Mary Joy Tabal: ‘Hungry for more races’
CEBU CITY, Philippines – In 2009, Mary Joy Tabal ran her first long distance race from being a varsity sprinter, a 10-kilometer distance, and she collapsed at the finish line.
After that, she went on to make history by becoming the first Filipino female to represent the Philippines in the women’s marathon in the Rio Olympics, handed the Philippines the first gold medal in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and became a sixth straight champion of the Milo National Marathon.
Ten years later, on December 6, 2019, Mary Joy once again collapsed while crossing the finish line in the recently held 30th SEA Games, which the Philippines hosted from November 30 to December 11.
Before slumping to the ground at the finish line, she handed the Philippines a silver medal.
Does this mean that despite all that she has already achieved for the love of the country, we can still expect greater things to come from her?
“Yes, I’m not closing my doors yet coz I know myself that I can still perform, I know myself that I can still run, I am still driven,” said Mary Joy during a recent episode of CDN Sportstalk, where she guested together with her long time coach John Philip Dueñas.
After the SEA Games, Mary Joy is now shifting her focus to qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Should she be successful, it will be the petite Cebuana’s second Olympic stint.
“We’re not closing our doors. We’re still hopeful that despite knowing that the standards for this Olympics is way high and it’s very difficult to qualify, we are still hopeful that I can still make it to the next Olympics,” added Mary Joy.
In 2016, Mary Joy made history when she became the first Filipina to qualify in the women’s marathon in the Rio Olympics. “But, nothing to lose, we qualify or not, for as long as we will gonna try,” said Mary Joy, who is left with a short time to qualify as he had focused most of her 2019 in preparation for the SEA Games.
According to Dueñas, the SEA Games was one of her preparations and the experience and lessons learned in it will motivate Mary Joy to push more. “For this SEA Games, I’ve experienced a lot and I’ve learned a lot. It’s a mix of heartbreak, disappointment but at the same time I’m still grateful because I’m blessed, I’m still here, I’m safe, I’m still able to talk and I can still run.”
No one is harder on Mary Joy than Mary Joy herself.
“I wasn’t disappointed by getting the silver medal for the country but I was disappointed by my performance because it wasn’t the race I was training for or I was preparing for. I was expecting more about what I can deliver for the country but then there are things that we cannot control, but it doesn’t stop here, so I’m still gonna run and represent the country in the coming races in the future.”
This is the third SEA Games exposure for Mary Joy. She first competed in the 2015 Singapore SEA Games and came home with a silver. her second time was in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games wherein she bagged the Philippines’ first gold medal.
However, Mary Joy is not resting on her laurels as she said that her recent SEA Games finish has motivated her to aim for more. “Having this finish motivated me that there is still so much to learn from, this is not the end of Mary Joy. I still have something, more races coming in the future. This race and experience made me hungry for more, hungry for a good performance, hungry for more races that I will be able to represent the Philippines.”
According to Mary Joy, if she has only been racing for herself, it would have been so easy not to finish at the slightest twitch of pain. “It’s different, I wasn’t racing bringing only my name, I’m running for the country and it’s really an honor, if it weren’t for the country I could have DNF (did not finish). But always remember that in every long distance races that I joined, never in this entire 10 years that I DNF, never and not one race that I did not cross the finish line, so more races to come.”
If there’s also one person who always learns from her experiences, it is Mary Joy. “It’s also a learning experience not only for me but also for the other athletes that it’s not always that you will win in all of your races.”
And, despite the heights that she has reached, according to Mary Joy, losing is a reminder to herself and everyone else that she is also human. “And then, I am showing that I’m also human, I can be defeated and no matter how hard I prepared for races, there will always be a time that you cannot achieve what you expected because there will always be uncontrollable situations that will happen during a race.”
Mary Joy added that “my inspiration to keep going will be the people who still believes in me.”/elb
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