Other than the packing and eating, I more or less committed every “not-to-dos” for my 11th. It was perhaps an overkill on the relaxed attitude but it’s not because for the lack of respect for the distance. I just wanted to see how much beating I can take. Here’s what I didn’t do according to the books. Readers should be warned that following my actions will result in serious repercussions, or not. You know your body best. Alrighty, the list of wrongs:
- No training.
- Only 2 longest runs of 25K.
- Average of 35K in weekly mileage.
- Slept late the week leading to the race.
- Had no plan until the 4th K.
But for whatever slackness that I was demonstrating, Nature and friends collaborated to make things a lot smoother. After a 4-hour sleep, I was surprised that I had no problems waking up at 1:30am. A quick breakfast later, I was out of the house and reached Dataran Merdeka at 3am. Soon enough, more cars arrived and the parking area were getting rather busy. Not that I was able to catch the 30 minutes of nap I’d planned. Quickly completed the remaining portion of the pre-race rituals, including ingesting another half a bar of the Clif Bar. That was when it started to drizzle and since I love the rain, a grin was forming on my face. Used the near pristine porta-john and made my way to meet up with some friends and to hang out with the Full Marathon Virgins. Everywhere I turned there was someone I knew.
The starting area and the field setup saw a marked improvement this year. Brighter, cheerier, more professionally organized. The incessantly preachy lady from the athletic association was no longer the appointed emcee which was such a great thing. Met and chatted with Mohan and Hazel too. And not long after the appointed pacers entered the holding area, we were off. Just about then the heavens opened up. I tried to keep from stepping into the quickly forming puddles and was reasonably successful in doing that.
Like I mentioned, I had no plans other than to run really slowly interspersed with some walk breaks. It stayed that way until after passing Mid Valley Megamall. I figured that I can try for a 70-minute 10K (1:07.47) which I hit with 3 minutes to spare. I just tried to stay consistent but the long gradual climb towards the Seremban Highway was where I hit the groove and rhythm. After hanging around with my idol, Uncle Hooi, I pulled ahead, with the objective of reaching the 21K mark in 2:20 (2:20.54), which I hit. Confidence was returning and the secret sauce I concocted from easily available ingredients – all right, it was a Gatorade, Red Bull and ORS mix – was not causing my stomach any problems.
It wasn’t dandy throughout though. Both my plantar fasciitis felt really uncomfortable and strained. My lower back felt tight. All these were genuine concerns and I tried to not think about them. I was quite successful in that, fortunately. The problem with the right PF would come back again in the late miles to let me know that it wasn’t happy. Just after passing the 5-hour pacers who were running to pace, I saw the Singapore Blade Runner hobbling painfully in the left side of the road – near the Jalan Pasar turnoff. Runners were shouting encouragement to him and I joined in.
My next target was to hit the 30K mark in 3:30 (3:19.34) which will increase my chances of going under 5 hours. 5 hours may not be a timing to shout for but it was something for me. My last marathon was in Nov 2008! And on top of the 10K target splits, I had something more to aim for. It wasn’t going to be easy as I was bound to slow down sooner or later.
Traffic management was so far superb. The drivers caught in the traffic holdup were pretty much quiet and only a handful made their stupidity known. The run through the Golden Triangle was superb with several cheer teams and a misting station. I was refueling well too. Incidentally I carried just 3 gels and a Clif Bar. I’ve not touched the gel until the 25K mark and had relied just on nibbling the bar for energy. It was only at the KLCC junction that I ran through a section of noisy drivers. We were encountering more and more contention with the vehicles along Jalan Tun Razak and the junction turning into Jalan Ipoh. A blaring ambulance added to the din and confusion which the 2 cops were having some trouble dealing with.
I was approaching the most challenging sections of the marathon. The sun had peeked out of the dark skies and were warming things up. It was getting mental and a personal battle was forming. My pace turned erratic between 6:45 to 7:00 and I was surely slowly down. Luckily the stretch was pretty flat and so it was easier to dig in and keep going. I saw Yim stretching but he couldn’t hear my shouts. It was here that Chee Wee appeared by the roadside and started running alongside me. It has been so long since I last saw him and he was literally Godsend. He kept saying positive things and kept me going. I’d have walked more if not for his presence.
Traffic along Jalan Kuching was pretty bad and though most drivers waited patiently, one purposely knock over the laid barriers into the runners path. A cop spotted his antics and ordered him out of his car to put back the barriers. A few of us cheered the cop. If I were the cop, I’d have made him pull his ears in public humiliation. I was surprised when Frank called out to me at the Duta roundabout. I didn’t expect to see him and was deep in my own thoughts. The Bukit Tunku section right up to The Tijani was a struggle. More disassociation here from the pain in the legs. My cardio and breathing was great but the marathon does not only tax your mental but also the musculo-skeletal form of a runner. And in that department I was definitely not conditioned. So the appearance of the tag team of Julie and Kash was so great. It was a cheering and refreshment spot rolled into one. Kash was handing out bottles of ice cold Gatorade, which I shared with other fellow runners since I didn’t need a whole bottle.
After my walk up the Tijani climb, I picked up the pace down shady Bukit Tunku. I spotted Loke who was running well up ahead. A family cheering us cracked up when I told them I wanted a McDonald’s milkshake. The last 1.3K had to be done solo as it was where Chee Wee will continue his run for home. Did I tell you he didn’t register for this race and was there just to support friends? I carried onwards and headed towards the final stretch where a large crowd awaited. I’d not felt this happy since New York and the joyful feeling of finishing a marathon returned to me. The clock displayed 4:49.33 but the feeling was still priceless.
James was there to congratulate all the runners and direct them to the medal and t-shirt pickup. I limped my way to the car, changed out of the wet gear and dove home in my underwear. Note: It helps when the underwear is a Nike Pro which looks like a normal pair of innocuous short tights. On the way home, I stopped by a 7-Eleven for a bag of ice to soak my legs in.
In the early part of the race, I remembered the start of the Badwater video on Ferg Hawke, The Distance of Truth, where the narrator said that one needs to answer 3 questions before we die – “Who Am I?”, “Why Am I Here ” and “Where Am I Going?”. I toiled with the questions right up to meeting Chee Wee. At the end of my 11th marathon, the answers remained unanswered, and so I will keep searching for them in my future journeys.