Mary Joy Tabal eyes Olympic history for Philippines after sealing Women’s Half Marathon title in Hong Kong
Filipina improves on second-place showing last year to take top honours
Mary Joy Tabal lined up for this year’s women’s Half Marathon Challenge with a point to prove after finishing second here last year and quickly decided the only way to do exactly that was to take matters into her own hands.
The 26-year-old from Cebu in the Philippines surged through the field soon after the start and by about 2km was out on her own, a position she held right to the wire.
“I started behind the elite runners but knew in these wet conditions I had to get to them quickly,” said Tabal. “Once I did, I just thought to myself ‘run as fast as you can’.”
Tabal finished in 1:21.41 ahead of Taiwan’s You Ya-jyun (1:22.46) and Shiho Asada of Japan (1:24.27) – not close to her personal best, the blame for which Tabal lay at the feet of the weather gods.
“At the start it was so challenging because I was so cold,” she said. “But I had a good pace from start to finish and once I got to the lead – even though I was feeling so cold – that was it. I overcame that – I’m just not used to the cold and the rain – and I won. I just told myself to relax and to get to the lead.”
In fact it had been a whole week of challenges for Tabal, who said she was made to wait for around two hours in a queue – again in the rain – last Friday as she made a late rush for entry into the field.
“It was a late registration and waiting standing in the rain and the cold for two hours was tough for me,” she said. “I was disappointed to have to do it that way so hopefully next year that won’t happen again. I love the route. It’s nice and the people were cheering me all the way. That gave me energy. It was raining and cold but they were still out there cheering.”
With the Hong Kong title now in her hands, Tabal has her heart set on becoming the first woman from her nation to make the Olympic marathon qualifying time, a feat she hope to perform in April’s Boston Marathon.
It would come after an impressive run for second in the marathon at last year’s SEA Games in Singapore that left Tabal full of confidence.
“Hopefully, I can do good,” she said. “I actually prefer the marathon and to represent the Philippines at the Olympics would be a dream come true for me. I am feeling strong but I just have to improve my endurance.”