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Tabal sets modest race target in Rio

Mary Joy Tabal. Photo from Cebu Daily New

Mary Joy Tabal. Photo from Cebu Daily New

RIO DE JANEIRO—Mary Joy Tabal is only being pragmatic when she said her only desire is to surpass her personal best in Sunday morning’s running of the women’s marathon at the Summer Olympics here.

The 27-year-old from Guba, Cebu City, knows that the Olympic record, set by Ethiopia’s Erba Tiki Gelana in London 2012, is less than four and a half minutes slower than the men’s Philippine record.

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“It’s dizzying,” Tabal said, referring to Gelana’s time of two hours, 23 minutes and seven seconds. “With that time you could win a men’s marathon already.”

Not that she has lost the drive to compete against the world’s finest women in the lung-busting—and yes, dizzying—race. Not a bit.

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Tabal said she would run her own race and hopefully beat the national record of 2:43.41 she herself set on May 29 in the Scotia Bank Ottawa Marathon in Canada. That clocking qualified her for Rio, a minute and 19 seconds under the Olympic wire of 2:45.

“To be specific I just want to beat my time of 2:43 and run 2:40 or below,” she told the Inquirer. “If I can do 2:40, then it will be a good finish for me.”

The first of three Filipino athletics bets to see action in these Games, Tabal said she would pace herself in the first 30 kilometers, like she did in Ottawa, and see what happens in the last 12.

Olympic athletics officials on Thursday gave her and the rest of the women’s marathon field a familiarization tour of the race course, which she described as relatively flat and with little uphill sections.

Located in Sambadrome, the epicenter of Rio’s carnival district used for its loud and kaleidoscopic parades, the course has three loops and a 2-km stretch of cobblestones.

“I don’t want to overspeed and end up walking the last 10 kilometers,” said Tabal, who trained for five weeks at Nippon Sports Science University in Tokyo, following the Ottawa race where she placed eighth.

“I want to do it the way I did in Ottawa. I was relaxed at the start and gave it all in the last 10 kilometers.”

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With coach John Philip Dueñas tagging along, the reigning Milo Marathon champion made a 20K practice run last Sunday. She wrapped up training on Friday and would spend the eve of the race relaxing in the Athletes’ Village.

Dueñas had ordered a strict diet of carbohydrates (60 percent), protein (30 percent) and fat (10 percent) as early as July, when she was in the peak of training in Japan.

Tabal, a management accounting graduate of Southwestern University with a Master’s degree in public administration, says she hopes to run pressure-free so she could also “enjoy my first Olympics.”

“A lot of people are expecting too much from me and that gets me nervous,” said Tabal. “That’s what I need to overcome.”

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TAGS: Marathon, Mary Joy Tabal, PH Rio Olympics
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