CEBU City – Mary Joy Tabal became the first woman to win the National Milo Marathon crown five times in a row, achieving the historic feat in the national finals before her fellow Cebuanos.
In the men’s division, Davaoeño salesman Joerge Andrade is the new name in the game, winning his first title in the annual event that lured over 12,000 runners to the Queen City of the South.
Tabal was in tears as she crossed the finish line, dedicating the win to her father Rolando Tabal, Sr. who died on the eve of the race.
“I was training in Italy for the past few weeks and I just returned to Cebu on Tuesday. I didn’t get to see him before he passed away. I was only able to speak with him on the phone,” said the reigning Southeast Asian Games champion.
“Papa did not want me to lose focus and told me not to visit him anymore, and that he will just meet me after the race, as we both promised each other. He told me he will pray for me always, and he believes that I will be able to win this race.”
The Rio Olympian almost decided against joining the final, but in the end vowed to fulfill her father’s wish. She ended up winning the race in two hours, 58 minutes and one second, followed by Christabel Martes (3:04:20) in second and Jho-an Villarma (3:11:26) in third.
“It was really a trying time for me, but I had to be stronger. I was 100 percent ready to win. I finished strongly and safely because I know my Papa was there running with me,” shared Tabal.
“I know he wanted me to achieve my goal of becoming a five-time MILO Marathon queen. I dedicate this race to my Papa. I know he will be with me in all of my races. He was the one who taught me to never give up, and I never will.”
The champions received P150,000 in cash and a trophy each. Tabal received an additional P200,000 for placing third in the 42K female open category. As part of their prizes, both Tabal and Andrade will be sent by Milo on all expense-paid trips to participate in an international marathon next year.
In the male division, Andrade, 24, finished in 2:39:34. Erick Panique (2:42:10) and five-time champion and two-time Olympian Eduardo Buenavista (2:43:34) finished second and third place, respectively.
Andrade did not expect to win and even had P50 tied onto his shoelaces as transportation fare, in case he didn’t finish the race.
He qualified for the finals in the General Santos leg, finishing second place in the 21K category. It was his first time to join the national finals this year - and only his second time to compete in the 42K category.
“As a newcomer, I just wanted to finish the race as strongly as I could. I prepared for it the best I can. After work, I do my runs and training myself. I don’t have a coach,” said Andrade.
“I was running with all the veteran elite runners – my idols – they did not even know who I am. At the 30km mark, I started leading the race, and I surprised myself by finishing first place. It’s an unexplainable feeling. I’m very happy.”