MARY JOY Tabal retained her title in the Cebu qualifiers of the Milo national marathon in runaway fashion, while her partner John Philip Duenas nabbed the men’s crown at the Cebu City Sports Center yesterday.

Tabal, who is used to running with a support crew, decided to try her luck on her own and the tactic worked as she finished the race in 1:24:48, more than 16 minutes clear of second placer Christy Sevilleno Tutor (1:40:55). Sandra Soliano (1:43:18) got third place, while Virgina Parajenog (1:45:24) and Rhodara Oporto (1:45:19) got the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

Duenas finished the race in 1:15:21, beating Bonifacio Monjas (1:16:30) and Argie Tillor (1:19:54). Paul James Zafico got fourth place in 1:22:05 and Ian Refuela got fifth place in 1:23:15.

“Before, I used to depend on escorts who would assist me in directions and hydration but this year, I decided to race on my own. I have to get used to not having any guide or someone to tell me when and where to push and when to recover. I have to work on being independent,” said Tabal, who added she has to learn to race solo in order to compete abroad.

She also added that she didn’t expect to top this race and her main goal was to qualify for the national finals.

Before the national finals of the Milo Marathon, Tabal will be joining the Adidas 6.8 finals in Malaysia in October and the 21K Great Eastern Women’s Run in November.

“This will also be a part of my endurance training for the the finals, said Tabal.

Tabal will go for the national title for the fourth time and this year could be her chance as reigning champion Mary Grace delos Santos and the rest of the national team will be in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.

“Maybe, I will have a chance but it will only be delos Santos who can’t race; the rest of the regional champions will be there,” said Tabal.

Tabal was fourth overall in last yea and took the first place in the 42K women’s local category.

On the other hand, Duenas said that for now, he will support Tabal and monitor her training instead of aiming to win a national title.

In the other results, Kenyan Isaac Simat took the title in the men’s 10K division in 33:54. He was followed by Prince Joey Lee of the University of Cebu (UC) in 33:58 and John Daryl Manos of University of Southern Philippines (USPF) in 34:12 for third.

Mary Jane Beboso clocked 44:47 to win the women’s 10K over Jhean Andrin (47:28) and Mylen Conde (55:01).

USPF’s John Cliff Debulosan and Lovely Fe Andrin topped the men’s and women’s 5K division. Debulosan clocked 16:51 to win the men’s title over Michael Largo (16:53) and Ariel Saball (17:22).

Andrin got her title in 19:55, beating Riza Bausin (20:52) and Lynle Cardenas (21:37).

In the 3K division, Dave Anthoun Lungcob of Talamban Elementary won the men’s title in 11:47, while Cherry Andrin got the women’s title in 11:58. Lungcob beat Anthony Cosgrave (11:53) and Jovenel (12:15), while Andrin beat Mary Joy Loberanis (11:58) and

Sarale Cuizon (13:09).

The Cebu leg made history as it has attracted a total of 24, 067 participants and is considered the biggest number of participants coming from outside of Manila.

The event, which attracted 24,067 participants, also had special awards and a cheerleading contest. Cebu Technological University got the biggest delegation with 3,002 entries, while Abellana Abellana National School got the fastest delegation award. In the 10K division, , a group called 53DR ERDE PA won the fastest delegation award.

In the cheerdance competition, Cebu City Central School won the elementary division, the University of San Carlos got the secondary title and the University of the Visayas won the college title.