THE stage is set for the country’s prime runners as the 41st Milo Marathon National Finals blasts off this Sunday in front of the Cebu Normal University (CNU).
Some 20,000 runners will paint the city’s streets green when the grandest and longest-running running event in the country takes place for the first time in Cebu.
More than 500 qualifiers from the 15 regional legs will be in Cebu for the culminating 42-kilometer race, which starts at 3 a.m.
The thousands of participants will be coming from the 21-kilometer, 10K, 5K and 3K.
The course for the 42K race had to go through changes after the Cebu City Government released an executive order that prohibited the use of South Road Properties for running events.
The organizers, headed by many-time best organizer awardee Ricky Ballesteros, came prepared for the unexpected change.
“Actually before we accepted the hosting for the national finals we were already looking at three options. When we were informed that we can no longer use SRP, we had other options,” said Ballesteros during the event’s press conference yesterday.
Instead of passing through the SRP, the marathoners will traverse the roads of Cebu City and Mandaue City to complete the 42K course.
“This new route is the second best route we can get. There’s going to be more uphills, this will be more challenging for the runners,” said Ballesteros.
The previous 42K route was measured by the Association of International Marathons and Distances Races (Aims), but the current one has not been checked by any Aims representative.
“Our technical team measured the new route and all the techniques and protocol by Aims were followed. The only thing missing is the certification from Aims, we are appealing to them to consider it because its something that’s unprecedented,” said Andrew Neri of Runrio Inc., the technical team for the race.
Milo Sports Executive Robbie De Vera said that a local athlete will have a chance to bag up to P500,000 if they win the local race and also make it to the podium in the foreign ranking.
An incentive of P50,000 will also be given to a runner who can break the record in the men’s and women’s 42K.
Cebuana Mary Joy Tabal will be gunning for a rare five-peat in the women’s division. Tabal, 28, is also the current record holder for the women’s marathon with a time of 2 hours, 47 minutes and 49 seconds set last year in Iloilo City.
“My goal is to defend the title, breaking the time is only secondary,” said Tabal, who arrived in Cebu this week from her training in Italy.
The elite runners in the women’s division include four-time champion Christabel Martes, Cebu’s Lizanne Abella and Ruffa Sorongon.
The men’s division will have the likes of Olympian Eduardo Buenavista, defending champion Jeson Agravante, Rafael Pescos, Noel Tillor, Richard Salano, Julius Sermona, Eric Paneque, Richel Languido, among others.
De Vera said that the Milo Marathon King and Queen this year will still be sent to a race abroad.
“We’re selecting among three international races, it’s a matter of finalizing the details with the support and coordination with Patafa (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association),” he said.
Parts of the proceeds of the run will go to the Help Give Shoes advocacy of Milo. For this year, the organizers will be giving 1,000 pair of shoes to the deserving public schools in Cebu.