Running in Putrajaya and night marathons. “Easy” just isn’t a word that comes to mind when you take each of them separately. Combine them and you get a nasty mix only a masochist would look forward to. Nevertheless runners being suckers for such challenges, has seen the Putrajaya Night Marathon (PNM) grow in strength over the years. As expected, the number of sign-ups were great this year but the turn outs were poor only because it clashed with the adidas King Of The Road happening the very next morning. Of the 800 registered for the marathon, I believe only half – at best – turned up.
Kew, Nick, Azim and I queued up near the back of the marathon corral, yet it took us just 20 seconds to cross the start line. I’d secretly sought Nick’s buy-in to a 4:30 goal time, but only after I felt confident that I could hack it. It was, afterall, just 6 days after 61K at Back 2 Endurance and a 10K on race morning. That may not count much to some folks who go on such exploits week in week out, but it does to me. A 6:23 pace meant that there would be no dilly-dallying at the aid stations, unlike my approach during the recent KL Marathon.
The weather was simply excellent, almost beckoning us marathoners to grab this all-too-rare moment to just do it. Kew and Azim were some meters ahead of Nick and I the first 4K before Azim went off leaving Kew to drop back to the 2 of us. The cool weather was just superb after a light drizzle and proceedings were kept very relaxed and aerobic. I had in my hand a bottle of Nuun mix to stay hydrated which meant I saved some time at the aid stations. Along the way, I discovered that the best way to tackle the seemingly endless loops and climbs in Putrajaya is not to cast your gaze too far ahead. Do that and your spirits could very well be crushed like a bug on a windscreen. A good thing I had my cap on, which not only kept the drizzle out of my eyes but also to get me focused on what was just ahead of me and just enough so that I didn’t run into the traffic cones!
Meanwhile I was still tackling the climbs very easily and really took advantage of the long downs. The pace had been very consistent and I was definitely passing way more than being passed. Nick was running strongly and well and even if he needed to stop for water, he’d always catch up. So I was a little surprised to have lost him, umm, I didn’t know where as I was just too locked into my pace. Even at the 30K U-turn, I thought I had something left in the legs and tank and could still keep the pace and effort honest. I took a quick pee break just after the U-turn right after taking 3 huge bites off a humongous banana.
Things started to get reallydifficult at the 38th K but the LYN support station – complete with ice-cold Coke and beer(!) – caught me by surprise. I opted just for a cup of Coke, thank you! A big @ass climb came not long after that which reduced me to a walk. The only thing to do was to walk fast and not to lose more time. I’d stopped looking at my watch, a good thing too. Just concentrate on clearing each section and get closer to the finish. If I thought that climb was tough, I was in for another unpleasant surprise when instead of the usual right turn to the finish in front of the Palace of Justice, we had to cover the long and lonely straight to the far end (reverse Powerman) before the final approach. Most had already left to catch some shut-eye before the King Of The Road race. So it was nice to still see some familiar faces cheering the finishers.
As it turned out, #23 was an enjoyable outing. The early pacing was fantastically consistent which helped proceedings. The compliant weather aided in no small way too. I ran into issues only late into the game from 38K, knocking off at least another 4 minutes of what could’ve been. A check into my Garmin records showed my fastest block to be the 3rd quarter of the race where I covered the 10K in 58mins. The 4:23.11 finish per my watch was incidentally my best in 5 years. In fact, I’d to go back to the 2008 NYC Marathon to find a quicker time (4:03). Now, how could I be disappointed with that? Working myself back to those timing have been a long, frustrating and slow process. There hadn’t been any speedwork leading up to this and the only 2 significant areas which I’ve tweaked were a bit more mileage and a little change in mindset. It helps that I’ve been enjoying the easier form of running as well. There are huge chunks to chip away in getting back to 4:15, 4:10 and 4:03 but I’m not having any of those thoughts cloud my mind. There’s a much bigger giant to slay in the coming months.