RIO DE JANEIRO – Mary Joy Tabal of the Philippines said she will run her own race and hope for the best when the women’s marathon is staged Sunday morning (Sunday evening) at the famous Sambradome here.
Tabal, who trained heavily for five weeks at the Nippon Sports Science Institute in Japan before arriving here last Aug. 3, said her target in this Rio Olympics is to surpass her personal best of two hours 43 minutes and 31 seconds.
The 27-year-old Milo Marathon champion is just being realistic because in the Olympics, the existing record is 2:23:07, established by Ethiopian Erba Tiko Gelena in winning the gold medal in London in 2012.
Tabal said for her to stand a chance at winning any medal here, she needs to run the 42.195 km race which starts and ends at the parade area used for the world famous Rio Carnival in two hours 30 minutes.
“To be specific I just want to beat my time of 2:43 and run 2:40 or below. If I can do 2:40 then it will be a good finish for me. I hope I’m at my best condition on race day,” said Tabal, one of only five Filipino athletes left in contention here.
Aside from golfer Miguel Tabuena, who’s 16 strokes off the lead entering the third round of the competition, others still vying for the Philippines are Eric Cray, who is entered in the men’s 400m hurdles on Monday; long jumper Marestella Torres Sunang on Tuesday; and taekwondo bet Kirstie Elaine Alora in the +67 kg class on Aug. 20.
Eight others are done competing, and some have gone home, including weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who won the silver in the women’s 53 kg class last Aug. 7 and ended the country’s 20-year medal drought in the Olympics.
With Tabuena a mile behind in the race for medals in golf, hopes are pinned on the remaining athletes, perhaps on Cray or Alora, to give the Philippines another medal and its best finish ever in the Olympics since 1924.
Tabal wrapped up her training here Friday under coach Philip Duenas. On Saturday, she will rest the whole day and save all her energy for the race.
Since arriving here from Japan, Tabal has gone out to train, doing morning jogs in short intervals and running a slow 20 kilometers last Sunday. She’s been on a strict diet of carbohydrates (60 percent), protein (30 percent) and fat (10 percent).
While other members of the Philippine delegation have made frequent stops at the McDonald’s outlet inside the Athletes Village, Tabal has made sure she’s at a distance.
“Not before the race,” she said.
Tabal added that she’s both nervous and excited heading to race, being the first Filipina marathoner to qualify in the Olympics. She made it here with a strong finish in the Ottawa Marathon only last May.
“I’m still nervous because a lot of people are expecting too much from me. That’s what I need to overcome. I also want to enjoy my first Olympics,” she said.
“I will run my own pace. I want my own pace in the first 30 kilometers. I don’t want to over-speed and end up walking the last 10 kilometers. I don’t want that to happen. 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,” she said.
Last Thursday, she joined other participants in a route familiarization by bus. She described the route as relatively flat with three loops and a little incline and includes a two-kilometer stretch on cobblestones on a tight street.
“I’m ready. I will give my best,” she said.