MANILA, July 17, 2006 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Eduardo Buenavista bade oval races goodbye as he successfully relaunched his quest for full-marathon stardom yesterday.

Buenavista used the 30th National Milo Marathon NCR elimination as the launching pad of his shift to 42K run, outclassing the oppositions in the prestigious race starting and ending at the Rizal Park.

Cagayan de Oro lass Ailyn Tolentino, a Palarong Pambansa product dreaming of becoming a national runner someday, showed her potential in winning the distaff side in runaway fashion.

It was a virtual walk in the park for Tolentino, fifth placer in last year’s national finals, who clocked 3:12:26, winning by 40 minutes over second-placer Geraldine Sealza.

Buenavista, a two-time Olympian who used to dominate 10,000m and 5,000m runs in Southeast Asia, found worthier rivals in Mamerto Corpuz and Reynaldo delos Reyes, needing to work hard in the last 15 kilometers to rule the men’s side in 2:33.10.

"Corpuz ran a fast pace. I played catch-up role until the last five kilometers where I surged ahead then slowly broke away," said Buenavista in Filipino.

"Actually, my battle plan was just run-to-qualify. I thought 2:40 would do it. I submitted better time as I was boosted by the fast pace set by Corpuz," added Buenavista after another triumphant foray in 42K.

The pint-sized runner from South Cotabato has decided to shift to full marathon following sorry defeats in front of hometown crowd in the Manila SEA Games at the Rizal track-oval last year.

"I was told by my coaches that my strength for 10K and 5K is only good for the SEA Games. I want to win in bigger stage so I’ll now concentrate on marathon," said the 27-year-old Airman First Class.

The national record holder in 42K with a time of 2:18:44 established in a Japan invitational meet in 2003, Buenavista promised to train hard in a bid to break the record and possibly win the Milo National Finals in December.

"My target is 2:15 in the national finals," said Buenavista, looking forward to recapture the Milo title he won in 2002.

Buenavista beamed with pride as he received the champion’s trophy and the cash pot of P30,000 during the awarding ceremony at the Rizal Grandstand.

Joining Buenavista at center stage were Corpuz, Delos Reyes, Edison Ticzon, Modesto Madalang Jr., Ronald Despi, Joewe Bandoy, Elpidio Taguyangan, Rolly Sion and Delmo Sullano who finished second to 10th in that order.

Tolentino also earned P30,000 for topping the women’s run, followed by Sealza, Daisy Castillo, Rosario Alberto, Jenny Kinsella, Cindy Janoras and Eñate Sayrol.

A total of 12,058 runners answered the starting gun with 575 competing in the 42K run that took off in front of the Jose Rizal monument in Luneta, covered stretches of Roxas Blvd and EDSA and passed through the Global City in Taguig before heading back to Luneta.

Aware that no one could give her a push, Tolentino, a La Salle-Dasmariñas criminology freshman competing in her second full marathon, buckled down to work early and easily pulled off a coast-to-coast win.

"I should have got better clocking if there’s somebody who could keep pace with me," said Tolentino.

Buenavista, outwitted by Cresencio Sabal in the recent 25K New Balance Run, ran with cunning this time.

"I just jogged in the early goings then poured everything in the last 15 kilometers," said Buenavista of his winning strategy.

Corpuz led by about a kilometer over Buenavista at some point but couldn’t keep up as the eventual winner gathered speed after the turn from Buendia to Roxas Blvd.

Buenavista drew cheers from the crowd as he checked in with the warm early morning sun already in full view in Luneta.

MILO MARATHON NOTES: Buenavista said the pain of his sorry loss to a Thai rival in the last SEAG still burns. "Ang hirap kalimutan dahil na-disqualify ako sa harapan ng mga kababayan natin," said Buenavista, stripped of the 10,000m gold medal after he was found to have cut through the path of his Thai rival in a mad dash to the finish. The same Thai runner beat him in the 5,000m event... Buenavista is not totally dumping 10,000m runs. He said he would also consider competing in 10,000m road races but not oval events... The Philippine National Police drew its own crowd in Luneta yesterday as it staged drills in crowd dispersal and control. Several marathoners became the police’s spectators after completing their run.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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