The runners around me let out a collective groan as the rain came down, light shower at first before developing into something more threatening. I had on me 3 old race tees on top of my singlet, a disposable arm warmer, a cap and shorts. I’d completed my warm up prior but with the wind and rain, the body was quickly cooling down. Even the singing of the Australia National Anthem sounded listless. Memories of Kasumigaura Marathon some years ago came flooding back. Unlike Kasumi however, there was less fretting on my part as I was determined not to let 18 weeks of training go down the drain. The little tree cover above provided a bit of protection, enough to keep my 2 inner layers dry but my shoes were soaked through from the running rainwater. I hopped in place to keep some semblance of warmth as the emcee counted down the start. I had discarded 2 tees and decided to keep 1 around my neck just a bit longer. When the gun went off, I immediately lost Budiman who had been standing next to me. GCM19 was the second marathon we found ourselves participating together, after Nagano. I consumed a gel and kept hopping to keep my muscles warm. The gut issues I’ve endured the past 3 days due to being lactose intolerant, seemed to have abated. I’d been concerned about the power in the legs being zapped as a result of my visits to the WC but Saturday’s 5.7K Fun Run (26:16) seemed to suggest otherwise.
My goal time was a conservative 3:30 (4:58/km) but I carried some confidence from having completed my longer MPs and a tough simulator quicker than that. While several weeks didn’t turn out as planned in terms of mileage, I’ve kept up with the SOS workouts once I’ve readjusted my initial 3:25 goal time pace from Week 10 onwards. I even scaled back the easy miles on certain weeks to allow the body more time to recover. Despite cutting back, I still ran more miles per week over the course of 4 months than I did training for GCM18. I was confident that I caught myself, just in time, from tipping over into the burnout zone, so anything between 3:25 and 3:30 was a possibility on a good day.
The crowd moved hesitantly at first but quickly progressed to the target pace when the road opened up 300m after the start. As sudden as it had came down, the rain stopped right about then. I closed in on Sally and her co-pacer, but due to the crowd, I only caught up after the course hooked a left towards Main Beach, and because I was cloistered within my own little pack of runners, I occasionally found myself running ahead of the pacers! There was a danger in getting bunched in, and I extricated myself from the pack to avoid going out way too fast. Racing at this pace certainly required a bit more situational awareness and being mindful of the goings-on within and around ourselves. That is why I love the marathon. The goals you set, the distance to be run, the miles you’re required to put in, and the mind games you play with yourself, all elevate the marathon to a very cerebral undertaking!
Back to the race. The running was effortless and got to the 5K mark at Surfers Paradise in 24:25 having taken my 2nd gel. I was pretty much in my own world, trying to get into a meditative state of pacing when Hee Boo suddenly appeared next to me having chased the 3:30 bus all the way from Pen B! As we chugged along smoothly, I pointed out to him the upcoming aid stations and course turns so that we could adjust our trajectory. The post-rain weather was fantastic. By 7K, we realized that the pacers were holding a much faster clip than necessary for a 3:30 and definitely not slowing down, an observation validated by some runners around us. The duo were pulling 10 seconds quicker than goal pace and once we recognized that the pace weren’t going to be sustainable for us, we let them go.
After a few turns along familiar streets, we finally joined the Gold Coast Highway, the new section of the course, at the 10K mark (48:53). This wider stretch certainly more accommodating for the masses. By then the sun was up but conditions were generally cool and pleasant to run. I removed and tucked the disposable arm warmers into my shorts waist. We continued our merry way to the Southern-most u-turn at Burleigh Heads, which once again in my opinion retained its reputation as the best supported section of the marathon. I low-fived as many adorable kids as I could, supporting us that morning. This time around, runners made the left u-turn as opposed to right the previous years. We hit 15K in 1:13.00, just 2 minutes off April’s NatGeo 15K of 1:11.28. We hit the halfway mark in 1:42.04, 2-minute PR over Jan’s Twincity Half of 1:44.06 and couldn’t help but feel over the moon about the whole thing. It served to illustrate just how much quicker the pacers were going even if we held ourselves back. Had we been that crazy and completed the 2nd half in a similar pace, we’d have run a 3:24 marathon! Hypothetically speaking of course, since to produce that effort was simply beyond us at our current fitness levels. Instead I kept reminding Hee Boo that we needn’t be running any quicker and just needed to stay loose and relaxed – 4:50 to 4:55/km were plenty good!
We kept a very consistent average pace and with buoyant spirits, in no small part due to the raucous support from the crowd lining the streets, we arrived back at Surfers Paradise in 2:02 (25K), determined to get to the 30K mark in as good shape as possible for the final assault. The sparse crowd between 25K and 30K allowed for some introspection and warming up of the mental resolve that would be called upon pretty soon. After all, my legs were already reminding that they were a little tired. Other than that, I was good for the race. Burping was always a good sign to me – an indication that my gut was still functioning well, which also meant that the gels ingested would still be converted to fuel.
This year, the 30K mark (2:26) came earlier on the course. Instead of being on the Sundale Bridge, it was right at the foot of it. No worries, flash our best smiles at the camera and get on with the job! As usual, the support in Southport was fantastic. Crowds were thick on both sides and they gave us runners fantastic support. Hint: To those with a rather difficult name to shout out, be sure to adopt a simpler one for the race bib, like Alex, Tim or Ken! You’ll appreciate the hollers coming your way!
I grabbed 2 packs of Endura gels from the table and hurried along. I believe Hee Boo dropped off sometime along this stretch and I was suddenly alone. I lost 5 seconds heading up the hump at 31K mark but regained back the pace the next 2Ks. The pace dropped again over the next KM, but clawed back the next. My mantra was, “There’s no pain, there’s no self.” as long as I could. This went on rather frustratingly until the finish, firstly trying my darndest to sustain the effort going up the Land’s End Bridge and then decided to walk 6 steps when drinking from the 2nd last water station.
Yet, that wasn’t my slowest split. The slowest was when my fellow comrades and I were battling head wind along Marine Parade. 5:23 was all my tight legs could muster. It was inspiring to see how the runners around me didn’t throw up their hands and walked. Except for one of the 3:30 pacer who had headed out too quickly! Everyone else put their heads down, leaned into the wind and fought the final 2Ks. Shuffling as quickly as I could was I could do and when I saw that iconic Macca signage, I knew the worst was over and it was time to enjoy the run in. My name was easy to scream and thus I was able to just take it all in, even if it was all a blur.
Someone screamed my name (it was Jessie and her friend) just as I took the final left onto the final 250m. I couldn’t turn my head around so I just raised my hand in acknowledgement – thanks guys! The Emcee worked the crowd hard as we pushed and sprinted the final 200m to the finish line. Sally, the other 3:30 pacer was there jogging and urging the runners on. I’d lost visual contact of the pace team since the 30K mark, so that was quite unexpected. Only then did I allow a peek at the official clock on the gantry, which flashed 3:30 and change. It was just a matter of how much I managed to dip under it.
Even as I’m typing this now, it’s a little difficult describing my feelings of crossing the finish line – just so many emotions. A mixture of joy, relief, and pride I guess. I did nearly jumped for joy when I spotted Stella right after the finish line! She definitely needed a little vacation herself, having run around chaperoning the SEA athletes!
4:59 > 4:47 > 4:50 > 4:58 > 4:52 > 4:50 > 4:49 > 4:58 > 4:59 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:49 > 4:50 > 4:50 > 4:45 > 4:49 > 4:53 > 4:47 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:51 (HM PR – 1:42.04) > 4:54 > 4:54 > 4:55 > 4:54 > 5:00 > 4:57 > 4:52 > 4:55 > 4:50 (30K PR – 2:26.14) > 4:55 > 5:04 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 5:08 > 4:53 > 5:03 > 5:14 > 5:12 > 5:11 > 5:23 > 5:03 > 4:19
I don’t think I’ll need to change much of my current approach. Just a tweak here and there and looking after myself better.
- There’s been little downtime from running since GCM18 and even if there was a dip in Macao (3:48), the accumulated mileage certainly helped. Over the 18-week period, I logged over 1,300km but I’d like more. The challenge would be finding a solution around time constraints – despite resorting to train commutes, I’m still spending too much time traveling to and from the office.
- I ran a great 30K (sub-2021 BQ Standard) and if I could train well, stay healthy and injury-free and pray that the planets align themselves, I could be in with a chance next year.
- I’d neglected drills and strength work and it was clear that there’s room for improvement in my ability to run the final 12K very well.
- Pacing was consistent, the hallmark of the LHR/HMM program. Even though my pace dropped the final few kms, I didn’t slow down as much as the other runners.
- My next Goal MP is going to be between 4:47 to 4:50/km. I ran 14 secs/km quicker this time around compared to last year, but I’d be very very happy with an 8 to 10 seconds improvement next year. It gets harder and harder.
- I’ll still be going with the LHR/HMM program for my 37th marathon. Since adopting elements of it in 2017 and fully integrating it for the 2018 and 2019 races, I’ve shaved off close to 30 minutes off the 2016 timing.
A successful execution depends on so many factors and elements. My heartfelt thanks go out to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and Holiday Tours for their hospitality and professionalism once again, for allowing me to be part of the 5-Star Family. GCM19 was yet another stupendous edition despite the weather challenges. They’ve always looked out for me and always seeking to improve the event. The number of runners keep rising year-on-year and who knows, entries in the near future may be going to the ballot! Back at home, the support from the family, running mates are not forgotten and when others are racing this year end, it would be my turn to return the favour (even if a 4:42 MP pace sounds impossible!). Team work rocks, and congrats to all the runners for toughening out!
Until the next race!