RIO DELA CRUZ for RUN UNITED
Hailing from Bato, Camarines Sur, Coach Rio is now one of the most popular personalities in Philippine sports. What Manny Pacquiao is to boxing, Rio dela Cruz is to running.
The youngest of 14 children, Rio was raised by his father with the support of his paternal grandparents in Bicol. He started running competitively when he was in the fifth grade. Running barefoot, not because of its scientific merits but because he had no rubber shoes, he beat everyone in the race. The school's coach signed him up and trained him for the 50-meter and 100-meter sprint, long jump and high jump events. He won first place and was hailed the Unit Meet Champion in all the events he joined.
Rio joined his first 5k race at the Milo Marathon in Quezon City with a finish time of 20 minutes. Eventually, he improved and beat his competitors during the division meet with a 19-minute finish time for 5k category.
When he was in grade school, his neighbor gifted him with a pair of Mighty Kid rubber shoes but they were too small so to make do with it rather than not having anything at all, he cut the front part to make room. After experiencing some running related injuries, he bought his first investment in the sports—a pair of Chuck Taylors. Not exactly made for running but Rio thought that the thick soles would make it last longer, making it a wise investment.
When he reached high school, balancing his studies and training without even enough money for food and transportation did not stop him from excelling in both. He simply found ways to cope.
Rio's future became brighter when he met the man who would support his running career. Boy Ramos, whom Rio fondly calls Kuya Boy, was impressed with his talent and offered him to stay in his house. Rio got out of the slums and also, finally, got his first pair of real running shoes.
Even while he was still in third year high school, Rio joined the training of the track and field team of UP Diliman and surprised everyone with his speed by beating older, more experienced runners. Coach Jay Sales of UP Varsity Track Team offered him a slot as soon as he entered college.
During his first year as a UP varsity athlete, he won the second place for both the 5k and 10k track events in UAAP with a finish time of 16 minutes and 34 minutes respectively. He was awarded the Rookie of the Year award on his freshman year.
And many years since then, Rio has achieved things, won accolades, accumulated many podium finishes and ran in the Boston Marathon 2010—considered as the ultimate racing event.