came into view, his trademark grin, was nowhere in sight, the expression of pain on his face dispelling any notions of celebration.
Crossing the arch, the champion triathlete’s legs gave way from under him, sending him tumbling to the ground. Even as Benedicto’s lean form came to a stop just past the finish line, the crowd rose as one to see what had happened to the fallen champ.
“The left side of my chest was in pain,” Benedicto would tell PlayPH hours later, the result of a sudden stop on the bike section that collided his pectoral muscle with his handlebars. In the transition from bike to run, Benedicto could be seen stopping only to ice his chest at a hydration station in an attempt to soothe the pain.
Having come this far and refusing to give up, the veteran triathlete willed himself to keep moving forward, one painful step after another. The throbbing in his chest became so intense during the twenty-kilometer run, Benedicto said, “I think I did the last five kilometers from muscle memory.”
A native of Paniqui, Tarlac, August Benedicto grew up delivering thousands of kilos of ice a week on the family pedicab, with many of his trips taking place before it was time to head off to school. Encouraged by a teacher to take up sports after seeing him compete in a school event, the future triathlete champion found he had a talent, first for running, and, later on, cycling, long distances.
Having established himself as a marathon and duathlon competitor of some skill, it would be at the age of 24 that August Benedicto finally decided to take up swimming and try his hand at becoming a triathlete. From there, a stint on the national team led him to his current path as a consistent top Asian finisher in local and regional races. Today, August is widely recognized as the best in the Philippines.
And, despite having to force himself to continue, August was still able to finish this year’s IronMan 70.3 as the sixth Filipino overall.
Of course, it wasn’t all muscle memory.
“I thought of my family,” says August, wistful, his mind turning to thoughts of his wife and baby back home. “I thought of God, and I remembered all the people who support me. I couldn’t let them down.”
As August chatted with PlayPH on the beach, a mere stone’s throw from the IronMan gun start, there was no trace of bitterness in his voice, the result of a post-race phone call wherein his wife reminded him, “Even champions fall sometimes.”
At any rate, August said that he fully intended to do better in his next race. With the sound of crashing waves serving as backdrop, his message was clear: Even if champions fall, their greatest victories often lie in learning how to pick themselves back up again.
For more race results and information on upcoming events, visit: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/asiapac/ironman-70.3/philippines.aspx