MANILA, Philippines – Former three-time National Milo Marathon king and current event record holder Eduardo Buenavista struck anew and easily topped the third leg of the 36th Milo Marathon held today in Tarlac City.
The 34-year-old Buenavista dominated the men's 21-kilometer leg, finishing with a time of 1:13:29 to pocket the P10,000 elimination leg top purse.
The two-time Olympian was about 600 meters ahead of second-placer Nelson Rombosa, who clocked in at 1:24:58, followed by Gavino Lopez at 1:26:46.
"I wasn't exactly preparing for the eliminations, but I train three hours a day for the finals. I believe I have a strong chance to win it this year," Buenavista said.
Buenavista also attributed his comeback to the fair weather. The South Cotabato native failed to defend his crown in the 42-km National Finals last year and finished third in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
In the women's division, veteran campaigner Miscelle Gilbuena led the way with a time of 1:37:29, followed by Berna Pulmano with 1:39:49 and Fredalyn Ramos with 1:57:58.
"This year, although my focus was on running, I added biking to my training," said Gilbuena. "I did less training this year compared to last year, hence the slower time."
"I'm a little disappointed that I didn't beat last year's time, especially when I'd consistenly beat my time in the previous Milo Marathon legs. Nonetheless, I'm happy I won," Gilbuena added.
"I'll train for a better time in the finals."
Buenavista and Romboso will lead several other qualifiers into the 36th National Milo Marathon Finals on December 9 at the SM Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City.
Earlier, Wilson Maningkil (1:15:28) and Lany Cordona (1:38:58) also advanced to the National Finals after winning the Dagupan City elimination leg last week.
Organizers are expecting a total of 200,000 runners, of which 13,500 registered in today's Tarlac leg, through the 18 elimination legs in 17 cities to participate in the nationwide search for the best runners in the country today.
The winner in the local category of the 36th Milo Marathon National Finals will receive P150,000 for the men’s and women’s division, while the winners in the open category will be receive P300,000.
A bonus prize of P50,000 will be given to the runner who can break the 2:15:00 barrier.
Another bonus prize of P20,000 will be given to the male runner who can break the 2:18:53 course record set by Buenavista in 2004, and the same amount will also be given to the female runner who can break the 2:48:16 course record set by Jho-Ann Banayag in 2008.
After the Tarlac Leg, the qualifying race will shift to Angeles City on July 22 and then Metro Manila on July 29.