John “Sting” Ray Onifa: The Pinoy Course Record Holder In 2019 UTMB’s CCC 101K Trail Race
I have never met and still not a friend on Facebook of this very talented mountain trail runner. Because of this outstanding and admirable finish at this year’s CCC 101K Race in Chamonix, France, he deserves to be featured in this blog for whatever purpose. It could be an inspiration to future elite runners or a good reference to others. (Note: Hopefully this will used as a reference to our Local and National News and printed media). But one thing is sure, he is now the BEST Pinoy Ultra Trail Runner for finishing the 2019 CCC 101K Race from Courmayeur, Italy to Chamonix, France with a Course Record Time (For Pinoys) of 12:36:11 hours finishing with a ranking of 33rd place out of 2,000 runners and top 30 runners in the Male Category. His Average Speed for the course is 7.9 kilometers per hour (which is basically my average Road Running Speed) considering that this is his first exposure in running bigger/higher mountains than he usually race in Southeast Asia where altitude and technical nature of the trails usually slow down runners coming from the sea level places.
Who is John “Sting” Ray Onifa? I bet that if you are more of an average Road Runner, you will never had the chance to meet him in person or read his name in local and national news or even meet him in the local and National MILO Marathon Events. Even the local trail runners in Luzon and Mindanao seldom would see this guy in more popular trail running events in the Cordilleras for the past years (except this year when he joined this year’s CMU). Except for the runners in Panay Island, he is well-known as a Road Runner and later on as an Ultra Marathon Runner having finished the local ultra races in Iloilo, Negros, and Antique. Later, he joined short distance trail running events within the area where he is from.
JR Onifa was born in Dao, Antique, now known as the Municipality of Tobias Fornier. Where is that place? Having been assigned in the Panay Island during my military days and visiting the Province of Antique almost every year for my Antique 100-Mile Endurance Run, it is my first time to know about the town. When I “googled” the name of the town, I found out that the municipality is located at the southernmost tip of Antique Province, way down south from the Capital Town of San Jose De Buenavista where my race usually starts. The town is bounded by mountains on the east and the sea on the west. You can “google” the name of the town for more details about the history and population data of the locality.
Due to the geography where he lives, JR Onifa was born in a poor family and ultimately earned his living through farming and fishing. I would suspect that he was able to complete his secondary education level only. For him to improve his life, he applied as a Candidate Soldier in the Philippine Army but he failed for three consecutive times to enter the service. How I wished I could had helped him during those times when he was trying to enter the military service. If he failed in the Neuro-Psychiatric Test (NP Screening), that is another story to deal with. To make things worse, his mother died and his father left the family. So, starting in 2015, he started running as part of his daily regimen while he was farming and fishing. Through his training, he became a well-known local runner when he won the local races in Antique and Iloilo, setting course records in every event.
It was on the early part of last year, 2018, when one of his friends who saw the elite running potential of JR Onifa started to ask for contributions and sponsorship through crowdsourcing for him to be exposed in international trail running events. His friend, Adonis Lloren aka LAGATAW was very successful in bringing JR Onifa to Thailand to compete in the The North Face (TNF) 50K Ultra Trail Race on February 3, 2018.
The result of the said race completely changed the life of JR Onifa. He won as Champion with an Official Time of 4:01:51 hours in the said race, his first International Ultra Trail Competition, beating the elite athletes of the famous The North Face Adventure Team of Hongkong to include the Team Leader and Director Ryan S Blair who placed 3rd Overall in the said event. Director Ryan Blair was so impressed about the performance of JR Onifa and after a brief interview with JR Onifa about his background, he immediately thought of getting JR Onifa as his new recruit to the Team. Five days after the event in Thailand, Director Ryan Blair posted on the Team’s Facebook Page that JR Onifa had signed in as a full-time member of the The North Face Adventure Team based in Hongkong. I can just imagine how Director Ryan Blair felt when he found out the living situation of JR Onifa in the Philippines knowing for a fact that Director Blair had never brought a new recruit or member to his team for the past three years. Since then, JR Onifa had been a popular trail runner in Hongkong. In March 2018, he was able to get his Working Visa in Hongkong and since then he had been training in Hongkong as well as winning those popular trail races in the area. Simply browse on the Facebook Page of the The North Face Adventure Team (Hongkong) to find out those races where JR Onifa landed on Podium Finishes as well as those incidents that he would be lost along the trail despite being ahead from all the rest on the first half of the course! (This is so familiar to most of those local elite trail runners whom I know!)
If Director Ryan S Blair would read this post, let me express my thanks to you for signing up JR Onifa to your ward of World Standard Elite Trail Runners. How I wish there are more people like you in my own country.
As of this writing, JR Onifa’s team mate Wong Ho Chung of Hongkong finished the UTMB 170K Trail Race in sixth place, highest ranking for an Asian Runner in the said event, with a time of 22:47:47 hours. This is his second time to finish UTMB where he was ranked as 38th Finisher with a time of 27:47:10 hours in the 2016 edition. He is awarded as the Hongkong’s 2019 Trail Runner of the Year.
Congratulations, Jay “Sting” Ray Onifa! You have put our National Colors again in the World of Ultra Trail Running Events. Keep up the good work and be good to your Team Members and Boss! At the young age of 29 years old, your career as a Professional Trail Runner is still starting. Be humble! I have the feeling that you will be standing the starting line at the 2020 UTMB/CCC 101K Trail Race again where you would proudly wave the Philippine Flag crossing the Finish Line as a Podium Finisher. I hope to see you soon in Hongkong!
(Note: Pictures Taken From The North Face Adventure Team Facebook Page)