MANILA — Filipino ace marathoner Mary Joy Reyes Tabal’s confidence in competing at the upcoming 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was boosted with her training abroad side-by-side world-class runners and sustained government support.
The 28-year-old Tabal, who hails from Barangay Guba, Cebu City, is the first Filipino marathoner to qualify in the Olympics with a time of 2:43:29 in the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.
“I’m much better prepared this time,” Tabal said.
“My training in Italy helped me a lot, especially mentally,” said Tabal, who is aiming for the elusive gold in the lung-busting 42.195 kilometer marathon event.
Tabal, together with 37 other members of the Philippine track and field team, were given a special and upbeat send-off on Tuesday. The event was organized by Philippine Track and Field (PATAFA), headed by Philip Ella Juico, and backed by corporate supporters.
The marathon will be the first event in athletics and is set on August 19 at 6:15 a.m. for the women’s event. The gun start for men is set 15 minutes earlier, at 6:00 a.m.
Tabal settled for the silver (3:04:39) in the 2015 edition of the regional biennial meet held in Singapore. Her time was over 1:14 minutes against gold medalist Natthaya Thanaronnawat of Thailand, who clocked 3:03:25.
“We studied the course and I’ve prepared for it,” said Tabal, as she noted that the course has five loops and mostly flat surface. “I think it’s a great advantage,” she added.
“I’m aiming for the gold and just good conditioning, ‘yun lang talaga,” Tabal said.
Tabal, whose athletics career began when she was 12 years old, said that her current weight “is just perfect for a marathon weight”.
At stake in athletics are 45 golds out of the 405 total golds up for grab in the regional biennial sports event.
In 2015, the Philippine track and field team collected 21 medals marked by its 5-7-9 (gold-silver-bronze) output and bannered the country’s 29-33-66 (gold-silver-bronze) haul, good for sixth place.
The 29th SEA Games opening ceremony will be held at the ultra-modern National Stadium located in Bukit Jalil.