VETERAN Eduardo Buenavista and Cebu’s Mary Joy Tabal emerged as the ”King and Queen” of the 37th Milo National Marathon Finals on Sunday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) ground in Pasay City.
The 35-year-old Buenavista of Sto. Nino, South Cotabato topped the men’s Local category with a time of 2:27:14 while first time winner Tabal clocked 2:48:00 to become the top Filipino finisher in the 42-km race.
For his fate, the diminutive Bautista earned P150,000 for being the top Filipino finisher while the 24-year-old Tabal brought home P250,000 for placing runner-up in the Women’s Open category.
Both Buenavista and Tabal will be representing the country in the Paris, France International Open Marathon in April.
The 24-year-old Tabal, a third-place finisher in 2012, gained an added bonus of P20,000 for breaking the previous event record of 2:48:06 set by Jho-Ann Banayag in 2006.
”I was not really expecting it. I was very surprised when I learned that I shattered the old record of Jho-Ann [Banayag],” said Tabal, a Masters in Public Administration student at the Southwestern University in Cebu City.
She was leading the field at the start of the race in MOA ground but could not sustain her speed that allowed Kenyan Margaret Njuguna tobreakaway midway along McKinnley Hill at the Fort in Taguig City. The petite Tabal crossed the finish line more than a kilometer behind Kenyan Njuguna.
Njuguna posted 2:42:18 to rule the women’s Open category and received P300,000 top purse while third finisher and last year’s winner Mary Grace de los Santos of Zamboanga settled for third with 2:54:27 and brought home P200,000 plus trophy.
”I was with the Kenyans in the first 20 kilometers. But, they broke away along Kalayaan Road in Tagig City. I could not really catch-up with them anymore.
They were so fast,” said Buenavista, who was supposedly a part of the Team Philippines to see action in the 2013Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar but was removed from the list at the last minute by the coaching staff.
”This victory at least proved that I deserve to be in the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games. I really wanted to win this race to prove my point. I am not yet fading,” added Buenavista, a bronze medalist in the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia and gold medalist in marathon in the 2009 Laos Games.
As expected Kenyans Joshpat Kiptanui Chobei timed 2:18:23 , James Tallam clocked 2:18:41 and Alex Melly settled with 2:22:26 for a 1-2-3 finish in the Open category.
Their effort at least gained them a whooping P300,000, P250,000 and P200,000 cash prizes plus trophy respectively.
Milo Sports Executive Andrew Neri said that a total of 26,681 runners participated in the 37th edition, which was more than the targeted 20,000.
”Last year, there were 214,000 participants throughout the country but this year we have 220,000 runners,” said Neri.