LAPU-LAPU City, Cebu – More than just a spectacle to a grueling race, barefoot running diva Fritz Labastida aspires to be an inspiration to many.
Part of the Fabulous Running Divas, the 35-year-old Labastida began running in 2009 and hasn't stopped turning events into eye-catching affairs with his colorful self-made gowns.
The Leyte-born runner finds comfort and joy in the physically and psychologically demanding sport.
“Sobrang saya lalo na kapag nakaka-inspire ka ng mga tao,” Labastida told SPIN Life. “Kasi ‘di ba stressed na ako sa trabaho, tapos sa family rin, so kapag tumatakbo ako sobrang saya kasi ibang mundo na. Doon ako nagiging happy para sa sarili ko.”
Last Sunday, Labastida graced the Ironman 70.3 at Shangri-La Mactan with his presence as a member of the Team We Can Tri in relay. He finished the race course in two hours, 12 minutes, and 10 seconds.
Spectators, as well as fellow participants, smiled whenever he would pass by them during the race, and for Labastida, that’s all he wants – a positive expression even for a few seconds.
He said, “Oo naman. Sa amin kasing mga runners, ang laking bagay na papalakpak sila pag dadaan kami. Ang sarap kasi, halimbawa, may mga times kasi na iniisip namin kung kaya ba namin tapusin ‘to. Makita lang namin na napapa-smile sila kapag dadaan kami, ang laking bagay na noon.”
Many people marvel at Labastida's skill despite running barefoot since 2016. He revealed that his unique style stemmed from the fact that he couldn't afford trainers when he was just starting out. “Since ako ang breadwinner of the family, mas importante sa akin ‘yung family ko.”
He credits his tip-top conditioning to an active lifestyle. The inventory officer rides his bike to and from work in Cubao, Quezon City every day. This also allows Labastida to cut on transportation costs and split his payday savings for his parents in Leyte and household bills.
“Mahirap siya, kasi itong amount na ito ang ipapadala ko, tapos minsan ako pala nauubusan na rin kasi napapadala ko na lahat doon sa kanila. Nauubusan din ako ng pambayad sa upa, sa pang-araw araw na gastos ko,” he said.
Good thing most of his costumes were bought at a flea market for as low as P20. He simply lets his creativity run wild when personalizing his outfits.
As much as he wants to radiate happiness wherever he goes, Labastida’s life isn’t as colorful as his costumes and crown. He knows that he can’t please everybody.
“Maraming mga diskusyon sa daan kasi andyan ‘yung discrimination," he said. "Maririnig mo may sinasabi sila na hindi maganda. Masakit din pero kilala ko naman ang sarili ko, I have to be strong and confident.”
Despite the harsh comments, the race must always go on for Labastida.
“‘Yung pagtakbo ko marami akong napapasaya, lalo na kapag naka-costume ako,” he said. “Mas marami ‘yung napapasaya kaysa sa [naiinis]. Ganyan lang talaga ang life, kaya dapat go, go, go lang.”