Brooks Half Marathon 2013

More a training run than a race, this was perhaps the longest time I spent deliberating on whether I should sign up or opt out. Reason being the somewhat prohibitive entry fees. Eventually the significance of the timing – start of another cycle of marathon training – won out and there I was, at the starting line this morning.

Before I get to the race recap, I need to put a note here that the race pack collection area was pretty well done. Even though there weren’t many booths, the number of brands represented were many. The Marathonshop, Powerbar, Aeco, Key Power, Brooks pretty much covered 80% of sports products in the market. As I was hard pressed for time (when wasn’t I?), it was a touch and go affair for me. In fact I didn’t even park inside The Curve. In and out in 15 minutes (including a brief stopover at a teashop for a takeaway).

So at 4:35am I found myself already parked near Vista Komenwel, wondering what the crap I was doing up so early on a Sunday morning. Calvin arrived soon after and as soon as we kitted out, we made for the stadium grounds.Minutes later we rendezvoused with Yvonne, CY and Nick who had warmed up. Right about then my stomach started to churn. After 10 minutes of trying to control the feeling, I gave in and joined the portaloo queue. The feeling went away thankfully and I rejoined the gang for the start.

The organizers did away with the start inside the National Stadium which was a downer. I reckon they couldn’t get around the crowd control getting into and out of the stadium, or maybe the cost of rental was too prohibitive. Instead, 2 different spots of the expansive car park were to be the starting and ending points of the race. No matter. It was after all going to be a long easy run for me. The plan was a 6-minute pace (this race had better teach me to go slow for my long runs!), keeping things as aerobic as possible which isn’t easy since the route can be treacherous in a few stretches. Good thing I lived around this area for close to 8 years, so I was prepared insofar as race route is concerned. 13,000 runners were rumored to have registered for this event (covering the Half Marathon, 10K and 5K) which was an amazing number. The half marathon alone drew 5,000 according to chatter amongst runners.

Lining somewhere in the middle of the pack at the start definitely gave me the impression of being in a large event. After the starting gun was fired, we didn’t move for awhile. By the time we got going we knew it was going to be a tough day out. The humidity was so high, it was hard not to be affected by it. Not 2K into the run, the stomach issues returned and I thought what with the strategy this morning, I’ve nothing to lose (except the dump) if I stop and take care of business. Asked my fellow pacers to carry on and headed to the row of loos by the side. It turned out to be wasted time as everyone seemed to want to use the loos at the same time. I gave up and by the time I rejoined the hordes of runners, a few hundred have passed me and I found myself in unfamiliar territory, many of whom were already walking not far from the start! It was super tiring zig-zagging the thick crowd I’d otherwise gladly follow had their pace be close to what I was running. Soon after a guy on wheelchair (the hospital, not the racing version!) worked his way through the crowd. I thought it wasn’t a good idea at all. While I was sure many applauded his faith and determination, the roads around the area are very poor. A large section of the route passed through construction sites. A question of safety, for him and other runners, more than anything.

My stomach issues temporarily subsided and I was able to put in some quicker splits – if only walkers, courting couples will let runners past! I called out firmly numerous times for walkers to keep to the left but nearly everyone of had their ear plugged! Sigh… The outing was fast becoming a sore outing for me. Just before the 10K point, I spotted Calvin in front but at that exact moment, my foot pod came loose. So I quickly veered to the side and ripped off the cable ties and chucked the pod into my pocket. Screw timing. From then on, I was running by feel, and I was feeling the hot spots on my soles, the replacement insoles of my shoes being the culprit.

The crowd became exponentially worse when the half marathoners merged with the 10K runners at the narrow turning into Vista Komenwel. The cones laid in the middle of the road separating runners and vehicles became a safety hazard than markers. The crowd was so thick that it was impossible to spot humps, potholes and the said cones – until you run into them. I spotted a runner being given CPR in this section and learnt that he wasn’t successfully resuscitated. After being on the receiving end of 5 elbows, I finally cleared the treacherous mile and tried pushing the remaining distance. I’d ran all the uphills that came before but decided to just walk the last 400m of climb.

Finished in over 2 hours, but that was the plan. The spacious finishing area was a vast difference from what we encountered on the roads. I believe the event has grown too large for this route. Either entries are capped off or a different route be mapped for the 10K category. Hung out for awhile before heading home to poo (twice!). Lots of endurance work to be done and the next one in Bidor will definitely be different.

Photo credit: KH Tang
Photo credit: Elaine
About to execute the leap. Photo credit: Tey ET

Summary: It wasn’t a good outing with the crowd, shoes, foot pod and stomach. Plenty of malfunctions. A good thing the compression gear I was wear-testing worked well. Review of that to come.