Christabel Martes 2x SEA Games Marathon Champion

Christabel Martes

Christabel Martes, the Marathon Queen

First Published July 7, 2013

Article by Enzo Williams

Edited by Doctor Vic Salas, 2020

We have not done a feature on a track and field legend for a while due to the PNG preparation and commitments to assisting various athletes. 

It only fits Christabel Martes, who won the SEA Games Marathon twice – in 2001, and 2005, and is inducted into the Pinoyathletics Legends Athletics. Christabel Martes, undoubtedly our country’s greatest-ever female marathoner, still holds the national records in the 10,000m run (34:40.2) and Marathon (2h38.44).

However, Christabel Martes’s stint with the national team ended in 2009 when she was controversially cut from the national team for participating in the Milo Marathon.  She ran to raise money for the required surgery so she could continue representing the country. We ask Christabel Martes several questions in this article.

Early Days

Born in 1979 in the town of La Trinidad, Benguet, near Baguio. Christabel Martes joined T&F events during the high school intramurals. She was also a basketball team member who represented her department in the University Intramurals and played badminton and soccer.

Christabel Martes was a 12-year-old freshman in high school when she started in Track and Field back in 1992. She tried various events from 200m to 3,000m, the long jump, and the high jump. From Provincial., Regional up to Palaro. Martes coach before let her concentrate on the 400m and 400m hurdles.

There was a time when she joined the Nat’l. SCUAA in Isabela (1993) and won in the 1,500m. She won a bronze medal 2x in the 400m low hurdles in Palarong Pambansa 97 & 98. 

At age 19, Christabel Martes approached veteran coach Mario Castro who was coaching the National Team. She saw them training and worked up the courage to talk to Coach Mario Castro. She wanted to try Long Distance running and was adamant but hopeful that one day she would be representing the country. It was an opportunity she took a chance on as she trusted in the ability of Coach Mario to help her reach her dreams.

Christabel Martes burst onto the scene of elite marathoners when at the age of 20, she won the Milo Marathon Title. This was a title she would defend for the next two years. Eight years later, at the age of thirty, Martes proved her longevity by adding her fourth title in the Milo Marathon.

Martes is one of the very rare few athletes who won a SEA Games gold medal the first time she participated. Adding to the nostalgia is the fact she regained the title after losing it in 2003.

Christabel Martes, What do you think led to you winning a SEA Games Gold in your First SEA Games?

I guess the foundation from my high school and college years. Almost every day, I run on my own — no coach, no training program. You see, in our place, there was no knowledgeable coach in athletics who knows about the training program. Coach Mario Castro handled me after school year ’99, so we had two years of preparation for the 2001 SEA Games.

At first i lacked self confidence when coach Mar told me that our goal is to win the gold (i just smiled). I had the attitude and was submissive to training coz I trust his coaching and it payed off.

Proudest moment?

My proudest moment? hmmm… i was proud of what I’ve achieved in my 10 years in the team.

My goal was to become an Olympian, and I believe I had the capability if I had not undergone chronic injuries.


Martes also paid tribute to coach Mario Castro who she refers to as ‘Super Mario’

I credit my success as an athlete to my dad; he had always been my source of inspiration. To my family for their moral support. And of course, to coach Mario Castro, our long-distance athletes call him ‘Super Mario.’

Because he’s the coach whose athletes produced the most medals during our time (Daud Mama, Ed Buenavista, Allan Ballester, Roy Vence, Rene Herrera), without him, no Christabel Martes in long-distance history.


Who were your fiercest rivals?

In the local, you know already, hehe. (possibly 5k and 10k former SEA Games Champion Mercidita Manipol) In the int’l. Level, it was Pa Pa from Myanmar (Pa Pa is now retired).

What sort of training did you do in your prime years when running the 10,000m National Record?

Actually, I was training for Mary (Marathon). We would run 160km to 200km a week. The Boys (Bertek, Ballester, etc.) would do a bit more from Coach Mario.

Performing  25 x 400m with 30-second rest, I would run them in 1m10 to 1m20 (PB was 1m01), but sometimes, since the guys did them faster and I am the only girl, I would get only 10 seconds of rest cause I had to catch up.


End of an era

Money versus Pride For the Country?

Present Reality of our Athletes versus the Present Situation of our Sports Excellence Program?

“Yes, I’m a candidate for ejection from the Philippine team,” said the four-time champion Martes, the youngest Milo winner at 20 years old in 1999. “I’ll just talk to them and explain. I need the money. I’m having laser therapy for my old injuries and I need to buy vitamins.” (Note: Copied from news report at www.inquirer.net)

These were the exact words from Christabel Martes’s mouth, Lady Champion of the 33rd MILO Marathon FINALS held last Sunday, for her reason why she ran and finished the race despite a strict memorandum from PATAFA (Philippine Amateur Track & Field Association) that the National Pool athletes are restricted from running more than a distance of 10K competitive Road Races at least 3 months before an International Games/Competition.

And the reason for this memo is to make sure that our National Athletes do not divert themselves to their training program for them to “peak” during the competition period/date and, at the same time, prevent them from becoming injured.

In the reaction of the PATAFA officials, as published in the news, Martes will definitely be removed from the list of National Athletes slated to be included in this coming Southeast Asian Games, which will be held in the first week of December 2009 in Laos.

For winning a Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (P 75,000) cash prize or equivalent to $ 1,595.00 in the MILO Marathon FINALS, her chance of winning the Gold Medal in Marathon in the ASEAN Games is gone!



Christabel Martes is a Level II IAAF Coach.

She is now working with Duathlete Pawie Fornea.

Also, Christabel has a six-year-old daughter and devotes her time to taking care of her. She also still runs in Road races. And recently in the Milo Marathon. So asking who are the upcoming stars in women’s distance.


“De Los Santos, Donos and Tabal. I see in the big potential.” (Mary Grace Delos Santos of Zamboanga the Milo Marathon Champion, Floredeliza Donos of Baguio 2012 National 5k Champion, and Mary Joy Tabal of Cebu 2013 National 5k Champion).

“De los Santos,Donos and Tabal. I see in them big potencial.” (Mary Grace Delos Santos of Zamboanga the Milo Marathon Champion, Floredeliza Donos of Baguio 2012 National 5k Champion and Mary Joy Tabal of Cebu 2013 National 5k Champion).
Christabel Martes
Martes does compete as a Masters Athlete, winning the 2000M Steeple.
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