BALANGA CITY – A record field of over 8,000 runners converged at the 39th MILO Marathon Balanga qualifiers last Sunday (July 19), marking the first time the city hosted the country’s most prestigious running event. In the end, elite runners Noel Fabros and Mary Grace de la Torre emerged as the inaugural leg champions, blazing through the 21-kilometer course that ended along the stretch of Capitol Drive.
The 39-year old Fabros, a regular participant in MILO races who works as a security guard back home in Isabela, submitted a winning time of 1:24:25. He beat out the challenge of Second Placer Harly Baguistan (1:24:30) and Third Placer Gerald de Jesus (1:26:57) to take home a trophy and PHP 10,000.00.
The youthful de la Torre, a member of the powerhouse Far Eastern University Athletics varsity and last year’s Tarlac Leg champion, had no challengers and ran with the all-male chase pack to check in at 1:47:34. She was the solo female qualifier as the times of Second Placer Vanessa Grace Reyes (2:10:59) and Third Placer Lilibeth Castro (2:15:28) did not meet the cutoff.
Fabros, de la Torre and 18 other male qualifiers will now set their sights on the National Finals scheduled for December 6, 2015 in Angeles City, Pampanga. The MILO King and Queen will be sent to compete at the 120th Boston Marathon on April 18, 2016 in the United States.
Sunday’s race was easily the biggest running event in Balanga’s history. No less than City Mayor Jose Enrique S. Garcia III joined in the fun by competing in the five-kilometer category.
As a new host city, a selection of Balanga’s poor but deserving public school pupils will receive athletic shoes as part of the continuing advocacy of MILO. These shoes should hopefully serve as the catalyst for the discovery and development of the future stars of Philippine sports.
Next week, the highly-anticipated Metro Manila qualifiers will be held at the SM Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City on July 26. A battle royal is expected as many of the top contenders are entered in what has always been the biggest among the season’s weekly qualifiers in terms of attendance.
Other Winners: Mark Lee Ann Pablo and Jocelyn Elijeran (10 kilometers), Jeffrey Ignacio and Abegael Basuel (five kilometers) and Jerry Buhain and Angelica Gubaton (three kilometers).