WHEN regular folk prepare for travel abroad, they usually use the last few hours checking on the passports and baggage should they forget anything and leave early for the airport to dodge traffic and start the airport procedure. But not Mary Joy Tabal. A few hours before leaving for her two-month training for Japan, Tabal wakes up early and wins a half marathon as if it were a regular Sunday.

Tabal was literally busy yesterday as she geared up in the sixth edition of SM2SM Run early morning and then had to catch her flight to Japan at noon.

The 26-year-old Tabal was still in top form as she topped the women’s local division of the 21-kilometer race in 1 hour 21 minutes and 4 seconds to win back-to-back and pocketed the P60,000 cash purse.

National team runner Mary Grace de los Santos came in 1:25:08 for second place and Christine Hallasgo bagged third place in 1:26:04.

Tabal of Motor Ace Philippines will be training in Japan to prepare for one of her biggest races—the 2016 Boston Marathon, which is an Olympic qualifier race.

In Japan, she will be under the training of renowned and veteran coach Akio Usami from February to April 11. The native of Barangay Guba will be out for the country for awhile, as she will go directly to Boston after the training in Japan.

Tabal, who was already bringing her bags to the event, and who raced directly to the airport after the awarding ceremony of SM2SM Run, told Sun.Star Cebu that the training in Japan is the start of her journey in chasing that Olympic dream.

Tabal needs to finish the Boston Marathon on April 18 in 2 hours and 45 minutes to qualify to the 2016 Rio Olympics in August. If she does that, Tabal will be the only Filipina marathoner to reach the Olympics. Tabal had a best time of 2:48 she inked in 2013 and she needs to shed off three minutes of that time to qualify.

On the other hand, In the men’s 21K, Richard Salano topped after clocking 1:10:39, Julius Sermona salvaged second place in 1:10:49 while Juniel Languido of Bukidnon rounded up the top three in 1:11:33.

In the foreign 21K, Kenyan Eric Chepsiror (1:08:37) took the top honor, Jonathan Kogei (1:08:37) snagged second place and Tyler Anderson (1:29:36) got third place. In the distaff side, Kate Kim (1:52:42) was hailed champion, Shantel Osion (2:11:43) placed second and Mikenna Tansley (2:15:34) settled in third place.

Prince Joey Lee of Spectrum Runners Club showed his force in the 12K men’s local and finished in 39:38 to foil the championship hopes of the visiting runners. Lee, an engineering student of University of Cebu, beat Ramil Neri (39:53) of Misamis Oriental and Bobby Tadlas (39:59) of Bukidnon.

Lany Cardona (48:20) of Pangasinan clinched the 12K women’s local title as she edged out Cebu-based runner Ruffa Sorongon (48:21) in a neck-and-neck finish. Esterlita Organiza was distant third place and came in three minutes behind the two runners.

In the 12K foreign, Kenyan Abraham Kilimo (38:20) topped the men’s division, Eliud Kering (39:22) placed second and Joseph Mururi (39:45) secured third place. Judith Jepchirchir (49:33) claimed the top spot in the distaff side, Patrober Kemboi (56:21) and Mae Cherryl Unuttke (1:08:45) rounded up the Top 3.

Christopher Ulboc (19:32) and Cherry Andrin (23:45) emerged winners in the men’s and women’s 6K.

Kenan Caburnay (20:09) and Dodong Vosotros (20:44) were the runners-up in the men’s 6K, while Melody Perez (24:44) and Jeneda Arquino (25:07) were the second and third placers in the women’s side, respectively.

Taking the top three spots in the 3K race were, Michael Largo, John Cliff Debulosan and Arnel Florentino. Geniecel Saballa, Lovely Grace Peña Michelle Beboso (12:38) took third place topped the women’s side.