CEBU is the home for some of the country’s top long distance runners and it was clear in the 7-Eleven Run Series after four runners in the Cebu Leg each bagged local overall crown on Sunday, Feb. 3.

The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist Mary Joy Tabal, Prince Joey Lee, Azlan Pagay and Ruffa Sorongon bested their opponents to reign over the run that also had simultaneous legs in Davao City and Manila.

The Olympian Tabal lived up to her lofty billing after clocking 1 hour, 24 minutes and 39 seconds at the Cebu Business Park en route to winning the overall title.

“It’s my first race for this year. This is part of the preparation for my 2019 calendar. This race can gauge my current status after the season break,” Tabal said after outshining thousands of runners in Cebu, Manila and Davao legs.

The time of the top runners in the three legs were collated to determine the overall top three.

In the Cebu leg, Ann Magdalene Tubal and Engiel Estellore finished behind Tabal with times of 1:42:36 and 1:45:01, respectively.

Cebuano Prince Joey Lee was hailed the king of half-marathon after clocking 1:12:22, besting his counterparts in the Luzon and Mindanao races.

The ace athlete of Spectrum Runners Club showed his caliber and even beat Kenyan runner by about four minutes in Cebu’s race. Helbert Elarcosa placed third with 1:28:17.

Cebu also owned both the men’s and women’s divisions of the 32K, thanks to Cebu-based runners Azlan Pagay and Ruffa Sorongon.

Pagay finished the race in 1:56:53, about 40 seconds behind Kenyan Chirchir Jackson. Pagay had the best time among local runners.

“I was running third for majority of the race. I only picked up the second runner in the 23K mark and we were neck-and-neck with the Kenyan in the last 3K until the final 300 meters,” Pagay said in Cebuano.

Pagay admitted that the race course was tough but it was the challenge of keeping up with the Kenyan runner that brought out the best of him.

“I did not expect to get the best time among the locals because the course was really tough. This is given to me by God,” he said. “The pacing was really fast from the start. I was at third in the first 22K.”

Sorongon, meanwhile, crossed the finish line in 2:22:01 to complete a sweep in the 32K category. This was the second major win for Sorongon this year following the Cebu City Marathon conquest.

“I’m happy with the start of my year. I was able to make it in the overall top runners and secured a slot to an international marathon,” said the Sultan Kudarat-native Sorongon.

The top three runners in the 21K, 32K and 42K will be sent to an international race in Asia.

Tabal said this incentive would help her gain international exposure before the SEA Games late this year and the 2020 Olympic qualifying race.

The winners of last year were sent to the 23rd Jeju International Tourism Marathon Festival in South Korea. The organizers have yet to announce the race for this year.

In the Cebu Leg results, Kenyan Joseph Mururi and Marie Stephan Jayson ruled the 42K race after clocking 2:47:16 and 3:42:15, respectively.

Noel Tillor and Joseph Arnel Emia finished behind Mururi with times of 2:52:25 and 3:02:32, while Jennylyn Nobleza and Sandra Luyao were runners-up in the women’s side after clocking 3:48:30 and 3:58:42.

Meanwhile, the other champions were Peonila Erlincito (57:36) and Melody Perez (1:11:11) in the men’s and women’s 16K, Ruel Flores Algufera (35:57) and Joan Alinsunod (45:20) in the 10K category, Harold Kim Guiao (16:20) and Karen Andrea Manayon (19:29) in the 5K race, and Dome Mark (9:19) and Lorence Yvonne Garcia (11:04) in the 3K.