LAOAG CITY, Philippines – The same big names emerged as champions in the national marathon.
Mary Joy Tabal defended her marathon tiara for a record sixth straight year, while Rafael Poliquit returned to the top of the men's podium in the 42nd Milo Marathon National Finals on Sunday, December 9, at the Marcos Stadium in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
Aside from winning the top plum, Tabal and Poliquit also earned the right to represent the Philippines in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Manila.
Tabal, who already made history last year when she became the first woman to win the national race 5 times in a row, clocked 2 hours, 56 minutes and 31 seconds to rule the distaff side.
Poliquit, who bagged back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, smashed his personal-best record to top the men's division with a time of 2:28:47.
42nd #MiloMarathon National Finals Official Results: Women’s: Mary Joy Tabal- 2:56:31 Christabel Martes- 2:59:29 Christine Hallasgo- 3:06:16 Men’s: Rafael Poliquit- 2:28:47 Jerald Zabala- 2:31:25 Richard Salaño- 2:33:17 #BuildChampions @RapplerSports pic.twitter.com/SWmRyOuTDB — Rappler Sports (@RapplerSports) December 8, 2018
Former SEA Games gold medalist Christabel Martes (2:59:29) finished second behind Tabal, while Manila leg titlist Christine Hallasgo (3:06:16) wound up at 3rd place.
Also joining Poliquit at the podium were Jerald Zabala (2:31:25) and Richard Salaño (2:33:17).
The Milo Marathon King and Queen each received a cash prize of P150,000.
Tabal had a chance to double her prize had she also topped the open category, where the Filipina came in second to Kenyan Margaret Njugunya (2:50:50).
Foreign elite runners dominated the men's open as Kenya's David's Kipsang (2:20:29) paced the 42-km race, followed by Stephen Mugambi (2:22:20) and Joackim Kemboi (2:27:45).
Tabal – who didn't come close to shattering the race record of 2:48:00 that she also set – managed to keep pace with Njugunya until the latter broke away in the 15-km mark.
"Ang importante ngayon is happy ako ngayon because I was able to defend my title for the sixth year and iyon nga – strong finish, safe 'yung mga runners and ganitong environment," said Tabal, who returned from an offseason break from the 2018 Asian Games.
(The important thing is that I'm happy now because I was able to defend my title for the sixth year and it was a strong finish, all the runners were safe, and it was a good environment.)
"Ito yung first time ko ma-experience yung Laoag and napaka-energetic ng mga tao dito, so safe yung takbo natin though meron mga part na medyo madilim, pero overall maganda yung experience ko dito."
(This is my first time to experience Laoag and the people here are so energetic, so our run was safe even though there were some parts that were a bit dark, but overall, my experience was nice here.)
The three-time champion Poliquit, meanwhile, admitted he didn't expect to set a personal record as he had been having a diffiucult time cracking his previous best of 2:32
But an advice from his friend Suh Rui Yong, a two-time SEA Games gold medalist, made a difference for Poliquit.
"Suh Rui Yong said: 'Wrap the hammer in the last 7 kilomteters,'" recalled Poliquit. "So I did that, and 'di ko napansin pa-finish na pala ako. Akala ko may isang lap pa ako kasi nasa oval na ako, hindi pa talaga ako nag-sprint, kaya pa talaga. Nag-finish ako na fresh na fresh. First time ko mag-finish na ganito ang kondisyon."
(So I did that and I didn't even notice that I finished already. I thought I still had one more lap because I was in the oval, and I didn't even sprint yet so I still had energy. I finished really feeling fresh and it's my first time to finish like this.)
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) representative Edward Co said both Tabal and Poliquit's performances met the SEA Games medal standard.
"As to the respective performances of Rafael and Mary Joy, pasok na pasok sa SEA Games medal standards. Pati yung second-placer (Zabala), swak na swak. The male marathoner sa SEA Games is 2:31:00. So yung 3 minutes faster pa siya (Poliquit)," said Co.
(As to the respective performances of Rafael and Mary Joy, they qualify for the SEA Games medal standards. Even the second placer, Zabala, qualifies. The male marathoner in the SEA Games clocked 2:31:00, so Poliquit is 3 minutes faster than him.) – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.