Gunning for a grand slam

THE unassuming running champion of Cebu Mary Joy Tabal may be feeling the nerves a day before she guns for a third straight title in the National Milo Marathon Finals, but the diminutive runner does not let that pressure get the better of her and remains focused on her goal to defend the Milo Marathon women’s title.

The back-to-back Milo Marathon Queen Tabal will be among the thousands of runners that will lace up for the 39th National Milo Marathon Finals in Angeles, Pampanga tomorrow.

Tabal, 25, has become a poster girl in this event after winning two straight titles, including the triumph where she set the fastest marathon time for women in 2 hours and 48 minutes last 2013.

For this edition, Tabal will try to achieve a coveted grand slam in one of the longest running events in the country. The Milo Marathon queen and king for this year will be given the chance to join the classic Boston Marathon. Tabal of Barangay Guba, Cebu was rewarded with a slot in the Paris Marathon and L.A Marathon for winning the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The former Southwestern University stalwart has come to this national finals fully prepared, with three months of training under the watch of long-time coach John Philip Dueñas. But despite being ready, the experienced runner admits she's feeling some pressure.

“Defending a national title is quite a big pressure because all are expecting for you to perform well and all my competitors have their eyes on me,” Tabal told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.

“But in spite of all that, I have to remain focused. I tell myself that I have trained and prepared for this and on race day, must not be complacent because the other runners have trained as well,” she added.

Early this year, Tabal made the country proud by bringing home the silver medal in the women’s marathon of the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore. It was also in the same country where Tabal posted a new personal best time in the half-marathon, finishing the Great Eastern Women’s Run 2015 last Nov. 1 in 1:19:32, five seconds faster than her previous best time. “Those races abroad have given me more confidence heading into the Milo Marathon,” said Tabal.

Tabal said that every time she joins a race, there is a feeling of excitement and the Milo Marathon Finals is no exception. “I started joining Milo Marathon Finals in 2010 and what I feel right now is the same as my first one, there is always this feeling of excitement,” she quipped.

Aside from Tabal, Cebu’s banner is also in the hands of Noel Tillor, the Milo Marathon Cebu Leg men’s division back-to-back champion. Tillor will be up against formidable male marathoners, who are champions in different legs in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The Bogo, Cebu native who works as a mechanic will try to improve his fifth place finish in last year’s finals in Manila.

Cebu’s elite runners Adonis Singson of K1 Team, Michael Largo, Robert Daang and Azlan Pagay of Spectrum Runners Club will join Tillor in the men’s 42-kilometer grind. Parklane Tri-Team member Emmanuel Comendador of Bohol, who won the Tagbilaran leg, will also compete in the 42K.

Cebu-based runner Ruffa Sorongon, the Cebu Leg women’s champion will take part in the women’s 42K together with Annie Penaroya Balaga, University of Cebu’s Prince Joey Lee who will join the 21K and John Balaga in the 10K.

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