Tabal overcomes pain to fulfill promise to father
CEBU CITY — Less than 24 hours before gun start, Mary Joy Tabal came close to giving up. Skipping the marathon she had been preparing for the past six weeks was the only thing left to do.
Her father Rolando Tabal passed away due to complications with pneumonia Saturday morning and the pain was just unbearable.
Tabal lost reason to run but found purpose to keep going. Her reason was also her purpose. It was her father, whose last message was the only thing his daughter needed to hear.
“Part of me decided that I didn’t want to compete anymore because it was too painful to run. But after hearing what Papa told my cousin that he was excited to see me run and that he’ll wait for me at the finish line, I knew that I just have to finish the race no matter how my performance will be,” Tabal, who struggled to fight back her tears, told reporters after her historic run at the 41st Milo Marathon National Finals in her beloved hometown.
“We had promised to see each other after the race. Today, my promise is to just finish this race. I offer this race to him. I know he’s happy with my achievement today and I know he was running with me this morning,” said Tabal.
Tabal, the Rio Olympian and Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, clocked 2:58:01, nearly 11 minutes later than her personal best when she ruled the 2016 edition in Iloilo City but her time was still good enough to keep her crown as the country’s undisputed marathon queen.
The 28-year-old Tabal reaffirmed her status as one of the best Filipino runners after becoming the first ever athlete to win the Milo Marathon for five consecutive years.
Tabal crumbled to the floor the moment she crossed the finish line and just let everything out. Weeping, she had to be helped by event organizers on her way to the recovery area and was eventually met by her family members.
“I was in control of the race, it’s just that my time wasn’t fast because I felt heavy inside. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t maybe because I wasn’t able to sleep and I just kept crying all night,” Tabal recalled.
“But I was lucky enough to finish the race despite everything that I went through.”
Tabal hopes her emotional run toward history will be able to make a difference to her fellow Filipinos and Cebuanos.
“I hope a lot of Filipinos or Cebuanos will be inspired by my achievement. There’s no easy road but if you put all your dedication and heart in your dreams, the impossible becomes possible. It’s really not going to be easy, a lot of sacrifices are going to be made but you will always have to remember why you’re doing it.“
Even with a heavy heart, Tabal left her competition behind with the second finisher coming in six minutes later. But from gun start at Cebu Normal University to the destination at Cebu City Sports Complex, through and through, she was never alone.
“This race is for him. He was running with me and he will be running with me in my future races.”
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