Mary Joy Tabal is set to join a series of qualifiers that will help her make it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Tabal’s coach John Philip Duenas said this after she successfully defended her women’s title in the 42nd National MILO Marathon in Laoag City recently.
Her first stop will be in Japan, where she will join the Tokyo Marathon on March 5.
While there, the 29-year-old Tabal will also prepare for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
“First qualifying race ‘yun for the Olympics. So, doon na rin siya magte-training para diretso na,” said Duenas.
The Cebu City-based Tabal made it to the national team to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games with Rafael Poliquit Jr. when they topped the local women’s and men’s division of the Milo national finals.
She played it safe and slow throughout the race and found no challengers when she won a record sixth straight championship in 2:56.31.
Darkness and rough terrain forced her to slow down four times to avoid injury.
“Disadvantage kasi kapag may area na ‘di kabisado. Kaya slow down siya ng pace,” said Duenas, who also acted as Tabal’s pacer since he also qualified.
Tabal just followed open winner Margaret Ngunguna of Kenya take the lead, after she slowed down twice in unlit portions at the 15-km mark along the Paoay sand dunes near Ft. Ilocandia Hotel and Laoag-Paoay Road.
Tabal captured her sixth crown after taking it in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Her clocking was way below the course record of 2:48 that she set when Tabal first won it five years ago.
In beating Christabel Martes, who was second, and third-placing Christine Hallasgo, Tabal has become the winningest female long distance runner in the tournament’s history.
Overall, Tabal has overshadowed Arsenia Sagaray, who won the titles in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997.
She and Poliquit took home the top purse of P150,000 each in the men’s and women’s side.
Around 12,000 runners from different age groups and race categories hit the streets starting at Laoag Centennial Arena.
Of the participants, more than 800 elite runners are qualified for the season’s national finals.
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