CEBU: Still grieving the passing of her father a day before, Mary Joy Tabal made history by winning her fifth straight crown in National Milo Marathon. She was the first runner to achieve the feat in the 41 editions of the tilt.
Tabal finished first in the 42-kilometer race that culminated inside the Cebu City Sports Complex with a time record of two hours, 58 minutes and one second.
It was perhaps the toughest race of her life because 19 hours before the start, Tabal received a phone call from her cousin informing her that her father died of pneumonia.
“Coming to this race, I know it’s hard, I don’t have sleep but I have to finish the race no matter what will be the outcome. My promise is just to finish this race and I know he will be happy getting this achievement today,” the 28-year old Olympian narrated in tears.
She thought of withdrawing from the race but opted to compete to honor her father.
“Part of me decided not to compete anymore because it’s too painful to run. I haven’t seen him since I got back from Italy last Tuesday. I was planning to visit him but I called and he told me to just see him after the race – ‘Let’s meet at the finish line’ he said,” narrated Tabal who jus came from a six-week training in Italy.
Tabal wept upon crossing the finish line.
“There’s reason behind this. I offered this run to him. I know he’s running with me this morning. I managed to finish the race safely and strongly. This is the hardest race I’ve ever joined. I know there’s a purpose for everything. I have to finish this race for him,” she added.
Tabal’s record this year was 11 minutes slower than her 2016 winning time (2:47.53) during the National Finals in Iloilo.
Finishing second and third, respectively, were former Milo Marathon queens Christabel Martes (3:04.20) and Jho-an Villarama (3:11.26).
Tenacious through trials
Though she came from a broken family (her parents separated when she was 12), Tabal achieved success not only in sports but life in general.
The second of four siblings, Tabal was an honor student. She graduated as class salutatorian at Guba National High School in Cebu then received her Bachelor of Science in Commerce Major in Management Accounting degree at the Southwestern University. Tabal now holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
A loving sister, the reigning Southeast Asian Games marathon queen supported the college education of her sister and brother.
Andrade stuns fancied foes
In the men’s side, unheralded Joerge Andrade stunned a strong field that includes national standout Erick Panique and Olympian Eduardo Buenavista.
The 24-year old Digos City pride finished with 2:39.34, followed by Panique (2:42.10) and Buenavista (2:43.34).
Tabal and Andrade each took home P150,000.
The other top podium finishers were Elizabeth Chepkanan Rumokol of Kenya (women’s open 42k), Eric Chepsiror of Kenya (men’s open 42k), Marychiel Morales (women’s 21k), Arlan Arbois (men’s 21k), Melody Perez (women’s 10k), Ruel Alguefera (men’s 10k), Mary Joy Loberamis (women’s 5k), Peonila Erlincito (men’s 5k), Antonet Velayo (women’s 3k) and Kent Lloyd Gabino (men’s 3k).