The Curious Case of Mary Joy Tabal


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Lately everyone’s talking about how Mary Joy Tabal just recently qualified for the upcoming Rio Olympics. Honestly I was really hoping she gets the spot, but after spending some time with some of our National Athlete’s in the recent Phuket International Marathon, I heard the other side of the story behind Mary Joy Tabal’s qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

So when my old friend Edward Kho who’s representing PATAFA requested this article to be published, I think everyone should at least know their side of the story.

Note: Before reading further, please note that Pinoy Fitness published this article not to side with PATAFA, but we believe it is important for us to know what PATAFA’s position is with the current issue. You can agree or disagree on where PATAFA is coming from, and is very welcome to leave constructive comments to help the PATAFA in making their final decision.

Update June 8 – Jonel Borromeo and PATAFA now discussing about reinstating Joy – News:


“I would look at this situation in a very optimistic way and we are very willing to follow all of the procedures Patafa will give us to reinstate Joy. We will make no shortcuts and will follow the procedures accordingly,” – Borromeo.

The Curious Case of Mary Joy Tabal

From: Edward Kho (Head of Marketing of PATAFA)

What it truly means for her to represent the Philippines in the Rio Olympics.

The running community recently celebrated the success of Mary Joy Tabal hitting the Olympic standard for marathon. Joy ran a 2:43:30-hour marathon time at the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, beating the 2:45-hour standard for her to join the Olympics. While the running community celebrates, there are mixed feelings inside the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).

PATAFA is the national governing body for athletics sports such as track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking in the Philippines. It provides guidance and support to select athletes to perform their best and represent the country. PATAFA has a rich history of coaching, even enroling the help of athletes like the legendary Dick Beardsley to help with training its athletes.

PATAFA is responsible for selecting the official track and field delegation of the Philippines to the Olympics. But it has a sad history with Mary Joy Tabal.

In October 2014, Mary Joy Tabal, along with other standout athletes, was recommended by the coaching staff to be included in the national team. Four months later in February 2015, PATAFA communicated Tabal’s official inclusion to national team. This means that she is now part of the privileged few who would receive coaching so that she can represent the country in milestone events like the SEA Games and the Olympics.

Part of PATAFA’s responsibilities would be to keep national athletes at their best. It means helping them make choices on training, including the races to run. This is very important for long distance events like the marathon. In elite athletics, marathoners should not take part in more than two marathon races within a span of 12 months. Based on scientific studies, participation in a marathon taxes the body tremendously down to the cellular level.

From a layman’s standpoint, Elites may just appear as running effortlessly at a constant pace for 42KM. But inside the body of the elite marathoner running an average pace of 3:45min/KM is a totally different story. Running a marathon at this pace imposes a huge demand on the different physiological systems of the body. It strains the bones and joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, to the extent that challenges the maximal limit of the athlete’s body.

PATAFA takes care of its long distance athletes that is why these physiological facts are explained to the athletes in detail. It is also why PATAFA requires agreement to rules and regulations that come with being part of the National team. This includes consistently informing PATAFA of athletic activities that may potentially hinder performance in offical events where the country is represented.

Joy Tabal was a special case. Because of her talent, she was granted certain exceptions. For example, while other athletes were required to relocate to the Philsports training camp and be supervised by duly designated national coaches, Joy was allowed to be based in Cebu. She received special treatment upon her request. It was an assumption that her personal coach would be able to provide guidance, but with inputs from PATAFA.

Slowly, these exceptions, became a source of alarm to PATAFA. Tabal began racing without discretion; meaning, she runs and wins events but with a long term negative impact on her legs.

Prior to her inclusion into the national team, Tabal won the December 2014 Milo Marathon Finals. Apart from the cash prize she, she and the male marathon champion Rafael Poliquit were awarded an all expense paid entry to the 2015 Los Angeles (LA) Marathon. They were, of course, advised by the PATAFA leadership to forego the LA Marathon trip as it would impact their training for the forthcoming 2015 SEA Games. Participating too soon in a race would also adversely affect their long term athletic performance. Aside from this, PATAFA had already developed a two-year program for both of them to reach their optimum potential as marathoners with the 2016 Olympics as the ultimate goal. This meant being selective with their races, to give the Philippines the best opportunity during the Olympic games.

Unfortunately, both advice and explanation went unheeded. Both Tabal and Poliquit raced the LA Marathon without sanction from PATAFA. Upon their return from the US, they were asked to submit a letter of explanation why they have disregarded the express advise of PATAFA.

Immediately, Poliquit drew up a letter of apology, citing error in judgment for his non-compliance and promised to abide with the NSA directives and regulations from then on. Poliquit’s case was then resolved and closed. Tabal’s case had a different twist.

Instead of writing a letter of apology, or explanation at the very least, Tabal wrote a lengthy letter of justification for her decision. She cited that Milo pressured her to join the LA Marathon as part of her “contractual” obligation in winning the Milo Marathon. PATAFA sought the side of Milo; the latter denied that it ever pressured Tabal to run the LA Marathon. They maintained that the LA Marathon participation was actually a privilege for the Milo Marathon winners, and not an obligation. In short, it was up to the winners to take that privilege. They were disappointed that Tabal lied.

But the racing continued. Even after the LA Marathon, Tabal went on joining local races, with 21K as minimum distances. She continued to disregard her obligation as a National Team member, disheartening teammates who abided by the PATAFA guidelines, and lowered her chances of peak performance at the 2015 SEA Games where she was to represent the country.

While disappointed, PATAFA retained their belief in Tabal. Some officers saw Tabal’s potential and the missed opportunity if she won’t be able to compete in the SEA Games. With insistent prodding, Tabal submitted an apology message so that she can compete. Instead of writing a formal apology letter, she sent a short casual text message to PATAFA President Philip Juico.

Juico, in his genuineness, never took slight and believed in Tabal’s apology over SMS. He took it as an indication of Tabal’s sincerity. Tabal then competed in the SEA Games and as predicted, ran very poorly with a time of 3:15 hours. Her time was estimated to be at least 20 minutes better had she listened to the PATAFA and kept her commitment as a National Team athlete.

Right after the SEA Games, PATAFA learned that Tabal was again joining a string of local long distance races. This included a triathlon event that would severely impact the long term plans for the Olympics. PATAFA leadership was very unhappy with Tabal’s decisions, and what they discovered to be her unmanageable and prideful attitude. They directed her to submit a letter of explanation for the unsanctioned activities and for continuing to disregard her responsibilities as a National Athlete.

Tabal responded on August 13, 2015: a 3-page, impeccably written, legalese sounding resignation letter. Saddened by the loss of potential, PATAFA President Philip Juico accepted her resignation.

All the while, as she continued winning races, Tabal remains a hero. She is fast and strong, and there was never a mention of how she conducts herself outside of the races. She is portrayed as a hero. In fact, a Cinderella who trains on her own and blossoms into a winner in all the events she joins.

This is the reason why PATAFA is having such a conflicted time with Joy’s qualification to the Olympic Standard. Achieving the standard is an eligibility to be included in the competition; it is not an outright prerogative. In order to join the Olympics, Tabal first needed to make herself be part of the national team and commit herself to the team and to the body that governs the team. But she was unwilling to make that commitment and in fact, voluntarily resigned from the National Team in 2015.

Everyone immediately presumes Tabal’s inclusion into the Philippine Olympic team. But that presumption is tantamount to penalizing all national team members who have toiled under the challenging conditions of being a national athlete and remained faithful to the sport and the association. After all of what Tabal has demonstrated to PATAFA, it is now a difficult decision to endorse her as a representative of the Philippines, selected to mirror the ideals and attitudes of the country.

This decision matters because Tabal will never win the Olympics. Her participation is a matter of pride for the Philippines, and supposedly a personal honor for her.

Tabal’s qualifying time is 2:43 hours. She is far from the Women’s leading time of 2:19 hours, while the top 23rd women marathoner clocked in at 2:27 hours. “Team B” qualifiers for the US Team is 2:45 hours. By extrapolation, Tabal’s time will put her outside the top 100. If ever she makes it in the Olympics, right before she steps into the starting line, she’s already guaranteed to land on the tail end of the race. Also, by refusing to listen to PATAFA guidance, Tabal is sure to have destroyed her legs for the Olympics. She has run two hard marathons in the span of one month in order to qualify. In all practical consideration, her participation will not even be felt by her competitors.

Tabal’s participation in the Olympics was never about her winning it. She was to be groomed as the representation of the Filipino athlete. Talented, driven, and passionate about the sport. PATAFA knows that she will never win, but does she truly deserve to represent the sport?

The cost of her participation will be shouldered by taxpayers, and it is PATAFA’s choice to send her or not. Sadly, it now seems like asking Filipinos to chip in to fund a millennial who wants to prove an egotistical point. That an athlete can be undisciplined and disrespectful, so long as a qualifying time is met. People are celebrating, but what are they truly celebrating? It is PATAFA’s opinion that perhaps, with more maturity and humility, Mary Joy Tabal can represent the country for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

(Note: Article was from Edward Kho, Head of Marketing of PATAFA)


  1. Sayang…hope you’ll get also the athlete (Joy) side of the story. PATAFA has set guidelines and implements them to protect it’s athletes. Surely as an athlete she is aware of the impact and harm it can do to her in the long run.Was it more of a necessity for her to join more runs?

  2. I’m just curious as to why Edward Kho would personally ask to publish this story. I mean what is the motive. It’s sad because as much as the article tries to stay neutral, the end point shows that Tabal didn’t listen to PATAFA. We have something positive and good here. Instead of bringing up these issues let’s support and hope she reps the country well.

  3. Some cant be blamed. Athletes compete underground to live and survive. They have to win weekend races to provide for their family. Thats the other side of the story.

  4. Very biased accounting of the issue. “Tabal’s sincerity. Tabal then competed in the SEA Games and as predicted, ran very poorly with a time of 3:15 hours. Her time was estimated to be at least 20 minutes better had she listened to the PATAFA and kept her commitment as a National Team athlete.” How the hell did the writer made that conclusion? I will wait for the athlete’s side. Present the other side to this story please.

  5. It’s sad because this article is tarnishing the reputation of Pinoy Fitness. It’s dividing the community. ☹️

  6. based on the ff premise i suppose:
    “In elite athletics, marathoners should not take part in more than two marathon races within a span of 12 months. Based on scientific studies, participation in a marathon taxes the body tremendously down to the cellular level. …inside the body of the elite marathoner running an average pace of 3:45min/KM is a totally different story…. It strains the bones and joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, to the extent that challenges the maximal limit of the athlete’s body.”
    and yes, with benefit of doubt, Joy’s side should also be presented.

  7. Enzo Torres ang punto dito dude and ni @pinoy fitness ah para malaman ang both side ng storya…. maiintindihan mo yan kung binasa mo nang buo ang article or mas maiintindihan mo ung article kung isang runner or atleta ka din
    bugbog na masyado katawan ni tabal, at kung ipipilit na lumaro sya sa rio e hindi den makukuha ung best condition nya dahil napakalayo nang 2:43 sa 2:23 time nang karamihang kasali dito
    ang punto dito ay hindi yung hindi pag sunod nya sa PATAFA kundi ung kondisyon nang katawan nya para tumakbo sa rio. masyado nang bugbog

  8. salamat sa pag post nang article na to pinoy fitness at mas naliwanagan kame kung anu ba ang magkabilang side nang pangyayare… sa mga naka free data jan. try nyo basahin yung link para mas ma intindihan nyong mabuti .

  9. Jay Arroyo I read the whole article. And I myself am an active runner and multisport enthusiast in case you were wondering bro.
    I understand na she’s probably overdoing it. Pero that’s what the article is simply saying already man.
    For me pare, if we look at the bigger picture, PATAFA didn’t have to ask Pinoy Fitness to publish this story. Again, in my personal opinion, the MOTIVE here is not to let people know that Tabal is overdoing it. By publishing this article, many have lost faith in Tabal. People would perceive her differently. That’s the sad part for me

  10. Before publishing this article you should have tried to get the side of the athlete as well so it would be more balanced. Right now it looks like a demolition job.

  11. The action of PATAFA on mary joy’s issue does not sit well with the effort that she put in when she qualified for the Olympics. First of all whenshe did poorly in the SEA games she was still a member of PATAFA. HOWEVER when quit & trained on her own, she did made it to the qualifiying round.

  12. This is not a sports politics. PATAFA is just abide by their Rules and Regulations. Mary Joy just prove herself to us that she can represent our country to the Olympic but she must suffer the consequence of her actions. Getting her side by criticizing the authority will just make the situation worst and will more likely degrade her not unless she will sincerely apologize to the public (remember what she did to Milo).

  13. I think is not a demolition job Ms. Kikay Runner. This is just to publish the truth behind the story. Me personally I know the story of it.

  14. doesnt matter, joining multiple long race is a given fact. Its well known scientifically that elite long distance runner shouldnt do it dahil it will greatly impact their performance.

  15. There’s a reason why PATAFA and other national athletes are failing. If Manny Paquiao went under the bureaucratic limits and kiss-ass politics of a govt sports council, he would not be the champion he is today. The proof of the pudding is in the eating! Good luck to Ms Tabal!

  16. Bambu Lazado the fact she did it mean her performance will deteriorate greatly, its a know fact

  17. Say tabal doesn’t follow PATAFA’s guidelines on training and is not given the olympic slot, who are we going to send then? Tabal has proven what she can do with the current training that she does. Di naman tsamba yan. Give her a chance.

  18. Its all a matter of ego to those PATAFA official. They have applied for an exception for maristella torres since they are assuming that no one will qualify for the olympic slot. To their suprise suddenly the one who never ask for any financial support suddenly had a performance worthy of a slot to the olympics. If elite long distance runnner should not do multiple long distance races and joy had been doing it otherwise then how come she did break the national record? Isip-isip pag may time. Its all ego and politics in PATAFA. Isumbong na yan kay Digong!!

  19. It just means she had poor training or poor conditioning prior. If she was better prepared, even if she didn’t join PATAFA’s program, she will get better time. PATAFA doesn’t have a monopoly on good programs. Case in point, she qualified in the olympics without PATAFA’s training.

  20. Why should tabal apologize to the public she did not even use the taxes of the people just like what the article is implying. She continued her training thru the support of her generous sponsor.

  21. Are the athletes given the proper financial support? Maybe there is a reason why she’s running without permission from PATAFA.

  22. Ang isang athlita kailngan at na pipilitan mag hanap bubay para sa pamilya,kung sapat lang ang financial na binibigay nila kay joy naka fucos sana yan sa insayu at twice a year nlang sana cxa nag lalaro ng full mary,pero sa kakulnga ng supurta isa din yan sa dahilan kung bakit napilitan ang tao mag laro para matustusan ang pangangailangan ng pamilya..isa c mary joy sa pina ka malakas at mabilis na babae sa larangan ng takbo ang nangunguna sa bansa natin,sa halip n ipolitika cxa dapat suportahan nyu nlang nag sumikap lang cxa para sa pamilya..

  23. the thing is there should be humility, its one thing not be given sponsor or finance her training but its another thing to disregard or disrespect authority. The lesson to be learned is to always be humble and treat everyone with respect. We should understand where PATAFA is coming from? Besides theres nothing wrong in apologizing.

  24. I think the root problem of all this is the financial support given by the government to our athletes. We just don’t know that Joy might have some financial problems that she have to join races with attractive prizes.

  25. Not easy being a runner. Passion or sport politics. For me ok makita ang PHL flag n tumatakbo sa olympic marathon event. Sana lng matapos nya ang course.

  26. Thanks for this news article, now I know why I can’t run anymore the same way as when I began to like running back in 2010. Now I’m only able to jog for about an hour once a week at a very slow pace, and have lost the urge to join fun runs.

  27. My question is how much? How much did Patafa pay to Pinoy Fitness for posting this opinion? Did poorly in Seagames? She won a silver medal in case you forget.  If you call her performance poor despite winning a silver medal, how do you label the athletes who trained under the Patafa’s program for years but did not win a medal in Seagames?

  28. Its easy to read out from this PATAFA dont know about how topatletes can perform. The training and competions have diffrents effects on athletes. You cant take 2 persons and give them the same training program, and think they will improve at the same way. Each athletes need a personal trainings program, Some can only run 2 marathons a year, and some can easy run 4-6 marathons a year, and perform each time. Yes i know what i talk about, im educated as Middle and longdistance coach in Denmark, there are much smaller than Phillipines, but will have 2 woman in the Olympic Marathon, and they dont need to follow the national athletics program, they have their own coaches. If Mary Joy was Danish she was the 3.rd runner from Denmark in the Olympic. PATAFA really need to look how they do in other countries.

  29. They dont even know the time Mary Joy ran in Sea games. they write 3.15.. she ran on 3.04 in very bad weather conditions.

  30. and she finished second at the SEA games! If that’s a poor performance, what does that say to the athletes training under them for years and can’t even manage to qualify for the Olympics or the SEA Games

  31. Why didn’t this Edward Kho mention that Joy finished 2nd at the SEA games when they were just expecting her to finish third? Poor performance pa ba yun?

  32. PINOYFITNESS is truly clueless! Did you even try getting the side of Joy??? For the record, she placed 2nd in SEA GAMES. And it was not only her who had a poor time.. ALL OF THE ATHLETES! Why?!?!?!?! It rained so hard in SG that the road was slippery. And just to set things straight, JOY withdrew from PATAFA because they (PATAFA) wanted to have the PRIVATE SPONSORS Joy is getting. They wanted these private sectors to give them financial assistance as well. Yun lang! But of course her personal sponsors are wise in choosing the athletes whom they believe in. And they wanted JOY to train under them?!?!?! Now tell me, is there anyone under their umbrella who made it to the olympics through the kind of “TRAINING” they provide?!?!?!?! JOY IS VERY COMPETITIVE! And COMPLACENCY is not in her vocabulary! But with PATAFA?!?!?! Whatever works on their advantage.. on their ‘own advantage’.. YUN NA!!!

  33. apologize for what?!?!?! For asking Joy and her sponsors to give them the same sponsors otherwise she is out of the group?!?!?! The thing is, you talk like you even know what happened. This article of PINOYFITNESS is full of crap!!!

  34. For someone who personally knows Joy Tabal.. and who has seen the exchange of messages they have had with PATAFA, this article really hurts us. Because we know the REAL STORY behind her withdrawal from the organization.. and this story is just well manipulated! Ms. noelle you have your own sponsors because these companies believed in you. But to force your sponsors to sponsor your team mates just so they can still acknowledge your membership in their group is mortifying! Nakakahiya ang demands nila. and now they have the nerve to say Joy didn’t go through the due process. Maybe she did not.. but not because she wanted to disrespect them. It is because of their ridiculous demands.

  35. Why didn’t Edward Kho mention that Joy finished 2nd at the SEA games when they expected her to just finish third? Poor performance pa ba yun? What does that say about the athletes who trained under them for years and coudn’t qualify for the Olympics or even the SEA games? They can’t even get their facts right! She clocked in a 3:04, not 3:15. And they all performed poorly at the SEA games because it was raining so hard, not because she overtrained or did not listen to PATAFA.

  36. Here’s a simple yet curious question – Has there been anyone in PATAFA’s athletic program who qualified for the Olympics outrightly?

  37. Hahaha…this clearly shows the EGO-TRIP displayed by people leading this PATAFA.  They (PATAFA Heads) want Mary Joy Tabal to submit herself under their “care” so that PATAFA can CLAIM CREDIT for Tabal’s achievements.


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