SOUTHEAT Southeast Asian silver medalist Mary Joy Tabal and her long-time coach John Philip Dueñas are teaching running to children in mountain barangays of Cebu City as volunteer coaches for the Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) grassroots running program.

“I started from nothing. Actually both Joy (Tabal) and I had our stories of struggles in the beginning of our running career. She come from the mountain barangay of Guba while I started in Danao City,” said Dueñas. “We understand those children and that keeps us more motivated to train them because we can see a glimpse of ourselves in these kids.”

Tabal and Dueñas together with CCSC chairman Ed Hayco, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia and the Department of Education made a program that hopes to reach the children in mountainous areas.

Tabal and Dueñas started it in Barangay Guba, the former’s home place, and have trained around 300 children--15 of whom have potential to become champions with proper guidance and training. The top of the class did not disappoint the coaches as they landed in the Top 10 in three recent races—the Flame It! Burger Run, Alaska Family Run and DYAB Kapamilya Run.

But the team behind the CCSC grassroots program are not stopping there and will continue to strive in search of a gem in the rough. They will be expanding the program to Barangay Sirao this August.

“The program is now on its fourth month and the outcome is very promising and inspiring. The children from mountainous barangay have the legs and the muscles for this sport.” Hayco told Sun.Star Cebu. “We will expand the program with the aim to develop new runners who will be like Tabal.”

Hayco was inspired to put up a program after meeting a Kenyan on his trip abroad. The Kenyan told him how their Olympic medalists came from impoverished towns in the mountains.

“Running has done big things in our life and we met a lot of people. And from running, we’re able to (financially) support our family,” said Dueñas. “Through the sport program of CCSC we will share our talent and knowledge in this sport as a way to give back to the community and produce great runners from Cebu in the next generation.”

Tabal, the two-time Milo Marathon queen, added that with guidance and hard work, the pool of runners they have right now can become future queens and kings in running.

For their sessions in Barangay Sirao, the coaches will be tapping the public school teachers to become facilitators and coaches. The students will be from Grades 4 to 6.

“This will be a coach-student-teacher program. We will discuss the basics of running to teachers so they can guide the students if we’re not around,” Dueñas said.

Dueñas added that they have already met with CCSC officials for this. But Dueñas said that changes could still happen and if not in Sirao the nearest barangay to it will be the recipient and venue.

“Ato gi awhag ang uban coaches, we ask them that in their own little way, they emulate and duplicate what Tabal, Dueñas and the volunteer grassroots coaches have done. They are remarkable coaches who have sacrificed their time to give back,” said Hayco.

Hayco also thanked PSC chairman Garcia for providing support in the grassroots program of Cebu City.

Aside from being a grassroots coach, Dueñas is also coaching runners and triathletes under the JPD coaching.