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Alaska Milk IronKids Philippines: Taking Longer Strides

This writer can attest to the evolution Alaska Milk IronKids Philippines has undergone, having covered several legs in the past 12 months. From a humble Sunday morning race for kids to a full-blown, well-received sporting event, the Alaska Milk IronKids series has established itself as one of the key training grounds for the country’s aspiring runners. More importantly, the fact that Alaska Milk IronKids presents itself as an opportunity for families to get together and strengthen their bonds has increased the event’s drawing power and appeal.

Ms. Blen Fernando, Alaska Milk Corp.’s Vice President for Marketing, recounts the motive behind the race’s conception almost a year ago.

“We thought that if there’s the Ironman Philippines series, there should also be a counterpart race for kids,” Ms. Fernando told The STAR. “As far as we in Alaska Milk are concerned, we don’t want to just stick to kids or their parents, but we want to put them together in one venue. This is the venue for that.”

A family event – this is what separates the IronKids series from your usual weekend sporting activity. Last Sunday, more than 200 kids and their families once again trooped to West Field of the famed Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park, Makati City, for another morning of intense but fun-filled competition.

Except the ever-increasing kid participation and crowd attendance, all the elements of Alaska Milk IronKids that made it a successful event – from the well-organized main races to the colorful fun booths at the sidelines – stayed the same. They are, after all, what distinguishes the Sunrise Events Inc.-organized series from other family-oriented events.

“It (Alaska Milk IronKids) is really based on world-class standards so if you go around, you’ll notice the difference and that it’s very organized,” added Ms. Fernando, who was also cheering the children at the sidelines with much enthusiasm. “We maintain excellent standards and we teach kids to compete fairly and honestly and help build their character.”

And compete the kids did. Fourteen-year-old Alex Ballester, who topped the 13 to 14 years old boys event, was seen trailing behind a fellow runner a few meters from the finish line when he started sprinting for an impressive first-place finish.

“My training paid off,” a beaming Ballester told this writer shortly after the awarding ceremonies. “It’s really fun out here because I get challenged by a lot of good runners.”

The son of multi-titled runner and Southeast Asian Games veteran Allan Ballester, Alex trains daily at UP Los Baños after his classes at Liceo de Los Baños High School in Los Baños, Laguna, where his family is based.

The battle-tested Allan likewise beamed with pride as he talked about his son’s accomplishment.

“In him, I saw myself especially when I was in the limelight during my running career,” Allan said.

“He can even top my accomplishments, and I’ll be here to guide him well,” added the older Ballester, who also expressed gratitude to Alaska Milk for providing them a platform to solidify their bond.

True enough, IronKids combines the intense atmosphere of a running competition and laid-back sidelines, with smaller kids seen spending time and enjoying Alaska Milk’s famous drink products at various fun booths that had been set up near the track oval. Other sponsors include Private Iris, Gatorade, McDonald’s, Soleus, Prudential Guarantee, Audi, Summit Mineral Water and Beach Hut.

“It was a struggle but in the end it was fun and was worth it,” said Natasha Consuelo Zobel De Ayala, who ruled the 13 to 14 years old girls race. The daughter of business tycoon Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Natasha, a perennial IronKids champion, said she has made lots of friends by joining the races.

While the kids ran their hearts out on the track, parents clicked away with their cameras while cheering for their children. Spotted on the packed crowd were IronKids mainstay parent Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan, whose daughter Emma Angelina placed third in the 13 to 14 years old girls category, and Palawan Gov. Baham Mitra.

In only its first year, the Alaska Milk IronKids series has already made its mark. The good thing is that it’s getting bigger, with Alaska Milk vowing to hold some races outside Metro Manila and draw more competitors from the masses.

“We had always hoped that it will become bigger every year. That’s the challenge: eventually, we might be able to go to Cebu or even Davao,” Ms. Fernando continued.

Speaking of branching out, the next Alaska Milk IronKids Run Race will be held at Enchanted Kingdom in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, on April 3.

Ms. Fernando said IronKids is heading toward the path blazed by the hugely successful Ironman 70.3 series, also organized by Sunrise Events.

“The Ironman has become very big on its third year. So Alaska Milk IronKids should go to the same direction,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”