People & Inspiration

Conversations: Olympian Mary Joy Tabal On Conquering Your Fears And Making A Difference

Conversations: Olympian Mary Joy Tabal On Conquering Your Fears And Making A Difference

Five days before flying out to Rio de Janeiro, Olympic qualifier for the marathon event Mary Joy Tabal is more nervous than excited. "Kasi di ko po alam mangyayari and this is the biggest event in my life po, in my career so sobrang bigat po yung dinadala ko ngayon. Pero I’ll do my best po," she shared as we talked to her over Skype minutes before her scheduled training for the day over in Japan with the rest of the Philippine running team.

"Yung routine po namin everyday is gising sa umaga by 5. Mga 1 hour 30 minutes yung training namin in the morning. And then after that, breakfast. Then pahinga and then afternoon ulit prepare for the 4PM training. And yun dinner. And then divided siya parang  merong days na parang di siya masyadong mahirap, merong normal parang medium activities. Meron din sobrang mahirap. Parang I have one day rest, hindi siya totally rest more on active rest pa rin," describes MJ. Her desire to excel in practice and during the competition is apparent in her voice, and us in the room on the other side of the internet are just so excited to see her journey into the Olympic Stadium, win or lose.

Read on as she talks about the Olympics and her desire to make a difference on other people's lives:

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What's your favorite part of your training? "Yung with my teammates dito, yung parang hindi nila ako iniiba sa kanila. They’re helping me to push and do my best, we are helping each other na tapusin namin together and kahit nahihirapan kaming lahat yun yung parang part na mas nagustuhan ko. There are times na parang gusto ko ng mag-give up kasi talagang masakit at mahirap. But when I see them na they’re still trying their best to finish it kahit nahihirapan na sila and then go pa din and then chini-cheer namin yung isa’t isa. Parang na-e-encourage ako to finish parang yun yung part na nagustuhan ko kahit gaano kahirap yung training namin. Yun yung part na nagbibigay sa akin ng lakas."

What do you love most about your sport? "Yung mas pinaka-dito ko nakikita sarili ko. Parang mas nagustuhan ko siya kasi there are a lot of challenges kahit naa-achieve ko na ito. There’s still more, na kaya ko pang gawin. Yung di ko nakita noon na makakaya ko pala, and then ngayon mas nabigyan ko pa ng time yung sarili ko na kilalalin siya through sports. Mas dito ko di ko masyadong ma-explain pero talagang parang siya na talaga si Joy and parang dito ko nakikita yung kaligayahan ko while running. Mas nae-express ko yung sarili ko habang tumatakbo ako. Yon parang ang dami kong pwedeng magawa while running. Di ko ma-explain in words basta parang siya yung buhay ko. Parang ganon. When I run nae-enjoy ko siya, love ko siya. And then I can’t imagine myself na hindi na ako tatakbo. Part na talaga siya ng buhay ko ngayon."

You also have a program na tumutulong rin sa mga aspiring, runners and athletes. Tell us more about it. "Nung nakamit ko na yung dream ko sa pagtakbo, talagang gusto ko rin na ibahagi ko yung success sa iba. Ma-inspire yung mga bata. Yung mga Pilipino na  possible lahat kung talagang ginusto mo yung isang bagay tapos pagtatrabahuhan mo. Me and my coach, John Philip Duenas, started this grassroots running program in Cebu, in Barangay Guba where I grew up. We actually have more than 100 kids sponsored now there. We started it two years ago and Milo is also helping us in a major way. Kasi alam niyo naman pag nasa barangay, tumatakbo sila nakapaa lang naka-tsinelas. With the help of ‘Help Give Shoes’, may sapatos na sila and the kids were really, really happy to receive their shoes. Parang it’s my payback kung saan ako nag-start and mas nagugustuhan ko yung mas maraming kabataan na into sports talaga. Hopefully to change, kasi nga marami ng drugs ngayon so it’s one way of helping the kids. We’re planning to make it happen around Cebu, gusto namin maging the ‘running capital of the Philippines’ yung Cebu. So we’ll start sa Cebu and yung mga bata talaga."

What was the first thing that came to your mind when you qualified for the Olympics? "Yun yung parang most memorable, most emotional yun yung di ko makalimutan na finish throughout the races na na-experience ko. Actually, in the last 200 meters when I saw the finish time, nag-slowmo lahat. Hindi ko na maigalaw yung katawan ko. Naiiyak na lang ako and then yun parang lahat na lang nag labasan and then yung pagod mo lahat. Yung last 200 meters going to the finish line parang matagal ko siyang naabot. Yung tinatanong ko if it’s really true na 2:43 (finish time) na, yun iyak na lang ako ng iyak nung nag-finish. Parang nawala lahat ng pagod ko parang hindi ako tumakbo ng 42k noon. A technical official on the finish line was asking me if I am okay kasi nga parang hindi na ako makapagsalita kasi nga humahagulgol na ako, umiiyak na lang ako. Sabi ko ‘no, these are tears of joy’. Yun yung pinakamagandang feeling na na-achieve ko being a runner. Na-fulfill ko siyang lahat that race.

What are you looking forward to as a delegate as an athlete who will be competing in the Rio Olympics? ?Actually, nabanggit ko na rin ito sa iba, in some of my interviews, I know it’s impossible to get a medal, hindi ako pupunta ng Rio just to perform lang, just to finish the race. I am still here to challenge myself na alam ko binigay ito sa akin  ni Lord kasi gusto niya na mas mag-improve pa ako. I know na binigay sa akin ito kasi I’m here with a purpose, I’m here for a reason. Not for myself but to bring pride to our country. To inspire more Filipinos na kaya natin mga Pilipino na mag-Olympics. Yun, I am aiming for a medal kahit na napakataas or impossible but I am aiming for it kasi wala naman mawawala sa akin if I go for a medal, di ba? The challenging part lang kasi is I only have a month to prepare for Olympics kasi late na ako nagpa-qualify."

What keeps you going? "What keeps me going is the desire to represent the country. My love for this sport. My inspiration, my family. My dream, gusto ko talaga ma-fulfill kung ano pang mas kaya ko kung ano pang kaya natin mga Pilipino. I am still aiming for a next Olympics kung kaya. Isa din kasing nagpabuhay sa akin are the people who believe in me. Mas naniniwala sila na mas kaya ko pa. Meron pa akong kayang gawin na I, myself think is impossible, dahil sa mga taong naniniwala sa akin mas lumakas yung feeling ko, tumaas yung confidence ko na kaya natin or kaya ko."


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Photograph courtesy of Milo








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