LONDON -- Rene Herrera didn’t quit even if getting the shame of being lapped, giving his last ounce of energy to get at the finish line in a brave stand that earned him a handshake from a local runner loved by all on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old Herrera made the sign of the cross and pointed to the sky once he crossed the finish during the first heat of the 5,000-meter event in the 30th London Games, spent from the effort of running 12-and-a-half laps around the Olympic Stadium against the finest in the world.
But the effort didn’t go unnoticed as no less than Mohammed Farah of Great Britain, the 10,000-m champion who is Rene’s idol in long-distance running, came to his side and embraced him as he was down on all fours.
“Parang nawala ang pagod ko nang tapikin ako sa balikat at sabihin yun,” said Herrera, smiling and joyful at the thought that no less than his idol ran to him to console him in his lowest moment.
Nobody expected him to win the heat given the depth of the field, but the Filipino veteran did achieve something which he aimed for going into the first of two heats to determine 14 finalist s— clock a new personal best.
And he got what he wished for.
Herrera clocked 14 minutes and 44.11 seconds, easily eclipsing the 14.51 he did in a victorious run in the 2011 Philippine National Games in Bacolod City last year and lessening the pain of a last-place finish among 21 runners in the heat.
The loss left BMX rider Danny Caluag as the last man standing for the embattled Team Philippines, which continued to resemble a family in mourning going into the closing days of the Games.
Caluag, son of a Filipino couple who migrated to the United States before he was born, was to see action in the seeding run of the BMX cycling event on Wednesday afternoon at the 6,000-seat track inside the Olympic Park.
As instructed by coach Joseph Sy, Herrera stayed at the tailend of the field and let the big guns do the fighting in front. In his heart, he knew running side by side with them would be a foolish thing to do.
So for the entire run of the punishing event, Herrera stayed at the rear, the gap separating him and the frontrunners getting bigger and wider with every lap.
Worse, Herrera was overtaken with less than two laps remaining by the leaders, who started to jockey for position for the wild, interesting drive for home.
Others would have just pulled over and quit.
But not Herrera, who persevered, egging himself on to go for another mile until he hit the tape, to the cheers of a crowd of around 60 thousand.
Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan won the heat in 13 minutes and 25.23 seconds behind a powerful run down the stretch while Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia triumphed in heat 2 in 13:15.15 to lead the finalists.
“Ang bilis ng pacing. Mauubos ka talaga. Pero pinilit ko talagang matapos at higitan ang personal best ko,” said Herrera, sweat dipping off his face after the race.
“Salamat naman at nakuha ko ang gusto ko. Masaya ako,” he added.