Her father is the one who inspired her to strive more.

And on her latest run, he is also the one that powered her to finish and win the race.

But this time, he won’t be present anymore to witness her daughter’s victorious moment.

Yielding to a fatal heart attack 22 hours before the Milo National Marathon, Mary Joy Tabal’s father Rolando Sr. succumbed.

But right after she crossed the finish line, Tabal collapsed in tears and stayed there for about a minute.

Mary Joy is a legendary marathoner who brought home glory for the country.

She represented the Philippines in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and won a gold medal for the country during the SEA Games 2017.

And last Sunday, she made history as the onky runner who won five consecutive titles in the National Milo Marathon.

The victory is historical because it is the first time someone won the race on the fifth consecutive time.

But for Tabal, the victory means something else.

She recently went home here in the country after a lengthy international training in Italy.

Though she wanted to spend time with her father who battles pneumonia and diabetes at those times, he encouraged her to continue training.

He also promised her to watch her race.

His encouraging words kept the fire burning for Mary Joy.

He said, “Humana kung unsa man gani ang imong nasugdan, ipadayon.” (Finish whatever you have started, continue with it.)

Apparently, that was their last conversation.

Because of her extreme grief over her father’s passing, Mary Joy didn’t get any sleep the night before the competition.

On the day of the contest, she thought of quitting the race seconds after it started.

In an interview, the Olympian said, “Sa sugod pa lang, wa na, kaundangon na kaayo ko after sa first turnaround pa lang, nya kalit lang nigaan ako paminaw, na feel nako siya, murag nisulod siya nako. Iya jud ko gikuyugan. (From the start I had really wanted to stop already right after the first turnaround then I suddenly felt light, I felt him, it had seemed that his spirit took over me. He really accompanied me.)”

Right after she crossed the finish line and made MILO history, Mary Joy crashed into the floor and cried really hard.

After the awarding ceremonies, she headed straight to their home and placed her gold medal to her father’s casket.

She then retorted, “This is dedicated to my father.”

Though it is quite inapplicable to celebrate her victory, Mary Joy mirrored the heart of a true champion on her unbelievable race.

All hats off for you, Mary Joy.

Our deepest condolences and prayers go with you.

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