Friday, April 11, 2014

The Filipino Flag Flies High in the 2014 Paris Marathon

Buenavista and Tabal Bring Pinoy 
Running Mettle to the World Stage 

After clinching the top ranks in the 37th season of the National MILO Marathon, veteran athlete Eduardo Buenavista and fastest Filipina marathoner Mary Joy Tabal once again lived up to their lofty billings in the prestigious Paris Marathon. The reigning MILO Marathon King and Queen recently completed the full distance category with 50,000 runners including seasoned marathoners from across the globe.

The National MILO Marathon awarded both athletes with an all-expenses paid trip to the international competition as the first Philippine delegates sponsored by MILO in over two decades.
Buenavista, who ran alongside fellow Olympian and this year’s Paris Marathon winner Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, clocked in at a swift 2:33:20 and ranked 42nd in the men’s division. In the distaff side, Tabal crossed the finish line at 2:57:28 and emerged as the 17th placer in the women’s division.

Making a Mark in the International Marathon Scene

Following its certification from the Association of International Marathons (AIMS) and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the National MILO Marathon now holds an esteemed position in the world map of marathon destinations.

“Our presence in the roster of quality international races has enabled us to accept global talents and send our very own exceptional athletes to the world stage. We are very proud to have provided Eduardo and Mary Joy the platform to show their athletic excellence in Paris amongst other elite runners,” remarked MILO Sports Marketing Manager Andrew Neri.

With eyes set on bringing gold and glory to their home soil, Buenavista and Tabal worked to achieve top form months before taking on the challenging course in the French capital. While the athletes trained separately, both admitted to building unique training schemes and strategies to match the speed and endurance of their foreign competitors.

“Competing in Europe has always been one of my career goals and it was truly an honor to finally fulfill that lifelong dream. I wanted to make the best out of the experience and started training in Baguio City with the National Team early this year. I covered almost 30 kilometers daily to develop my stamina, strength, and body condition,” said Buenavista, a 35-year old South Cotabato native.

While Tabal didn’t bring home the prize, making it to the top 20 of the female division was no mean feat, proving that Filipino runners can compete in equal footing with the world’s elite runners.

Like Buenavista, Tabal’s intensive workout sessions involved physical conditioning and speed work within 20 to 25 kilometers of training distance in Cebu City. But beyond withstanding the length of the course, Tabal shared that she was focused on increasing her resistance to the cold weather, which were then expected to drop below 15 degrees Celsius.

“I knew that acclimatizing to the cold environment in Paris would be the biggest challenge so I prepared long and hard to boost my performance. We had three days to get used to the weather so there was definitely a huge amount of pressure to adjust quickly,” said the 24-year old Cebuana.

National MILO Marathon race director and running coach Rio dela Cruz, who accompanied both athletes to the running event, recounts that apart from the level of temperature, several factors such as the sudden change in the time zone and diet were critical to the performance of both athletes. 

“Competing in a different country will always be tough but Eduardo and Mary Joy were impressively resilient in conditions they were not accustomed to,” said Coach Rio.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Runners

The journey to the finish line began smoothly for both runners who remarked that the route was not very different from the courses in local races. But the Paris streets soon took its toll and the last stretch brought on the challenge that the marathon has always been known for.

“I started feeling the fatigue during the last 10 kilometers, which slowed me down. But I pulled through and was able to finish the race,” said Tabal. Even two-time Olympian Buenavista was not spared by the long terrain and the climate.

Both runners shared that the support of MILO and the Filipino community fueled their will to give pride to the country and inspire the youth to become champions.

As it celebrates its 50th year anniversary, MILO endeavors to drive Filipinos to follow the path towards success in sports and in life like Buenavista and Tabal. According to Coach Rio, MILO has forged ties with international race organizers to ensure that future champions of the National MILO Marathon will be able to showcase their passion beyond the local athletic scene. Athletes will also be given longer preparation time to adapt better in international races.

The National MILO Marathon will usher in its 38th season in June of this year with a goal to engage 230,000 runners and cap the 50,000 mark for its Help Give Shoes advocacy by donating brand new running shoes to school children in Tacloban.

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