Philippines' Louie Sangalang won't try to conquer the FWD North Pole marathon alone

MANILA, Philippines — Other than being the “World’s Coolest Marathon” and one of the most challenging races on the planet, what makes FWD North Pole Marathon truly unique is it does not put runner against runner. It tries to unite them. 

MANILA, Philippines — Other than being the “World’s Coolest Marathon” and one of the most challenging races on the planet, what makes FWD North Pole Marathon truly unique is it does not put runner against runner. It tries to unite them. Rather than fuel rivalry, it focuses on teamwork. There is no winning or losing, only finishing — in the face of such rough weather conditions.

Louie Sangalang, the Philippine representative to the FWD North Pole, understands well that the key to his success: #squadgoals from the preparation to the actual race.

The Philippine squad
In running the race, Sangalang has the support of his own special squad. He can learn from them, rely on for sound advice, and get much-needed support for his rigorous training and preparations.

Reaching for his #squadgoals are mountain climber Romi Garduce, international marathoner and family expert Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan and son Benjamin, triathlon icon Ani De Leon-Brown who will collaborate with Sangalang's personal trainor and coach Ige Lopez, and sports enthusiast Sam YG.

Garduce is not only one of the first Filipinos to climb Mt. Everest, he is the first Filipino to climb all seven summits in the world, spanning seven continents. His experience with surviving the grueling terrain and weather conditions in Tibet, among many others, is valuable in training Sangalang.

Finishing a marathon isn’t just about the physical conditions but also emotional and mental strength. Laxa-Pangilinan, with her extensive experience in joining marathons abroad, provides Sangalang and his family a different perspective on the North Pole run.

How else could she have nurtured and motivated her son Benjamin — who had open heart surgery when he was young — running and finishing marathons? For his part, Benjamin’s shared experience of “triumph over disabilities” with Sangalang highlights the importance of motivation and having that inner drive and purpose coming into the race.

Of course, one cannot discount the importance of physical preparation, which will be taken care of Lopez in collaboration with De Leon-Brown who will give her own insight to the squad. An icon in triathlon, De Leon-Brown is the driving force behind the silver and gold medals the country reaped in women’s triathlon from the past two Southeast Asian Games, as well as the Philippine contingent to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Training for a marathon does not have to be all sweat and timers. It can be fun, too. As a seasoned marathoner himself, it’s Sam YG’s role to keep the competitive juices flowing but, at the same time, keep it lighthearted and fun(ny) when he needs to.


Sangalang won’t be alone either when he leaves for the FWD North Pole Marathon this March. He will also have the support of the representatives of pan-Asian insurer FWD Life Insurance’s offices in Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Indonesia.

Joining FWD Philippines’ runner Sangalang in the epic race in the Arctic are Ben Scully and Todd Latta from FWD Group; GiKa Man, Chik Wing Keung, and visually-impaired runner Leung Siu Wai from Hong Kong; Fedi Fianto from Indonesia; Kyo Satini and J-Pop idol izu from Japan; Tang Nguyet Minh from Vietnam; and “Singapore’s Blade Runner” Shariff.

Together, they are set to conquer North Pole and to reach the finish line, not as competitors but as one team—#FWDTEAMASIA.  

Through #FWDTEAMASIA, the marathon aims to exemplify how the runners’ individual and cultural differences make the whole team stronger.

Change in training dynamic

Having a squad to support his training and a team he can depend on on the coldest race day of his life is a welcome change to Sangalang’s training dynamic.

Being a mix martial arts fighter and a triathlete, Sangalang is used to running and fighting on his own and for himself. “All those days spent alone in the hospital recovering from surgeries and radioactive treatments has taught me the art of meditation,” he says.

For over two months, he used his solitude as a means to meditate, not just to cope with stress and anxiety of battling cancer, but ultimately to survive.

“That kind of isolation trained me to be a stronger person, to a fault,” he says.

But running a race that requires not just fast legs but endurance, emotional toughness, presence of mind and survival skills, Sangalang needs all the support he can get.

And for the first time in his career as an athlete, he won’t be fighting alone.

FWD North Pole Marathon has been title-sponsored by pan-Asian insurer FWD Life Insurance since last year.

News Source: Phil Star