Saucony Endorphin Speed 50KM Review

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While 2020 has largely been a year to forget, the opposite can be said of the running shoe world. Before I go further, I’d like to put it out there that I haven’t lost touch with the realities of today. Other than the ultra-rich 1%, I believe that things could be better for the rest of the world. Getting a new pair of shoes would probably be the last thing on the minds of many. To get this pair, I’d to make cuts here and there as well.

Of course, there are those who are still keeping their training miles up and would need replacement shoes but such purchases need to be more informed than ever or risk spending valuable Earth Credits (as EddBud would say it) on an ill-suited pair. We’ve to thank the shoe reviewers for continuing to put their content online, so that we’re able to make sound purchase decisions.

So, on to the Saucony Endorphin Speed (SES).

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The last pair of Saucony I owned was the Kinvara 9, back in 2018. That may just be 2 calendar years ago but in reality feels more like 5 in terms of shoe years, what with the advances in tech we’re seeing these days. Much like adidas with Boost, Saucony was stuck with EVERUN while other companies were pushing their brand of super-foams into the market. Nike had moved so far ahead of the competition with the various Zoom-X (and to a lesser extent React) models and even Reebok and NB had their well received Floatride and FuelCell midsoles.

As it turned out, the Saucony engineers weren’t really bumming out on the couch, more like taking a more measured approach to their R&D and 2020 is when the company have been hitting it out of the park with the Triumph, Ride and Endorphin series. The Endorphin series comprises of 3 models – Pro, Speed and Shift. Saucony essentially covers the top tier racing, faster-day training and easy-recovery day spectrum with these 3, similar to the approach adopted by ASICS for their Glidesole trio [GlideRide review here]. Launched July, stocks were and continue to be very limited globally. We can consider ourselves lucky to be able to try out and get the Speed here. The Pro and Shift will not be brought into Malaysia.

The SES fit true to size and weigh in at 8.55oz in my size US10. According to Saucony’s product page, the SES have a 35.5/27.5mm stack height for an overall 8mm drop. The shoes look absolutely stunning with the fluorescent highlights standing out from the white base engineered mesh upper.

While the heel cup is of a stiff variety that works really well in locking my heel in, overlays are kept to a minimum and purposeful elsewhere – example being the large logos doing double duty for branding and securing the upper. I also like how thin strips of plastics are used to provide barely-there structure for the lace eyelet chain. There are 3 knit-like (or thicker weave) strips that run diagonally across the vamp. I doubt more structure are needed around there but the strips do provide some assurance of durability.

The tongue is semi-gusseted, and minimally padded which is an interesting approach to save material and therefore weight while providing non-slip comfort. The stock laces are likewise thin and are just nice in length. No complains either on the collar. All in all, a well executed upper with no bunching even when laced up tightly.

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From the photos, you can see that the PWRRUN PB midsole foam bears some similarity to Boost. PB refers to the PeBax polymer material used but you could also be right to assume that PB denotes “Personal Best”. PWRRUN PB is used in the Pro and Speed while the Shift rides on the regular PWRRUN version. Side note: The Triumph 17 and 18 are on the PWRRUN+ (which I quite like).

PWRRUN PB may look like Boost, but they feel anything like. In fact they’re similar to Skechers’ HyperBurst to the touch, almost like pool noodle stuff. In terms of density, Boost feel squishier and a few times heavier compared to HyperBurst with PWRRUN PB somewhere in between both in terms of firmness and weight.

To put into perspective, the SES is just less than an ounce heavier than the Pegasus Turbo 2 yet provides a higher stack height (and thus better protection) and have a nylon plate to boot (and thus better responsiveness). Yup, these babies are plated! Side note: The Pro has a carbon plate.

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Flip the SES over and you’ll see that the outsole design cues follow Saucony’s familiar chevron threads in the forefoot. The hard rubber compound goes round the perimeter of the sole (similar to Nike’s Crash Rail config) surrounding the exposed foam. The same rubber is likewise placed at the heel impact area. The whole outsole still looks like new after 50km and will definitely be durable.

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Now that I’m done with the specs, let’s get to the wear experience because that’s what its all about. On first wear, the following characteristics were immediately obvious:

  • Smooth. They’re very smooth, rolls forward nicely.
  • Less stiff. Unlike the other plated shoes I’ve worn, these weren’t as stiff. In fact I wouldn’t have known there’s a plate inside.
  • Comfortable. Step in feel is great. Soft yet not mushy.
  • Secure. Easy to achieve lock-down without resorting to runner’s knot.
  • Balanced. The shoes are well designed, weight evenly distributed, not bottom heavy.

My first run in the SES was just a short 4K on a hot and muggy evening. The sort of conditions which make you come up with excuses not to go out unless going out involves testing a new pair of shoes. The shoes were very nice, they felt great – Goldilocks cushioning and protection that isn’t too soft nor too hard. Great fit, breathes well but still there was something off. I wasn’t quite sure what that was but I really liked them and so I let the issue rest.

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My second run in the SES was the 1K Virtual Run which was one of my last minute sign-ups. A 4K warm up yielded more or less the same experience as my first run in the shoes but I was in for a surprise when I kicked off the 1K. It was as if these were different shoes I had on! At a much quicker pace, I was able to engage the plate and with each loading, the shoes were able to give something back. They felt instantly more responsive and the harder and quicker I went, the more the shoes gave back.

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Then came the 3rd run – the marathon. It was probably a silly decision but I felt confident enough to go all the way in the SES. That said, I was wise enough to have the 4% stand by in the car should things went south.

I paired the Speed with Steigen socks and my feet stayed dry with no hotspots. There was no rubbing either. The Speed’s wider midsole platform felt stable throughout as well, unlike the squishier 4%. There were 2 sharp u-turns in the 6K loop course necessitating us to run 7 loops for the marathon distance. I was conscious in taking the corners the first couple of loops, after which I didn’t think too much of it. At the pace I was going, I couldn’t load the plate as much to benefit from it. If the PWRRUN PB softens up with use, perhaps the feeling would be different. Count me impressed with the shoes! You can read my “race” recap here.

Where the lighter 4% holds superiority is the very accessible bounce. The runner didn’t have to work as hard to engage the midsole and plate, and over the marathon distance, that advantage counts a fair bit. However, that would be an unfair comparison. The Speed is a trainer that can be raced in and is just a little more than half the price of the Next% while the Next% is an outright racer.

The SES is a much more pleasant shoe to run in than the bottom-heavy and significantly bulkier Zoom Fly 3 (ZF3) and offers greater comfort for the longer runs than the Turbo 2. It’s somewhat similar to the Zoom Fly SP but less stiff. That said, the SES is not the one I’d take out for easy, recovery runs – the Nimbus Lite [review] would be that shoe. They won’t be my daily trainers, the Turbo 2 already playing that role. Neither would they be my Half and Full Marathon race shoes, with the Next%’s foothold secure for those distances. For me, the Speed would be very suited to MP sessions, long steady paced training runs, and progressive workouts.

Any negatives, I hear you ask? I’d really be nit-picking here but at my 4:45 MP, I didn’t seem to be able to engage the plate as much. Get going at sub 4:30 pace and the shoes will open up. Your mileage may vary.

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The Endorphin Speed is a versatile long distance fast mover. At full retail of RM749 (RSH members enjoy a 10% discount making the RM674 more palatable), they aren’t exactly affordable. In case you haven’t noticed, running shoes are very expensive these days. Regular daily trainers are priced averagely in the region between RM500-650. You can, therefore, say that the discounted price tag for the Speed is fair  based on specs (nylon plated, PeBax midsole) and versatility. Initial observations suggest that the shoes to be durable – no signs of creases and compression in the midsole and like-new outsole, so they will at least return you 500km.

If you’re a shoe geek like I am, go give the Endorphin Speed a try out at the stores, if you can find them. The Speed is one heckuva shoe, one of 2020’s best, for sure.

*ASICS have launched the Metaracer (RM779 from ASICS Malaysia), and NB Malaysia have brought in the FuelCell TC (RM900+), choices are aplenty in the premium end of running shoes. Then there’s Nike’s upcoming Tempo Next% Flyknit rumoured to be priced around RM900 as well (apparently legit Taobao site | review by Derek Li). I may have to sell a kidney soon. 

Gold Coast Virtual Marathon: The Big Four

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2020 would be remembered for many things. A year of upheaval and disruption, of strive and chaos. With races and events dropping like flies due to lockdowns, organisers have turned to virtual runs to keep the spirit of their events alive. The GCM organisers too decided to keep the spirit of running going with a series of virtual runs.

Along with a few from the Team MY crew, I registered for the Big Four bundle, comprised of the 5K Fun Run, the 10K, Half and Full Marathon. I figured since it’s free to register, I might as well go all the way. The excitement of registering lasted just 2 full seconds followed by a sense of dread! The last marathon I ran untrained was the 2018 Macao Marathon, which I finished in no small measure of pain in 3:48 [race report] and I obviously hadn’t learned from that episode.

The shorter distances went pretty well. While I ran the 5, 10 and 21K slower than my best times, as expected, I didn’t fare too badly. Weekly mileage were so low (see below) and there was really no program at all. Majority of my “training” runs were at aerobic effort and the longest long run was a single 24K.

May
W2: 42K run
W3: 47K run
W4: 50K run
W5: 60K run

Jun
W1: 45K run
W2: 26K run, 44K bike
W3: 64K run, 44K bike

Jul
W1: 36K run, 10K bike
W2: 54K run, 10K bike
W3: 36K run, 42K bike

Nevertheless I wasn’t going to chicken out. The crew agreed that as long as we kept the pace easy we should be able to complete the full distance within 5 hours. Given the tropical weather here, we’ve to kick things off at 3:30am and to ensure we had a week’s buffer before July 31st in case things go south, the 3rd Saturday was chosen to be the go-date.

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One of the reasons why we don’t fancy racing the marathon locally is due to the ridiculously early start. The body is simply just not ready. I managed all but 5 hours’ sleep and luckily all the fussing on the packing meant that I didn’t leave anything behind – I made sure I had plenty of fluids, gels, post-run recovery drink, beer (it’s meant to be fun remember?) – all stashed in the fridge and those stuff that didn’t need chilling already in 2 cooler boxes.

Nick, who had started at an even earlier time – 1:30am – joined in for a group photo. Right from the start, Philip had gone ahead with Cheong in tow. Uncle Siah, Hee Boo and I would form the “take-it-easy” posse. Things were pretty relaxed and unhurried.

5:59 > 5:41 > 5:40 > 5:32 > 5:37 > 5:31 > 5:23 > 5:32 > 5:28 > 5:24 (10K – 55:53)

5:36 > 5:28 > 5:16 > 5:33 > 5:25 > 5:14 > 5:36 > 5:25 > 5:18 > 5:25 > 5:15 (Halfway – 1:55)

Feeling and hydration were executed well since our cars were parked smack in the middle of the 6K loop. I was able to drink every 3K and take in a gel roughly every 5-6K. Endura and High-5 gels were more diluted and I was able to slurp them down a bit earlier while the thick GUs were only consumed when I hit the coolers.

Philip had by this time, pulled far ahead and put it a lot more grounds between him and Cheong, while the 3 of us were still chugging along. I was strangely in the zone and therefore didn’t need the iPod still stashed away in the cooler. I had packed it along for those moments when I needed a pick-me-up.

5:20 > 5:24 > 5:22 > 5:17 > 5:22 > 5:18 > 5:20 > 5:31 > 5:22 (30K – 2:43)

By this time, CY had joined in (he was down for the Half Marathon) and the added company was most welcome. I believed having fresh legs in the group kept us from slacking off. And chatting was a great way to take the mind off any discomfort that might be creeping in. However we made a conscious effort not to get carried away with the pace and whenever that veered towards the low 5s, we pulled back. There were still a few loops to go and fatigue would certainly set in. Strangely it didn’t, at least for me. When we got to the 30K mark, we knew that a sub-4 was in the bag and all we needed to do was to avoid from blowing up.

5:25 > 5:20 > 5:07 > 5:14 > 5:20 > 5:11 > 5:18 > 5:10 > 5:10 > 5:07 > 5:05 > 4:38

With under 2 laps (around 10K left to run) to go, Uncle Siah had slowed down. Yet I was still good and very much in control. Personally I hadn’t really focused much on pace. Rather, it was more about minding the perceived effort. There had been several occasions when I was tempted to make a go for it – I was feeling that good – but thankfully had the presence of mind to hold back.

At the 32K mark, I decided to see how the body and legs were going to respond and gently upped the tempo. There were certainly some discomfort by then but it was still alright and with 5K to go, I saw that I could still sneak in under 3:50. Not the time to let up! The only time I was really pushing it was the final km but it was a great feeling.

42.2km in 3:47.08 (5:23 average pace) was totally unexpected. No training, minimal mileage. What gives??! Back at the car park, everyone was on a high and I think we marathoners were just glad to have gotten it done!

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GCM20 Big Four Finisher Cert

Kudos to the Gold Coast Marathon organisers for putting together this series of virtual runs. They didn’t have much time to do this, from the day the difficult decision was made to cancel GCM20 to crafting out the format and pulling in the participation. Keeping it free for all to participate, and retaining the charity elements prove that Virtual Runs need not be cash grabs like how some are doing it here. The running community were kept engaged throughout July as well. That said a lot about the team!

There would be no more marathons this year for me, virtual or otherwise. Even Q1 2021 is too soon, in my opinion, for the world to get back to the pre-Covid days. It’s challenging times but too much have been written about the situation we’re in. Now, we’ve to play our part in tackling this pandemic and getting back on our feet!

Asics Gel Nimbus Lite 100KM Review

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Wait, what? Another ASICS review?! Ummm yes… But I thought they make clunky shoes? Errr… yes they still do but they’ve a few gems as well, like the GlideRide, Novablast and the Gel Nimbus Lite. Released February 2020, I’ve never factored the GNL mainly because I already have the Infinity Run and GlideRide in rotation as daily trainers – same category, but entirely different in construction and feel. 

Up until last month, I’ve been enjoying the GlideRide (see review here) a fair bit, confident that they will return me 600km. Smooth, fun to run in and despite their weight, they can really lure you into quicker paces. Their locked-in feel allowed me to get right back into logging those miles following a foot injury that had taken months to heal. The joy slowly dissipated, however, when I noticed some discomfort and the occasional dull pain around my right metatarsals – right about where the pivot point of the shoes are – each time I ran in them. I observed that phenomenon for 2 weeks and I wasn’t wrong. I needed 5 days for the pain to completely subside, which completely negated the GlideRide’s daily use purpose. While I could still rely on the Turbo 2 and Infinity Run, I still prefer a softer and more protective option to rotate with, one that can take me over 20Ks on weekends and still have me running the next day.

So after a Father’s Day lunch treat at 1U, I thought what better to do than go on a running shoe expedition. Shoes tried were:

  • Triumph 17: Not bad at all, if loaded with extraneous padding which obviously added to the weight. The PWRRUN+ midsole is an interesting blend of responsive cushioning and feels lighter than their build-up appearance. At close to RM600, the Triumph 17 aren’t cheap. I passed.
  • Roadblast: The RM370+ scaled back version of the fun Novablast look good but just didn’t excite me enough. Perhaps they needed to be run in.
  • 880v10: Not cheap, and with the higher end 1080v10 on sale, the 880 felt decidedly average. 
  • Pegasus 37: Well, they were conspicuously missing from the 1U Nike store. Word has it that the women’s version provides a much better ride (due to the lower PSI of the air bag) and with a friend’s 9.5 fitting me, the 37 needs to be tried on in-stores, in 9.5 and 10 and in both men’s and women’s versions.

Disappointed that I wasn’t able to at least try on the Pegasus 37, I popped into ASICS, saw the offer going on for the Gel Nimbus Lite (GNL), tried them (*mind blown*) and here we are 100km later.

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It’s a Nimbus. Only lighter.
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Lateral view. Love the wavy-like patterns rippling out from the middle of the midsole. The protruded heel is clearly seen in this shot.
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Medial view. Notice the different wavy patterns than those on the lateral side.

The GNL’s design cues diverge from today’s shoe trends, in that there are no pull tabs, no carbon nor PU plates. They also don’t employ ASICS’s own design DNA as there’s no Impact Guidance Line, no visible gel inserts, no plastic Trusstic pieces glued to the midsole, and no senseless use of materials and overlays. Instead, you get a very ordinary but still great looking shoe that’s smooth, cushioned, stable enough for most. A shoe that also breathes very well, decently light and has eco-sensibilities? Count me intrigued!

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It says Nimbus on the tongue and removable sockliner.

My US10 weighs in at 10.05oz which means the GNL is lighter than the Triumph 17, the upcoming Ride 13, Pegasus 37, 1080v10, and ASICS’s own Cumulus 22 and Nimbus 22 (yup, the company released 2 versions of the Nimbus, both priced the same). They’re just a hair heavier than the Novablast. I was curious enough to know how much the GNL’s puffy stock laces weigh – 0.1oz each – so I swapped them out with Nike’s just to shave just a bit more off. I’ll have to check if that move resulted in them coming in right at the 10oz mark. Now, contrast that with the regular version of the Nimbus which comes in at 1.3oz more (yet with a lower stack height of 31/21) according to Running Warehouse. Why would one go for heavier shoes when a lighter option fulfils the role just as well?

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The very well constructed upper. The outer mesh is lofted and made from sustainable materials.

The GNL may have an understated look but there’s an green story behind the shoes. Much of the breathable loft-like upper are made of recyclable materials and the Flytefoam midsole comprises of cellulose nano-fibre. The upper is very comfortable and breathable, one that cuddles the feet very well without a constricting feel. The padding on the tongue and collar are plush but not overdone like those in the Triumph 17 and GlideRide. There’s enough space in the toebox and the amount of padding used on the tongue and collar are just right. Nevertheless, ASICS retained their trademark stiff heel counter here.

The FlyteFoam midsole feels softer on the GNL than in the other models, probably due to the cellulose use giving the runner a soft, smooth and bouncier ride. There’s no visible gel inserts but that doesn’t mean they’re not used. Oh, they’re there all right, embedded in the forefoot and heel areas of the midsole. A pair of Asics without gel is like having Laurel without Hardy.

As if to reflect the eco-friendly nature of the shoes, there’s liberal use of green – from the accents on the tiger stripes and the wavy grooves of the midsole to the all-rubber lugs of the outsole. Speaking of outsole lugs, are they substantial! Thick and chunky but ASICS’s decision to have deep and wide flex grooves are sound to preserve forefoot flexibility and keep the weight down. I’ve yet to encounter issues with traction, having run on loose gravel, road and wet tiled surfaces.

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Generous rubber coverage.

The amount of outsole wear is mixed with the forefoot push-off areas – where soft spongy blown rubber are used – showing some wear, while the heel sections literally see no wear and tear, the ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR) living up to their fabled reputation. Since the lugs are so thick, there’s little risk of the shoes not providing a good ROI. 

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Visible wear on the push off area. Blown rubber is spongy and soft but won’t wear as well as AHAR used in the heel section.

Step-in feel is soft and the cellulose-infused FlyteFoam midsole dishes out one very smooth ride that stops short of being mushy. If you’re a heel striker, your enjoyment of the GNL will be higher than that of a midfoot striker since you’ll be able to take advantage of rolling forward on that 10mm offset. My longest run in the shoes was a 21km, with the rest around the 11km mark and I’ll say that the GNL functions best as an easy pace cruiser and a comfy recovery run shoe. Lock into a zone and the miles just go by. On several occasions when I pushed the pace a bit, they were able to respond in a manner like a Honda City, which isn’t much! They’ll get up to speed but not as quickly as something more responsive and won’t feel comfortable holding that pace for long. 

Running downhill certainly feels sweeter than going uphill – the soft forefoot not quite aiding an efficient and forceful push-off. Discard your urge to speed up – there are shoes for that – you’ll enjoy your time in the shoes. That’s what the Nimbus series are made for – easy miles. I don’t have negatives strong enough to mention here and that’s a good thing, and keeping to the shoes’ understated sensibilities. 


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Similar shoes to the GNL are ASICS’s own Nimbus 22, Hoka Clifton 6 and the upcoming 7 (which weighing in at a low 9oz, looks promising), Nike’s React Infinity Run, and Pegasus 37 (based on weight as I’ve yet to try them on), NB 880v10 and 1080v10, and Saucony Triumph 17. It all comes down to price point, and how firm and responsive you want your daily trainer to be. The GNL are by no means, in my books, the daily trainer of 2020, but should ASICS drop the offset down to 8mm by shaving off a couple of millimetres from the heel and utilise FlyteFoam Propel as the forefoot midsole (much like how HOKA mixes up their ProFly midsole), I might be persuaded to reconsider. Since the RRP of the GNL remains on the premium end, and ASICS are wont to stick to their 10mm formula for their core range and let the Guidesole series be their innovation front, things will stay status quo as far as the Nimbus go.

I purchased the Gel Nimbus Lite at a discounted price of RM443 during the promo month of June. As of the date of this post, they have an RRP of RM611 from their online store.

ING New York City Marathon 2008 (A bit on the training, The Experience & Race Day)

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By Martineric from Lille, France – Marathon de New York : Verrazano Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

My blog has been moved a few times, from Blogger to being self-hosted to hitching a ride on RunnersMalaysia’s website. I even put up an entire blog – Road To New York City Marathon (I don’t think the link even works anymore) – documenting my research, planning and preparation for the big race. Most of my posts weren’t ported over to this WordPress blog but the NYC Marathon memories were too precious to lose. I regret not buying the official photos and am still scouring for 2008 photos but while the NYRR has an extensive archive of past years’ results, MarathonFoto don’t keep their records that long.

I’ve only moved over a few posts from the entire series dedicated to training. At that time I was still chasing my first sub-4 marathon and 12 years on re-reading these, I can say that I’ve learned so much about myself and marathon training (it’s about consistency!). The mistakes I did in those pre-Internet days, and my weaknesses and my lack of full-on resolve were apparent in the posts below. This is a long one, so if you’re just interested in the race, scroll down just after the middle. NYCM is one of the greatest road races in the world, one of the six World Marathon Majors and is a must-do, if you’re lucky/privileged enough to get in. 


Pre-Periodization Week 2: 29.85K (June 22nd 2008)

Still keeping to the light and easy theme, there was an increased in the weekly mileage even if the frequency of runs dropped.

The week’s highlight was Saturday’s first long run. I woke up at 4am and as usual the first thought that ran through my mind was “Here we go again!” but not with that kind of enthusiasm that precedes second helpings of ice-cream, mind you. Fueling was a slice of peanut butter bread with black coffee and after averaging 90km/h I reached the BA car park sharp at 5am. No other runners were there and while I got ready, Geraldine pulled up. 5 minutes later we were huffing off into the dark. I wore the blue-silver stability Nike Air Structure Triax 11+ (AST11+) as part of the breaking in process. On my right wrist was the Nike SportBand and the left wrist my Forerunner 205.

The effort were conversational and there wasn’t much problem except for a spot of surprise at the Arabic School just before the Bukit Tunku hills. A dog which we didn’t notice suddenly jumped out with a growl. We stood our ground and it didn’t come any closer and reluctantly walked away still with some menace. That got the blood flowing a bit and we were definitely fully awaked after that! Kit’s friend Fu Yee (hope I got his name right – thanks man!) generously provided us with some drinks at the Hartamas stop and we gulped down the H2O quickly and made our way back.

It got a bit chilly for me as we headed back – my shirt was soaked through. After crossing Jalan Duta and a road kill later, we ran into Ronnie and his band of runners (over 10 of them!) on their way to the 15K route. 30 minutes later I was back at the car park ready to take on another 4.5K with the RunnersMalaysia group. Now that second run was certainly tougher, indicative of my fitness level. But time is on my side and I’m glad to have maintained the slight momentum going into the actual 2-week Periodisation Phase which starts tomorrow. Periodisation Phase calls for more regular runs, with no single runs exceeding 20K. Weekly mileage peaks at 30K though I think I may not be able to stick to that number. We’ll see.

I met with Wong, an EKIN with Nike, who was there to exchange the Pegasus 2007+ with the Zoom Elite 4+, which looks really great. Compared to the E3 (my PR shoe), the 4 has fewer overlays (good!), is Nike+ enabled (moving with times!) and reportedly lighter (great!). The most significant change is that there’s no longer a full-length Zoom Air due to the accommodation of the Nike+ shoe sensor. I shall be reviewing the Elite 4 after the SportBand and AST 11+. I know there’s quite a lot of cool gear to test out and that’s certainly keeping my training very interesting indeed. Thanks once again to Nike for all the cool hardware.

Before I end this posting, I got the chance to test-run (OK only a few steps!) in the yet to be launched 9oz lime green Lunar Trainer (see image below). It felt like a pair of Frees with more cushioning. It’s pillowy ride is different from Nike’s super soft Vomero and all I can say for now is that it’s revolutionary. The secret to achieving all that is via the use of Lunarlite foam which was developed by the aerospace industry. It’s 30% lighter than Nike’s Phylon (the company’s hitherto lightweight midsole material). I’m really getting ahead of myself here but it’s something to be really excited about in the later part of the year.


Periodisation Week 2: 35.79K (June 29th 2008)

Week 3 of light training is over. Am glad to report that it’s been quite good thus far. Highlights of the week were the late afternoon tough runs at Lake Gardens on Tuesday (9.6K) and Wednesday (11.1K). Weather’s been scorching of late and within the first K, my heart rate would have climbed to 70% MHR.

After being razed by the sun on Tuesday during which I did 3 lake loops and 1 Carcosa, I ran a shadier route on Wednesday. Started from the Bkt Aman Car Park then headed down to the National Mosque before hitting the lung-quad busting uphill at the Islamic Art Museum. Down past the Deer Park, hang left around the lake then the reverse Carcosa Hill, round the playground and back to the car park for a drink before heading the second loop.

I took Thursday and Friday off to rest and focus on clearing work. Saturday comprised of 11K and 4K, while poor weather waylaid my evening run plan. Fitness is pretty much still work in progress and I’m glad for it. I’d be concerned about getting through the workouts easily. It’s not been easy, trust me, even if the volume and variety is standard stuff. I like it the way it is as this means that I’ve the luxury to slowly build the body up over the coming months and peak as close to the race as possible.

My goal for the Periodisation Phase is max 30K weekly mileage. Ooops, looks like I busted it! Next week is the final periodisation week before the start of 6 weeks of Base Phase. It’s going to get more and more interesting!


Periodization Week 2: 35.46K (July 6th 2008)

Today sees the completion of the 2-week Periodization Phase. Not much changes to the weekly mileage and I ran without pressure. No chasing of splits, mileage or anything of that sort. Just go out there and run 4 times a week.

I noticed that the weather in the evenings have been very hot of late with temps hitting 34C even. Just like today. I’ll never be able to run in temps close to NYC. So the feel of cold weather will be alien to me until Oct 30th when I arrive at The City. The sun was still blazing at 6:30pm but I had a run scheduled. After guzzling down copious amount of fluids, I put on my shades, changed into a lightweight NikeFIT vest and shorts and went into the kitchen filling up 2 bottles of iced isotonic drinks. 10 minutes later after tying up the Vomero 2+, I was out of the door. I usually don’t train with my sunglasses (Oakley Half Jacket) on – the fact that I did today pretty much tells you how glaring it was.

At the office, work has been holding steady but our Department has been rocked by 4 resignations of late. With replacement head counts difficult to get, expect more work heading my way.

Tomorrow will see that start of the 6-week Base Phase. It’s a very important period where mileage will be gradually increased to the mid 50s per week. No matter how many times you’ve done it, it never gets easier. As you grow older, you’ll need to monitor your recovery period and so on. Focus will be on quality not quantity… for now.

This is when real work begins.


Base Phase Week 1: 44.88K (July 13th 2008)

The upwards movement of my mileage continues. I’m 3 weeks into my training and I’ve managed a very modest mileage. It’s approximately half the volume that I’ll be doing in 2 months’ time and I’m glad to be getting in some quality runs. I’ve moved some runs to the morning and it wasn’t too bad either. I just needed to ensure that I get to bed by 11pm. The earliest and longest run so far was a 19K with Geraldine and Loke at 5am Saturday morning. Going long was fantastic and I thought finishing strong at the end of long runs were important. We covered the final 2K in under 5:30/K splits.

I’ve been eating well too. Plenty of smaller meals and snacking, so that my energy level is on the level. My weight stands between 57-58kg.

Nike have been most generous with their support. I’m rotating between the Vomero 2, Structure 11 and Elite 3. And just 2 days ago, I laid my hands on the cutting edge Zoom Victory+. Wearing it is an experience. I’ll just say for now that it’ll see some action in speedwork and short races – definitely the pair for the Aug 31st Human Race.

Week 2 of Base will have me cross the 50K mark for the week and it’s a mark that I plan to hold till the end of Base Phase. Time for bed now. Have a good running week ahead!


Base Phase Week 3 & 4: 35.42K & 50.72K

Week 3‘s training was a downer. Things were going well and I thought a 50K week was a clincher. Easy peasy. I caught some of my colleagues’ flu and was out for a day (only) and managed a few very good midweek runs. There was even a day of double workout, though in retrospect it might have come too early at this phase. I was quite tired because of it. Then Carbokid 2 fell ill, floored by cough, fever, flu with bouts of vomiting. The 3 adults at home were running around like headless chicken attending to him. And if you know C2, being a feisty character that he is, it’s not easy getting him to cooperate. He’s so different from C1 whom you can at least negotiate with. The couple of rough nights knocked me off and the targeted 19K on Saturday were busted. I managed to salvage a 13K on Saturday evening but couldn’t recover on time for an early run on Sunday morning, and I ended the week on a low.

After such a seemingly discouraging week, the natural reaction would be to hammer the next week like crazy right? Then I thought about it and put everything in perspective. I’ve been running really well. I’ve not lost any of my speed – in fact I’ve been running faster, very near to marathon goal pace. I don’t think I’ve problems hitting a sub-50 minute 10K. So I’ve taken slightly longer times to recover but that could be due to the generally faster pace I’ve been running. Perhaps I should take it easier so that I’m able to last through the week in better shape.

Week 4 ended quite well. Other than hitting the 50K milestone for the NYCM training, the quality of workouts have been consistent. I’m getting more comfortable with steady-state runs and remained in control on the faster sessions. My stated goal for the Base Phase is 55K weeks and if I pace myself accordingly I should be able to hit it either this week or next. I plan to be consistent throughout this training even if the volume remains just so-so. My aim is to make sure that lower volume, with higher quality will bring about peaking at the correct time.

Certainly events, unplanned they may be such as C2’s continued illness and my brushes with cold/flu, are making sure that I don’t overdo things. I ran 5 days last week and due to some pre-planning, I knew that I could run in the evenings. That allowed me to sleep in on weekday mornings, even if that only meant an additional 10 minutes in bed. Tuesday’s 11.8K was fantastic – 6:02 pace aerobically – while Saturday’s stupendously hard hill workout with running partners, at first with Geraldine and Loke, then Geraldine (up the 2.4K Kiara Hill) and finally with the RunnersMalaysia group with last 2K with Chen. The trip up Kiara Hill deserves a special mention due to the hard work it brought about. It was a new route for me and I ran without knowing where the peak was. It was a series of curves and more curves that took its toll on the lungs (I maxed out my HR), quads, calves and glutes. On a couple of stretches I was even reduced to walk breaks. Sweat were dripping off the tip of my nose! And Geraldine couldn’t be seen in front!

Despite the 2 days, the run that took the cake was yesterday’s late evening 9K which I somehow cranked out at 6:06 pace despite the sore legs. I shall be returning to this hill a few more times before the main event. I’m thinking of this workout to simulate late stage hills – a 10K “warmup” incorporating 3K easy, 7K at LT pace around the lake before heading to the hill. There, do 6 repeats up the hill before a 2K easy warm down around the lake.


Changes to the NYCM Start Process

“Acting on feedback from runners, the NYRR will be implementing several changes to the start process this year. Chief among them are the Wave Start and the Baggage Handling. With these enhancements to the system, NYRR hope that runners can look forward to the following benefits:

1. Reduced crowding and wait time standing in corrals
2. Reduced crowding and wait time standing on the bridge, waiting for the race to start
3. Reduced time to cross the start line (NYRR hopes that runners can cross the starting line within 6 minutes)
4. Reduced crowding on the course and at the finish

So what’s the Wave Start all about? Instead of releasing a mass start of approximately 40,000 runners at one time, the field will first be organized into three separate start lines designated with blue, orange or green colors. Then each starting line will be broken down to 3 waves designated white, yellow or blue. There are 6 corrals within each wave – A to F. Each wave will have approximately 13,000 runners and will be released at 20-minute intervals. Wave 1 will begin at 9:40 am., followed by wave 2 at 10:00 am., and then wave 3 at 10:20 am. The runners will be allocated their “waves” according to their projected goal time. I’m so average that I’ll probably be placed in either the Wave 2 or 3. Wave 1 would probably be assigned to the elites and sub 3:30 finishers.

Runners fearing the loss of the unique starting experience – the firing of the starting cannon and Sinatra’s rendering of “New York, New York” – need not worry as each wave will still have the same ceremony. The cannon will just see more action and Sinatra will have to sing a few more times!

Baggage Handling is also revamped. The UPS trucks will be parked near the entrance (in the open zone) to the Staging Area to receive your checked in baggage (in case you’re wondering, only official clear goodie bags are accepted for deposits). From the alphabetically sorted manner of yesteryears, the organizers are sorting the trucks by bib number in increments of 1,000 this time around.”

My plans for race morning as follows: Get up early at 5am (since there are bound to be some queues at the hostel toilets) and leave the hostel by 6:30am by subway. I sure hope that the other bed in our room is taken up by a fellow runner! At this juncture I’m not sure if we need to pack extra breakfast since a wide variety are available at the staging area from tea, Poland Spring Natural Spring Water, Gatorade Endurance Formula, bagels, PowerBars, and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The posse should arrive at the Battery Park ferry terminal at 7am and take the 30-minute ferry ride to Staten Island, in time to hop onto the 7:30am Staten Island shuttle to take us to the Fort Wadsworth staging area. While making new friends from all over the world are all part of the NYCM experience, it’ll be even better if my friends and I are assigned to the same starting line, wave and corral. At least if we’re within the same wave, we can still hop between corrals. Well, we’ll know in September.


Back To Backs And Hell Week

Strip away all the technical aspects, training is all about systematically stressing the body and mental systems over a period of time. Build up and sustain the stress-load on the body, breaking it down, recover and repeat.

I came up with the Back to Back (B2B) approach at this stage of my career as I can no longer maintain an end to end 4 month marathon training program. I will either lose focus halfway through the period, peak too early as a result of poor management or fall sick. Since I’ve been quite blessed at staying injury free over the years, I thought I can compress the period of serious training down to 2 months by incorporating 2 days of high quality (LTs and Tempos) workouts on weekdays and hitting the long runs on weekends. More recently I invested in a spinning bike to ensure that I not only prevent cardio and strength loss but to build them up.

The benefits of these adjustments are lower running mileage (and thus reducing overuse risk), increase in quality workouts, reduction of training period, while maintaining fitness. I’m also hoping that all that spinning will bring about quicker leg turnover. All good but this approach is not for everyone. You need to have about 40K weekly mileage and have tackled distances of up to 30K a few times. It’s not recommended for beginning runners and non-marathoners, simply because it places too much stress on the unconditioned body and mind. In view of that I’ve been fortunate to have like minded running mates to tag along. Training in a group can and will pull you through tough patches.

For my NYCM training, I put together a series of B2Bs. B2Bs are essentially medium-long to long runs done on Saturday and Sunday. With 5 weeks to raceday, the workouts were 25K and 31K. With me were Luc, Frank and Lawrence. I decided to carry a loaned Olympus SW850 to get a feel of it and the unit felt quite good in my hands. It also fits snugly into the Nike slim running pouch. Barring any change of mind, the camera will be coming along with me on the 5-borough journey.

The 31K started an easy pace. We decided to take the new Solaris route. I was running in and out of pace testing the camera at various spots. It was only near Desa Hartamas that Luc turned the power on and disappeared. Frank and I stopped over at the 7-Eleven for drinks and quickly resumed. By the time we neared the Petronas station after a loop, Luc came storming from behind. He’d gone around loop while waiting for us.

The run to the IRB office was with Luc as Frank had dropped back a bit. I raised my pace to MP and managed to stick close to Luc. Of course it was his easy pace. I was comfortable throughout and the Lunaracers were holding up very very well. We took another loop before stopping at the station to replenish. Frank arrived soon after but indicated he had to relieve himself. So Luc and I went our way, this time taking the reverse Solaris route. And boy was I in for a hard run. The reverse was even worse than coming. But with the construction workers streaming to their site at the killer hill, there was no way I could stop. I hung on as long as I could as we hammered the ascent.

After we cleared the Duta crossing, Luc jestfully suggested we detoured to Double Hill. I’m sure he could’ve but there was no way I’d make it back. Sure, NYCM isn’t flat but it isn’t even as hilly as the regular Hartamas route (just several well-placed bridges to knock your pace off). Hopefully Luc wasn’t frustrated with my non-interest for he zoomed down Kenny Hills and wasn’t seen again until back at the car park. I maintained pace and was clipping along fairly fast back to the car park to conclude a good week of running and spinning.

This week with the Aidil Fitri celebrations, I have opportunity to log the highest mileage – just about right timing too with just 3 weeks to tapering. It calls for 2 midweek runs of 21K and 30K followed by 15K and 25K on the weekends. In between will be some spinning and a couple of short runs. I’ve been eating and snacking more the last 3 days and I’ve found the extra calories to be extremely helpful. I’ve also found that I’ve energy on my long runs even while maintaining my policy of no gel intakes during training. My snacks have been a mixture of oats, fruit and cereal bars, and Powerbar Triple Threat. I also eat normal food, just more frequently. Mondays are treat days after the hard weekends, so it’s usually McDonald’s Milkshake for me.

The next 2 weeks leading up to the taper period, I will reduce the distance to be covered on Saturday but increase Sunday’s long run to 35K. Overall mileage will still remain decent.


Before Oct 30th

Realizing that chronicling my experiences could potentially be taking too much of my resources, I’ve decided to keep things in check by covering the aspects of my training and racing very broadly to just 2 or 3 “episodes”. The first of which is the title of this post, and that would be generally my training and preparations up to the day I boarded the Cathay Pacific flight to NYC.

I eased into the marathon training mindset sometime end May and as usual plotted a 4.5 to 5-month training program. In retrospect it was a long program, and something which I know that I’ll never be able to realize given my many commitments. My future marathons will most likely be based on a 3-month training window. A 5-month window allows too much distractions to creep in be it from work or health perspective.

My training was supported by the generous gestures of Nike and Powerbar and I logged all my workouts into the Buckeyeoutdoor.com training log.

The later stages of my training leaned heavily towards quality long runs, many of which were done back to back to simulate the stresses of marathon running and midweek shorter runs of up to 10K. I didn’t do any interval training, and relied on tempos and effort based long runs to get my fitness level up. Once again I was blessed with no injuries when my training volume went up, at one stage 114K in 7 days, 160K in 9. Prior to the self-labelled Hell Week, my weekly mileage fluctuated between 45 and 65K. Hell Week was a milestone in my running life. Never have I run so much in my 20 years of running. I kept the runs mostly between an easy to steady pace, and the goal was to get the miles in. I figured that if I can survive the stress, I should be able to run at my targeted 5:42 marathon pace. There is really no point in running fast when the body isn’t conditioned to take the stress of pounding. By “body” I mean the whole works – from the neuro-muscular to mental toughness. That’s why longevity in the sport of running requires patience, lots of hard work and months if not years of base building – something Arthur Lydiard preached, not that I’m a disciple 100% (it’s quite impossible to log that kind of mileage for one) but his doctrine is what I believe in. In the last 2 months of training especially, what I did mirrored what he prescribed. There’s not much ground to be made nor continuous improvement realised if one jumps directly into speedwork. Speed is addictive and races can detract a runner from his or her ultimate goals whatever they may be. I’ve seen many fledglings succumbing to injuries within the same running season in the hasty pursuit of fast times. Or plateauing or burning out. But these lessons are not heeded and the mistakes continue to be committed.

Throughout the roller-coaster regimen, a consistent feature has been Geraldine whom I could count on as a fellow long run junkie. She would be the only rose among the thorns. As the months wore on, I had Frank and during the critical later stages, Luc, along for the ride. Lawrence and Loke were also regulars with 1 month to race day. Most of our long runs started at 5am, just so that we could return to our non-running commitments, which in my case included a session with the Beginners Group and a trip to the wet market for my weekly shopping.

Running the same route were boring after the umpteenth time, and in searching for new routes to charter, the Solaris route was established. Even hillier than the traditional Bukit Aman-Hartamas way, running the Solaris way build strength, something which came in beneficial when tackling a challenging course such as New York’s. The extra distance also meant that we needed to do less looping around the Petronas station. Tapering was somewhat an anticlimax and I couldn’t get in as many short runs as I wanted to due to inclement weather. However I’d purchased a spinning bike which I’d been hopping on a few times a week which helped maintain some aerobic fitness and leg strength. I credit my newly acquired strength to these workouts as I didn’t increase my core workouts by much. So it had to be due to the spinning and the hilly runs.

I’ve been preparing for New York a year ago ever since of the bungled offer of the previous “sponsor”. I’d researched about the place, the event and participated in the RW NYCM forums and read up past year reports in the many blogs. I’d even kept the Empire State Building ticket I bought online, which was a good thing, since it was still valid. Nevertheless having not travelled to a colder climate before meant that I’d to invest in a couple of suitable apparels. Some thought had to go into the packing since I’d be staying for a week. Race packing was equally complicated since the NYC course is a point to point. There would be many throwaway clothing due to the cold start and I didn’t have any idea on what I should be wearing for top – Long sleeve or short? Any base layer? Will conditions be too cold? Will I overheat? I’ve the hard data on the predicted weather but how does 10C really feel like? In the end I packed both long and short technical shirts and the Nike Pro base layer. The choice for the bottoms was easier as with the shoes.

The other thing was I had plans to head upstate New York to experience Halloween in the suburbs and had to consider bringing a change of clothes. What’s a visit to a foreign land without experiencing some American culture right? So I hopped on the chance as it was presented to me, thanks to Geraldine.

Other than the confirmation of race entry, the NYRR was supposed to send us our registration card with which we could pick up our race bibs and goodie bags among other things. Both Geraldine and I were checking our mailboxes like maniacs the week before we left and having seen no signs of it, we emailed NYRR and received our electronic confirmation the very same day. At this point I should compliment the NYRR for doing an excellent job from day 1 when I applied via the lottery to the acceptance of my entry and to how much I’m welcome to the city. They even went so far as to say that it’s their honour to sacrifice their time just so that we runners have the ultimate running experience. We would be lavished similar attention through many of our interactions there be it the volunteers or officials. More on that later.

Finally all the waiting was over and it was time to head on to KLIA. Both Geraldine and I arrived within 5 minutes of each other and since we’ve checked-in online we needn’t rush. Our ride to Hong Kong was on the 777-300 which is a large plane and I looked enviously at the First and Business Class seats as I headed towards the Economy seats. The 4-hour flight was uneventful, which was good, during which I watched Get Smart and The Hulk on the monitor.

The Hong Kong Airport was stupendous. Very well maintained and a hive of activity. We had 3 hours of layover and we leisurely covered the shops, did some product sampling and had lunch. It had to be pasta you see. I’d gained 1 kilo over my 2 week tapering period but it’s normal and I wasn’t concerned about it. In fact I was glad to finally hit 60 kgs!

Before long it was time to hit the second leg of our journey – a 15-hour flight over the edges of the Arctic Circle en route to New York. On board I switched over to the EST time zone which NYC is on and tried to catch some sleep which I failed miserably. My travel partner on the right had no problems. She tucked in her legs and was happily shipped away to dreamland with nary a sound. Me with the long legs were shifting around like crazy. Furthermore, the Singaporean on the left kept her reading lights on! To make a long story short, I got all of 40 minutes sleep on the 15-hour flight. Crazy! How was I to stay on my feet at the expo and Halloween night and to race?!


The Arrival, Expo and IFR

JFK is one heck of a busy airport. Taxiing took 20 minutes while immigration clearing took another 40 minutes. By the time we were directed to the respective processing officers by a supervisor who looked like Robert De Niro. I was processed by a Erik Estrada lookalike while Geraldine a Cuba Gooding body double. Erik commented in a resigned manner that it was going to be another long night and when I asked on the sparse manpower, he replied that it’s always been the case. Erik was very friendly and posed just a couple of obligatory questions to be before taking my fingerprint and mug shot. All International visitors to the U.S have to go through this procedure.

Once off the checkpoints we had to pass another gruff Asian-looking officer who growled “Go” after giving us a once over. Like Erik nearly every officer there carried a sidearm. The arrival area was spartan, with only a Subway stand. We didn’t hang around and promptly got into line for a mad cab ride to the hostel. Ride cost $55 including tips, expensive if converted to Ringgit but I’ve since ditched the conversion mindset. If there’s any chance of enjoying the travel experience, you need to do away with the depressing thought of the currency conversion. The cab was equipped with a small LCD TV with a GPS showing our travel route in realtime. We could either pay by credit card or cash.

The air was chilly but not uncomfortably cold. The most obvious feeling was the lower humidity and you instantly feel lighter. 40 minutes later, after a nausea inducing ride we arrived at the hostel in one piece. I paid the elderly Indian or Pakistani driver and got ourselves checked in. Seow Ping was already under the sheets when we entered the dorm and we sorted out our things quickly before calling it a day. Finding myself in an unfamiliar room with unfamiliar sleeping partners (we shared the room with 2 other Dutch men and another guy of unknown origin – a snorer) didn’t help and I tossed and turned the many days I was there. Snorer didn’t stay long, thank goodness and he checked out the very next day. The other 2 Dutch guys were cool dudes, friendly and didn’t mind our early rise and rustling about. They’re the night owls while we’re the early birds.

As it turned out, the Hostelling International (HI) was a neat place to stay (see photos). Residents range from young teens on their school trip to old folks but we only see them in the lobby or outside the building. It wasn’t noisy and our room was just 2 doors from the toilets, bathrooms and water cooler. The place was clean enough even though we found a few of our food packs were chewed through by small mice and there was a dank smell either on the carpet or the room mates’ clothing, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. We always left the window slightly ajar to air out the room. Each of us had a locker large enough to stow our bags and we came prepared with padlocks.

The first order of the next day was to head out for breakfast and then to the expo to collect our goodie bags, shop and meet Mohan and Hazel. I had coffee with a toasted cinnamon bagel with cream cheese and committed the mistake of taking photos with the proprietor in them. You see, many New Yorkers don’t like to be photographed. This was only one of two incidences I encountered, but I had my wits about and there were no further problems. I supposed they knew I was a tourist and cut me some slack but I thought they should really chill out.

nycm08_expo5

After buying the $25 7-day unlimited ride Metrocard, we took the A Train from the 103rd St to 34th St Penn Station and took a short walk to the Javits Center (JC). It was quite easy to get around the subway system despite looking quite imposing on the map. All you need to be sure is to orientate yourself correctly once you exit the station to get your bearings right. Manhattan was clearly geared for the marathon. Marathon buntings were everywhere – on the street posts, buildings, buses, even subway cars. Asics, being the main sponsor, were very visible with pictures of Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor. Nike wasn’t to be left out and Paula Radcliffe images were plentiful too and their taglines “Keep Up Or Shut Up” and “Limits Lie” were quite catchy. Everywhere we walked, we came across marathoners. You’ll know they’re runners by the knowing nod you exchange with them. It was like gunslingers exchanging glances before a high noon confrontation minus the animosity and suspicion.

We got to the glass and steel structure of the JC within 20 minutes and the place was already bursting with people. The amount of energy and excitement was palpable. I paused for awhile to take the whole set up in but almost immediately, we were greeted by volunteers who ushered us to our correct lines. “International runners proceed this way” and “This way in” were frequently heard. They were all very polite, warm and I observed, never curt even though I can’t imagine the number of people they had to handle the 3 days of the expo. The flow of the collection were very very structured. International runners will firstly approach the International Friendship Run (IFR) booth (manned by 3 volunteers) to collect the free bibs and goodie bags – time spent 20 seconds. If you didn’t receive the registration card, you can stop by the Service Desk to get a pickup slip – time spent 20 seconds, but if you’ve the card or email printout, you can skip this step. Next would be a short walk to your respective bib range to pick up your Marathon Goodie Bag – 20 seconds (my booth was manned by 2 volunteers). I immediately tried on the long sleeved Asics technical tee for size but found that M was just too large, so I made my way to the Exchange counter (3 volunteers) to swap for an S size – another 20 seconds. They were so fast with the exchange process because there were always people exchanging shirts and they just basically swap the sizes on the spot. I was lucky in that I received an untried shirt. At every touch-point, we were greeted with smiles and wishes of “Have a great race”. It was apparent that regardless of where they’re stationed, the volunteers take pride in their job.

nycm08_goodie

That out of the way, it was time to check my chip. Just pass your chip (a 1 second job) over the sensor and verify that your name is flashed on the screen. This table was manned by a single volunteer. Up until this point, the total time spent was about 7 minutes (a PR for bib collection!), as I did spend some time gawking at the whole setup. Geraldine and I then settled in a corner inspecting our goodie bags while waiting for Seow Ping. In the clear coloured UPS goodie bag, which doubled up as a deposit bag, were the race bib, yellow timing chip, pasta dinner ticket, post-marathon party ticket, event book, a long sleeved Asics event tee and some coupons and snacks.

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Next on the agenda was, well, spend some money. Asics being a main sponsor had the largest floor space. The shelves were full of merchandise and most were not available in this part of the world. Asics even had anti-chafing powder which I admit worked quite well for me on race day. Everyone had to pass through the Asics section and pay before getting to the other exhibitors. The major exhibitors were all the major sporting brands and stores covering apparels, shoes, accessories and timepieces (Timex, Garmin, Polar, Suunto). Of course charity organisations and nutrition companies were also there. Gatorade, Powerbar, Gu, Clif, Snickers all provided product sampling from their full product range as well as value buys.

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One could’ve easily got carried away, which was what happened to me when I totally lost track of time and missed the Fdipper meeting at the Team Boomer charity booth. Paragon Sports were giving away tokens for free pasta lunch at their outlet. Having picked up some socks and event t-shirts, I hit the Runners World booth to pick up Bart Yasso’s book (Bart, RW’s Chief Running Officer, autographed the following words in my copy: “A marathon is like life – it’s not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters”) and got Peter Reid to sign a postcard for me. Next was the Asics promo booth where I got my photo taken and uploaded to a hosting server. The novelty was that I could have my photo displayed on the giant electronic wallboard at Times Square when I send an SMS to a preset number at a certain time. I also picked up several pace bands at the ING booth but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a 4-hour pace group in my wave. The fastest was the 4:30 group. Besides ING, Nike also gave away customisable velcro pace bands. Here are some videos of the expo.

The 3 of us finally linked up with Mohan and Hazel when they arrived close to noon but we couldn’t hang out that long as we had to make our way up to Danbury, Connecticut for an evening of Halloween with a friend. The experience made the 1-hour trip worthwhile. It was unfortunate we couldn’t stay longer. A good night’s sleep awaited me and I managed a full 5-hour sleep, which was an improvement over the previous night’s 4. After a hearty breakfast, it was back to Manhattan and just in time too since we caught the IFR runners running down 42nd St. The IFR is a free fun run the day before the race organised so that overseas runners can mingle. The run is also open for Americans but they need to pay. In line with the global theme, the run starts from the UN Building after the presentation of the Abebe Bikila Award to Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands (check my previous posting here). There was such an air of festivity when the runners (reportedly numbered 16,000) ran by that all my tiredness from lugging the expo bags was instantly lifted. Runners were from all over the world, many of whom ran in costumes or carried their countries’ flags. Fine weather and mild temperature brought out the crowds and traffic stopped in busy Manhattan for the runners. There were no impatient honks from the stranded motorists and New Yorkers came out to applaud the runners and they ran by singing songs.

So far NYC has lived up to its billing. It was apparent that Marathon week is when the city unites and puts on the best show for visitors. And being tourists we were on the receiving end of all these good vibes.


D Minus 1

With 1 day to the big day, we had to slow things down and tried to relax and kept our feet up at any opportunity. Since Seow Ping, Mohan and Hazel were still separated from us – Geraldine and I returned to the hostel to drop off our bags back at the hostel while the trio were still out for the IFR – we took the chance to rest a bit on our bunks. All of us will only rendezvous for pre-race dinner. Our roomies were out, so we had the whole place to ourselves. That presented the perfect opportunity to get ourselves organized with the shopping goodies and prepping the race gear. This involved getting the racing shoes out – G’s choice was the ST Racers while mine was the Lunaracer. While we laced up the timing chip for races in MY and SG, the method in the US is to secure the chip to the shoe laces using the provided plastic ties (the thin version of what the security of hypermarts use here). After the race, a volunteer will snip it off for you, so you don’t have to bend your stiff body and struggle with the laces. I’d to adjust it a few times to ensure that the yellow chip didn’t flop around.

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I’d more or less decided on my race apparels or what the US Army call the Army Combat Uniform (ACU). A race is, after all, a form of battle in which we put ourselves through. Don’t we constantly fight our own doubts and physical limits during a race? My dressing for the commute to the Fort Wadsworth staging area, on top of my Nike ACG jacket, will be:

Disposable

  • Bin bag
  • Light thermal jacket courtesy of Dan, our friend from Connecticut
  • Light wool top
  • Knitted head warmer
  • Cotton gym pants

Retain

  • Nike Pro base layer
  • Nike FIT-Dri short top
  • Nike thin running gloves
  • Oakleys
  • Arm warmers fashioned from cutoff football tube socks
  • Injinji toe socks
  • Forerunner 205
  • Paris Marathon 4-Hour silicone pace band
  • Nike small running pouch (to carry 2 gels, $10 and the Metrocard)
  • Brooks long tights, since Nike long weren’t available in MY and I didn’t want to try new and untested apparels purchased at the expo

I also pinned 2 Powergels to my long tights on top of the 2 in my running pouch, stuck the name bib on my running tee and pinned the bib on. The name bib will ensure that my name will be shouted out at least a hundred times along the course. OK, that was an exaggeration. It turned out to be much less than that!

That done, we rested a bit and at about noon, headed out for lunch. Since we were meeting Mohan’s entourage between the 66th to 79th St area, we hopped off the subway at the Lincoln Center and walked eastwards, hoping to find an eatery. Unfortunately there weren’t much choices and I decided to just be a little adventurous and headed into Le Pain Quotidien, a French boulangerie. I ordered a split pea quiche to share, and tartines (open-faced sandwich, a supposedly trendy lunch staple in Parisian cafes) – G’s was made with organic wheat bread with roasted turkey, diced tomatoes, scallions and herb dressing that looked too beautiful to eat but too dry to chew and finish. It tasted a little odd, if I may say so, having not been exposed to such food. The pea quiche nevertheless provided plenty of protein and carbs and the serving was so big that we couldn’t finish. I washed everything down with iced water. Americans seem to have thing for iced water even in cold weather. It was warm in the bistro so it was OK for me but I found it a strange preference.

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Just fooling around with Fred.

We landed at Central Park after another short walk to check out the last 400 meters of the race route and to soak in the atmosphere at the park. As with the IFR in the morning, the place was alive with activity. It was hard not to be caught up in the energy of the people there. Crews, suppliers, media and broadcast teams and volunteers were really busy putting up the final touches to the finish area. Barricades had been erected all the way, scaffolding and stages were in place and the expensive reserved spectator seating were up on the left and right of the road. Team leaders were briefing and walking through their crews on what to do and what-if scenarios. Nations’ flags lined up both sides of the road up to the finish line. Cartons of bottled water were being unloaded from the Poland Spring trucks. Despite all the congestion and action, there were many who were out running and biking or simply walking their dogs.

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There was a fun run for the kids further south of the park and the macho NYFD men were there giving hi-fives and encouragement to the kids. Looking at the size of some of the kids, they really need to run more! So the McD sponsored (“run, so you can eat more of our burgers or you better run more since you eat our burgers?!”) fun run was definitely a good move.

Tavern On The Green was being prepped to receive thousands of runners for the night’s pasta party with the first batch of runners expected to arrive at 5pm. Fred Lebow’s bronze statue had been traditionally moved from its original spot to just before the finish line. Fred Lebow, the star of a newly released documentary Run For Your Life, was of course the late founder, promoter and race director of the modern NYCM taking it from a run around Central Park to a 5-borough spectacle. In a poignant way, it appeared that Fred was still watching over the marathon from his strategic spot.

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The whole affair was impressive and I closed my eyes picturing how it would feel running up that stretch the very next day. We still had time to kill so we strolled over to the Sheep’s Meadow to take in the view. Weather was mild and just nice to laze around. While kids were playing ball, I ended up napping on the lawn! More leisurely strolling until we ended up in front of the Museum Of Natural History, made even more famous by the Ben Stiller movie “Night At The Museum”.

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Dinner with Mohan, Hazel and Seow Ping was at Niko’s Mediterranean-Greek Grill and Bistro (per latest Google search, Niko’s is permanently closed 😦 )along Broadway at W76th Street. I was still full so food was on a shared basis, at least for me. I ordered Pasta Fagiole (soup with carrots, celery, parsley, beans, and pasta) and a plate of tomato and basil pasta. Again, both orders came extra large. I was amazed that Seow Ping could finish her monster plate of rice. The waiter even served us complimentary sweet Greek white wine (more like an aperitif) which had no kick. I was counting on it providing some warmth and knock-out power to get me to sleep. The party split an hour later while the fireworks were exploding in Central Park as part of the pre-marathon celebrations.

Before retiring I made one last check on my race packing, set the alarms, put on my eyeshades and tried hard to sleep in anticipation of the race of my life.


Race Day

We set the buzzer for 3:30am but we had no problems waking up earlier! Our bags and race paraphernalia was laid out the evening before, so we geared up quite quickly. As courtesy, I’d informed our Dutch roomies a day before to expect some noise from the 3 of us on Sunday morning. We’d set our watches backwards by an hour due to daylight savings, and thus we had a extra hour of buffer. I made sure my feet was double protected from blistering by applying Bodyglide on top of shaking anti-chafing powder into my socks.

Since we were on time and only meeting Mohan and Hazel at the South Ferry Terminal at 7am, we could still relax in the comfort of the hostel lounge. While munching on an unconsumed cereal bar provided by the airline, I updated my Facebook status and checked some emails on SP’s notebook while the 2 ladies went out to get coffee. It wasn’t from the corner Starbucks since they “only” open at 5am, but diluted black coffee would have to do. Other than the three of us, there were several other marathoners who also stayed at the hostel, among them a wheelchair participant and 3 very fast runners (we identified them from their low bib numbers). They were catching the earlier bus ride to Fort Wadsworth, and so had to leave earlier. Given the 4 celcius biting temperature on race morning, plus the longer waiting period, that couldn’t have been good!

The roads were wet when we left the hostel and it was still dark. As we stayed very close to the 103rd St station, we could still find seats on the train. A few more stops and the whole train was filled. 90% of the riders in our car were runners and it was an exciting experience. It felt like we were going into battle together and the energy were palpable as conversations centred around the race. I got round to chatting with a sweet woman next to me who was going to run her 3rd NYCM. 30 minutes later, the train reached its destination (the South Ferry terminal was the end of the line). 4 escalators moved us to the Level 1 waiting lounge where a line had already formed leading to the only coffee and sandwich stall. I sat on the floor as with many others while munching on a Powerbar and sipping Gatorade, to wait for the arrival of Mohan and Hazel. I tried to catch some shut eye but failed miserably.

I had to get in more food as the race would not be starting for another 2.5 hours. I remembered hitting the wall prematurely at the 27K mark of the 2007 Penang Marathon due to poor eating. Just as I took the last bite of the bar, Mohan and Hazel arrived, and there were more photo ops. I discovered to my annoyance then that the Olympus had ran out of juice suddenly without warning. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise so that I could concentrate on the race. The volunteers informed us that we didn’t have to wait for our scheduled ferry timing, and so we joined the hordes of runners to board the vessel.

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Not having the chance to walk/run across the Brooklyn Bridge remains one of my great regret. Behind it is the Manhattan Bridge.

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The fuchsia line denotes the ferry route. From Whitehall Terminal (Brooklyn Bridge was to our 7 o’clock position) not far from Wall Street, we wound our way southwards towards Staten Island, passing Lady Liberty to our right. We disembarked at St George and bus a short distance to Fort Wadsworth. Plenty of waiting in freezing temps before getting our adventure underway across the VNB to Brooklyn.

The ferry ride was nice and we got reasonably near to Liberty Island to get some shots of Lady Liberty – we were after all tourists! Other runners were contented to sit quietly keeping to themselves or chatting quietly. We reached Staten Island’s St. George Ferry Terminal in 30 minutes and the experienced ones among us – namely Mohan and Hazel – advised that we needn’t hurry to the shuttle buses and should stay in the comfort of the terminal.

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Best way to see New York! The race route as published in the 2019 media pack. 

Sagely advice. The place resembled a refugee camp as nearly every square foot was occupied by runners. Some slept or pretended to while most just sat there reading or listening to their iPod. Others, like me, stretched. I had enough time to empty my bladder before we left the shelter of the terminal close to 8am. It was very cold out and I pulled the wool hat down to cover my ears which was an exercise in futility. The thin running gloves offered no more protection than the hat. Luckily there was no waiting for the buses and we were whisked away very quickly. The ride to Fort Wadsworth took about 20 minutes and when we disembarked and walked to the Village security checkpoint, the wind was blowing even more. It was miserable and took away quite a bit of my excitement. Perhaps the senses had been numbed by the cold. I had to dump my non-transparent bag at the checkpoint and retained only the official clear UPS bag.

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There were already many runners in the Village and directional signboards to the various areas were plentiful. I mentally noted the directions to the 3 starts (Orange, Green and Blue) and decided to deposit my bag with the UPS truck before the crowd got bigger. It took me less than 3 minutes to accomplish that. Of course with my ACG jacket off, it became much colder for me.

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That’s the VNB where we’ll be flagged off.

On my body were already 4 layers of clothing, arm warmers, woollen hat, 2 garbage bags on top of my disposable light jacket. And it was still cold! Any more layers and I’d be looking like the Michelin Man. I saw people hiding in between trucks and leaning on the hoods of vehicles to stay warm and out of the wind. I even contemplated standing behind a tree but realised how ridiculous that idea was. Where possible we turned our backs to the sun in a vain attempt to get some warmth. Desperately needing some comfort, we got into the line for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. I also topped up my bottle with Gatorade, which the volunteer gladly and politely did for me. Then I picked up a plain bagel and dipped it into the coffee to make it easier to eat – otherwise the bun was a little dry. That done, the 5 of us had a group huddle for good luck before splitting up into the various start locations. Seow Ping and I were in the Blue Start but her’s was the 2nd Wave. Mine was Wave 3 and so had to wait just a little longer.

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The PA announcements in English, Spanish and Japanese were very regular and clear as there were many speakers positioned in the Village. The announcer repeated that the baggage check for a certain start was closing and called for the runners in certain waves to start making their way to the holding area. I tried to stay calm and warm (failed miserably on this) by laying down on the grass and totally covered myself up like a human cocoon in a garbage bag. And munched on another Powerbar Triple Threat.

Not long after, my wave was called. I slowly drained my drink, headed to the porta-potties for the last time before taking my time to shed my cotton track pants. I kept my tops on until the holding area. My corral was the first one, so I had a distance to walk. Once Wave 2 cleared the holding area, we were allowed in. Our bibs were checked as we entered to ensure we were in the correct corral. There weren’t many runners in my corral and each corral was separated by volunteers holding a line of rope. My head was aching either from the cold or lack of sleep and strangely felt a little woozy but I tried to stay as calm as I could. I didn’t have any race expectations, other than to enjoy the occasion. But at that time I was finding it hard to even enjoy it. I took in deeper breaths to get oxygen into my lungs and brain and was glad to spot a diversion in a guy dressed up like Superman but instead of the “S” on his chest, it was “Marathon Man”. I thought I saw a group of English women in bras featuring the Union Jack, flowers and other adornments. They were apparently there to spread awareness on breast cancer. At the head of my corral, a volunteer held up a round sign which showed “Stop”. it reminded me of the sign flashed to the F1 driver in the pitstop. A boom sounded in the distant to indicate the start of Wave 2 and some runners clapped and cheered.

Our turn would come next as we then followed the volunteer (he flipped sign over to show “Walk”) on a short walk to the base of the bridge. Everything was planned so smoothly. Volunteers even told us to watch out for tree roots as we walked out. We were getting more and more excited and some let out shouts and hoots. The walk was surreal to me. No words could describe it – I was walking to the same starting point that the world record holders had stood earlier, and was about to run the very marathon that I’d read, researched and dreamt about since the early ’90s. I was finally about to run my 10th in perhaps the greatest marathon in the world that a Joe Ordinary could possibly run in. Unbelievable. The veil of discomfort lifted momentarily when the public services personnel (NYPD, DOT, and other workers and volunteers) applauded and wished us good luck as we neared the start. We were made to feel really good. If there was ever to be another NYCM for me, it’s to experience this level of support again. It’s really about the people making the event fantastic.

A short speech was given and a dedication was held to Victor J. Navarra, the retired NYFD lieutenant who served as the start coordinator for the marathon for 25 years. Navarra died last December at the age of 55, having suffered for more than two years with sinus cancer said to be brought about by his work at Ground Zero during 9/11. I found myself in the 6th row from the start and with the open road ahead, felt immediately like an elite. The wave start concept seemed to be working in easing congestion so far. Hazel however, reported that there were some confusion and congestion in the corrals further behind. Finally the song America was sung by someone and with the media helicopters whirring above, the cannon was fired. Almost immediately Sinatra sang “New York, New York” and we cheered as we raced off! Gosh, I have goose pimple just thinking back to that moment.

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The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (VNB) is 1 mile up and 1 mile down but with the training that I’ve put in, it wasn’t a problem. The REAL problem was the headwind and crosswind bringing down the temperature even lower. Don’t take my word for it – check this report out too. If an Englishman complained about the cold, what more an Asian who trains in 32C?! I found that I had to breathe harder and I was pumping my arms more in an automatic response to generate more heat. The woollen hat was no help as it had little thermal properties. My nose was just a little snotty, which was a relief. In fact save for this little discharge, my breathing and nose irritability that periodically bothered me (blockage and sinus) had been non-events ever since leaving KL. I ran a distance with a girl with a sign “I’m running the marathon on my birthday” sign pinned on her back – she received plenty of wishes from fellow runners. I also spotted a bib which said “I’m proposing to my fiance after this race”. I passed a few participants with disabilities from the Archilles Track Club in their trademark top, and there was a particular one who stood out – he was tackling the course backwards! I also spotted a blind runner tethered to a buddy running at a brisk pace.

The issue with the wind went away as soon as I got off the bridge and into Brooklyn. The runners on the upper deck veered to the right into Brooklyn, while the those on the lower deck veered left. I don’t remember much of the route specifics except that this borough was probably, the best in terms of crowd support. Some stretches bordered on maniacal – in a good way! After all, nothing less is befitting the largest marathon in the world (since 2003). By the 5th K I observed that I’d been hitting steady splits and running comfortably, so I ditched monitoring my splits on my watch so frequently and went with effort-based approach. Other than the headache, I was really running well. The flats of the early miles allowed runners to settle into a consistent pacing. While the fans were doing the best in cheering for us, I tried to limit my interaction with them to periodic waves so that I could focus on my running. Not only did they lend their voices to move us, but ordinary Brooklyn folks came out to provide us with anything they can think of – be it orange slices, bananas or tissue paper to wipe our sweaty faces! We were being pampered! There were bands every half a mile and from what I read, there were about 100 of them out there on race day. Support for the Italian and Mexican runners were plentiful and vociferous. Larry the Lighthouse got his fair share of cheers too. The world’s only running lighthouse were there for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. I stayed in the middle of the road for the most part as I skipped the first 3 stops and relied on my own Gatorade supply. I knew of the false sense of being hydrated when running in cool weather so I ensured that I drink regularly, even if in hindsight, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to be waylaid by a loo stop.

Congestion was at an acceptable level at the drink stations and tables were available on both sides of the road. The first stations were always the plain water (water temperature was always naturally chilled!) followed by Gatorade. The last table was marked with a balloon. At each table, paper cups were stacked 3 high and runners were kept away from them (there were security) to prevent the cups from being knocked over.

You can imagine the efficiency of the volunteers in managing the incoming runners, which was constant. Besides handing out the drinks, they cheered and nearly always put in a good word of encouragement for us.

The next bridge we had to pass was the Pulaski Bridge at about the halfway mark in the Polish part of Brooklyn. This bridge offered a fantastic view of Manhattan to the left, with the Empire State Building clearly visible. But there was still some distance to go before we would reach the island. Pulaski was a short bridge with medium steepness but there wasn’t any problems on this one too, and my timing at the halfway point was 1:58. I remained spot on for a 4-hour finish. The temperature rose to a level where I could throw away the woollen hat but I kept the gloves on as it was still chilly. Cheering was consistent throughout Brooklyn and only subsided just a little when we passed the Jewish section. I enjoyed the short but fun section of the fans who sang “Y-M-C-A”! Almost instantly we runners raised our arms to mimic the lyrics. There were several climbs that I passed that needed more focus and I switched my target to getting to the Queensboro Bridge (QB) at the 25K mark. Before that, I had to ask for Tylenol at one of the aid stations before the QB to relieve the headache. The woozy feeling had gone away but the pounding in the head was made worse by the many rock bands along the way.

The QB was where many runners struggled. Some complained loudly, some walked. Once again all the running on the Solaris route allowed me to stay on pace. I gained confidence passing the runners, while looking forward to the notoriously loud 5-deep spectators of First Avenue after exiting the bridge. The atmosphere was exactly like that up the crowded road. I remembered wondering how I could possibly navigate past the thousands of runners who were in front. The First Avenue stretch is no less than 6K in length and it took a bit out of me with the long gradual climb (see photo). The roads were wet from all the spillages of fluids from the runners in front of me and it was sticky as a result of the sugary mix. Volunteers were raking the excess crushed cups from the street so that we have an easier passage.

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My condition at this stage was still reasonably comfortable. I was breathing normally – no huffing or puffing. I’d been taking gels consistently – 12K, 22K, and at 30K when Powerbar handed me a pack. I’d not yet hit the wall and save for some twitching on the quads, all systems were good. In terms of timing, I’d slipped by 4 minutes (I guess I just slowed down bit by bit over the last few miles) but I wasn’t too beat up about that. Things turned a little more difficult when I reached the yellow carpeted over the steel-grated 4th bridge, the Willis Avenue Bridge leading to Da Bronx. It was a little surreal that a group of bagpipers were playing on the opposite side of the bridge as we crossed it.

An enthusiastic DJ welcomed us into their domain. I was too embroiled in my personal battle that I didn’t hear nor see the Bronx’s famed Gospel Choir. Neither did I see the kids from the pediatric ward of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center earlier although I spotted many of their cheer teams along the way. Sighting the kids would’ve been ultra inspiring. I picked up pace a bit and fought back to reclaim 2 minutes off my deficit and held on to that until just before entering Central Park on the Upper East Side next to the Guggenheim Museum (which wasn’t that large as compared to the photos I’ve seen). I’d thankfully passed the now-famous Borat guy (to see how he looked like, read Marci’s report) who were being butt slapped by cheeky runners. A participant in the RW forums reported that when asked how he was doing, “Borat” replied that he was chafing (duh!) and at that point of being asked, he still had 10 miles to go!

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The elevation charts as published in the 2019 media pack. 

Having run up the never-ending Harlem to Fifth Avenue stretch to find that we still needed to negotiate the winding and undulating Central Park was a bit demoralising. There were signs that a nasty cramp was imminent on the quads. I knew hitting 4-hours would be near impossible since I needed to cover the last 2K in 10 minutes flat. However I wanted to give the race and clock a good fight and steeled myself not to walk which would otherwise had marked the end of my race. I even thought if I landed myself in the hospital with my effort, so be it. I’d simply come too far to end this race like a wimp. In fact I picked up pace whenever the cramping receded momentarily a few times. The cramps were like toying with me. The fans were getting thick here and they could easily have reached out and touched me – I had images of Lance Armstrong climbing up the Alps. Yeah, like real! Where I blocked them out earlier, I was finally embracing their cheers. Next to Brooklyn, this section had to be the next best. They never let up and thoughts of both my kids cheering me from home carried me to mile 25 and into the short Central Park South stretch and then round Columbus Circle. A little bit up was the beautiful “26 mile” sign and all the crowd support got me a bit emotional as I pushed the final climb toward the finish gantry. I lifted my Oakley to my forehead and savoured crossing the finish line. I thought to myself, “I’d done it, I’d done it!”. A check on the watch showed 4:03.49 which meant this was my 2nd PR (an improvement of 13 minutes or so) in the marathon this year and my 6th PR this year for distances from 10K, 15K, 21K, 30K and the marathon. If I take my 30K timing from the marathon into consideration, I’d broken my 30K PR by 6 minutes, for a 7th PR. Given my other aspects of life which take away much of my running, I couldn’t have asked for more. And I believe I can go faster as I age. This 4:03 somehow felt like a barrier had been broken. I’d previously thought that it’s very very difficult to dip below 4:10 but with this, a sub-4 race is certainly in the near future. And other than the quads and headache, I felt really good!

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In the heat of the battle, I’d totally pushed aside my headache but now it returned with a vengeance. And nausea was beginning to hit home. We weren’t allowed to stop, but I was like the leaning tower tilted to the right. The first group of volunteers greeted us with congratulatory words – “You guys were awesome!”, “Fantastic jobs everyone!”, “You’re all heroes”. Let me tell you that after running 26.2 miles, those were nicest things you could possibly hear. We all needed affirmation for our effort, and justification that what we did was something to be proud of. Next was the Grete Waitz medal and an opportunity to be photographed on the event board. We were moved along and the photographers worked really fast in snapping runners – everything seemed like a conveyor belt.

Then I was handed my HeatSheet, the volunteer said, “Hope to see you again next year”. Then another taped my sheet together so I needn’t bother to hold it. It was details like these that runners felt appreciated. But I was still nauseous and burdened with a throbbing head, so I stopped a medic captain to report my state. After a few probing questions, he asked that I wet the back of my hand so that he could empty a salt packet. He said, “Like when drinking tequila except that you need to get that tequila much later”. I licked the salt off and drank from the Gatorade bottle provided in the food bag given out, thanked him and went my way. The symptoms didn’t go away but I needed firstly to get my bag from the UPS truck. I guessed I must’ve walked about 400m to reach my truck after which I quickly changed out of my wet top, put on my thicker jacket and made my way back to the medical area I spotted. I was again asked some questions about my condition and was given 2 more salt packs and 2 Tylenols.

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The second administration of the painkillers did its job and the headache subsided and the salt steadied the nerves as I looked for the exit from the Central Park. I stopped by to have my timing chip cut – yes we needn’t bend down. Just rest your shoe on a bench and a volunteer will snip it off. I made sure I thanked the cherubic lady enough and she was very happy to be appreciated. Outside the park were signage of bib ranges where family members can wait for the runners. A long stretch of Central Park West was blocked off for this Reunion Area and the atmosphere there was quite amazing as runners met up with their family and friends after their accomplishments. I walked a few streets westward to the 79th St station to catch the subway back to the hostel. My legs felt quite alright and the quads had pretty much eased up. I liked the fact that I finished the race in gear that were just moist and not soaked and dripping sweat. I reckoned it was due to dehydration that led to the cramps and nausea – a lesson learned. The next time I run in cold weather, I’d be sure to drink more and carry salt. The folks in the subway looked at my HeatSheet and medal which I wore proudly. I found it hard to believe that the marathon was over – it felt too short. The crowd made the journey that much quicker and I went through the miles not realising how far I’d covered. Unlike the sparse and unforgiving local marathons in Malaysia where no one cheered the runner on in the late miles making proceedings tough and seemed much longer. Good for building mental toughness but culture shock for those accustomed to well supported events.

When I reached the dorm, SP was already there, showered! I quickly did likewise and appreciated the warm shower – even though cold water would’ve been better to minimise soreness. Changed into fresh clothes and while sipping on a large bottle of Powerbar Recovery and munching on yet another Triple Threat bar, I was wondering where G was when she walked right in. We would be meeting with my friend Mitch for dinner at Tony’s at 8pm, but there was plenty of time. In fact we chose to get off the subway at Columbus Circle and walked to down to the Hudson, Mohan’s hotel and then down to Times Square. My legs were surprisingly fine probably because I’d refuelled with 2 bars and 2 recovery drinks. It was very nice to have finally met Mitch after staying in touch over emails the past 2 years, or more. Mitch played the perfect host and food was great. The dinner came to a close 2 hours later and we said our goodbyes. Everyone had a great time and many new friendships were established.

In fact so many marathoners wore their medals out that evening and the next day.

Congratulations to all of the finishers of the ING New York City Marathon. And thank you from the bottom of my heart, to all the race organisers, the NYRR, volunteers who welcomed and treated me like a hero from first interaction to post-race. To New Yorkers who came out in droves to support all of us – you have every reason to feel proud of your city and the marathon. The NYRR blog mentioned that the runners inspire them to improve upon the event every year. In actual fact the club and its volunteers inspire us runners. And so we need each other!

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Pluses

  • Unbelievable fans, volunteers and organisers
  • Wave starts
  • Plenty of porta-potties, food at the start, and drinks all the way
  • Best way to see NYC in half a day, or lesser
  • Energetic just like the city
  • Nice sized expo – not too mega, not too small
  • Technically first class, attention to details
  • The weekend when the entire city came together
  • It’s THE marathon to experience

Negatives

  • Point to point course meant long commute to the start and wait time.
  • Weather
  • Very expensive entry
  • Difficult lottery system (though a necessity, given the popularity of the race)
  • NYC is located on the other side of the world, which meant a killer flight time for those from Asia

More race reports to check out!

Awesome race day and IFR photos from Alex’s blog and also at the official website.

 

NN Worldwide Team Ma+Ra+Th+On Relay

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Note: This was not a race. Realistically, there’s not going to be any for the rest of the year. Even so, I’m putting this under the 2020 race blog menu to remind myself of the type of year this has been.

With events still on hold, small and large organizations are putting up virtual races in hopes of keeping the running community engaged.

During normal times, I give Virtual Runs (VR), especially the ones organised here, a wide berth. Not to sound elitist, I’ve always thought there’s very little work that needed to be done by the organisers to put up the event and for the runners, too generous a time window to complete their 10Ks. The reported results can be fabricated, participants don’t really know who the people behind the VRs are and what’s really the point of paying for a medal and tee to participate in a 5K and 10K virtual event? 

However, given the world we live in today, there’s a place for VRs. The ones that charge nothing and which everyone can participate as a community, keeping the spirit of running going. The ones that go beyond just putting up a registration page, t-shirt design and completion medals. And that’s essentially what the NN Worldwide Team Relay (happening this weekend) and July’s Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Virtual Marathon (see previous post) are all about.

We’re, of course, familiar with NN through the exploits of and being the sponsors of Eliud Kipchoge, Geoffrey Kamworor, and Kenenisa Bekele. Leveraging on their stable of world-class runners, the Dutch financial services company have put up a free easy-to-join marathon relay for everyone. All the runners need to do is to rally their mates, form a team of 4 where each will cover 10.5km. The system tabulates the feed from Strava and puts them on the event leaderboard. The GCM crew put together 2 teams and ran the distance yesterday, collectively clocking 3:35.37. It was the hardest effort I’d run in a long time, in fact since January. I averaged 4:25-ish until the 6K mark when everything just went south, just managing to sneak in at a 4:49 average pace. But it was all in good fun and a necessary check on where I stand. That’s what a diet of easy-running 55-60km weeks do to you. 

While I should have no problems completing the 3 distances as part of the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Virtual Marathon next month, I harbour some serious apprehension on how to complete the final marathon distance with less than 60 days to go!


Entries for the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Virtual Marathon are open. It’s a completely free to participate even where you can sign up for individual category or distance, or as a bundle of distances.  Run your “races” any time between July 1 to 31. To register and learn how to sync your run data (3 options regardless of what devices you use), go to the official website.

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Media Release – Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Marathon to go virtual for 2020 on Global Running Day

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As if 2020 didn’t sound futuristic enough, today on Global Running Day and for the first time in event history participants are able to register to run the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Marathon virtually.

The world-class event, originally scheduled for 4-5 July, was recently cancelled due to COVID-19 and the subsequent Queensland Public Health Order preventing mass participation events.

Events Management Queensland CEO Cam Hart said that although cancelling the event was an unavoidable and unfortunate decision due to the pandemic, the virtual run gives participants the opportunity to still connect with the event and achieve a personal goal ‘alongside’ thousands of other members of the event’s advocates.

“We are excited, even during these times, to still give people the opportunity to run the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Virtual Marathon from wherever they are in the world,” Mr Hart said.

“This year has been a challenging one for most people and with so much preparation going into the event, we want to give participants the chance to put their training towards completing our virtual event and still receive a sense of the good times on offer every July.

“Our running community is a special one and we have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, support and well-wishes from our supporters, so naturally we wanted to give back to the participants who are the heart and soul of the event each year.”

“The virtual run will attract international interest in the Gold Coast as a world class events and holiday destination and will play a valuable role in promoting the Village Roadshow Theme Parks Gold Coast Marathon on 3-4 July 2021.”

The virtual event will be free for runners, wheelies and walkers of all ages and abilities to join and there are six distances on offer  including the  Village Roadshow Theme Parks  Gold Coast  Virtual  Marathon, ASICS  Virtual Half Marathon, Southern Cross University  Virtual  10km Run, Gold Coast Airport  Virtual  5km  Fun Run and the 4km and 2km Junior Dash.

Participants will be required to complete their run between Wednesday 1 and Friday 31 July 2020 using the event’s official app, ASICS Runkeeper, or a similar GPS application and upload their result online. There is also the opportunity to participate in multiple events over the month of July or use shorter race distances as training runs for the full marathon.

Those taking part can even don a  personalised  virtual race bib, available for download during registration, while daydreaming about the Gold Coast’s famous flat, fast and scenic course located alongside the city’s renowned surf beaches and stunning broadwater.

2004 World Cross Country Champion and Gold Coast-based Lace Up Running coach Benita Willis said offering the events virtually is a great initiative to keep up training momentum and achieve previously set goals.

“During this time, it is really hard to stay motivated with just training alone so for myself, the athletes I coach and the running community, it’s fantastic to have a race goal to aim for,” Ms Willis said.

“The format of the virtual run also provides the opportunity for multiple attempts at your favourite distance or to try a different distance each week during the month of July.”

Friends,  family and foes will be vying for bragging rights with results available for all to see on the event website during the month of July and  personalised  finisher certificates shareable on social media with the event hashtag #GCM20.

Those with grander aspirations can chance their arm at one of the championships on offer – the Oceania Virtual Marathon and Half Marathon Championships, the Queensland Virtual Half Marathon Championships and the  Uni Sport  Virtual Distance Running Championships.

Participants can  also  donate to official charities Cancer Council Queensland and LIVIN via the registration platform.

For more information and to register, visit goldcoastmarathon.com.au/virtual

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Asics GlideRide Tokyo 100KM Review

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With a toe spring resembling a scimitar’s upturned blade, will the Asics GlideRide push the company’s fortune upwards as well?

After being the subject of jokes and snarky comments for several years, Asics is finally back. I’m not the first to say it and if the company continues to put out fun shoes to run in, I won’t be the last. As shoe geeks, we want to see innovation from companies and our frustration with the company from Kobe has been about its lethargy at getting off the blocks when other companies were innovating like crazy. If it ain’t broke *shrugs*…

The bulk of shoes that Asics produces sit at extreme ends of the spectrum. On the featherweight end, you” find the hardcore Tarther and Sortie racing flats while on the other, overbuilt blocks of foam, plastic and overlays. And Gel. The GTs, Nimbus, and Kayano you see in 2020 are essentially the same GTs, Nimbus and Kayano from 2017 albeit a shade lighter with updated midsole tech. They’re all still behemoths. It’s as if the company equates weightiness and heft with support and cushioning. Then there’s the middle-of-the-park revivals like the Dynaflyte and Roadhawk which were supposed to excite runners but ended up meh. Early iterations of FlyteFoam was too underwhelming to hold up even against NB’s Fresh Foam, much less Boost, React or Zoom X. For those of us who ran in a pair of Asics or two back in the days, it was frustrating to see how much ground the company have lost.

Things started to get a little interesting, however, in February 2019 with the launch of the Metaride. Still found on the shelves today, they have a proof-of-concept feel, highly stacked, super stiff, super heavy, super expensive (RM999 launch price, RM699 on clearance today), well you get the idea. It was as if Asics dumped all their tech on it just because they could. Little did we know that the Metaride (MR) was to be the first of three “energy saving” shoes featuring the Glidesole technology – a highly rockered midsole to reduce ankle flexion, and a precursor of things to come. While they managed to raise some eyebrows, the MR didn’t translate into mainstream acceptance. That was about to change with the second and third models in the series a few months later.

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That second shoe would be the GlideRide (GR), launched in September 2019. Asics America even had a event for that at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. You can check out the YouTube video here.  The event’s tagline of “Race with No Finish Line” – indeed one of the consultant’s muttering “There’s no finish line” survived the editing process – came extremely close to a certain brand’s tagline! As it turned out, the GR is a toned down version of the MR – all the tech but in a more accessible form factor, higher comfort level and “reasonable” price tag.  The final piece in the trifecta would be the performance oriented Evoride (ER). Launched February 2020, the ER weighs in under 10 oz and marries an extremely sweet rocker forefoot with a firmer heel for the faster days. At a very decent RM479 price tag, they will easily find a spot in a shoe rotation for the quicker days. In my opinion, the ER is a direct competitor to the Rival Fly 2, and indeed the Zoom Elite 9 (remember that?) but with more pop in the forefoot.

Now comes the question. What made me get the GR? A few reasons.

  1. With road races not happening in 2020, all the running I will be doing are going to be for maintenance and rebuilding. In fact, I’m currently alternating a 6-week base plan with a 1-week cutback. Until the future racing road map clears up, keeping things loose, fun and enjoyable are more important than being stressed up, which we already have too much of. The base plan merely enables me to run within a certain parameter. With most of the running being about maintaining aerobic fitness, the need for a durable daily trainer far exceeds that of, say a NB FuelCell TC or Endorphin Speed/Pro.
  2. My 2 daily trainers have been the Infinity React [review] and the FuelCell Propel [review]. I’ve found running long e.g. over  in the Infinity React tough. I’m not sure what it is, but after 100km, I’ve begun noticing the shoe’s idiosyncrasies a bit more. The forefoot seems to lack that bit of involvement and pop, and there’s something a bit off with the fit. The limited lacing options probably contributed to that latter observation. The Propel are counting down their remaining 200 km of life and would soon be packing it in.
  3. I’ve got a great deal for the GR. I was going to get the discounted OG red colourway GR from Asics Malaysia website (free shipping too) but snagged an offer from a shoe collector letting go his pair of unworn GR Tokyo Edition at a price cheaper than even the discounted OG. Once the Propel are retired, the GR will be rotated with the Turbo 2.

Since I entered the game late, I won’t be rehashing the tech specs of the GR here. Well, I could still glean over some tech details along the way but I won’t be covering them specifically. For tech specs and great content, let me point you to the following reviews by seasoned shoe geeks. In this post, I will put in my thoughts in relation to their reviews and add a bit more on my wear experience.

Seth DeMoor’s Top 3 road running shoes of 2019 | Seth’s 150 Mile review | Seth comparing several of Asics’ 2020 lineBelieve In The Run  | Road Trail Run’s multi tester review | Eddbud’s review | Fordy Runs

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What other reviewers say: My take:
GR is heavy but you won’t feel the heft. That’s absolutely true. My US10 weighs 10.8oz but once you’re laced up, you certainly won’t feel the weight. In fact, they felt more like 9.8-10oz shoes. They’re just so well balanced at every point of the gait cycle unlike the bottom-heavy Zoom Fly 3 (ZF3).
One reviewer suggested that the GR is what Nike aspired the Zoom Fly 3 to be. I don’t think so. I’m not sure if that was what Nike set out to do since the ZF3 was released before the GR. I feel conversely is true. Asics set out to model a trainer after the ZF3 and IMHO came out the winner. Point to note that the only ZF that I really like in the series is the SP Fast.
The GR fits true to size Agree. They’ve a comfortably snug heel and midfoot that open up at the forefoot. Plenty of room for the toes to splay. I wear thin socks with the GR.
Breathable Partially agree. While they’re breathable (and remain dry) at the vamp/upper, the thick tongue gets a little moist after my runs. Considering how much plushness they offer, that’s not too bad. For comparison, just watch the reviews of the Triumph 17 to hear the runners’ concerns about the heat build-up issues.
While they’re primarily for easy-paced high mileage use, the GR are especially fun at up-tempo paces. One reviewer even worn them at 4:00 pace and another for Park Runs. Agree. While the GR are versatile, they’re best enjoyed at moderate paces, which for me, are between 5:45/km to 6:30/km. I noticed that it’s really easy to move from 6:20 to 6:10 without much labour. It’s ridiculous to even think a 10.8oz shoe can be so fun at quicker paces. I’ve had to tamp down on the pace the first few runs I ran in them. One can get easily get carried away!
It takes a couple of runs to get used to it. No issues for me. They were fine from the get-go. Having run in plated shoes with toe spring and stiff rocker, there was no transition needed for me.
Smooth ride. Agree. While the rocker feeling was pronounced, turnover was smooth.
Stable Agree. The midsole flare and combination of softer Flyte Foam under the sockliner and the firmer Flyte Foam Propel create a secure platform whichever way I turn.
The shoe favours heel strikers. Agree. Heel strikers would be able to feel the protective cushioning of the heel and take advantage of the impact dispersion of the concave cutout where the heel sits, as they transition smoothly through the gait cycle. However, those who land slightly forward can feel that too, albeit a lesser extent.
Built like a tank. Agree, though I’d really like Asics to go easy with the padding on the tongue and collar for v2.
Asics is back! Agree to a point. The GR, ER and Novablast are such fun shoes to run in and freshest to come out of Asics for some time but there are several indications that they won’t be doing anything drastic to their staples such as Kayano and Nimbus. Variety is great and as long as Asics continue to innovate and improve on the funner outputs, we will continue to be excited.

Now back to the review, I’ve just crossed the 100K mark in the GR. The shortest run was a 4K the day I received the shoes and the longest was a 21K during the N2E Virtual 10-Miler (yes, I topped up), over the long Hari Raya weekend. At this point, I see no reason to hit over a Half Marathon distance because there’s nothing to train for. Then again, if I’ve time and some crazy friends are willing to come along, that 26K – 30K will not be disrupting any training plans, will it? We shall see. As I’ve said, “As long as it’s fun!”.

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Whether the run is a short 4K around the housing area or a Half Marathon distance, the step-in sensation is very plush. The GR has a 5mm drop but it’s not noticeable at all, the aggressive rocker being the more obvious sensation. Even though the shoes favour a heel striker, I find it hard to heel strike. I even tried forcing it but just couldn’t after 3 steps! Instead, I hit the ground slightly more forward.  I’ve also found that this is one shoe that’s hard to run really slow. Without pace discipline, one can easily transition to up-tempo paces without realising it. My sweet spot  is between 6:10 to 6:35/km. Dropping to 5:10, even 4:55, isn’t a problem but not sustainable presently. FYI Seth, whose link I provided above, ran his 13-miler at 3:50/km in the GR so the ability to manage this heft rests as much on a runner’s strength. You’d be right to ask that with many lighter options out there, is it necessary to be carrying this much weight? Definitely not, since the weight will surely ummm… weigh you down in the later miles. Nevertheless, I reckoned that logging miles in a hefty shoe such as the GR will only build strength over time and pulling on the Next% for a race would be like wearing nothing! Train heavy, race light!

I did consider the following alternatives prior to the purchase, but their drawbacks in “()” held me back:

  • 1080v10 (reports of FreshFoam X firmness, upper appear less breathable, price after discount is more than I would’ve liked)
  • Triumph 17 (upper breathability issues, even heavier than the GR)
  • Ultra Boost 20 (price, heavier than the GR, traction, I’ve worn 2 UBs before)
  • SL20 (performance and speedwork oriented)
  • Evoride (rear cushioning skewed to performance and speedwork use)
  • Novablast (less stable than I’d like, race-retired 4% that can do the same work, price)

Other than the Evoride and Novablast, the other options are pretty much traditional running shoes with updated midsoles – the exception being the Ultra Boost, still saddled with an ageing midsole. With the GR, there are so many positives from the reviews and the chance to try Asics’ new plated geometry proved too irresistible. The seller’s willingness to let them go at an amazing price pretty much sealed the deal for me. Would I have made the same purchase decision had the asking price been higher? Probably not and I’d have waited.

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If you’re intrigued by the GR, be aware that the shoes offer a smooth but firmer ride. This isn’t a Clifton, Rincon, Turbo, or Ultra Boost. And how much cushioning you feel depends on where you strike. Whichever type of runner you are, you’ll still enjoy the toe-off pop. That’s what makes the shoe so fun to run in. I did swap out the stiffer and firmer stock insole for the softer Sofsole which improved the ride and I reduced the lacing of the 7(!) eyelets to 6 to accommodate a runner’s knot. The shoe locks down well without the tweak but I felt it unnecessary to use up all the eyelets.

Asics could do better to make the entire upper less stiff, even though they’re one of the most comfortable (from the tongue to the collar) I’ve worn. The engineered mesh feels stiff to the touch, as if they’re stretched tautly over the vamp, giving you a roomy forefoot. The laces are of the non-stretchy variety but they’re long enough. The stretchy tongue is a little too padded though. It’s not gusseted but with ridge-like folds to help secure the laces, I’ve never encountered any slippage.

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Going to the midsole, a softer layer of FlyteFoam sits on top of a firmer one, giving the wearer immediate comfort and a quick and firm platform to launch into the next stride. Aided by the plastic plate that runs from the mid to forefoot, transition is smooth and as you pick up the pace, very quick. The GR is the antithesis to the Nike Free, Altra, Five Fingers out there. Pliable they’re not. Sure, there’s plenty of room up front to wiggle your toes but your feet are pretty much locked in and guided through the entire gait cycle in a stable manner. There’s little chance for ankle eversion and inversion – the bulk, stack height and stiffness pretty much limits that. Foot strike feels planted and secure. This is one stable shoe.

A sliver of Gel is present in the lateral heel and the outsole is made of a thinner than usual AHAR which, as expected, looks like new even after 100 km. The hexagonal lugs provide excellent traction on all surfaces I’ve ran on – road, sandy patches, tiled. As they’re hard compound, you’ll hear loud tapping with each foot strike, keeping the timing and pace like a metronome.

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I expected my legs to be trashed post-21km but they were fine. They weren’t mollycoddled for sure but my legs felt like they could still manage another 5km had I been fitter. There were absolutely no hotspots, nor were my socks soaked with sweat.

The Asics GlideRide gets my recommendation as an ultra durable long distance trainer and at least a must-try in-stores for those apprehensive about the brand. They totally different from what the company has put out in recent years. Due to their stiffness, rotate them with a conventional lightweight trainer so that your musculoskeletal system gets a variety of adaptations. Don’t get hung up about the weight and who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Disclosure: I purchased the Asics GlideRide new from another owner for RM420. They’re also available from the Asics Malaysia website from RM440 – RM543 (Hari Raya Sale price), a good deal for a pair that gets you a minimum of 600km.

New Balance FuelCell Propel 200KM Review

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Note: This is yet another discovered unpublished review from November 2019. The Propel is impossible to find these days but I figured I should still post this up for completeness sake. Due to the MCO lockdown to arrest the scourge of COVID-19, all outdoor activities were barred since early March and only lifted May 4th. With the write-up already completed last year, I was able to get reacquainted with the shoes and grab a few shots with the iPhone 11 before “AirDropping” them to the iPad for editing. So here’s the short write up on the shoes having logged 200km in them.

When I started running back in the early ‘90s, Nike and New Balance were the only 2 brands I wore. NBs were made in the USA then and they were built like Volvos. Indestructible yet really comfortable, NBs were one of the most innovative shoe companies at that time. As they got overly engineered and chunky – they had ENCAP, C-CAP, Rollbar, Abzorb – and that’s not counting the needlessly complicated nomenclature, I stayed away from the brand. If you’re interested in NB history, check out this Sneaker News article.

So after being off my shoe rotation for much of the 2000s, I got reacquainted with the brand when they released the Zante in 2015 which featured a then new midsole foam called FreshFoam (FF). The FF was an improvement over the stiff and firm RevLite material. The Zante had a fantastic upper construction and were made without superfluous materials. I liked them enough to own 2 pairs even though I found them to be a bit too minimal for marathon use. My next pairs of NB would happen only in 2018 with the Beacon [review], followed by the Rebel and Propel In 2019.

With that bit of backstory out of the way, let’s move along with the Propel.

The selling points for the Propel are their lightweight cushioning properties and accommodating upper, built on a stable platform of FuelCell midsole foam. Launched as the training companion to the more performance oriented Rebel, the Propel simply offers fantastic value to the budget conscious runner, without sacrificing the key elements that make a shoe great. Despite all the positives, tough luck finding them in Malaysia. The Propel and Rebel were on the shelves for such a limited period of time and sold at full RRP that finding and making that purchase decision a ridiculous proposition. Luckily, wide versions of the shoes were available discounted from an online shopping portal and that was how I snagged my pairs.

There’s really nothing much to write home about the Propel, really. It’s a simple shoe, a daily trainer in the mould of the Pegasus, Launch, GoRun Ride Hyper, and Solar Glide. The problem is, NB’s range of shoes are so bewilderingly wide that unless you’re a geek, the Propel will be lost in the sea of 840, 890, 880, Arishi, Echo, Beacon, Tempo, And Roav, just to name a few.

How good is the Propel? Good enough to displace the Zoom Fly 3 [review] as the daily workhorse and long run shoe. Much more forgiving than the lower slung Boston 5-8s, the Pegasus 35 (I don’t have the 36 which retained much of the 35’s setup), and the Dynaflyte 3. That said, the true-to-size NB are less suited for up-tempo workouts, the domain of the aforementioned shoes from adidas, Nike and Asics.

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At a surprising 8.25oz, the Propel is lighter than the Pegs and Epic React [review], most daily cushioned trainers from Asics, adidas and Brooks. Given its wallet friendly price tag, the Propel’s upper isn’t something fancy nor refined as the Rebel’s excellent knitted upper. Just the usual breathable engineered mesh with hints of trace fibre stitching. I wish there is another row of lace eyelets to accommodate a  runner’s knot, so good thing the Propel already have good heel fit and laces long enough to triple knot!

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There is a thin layer of external welded overlay around the toe cap but an external heel counter is noticeably absent. The almost-too-generous fit (the shoes are wide version) turn out to be a blessing as they allow me to swap out the stock insoles for the more supportive ones from Spenco as I slowly worked through my post-injury routine. My ankle has since mended enough for me to revert back to the stock insoles.propel7

Moving down to the flared midsole, you’ll find sculpted sidewalls both on the lateral and medial sides that offer all the stability the runner needs – going around corners are all well handled. I can say confidently since a single 2K loop of my daily running route entails negotiating 12 turns! The Propel’s FuelCell midsole offers enough cushion for the long miles and is stable enough for all but the wobbliest of runners. At 200km, there are some minor creasing observed on the midsole due to compression. That’s totally normal for a midsole this soft.

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The 27mm/21mm stack height isn’t particularly high, thus the shoes’ impact dampening isn’t in the realm of a maximalist shoe like Hoka. Not to worry, you’ll still get a nice step-in feel.

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Flip the shoes over and you’ll notice the full rubber contact outsole with multi-directional flex grooves, including a massive longitudinal one reminiscent of Asics’ Guidance Line. This is one flexible shoe. Along with the Floatride Run Everyday, the Propel has one of the best traction out there, grippy on all the surfaces I run on – tarmac, gravel, steel gratings and sand – wet or dry. If there’s a negative, it’s the somewhat less stellar heel durability as you can see in the photo below, expected perhaps, due to the softer rubber used. They should still last me 450-500km and as I’m working to regain my fitness, I’ll take comfort over durability.

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There’s really little to complain about the Propel. The earlier comments about the one-less eyelet, heel wear and the (almost too much) roominess were me really nit-picking a super affordable pair of shoes under RM300, after rebates and discounts. The Propel gets my thumbs up. Good luck trying to find it.

Singapore Marathon 2004

Back in Singapore!
I can’t believe it’s been a year since my maiden marathon in Singapore. On Saturday 2 buses departed the Bukit Aman car park for the Island Republic at 8:15am with close to 90 Pacesetters members. By early afternoon nearly 150 members would have stepped foot on the island. This perhaps would be the largest contingent travelling to the marathon.

Note to marathon organizers in Malaysia: This proves that if you get your act right, you’ll get more runners doing your event than any sum of marketing dollars would. This phenomenon is called “word-of-mouth”.

Expo & Checking In
Everyone in the buses were looking forward to the collection of bibs and the expo. Some naturally had their eyes on shopping along Orchard Road but that’s another story. This year’s expo was moved to the Suntec Convention Centre. I found that the bib collection process has been made even more efficient. Runners are guided into their respective queues according to their categories. The bib, timing chip and event T-Shirt and Handbook were deposited into a large New Balance shoebag. Absolutely no delays here and with plenty of volunteers standing by, I cleared the collection within 5 minutes.

The expo area was slightly narrow and crowded. Notable booths were the Polar and PowerBar (where I collected a complimentary PowerGel). The KLIM and Gold Coast Marathon booths were quiet with most runners contented just to get the next day’s task over with first. With some time to kill before pushing off for the hotel at 4pm, I hit the New Balance booth. By far the most crowded exhibitors, NB certainly had some good wares on sale. I grabbed 5 pairs of technical running socks (2 pairs were for Newton in case you’re wondering) and 2 pairs of T-Shirts. The shoes weren’t really appealing, with only the racing models unseen in Malaysia.

After that I met up with Ronnie and Yaziz who were loitering the area and we sat down to listen to one of the talks (each got ourselves a complimentary tube of foot cream for our “troubles”). I ought to have lined up at the Polar booth for the free fitness checkup. I had thought that you’ll only receive your HR measurements but apparently they were measuring your VO2Max as well. I’m not sure how the VO2Max could be measured by strapping on a watch and lying motionless on a mat though, as VO2Max is nearly always measured in a lab while the athlete is put through a thorough workout.

Whilst not spectacular, this year’s expo was an improvement over 2003’s. An hour later I was checked into my hotel room. I didn’t have enough time to do much except to unpack. Also got the race gear ready – pinned the bib, tied the baggage strip and laced the timing chip. My gel packs were already pinned to my shorts and I’ve read through the event handbook while back in KL, so I saved myself some time there. Finally I downed 2 bananas I bought from the Yong Peng rest area, washed down with Performance.

Chow Time
Staying at the Peninsular-Excelsior was perhaps the best idea as I would discover. Location-wise it’s unbeatable. A mere 500m to the Padang, 300m to Raffles City, 150m around the corner to Funan and across to the City Hall MRT station, this is the hotel to stay should you choose to run the Singapore Marathon.

As with last year, I thought Pastamania at Funan Mall would be a central location for most of us. As I mentioned I knew it was close to the hotel but I didn’t realize how close it was! When I got there, Alex and his friend were already there. Some tables were joined in 2 rows for us. Alex was quietly confident of his first marathon and I could see that he’ll be able to make it. While he handed me the ClimaFIT cap I asked him to buy for me, Kevin arrived. Soon afterwards it was Rohaizad followed by Jason. Then Andrew, Bernice and their friend, Ronnie and Tey’s gang. Kenneth, Yen Nee (who had done some shopping), Justin and Julian joined us later. Julian was lugging his sax. Handshakes and stories were exchanged and it was much fun – a nice diversion to reduce the worries of tomorrow’s heavy task. Many of those there were acquaintances on the Internet and had not met in person. So I was glad to have brought this large group together. Not to be left behind, the Penguins popped by. Penguins 1 and 2 looked seriously in the mood to lock horns on race day.

By the time we were through with dinner and chitchats it was close to 7:30pm and I decided against making a trip to Orchard Road. In hindsight it was a good decision as I would need the rest. Back at the hotel, after a soak in the tub, I channel surfed and was surprised to hit a French movie with some nude scenes. No diversions now, I thought to myself. To cap off a nice day, I received a call from Ronnie and Yaziz wishing me good luck for the race. After re-checking my 3 alarm clocks, it was lights out.

Race Morning and Plan
I woke up at 3:50am, quickly freshened up, taped/lubed all the spots and had a breakfast of 1 bun, 1 PowerBar and 1 banana, all washed down with a cup of coffee and Performance. Kevin arrived at about 5am to drop off his bag and soon after we were walking to the starting line. Again we didn’t have to go far, it was just after the Adelphi. While the Padang was still relatively quiet the bright lights beyond the Padang were already booming with noise. I deposited my bag – still well organized by bib range. We were directed by placed volunteers to the pathway that led to the Esplanade Theatres On The Bay where the start would be. We took it easy, stretched and sat down observing the gathering crowd. With 15 minutes to go, we shuffled down to the starting pens and located the time-zones we were running. My race plans were simple. Take 1 minute walks breaks at every water station which were spaced 2K apart. 1st goal for this race was to finish, 2nd goal was to PR, 3rd goal was to break 5 hours. Target pace to do sub-5 was a consistent 7 minute pace. Sounded like a simple plan and I felt strong and confident.

Look At The Crowd!
The number of runners for the full marathon was amazing – nearly doubled that of last year at 4,000 plus. Where Kevin and I stood we were at least 300m to the starting line and there were many more runners behind us! We couldn’t hear the MCs shouting away and music were blasting to the nth decibels but there was no mistaking the electrifying energy. More importantly I was enjoying myself and grinning from ear to ear. Time and again we were clapping (for what reason I didn’t know, as I couldn’t hear a thing) and I made some last minute mental reminders:

  • Let me have the strength to carry me through the difficult miles. However should I find the going tough in the later miles, let me at least have the energy to mutter expletives
  • I’ve trained as best as my schedule allowed me to. Now’s the time to just do my best and reward myself for the months of waking up early on Sunday mornings and running the risks of being knocked down by crazy drivers. No time for self-doubts now!
  • Let me have the discipline to stick to race plans, maintain a conservative pace and not chase after that attractive girl in a sports bra
  • In the final 500m, let me smile and wave to the cheering crowd, and finish strongly
  • And finally let this shorts of mine not drop from the weight of the gel packs pinned to it!

After the MCs blasted “Simply the Best” and “Who Let the Dogs Out”, we were let off! I immediately spotted 1 runner with a laden Camelbak, another with a fully loaded backpack, many women in skimpy outfits, a large boisterous group from the Army (in their team vest that said “Honour & Glory – Army Marathoners”), StanChart runners, runners who were doing it for charity

Early Stages
The early miles were really comfortable. Kevin and I were pacing and we were crowd watching. The humidity were very high and I was already sweating heavily 1K into the race. Foolishly at that time, I didn’t heed this early warning of this to come.

We spent most of our attention crowd watching – and enjoyed this diversion. A row of men were lined up on the field presenting their “arms” for a “gun salute”. It was quite a funny sight. Then the returning elites passed the 10K mark opposite – bloody hell 28 minutes split! This time around the elite field was deep with Kenyans and Tanzanians, and it was not surprising to see the bunch of them in full flight chasing after the leader 150m ahead. This amazing sight generated applause, “oohs” and “ahhhs” from us mid-packers.

Certain sections of the route converged, therefore we at some stages we were running with the faster 10K and 21K runners. Spotted John, Li Sar, Bernice, Gavin, and Penguin-2 (who was on the opposite side, hammering the marathon). However there wasn’t any problems with traffic as the marshalls were doing an amazing job with the hailers. We spotted a few girls running in Santarina’s hats complete with bells. This time around there weren’t many costume dressers but still penty of sights to check out. I made the 10K mark in 1:08.16, on target pace. Ominously the sun was already up. I pulled down my shades and kept at it.

Decision Time
Through every K, Kevin and I made sure in our steady but comfortable pace that we keep within our target pace. Kevin would “Roger that” each time I gave headsup on the refreshment breaks while he kept my pace in check. Averagely we were achieving that, though we noticed that some markers may have been out of place. For instance, we hit certain Ks in sub-6 and some over-7. It wasn’t a major concern but it did put off accurate pacing a bit.

I was feeling so strong and energised from absorbing the atmosphere that I found myself surging pretty often – held back only by Kevin’s warning. However I thought maybe it time I gamble a bit. Adopting the breaks at every 2K water station mark is a new strategy for me, and so was feeling this strong. I felt that to PR and break 5 hours, some risks would need to be taken. Who knows? Maybe I was really up to it? If I kept a too conservative race plan perhaps I couldn’t meet my time goal?

So I made a decision to run with my gut feel, and using the watch only as a secondary guide. If I didn’t try pushing the envelope, I wouldn’t have known, right?

Middle Miles
We passed the Esplanade area again somewhere between the 12 to 13K marks. The 3 Santarinas’ hat bells weren’t jingling anymore. But Kevin and I were still strong. The sun was beginning to make its presence felt but everything was still good. I had passed Terence (Penguin-6) around the exit of Marina South and was in cruise mode.

I remembered getting impatient of still not reaching the ECP. If I reached the ECP with some juice left, I knew that I’d go sub-5. So the ECP was a performance marker for me. It was getting hot now and while my legs were just mildly tight, the stomach was already making its discomfort felt. I had relieved myself in the porta-toilet in front of the Kallang Stadium and I thought I’d got the congestion there out of the way. The feeling was like the stomach had collapsed into itself.

I’d been drinking the Excel and water well and had sucked on 2 gummies. Nevertheless we reached 21K in 2:21.38, still very much in the fight and more importantly on target pace.

Smell Something Burning?
By 24K, it was getting really hot. I spotted Don Khor running strongly on the returning side. He would eventually be the 2nd Malaysian finisher in the Men’s Category with a time of 3:02. Then Gavin ran by and we all exchanged shouts. He made a finger across the throat sign – was he suffering from the heat too? Didn’t seem to me as he finished well within his goal time in 3:22.

I thought I smelled something burning. Then I realised that it was the smell of the sun burning my skin generating a mixed odour of sweat and sunblock. I was being cooked in the hot sun. I could feel the heat radiating from the corrugated metal sheets on a construction site we passed. I felt one side of my face burning up and poured some water on my head, careful not to get my shoes wet.

I finally sought some shade in the ECP and took the chance to stretch a bit. Kevin was always close by. The ECP meandered and at the 26K point I was energised by the strong beat of music and crowd support. I was handed a banana which I tore into ravenously. It wasn’t quite ripe but I didn’t care. I picked up the pace a little and looked forward to the U-turn. After some cursing, I got to the U-turn point and gingerly made my way to the 30K milestone. The legs were getting heavy and tight and I took every chance I had to stop and stretch them. Many were doing the same and most were suffering from the heat. I finally reached the 30K mark in 3:36.54 – 5 minutes off target pace.

Is Oslo in Finland or Sweden?
At the 31K mark I made another decision to still force a sub-5 but to do that I had to drop Kevin. He was running some ways behind and in my hazy state of mind, I didn’t realise that he wasn’t there anymore. I had to push ahead. The sun was having a go at us big time but I wasn’t hallucinating when I spotted a very large birthday cake on the opposite side. There was a man walking in a large birthday cake, surrounded by a crew of helpers. The poor fellow was part of some company’s 50th anniversary do and he still had some 16K to go.

If that wasn’t bad enough I passed an elderly man (I found out later that he was 80) walking on the opposite side with all the support vehicles behind him. He had just passed the halfway mark. He definitely was the last person in the race and I felt thankful that I wasn’t still at the 21K point.

Barbossa’s March

If you had watched “Pirates of The Caribbean” you would remember the underwater scene where the zombie pirates walked on the ocean bed. That was how I was walking – not really in slo-mo but approaching it. The arms were swinging all right but the legs just weren’t following. With just 5K (4 laps of KLCC park) to go, I was once again fighting myself. I was wrestling with negative thoughts, and cursing at the muscle fibres in my legs and stomach.

Alex Leong had passed me some ways back and was looking good while I had passed Abot Narus somewhere near the Waterfront. I spotted Francis Toh up ahead clearly struggling and I pictured him in a pirate’s get-up. With some words of encouragement I went past him. I had given up on sub-5 some distance back. To run it, I’d need to do 5-minute pace for the rest of the course. And I was averaging 8 plus. Abot passed me again and I didn’t see him again. The distances passed slowly at the Promenade stretch. Again the route meandered and curved and I couldn’t see the “durian”. Where is it???!

Then I spotted Tey running just in front. I ran up to him and gave him a pat. Turning around he brandished his camera and loosed a few shots in my direction. Then he ran ahead and snapped some more. He told me he was waiting for his running partners. You can’t meet a friendlier face in the final miles than Tey’s.

The Finish
With a couple of Ks to go, I gave it a go again. In the run-in, I spotted Li Sar who was shouting encouragements and the hitting the runway, I squeezed the remaining juices out of my legs and motored home passing Chan Wing Kai who, hopefully had snapped some nice shots of me, past Rohaizad and the gang and hundreds of cheering supporters. Again I was alone – no one was within 35m of me, so I lapped up the cheers and powered past 2 runners in the last 15m. The videoman after the finish line gestured to me to lift up my hands which I complied. I had no energy left to object. I would’ve stripped naked if you’d asked me then. I walked over to the oranges booth and grabbed a bottle of water and a few slices of oranges. Hordes of people were in the area. The kids were jamming the carnival too.

Post-Race
Quality runs will get one faster but to last the distance, it’s still down to mileage. I started well, held pace up to 30K and crashed. I ended strongly but it was too late. I’d missed the goal time and PR attempt. My chip timing of 5:15.16 meant that I was about a minute slower than in Ipoh but I had no regrets as I had to try out a new race strategy. The prelim results put me in position 1624 out of 3230 runners. Many DNF’d and I saw 3 runners crashed to the sidewalk after the 25K mark. Conditions were downright brutal with the heat easily reaching 34C. But this suited the Kenyans just fine. Philip Tanui (brother of the illustrious Moses) won with a record time of 2:17.02. I finished the race with no blisters yet again and I seemed to have recovered even faster than my previous 2 marathons. Even after 3, there’s still much to be learnt but it’s OK – I’ve got time. Read the news coverage on the marathon here: 12.

Looking Forward
I’ve registered for the KLIM full, so training will commence in 2 week’s time. The course for KLIM will be more undulating with a treacherous final 5K with a steep uphill and long downhill that’s guaranteed to buckle all but very strong legs. Training for the heat and hills are a must plus sustaining 60-70K weeks. Also, I’d need a replacement for my Wave Rider. I won’t be able to use it for another marathon. Perhaps I’ll get the Rider 7 or Creation 5. Any sale coming?

Overall Review
What worked

  1. Expo. While not stupendous, it was a move in the right direction
  2. Number collection was very efficient. Liked the NB shoebag – practical and more durable than last year’s sling bag
  3. The hotel. Loved the location. Period
  4. Baggage handling was also first class. Didn’t have to wait long to deposit and collect
  5. Running Marina South first. This part was always difficult
  6. Bananas and PowerGels at ECP
  7. Drink stations. All delivered except for 1. The Excel iso drink were, surprisingly, not very gassy
  8. Medal and Finisher T-Shirt were better organised this year
  9. Runners’ Tent were larger and airy
  10. The small water bottles were great. Just nice and minimal wastage. Easy to carry too
  11. Pinning the gels on the shorts

Needs Improvement

  1. Weather. Downright brutal
  2. Start time. The organisers need to re-consider moving the start time earlier. More casualties and DNFs this year. Unless of course it’s the organisers intention to position this race as a tough race
  3. Massage services were unavailable for above 5-hours finishers. Need to have more volunteers staffed here
  4. The number of cheer teams seemed to have reduced
  5. Some drink stations were not placed every 2K. Some were closer to each other than the others
  6. Loudspeakers at the start. Needs to have more down the starting

 

PJ Half Marathon 2004

I had no trouble finding the Kelana Jaya Sports Complex – just follow the cars! The car parks were filling up fast but I managed to park right next to Martin aka Lonerunner who wasn’t alone. He was there to run the 10K with his wife. Even in a crowd, it was easy to spot familiar faces. Either my circle of friends have grown or the running scene in the country is small. Or both.

Promptly registered in the well lit stadium, I bumped into Uncle Sonny, Ken, Uncle Tan, Kelvin and Rohaizad. Then it was onto the tracks for a warm up jog. The weather was cool due to a very light drizzle. I gagged down the PowerBar and 250ml of water and chanced upon Gavin. On our way out to the starting area, I saw Terence aka Penguin-6 waddling very quickly toward the grandstand area (turned out he was frantically hunting for his bib).

Gavin, Rohaizad and I were still chatting when the crowd began to move forward. We thought the race had started but it turned out that everyone was just moving forward to the starting line. A few minutes later, we were off. I moved at steady pace. The plan was to stick to a 6 minute pace up to the 18K mark. Within the 1st K, I met Newton and Cheong – they were running together. And Krishnan from adidas. I was confident that the 3 climbs (1K, 4K and 8K) would present no problems to me as they came on early. I hydrated and sponged as usual and I noticed that there were many attractive women running the 21K this year – so there were adequate distractions. Then I heard someone call my name from behind – it was Ronnie, who was in the 10K category. He cruised past me in front of the Nanyang Siang Pau Building.

I suspected that the markers were slightly off as I hit 4K in 20 flat (5 min pace) and 10K in 50:40. The climbs had had no negative impact on me and I was confident that I would finish below 2 hours. I had caught up with Uncle Sonny and we were pacing together. I had taken gel at the 8K station. Both of us were carrying our our fluids so we bypassed the next water stop and overtook a few runners. We distracted ourselves by cheering the fast runners on the other side of the road.

Since I was feeling good, I surged ahead. Saw Li Sar, Azwar, Yong, Rohaizad and Tey on the other side. Took the U-Turn just before Terminal 3 and prepared myself for the difficult part of the race. My pace had dropped a bit and it was getting a tad hot and dusty. Before long Uncle Sonny passed me and never looked back. I walked for a few yards to alleviate my knee pain – I was glad I wore the patella support, else it would have been worse. Then I resumed running at a slower pace – tried to run the pain off, which was a bad idea, but the race had to go on!

Took on a bit more gel at the 14K mark and saved a bit of it for 18K. The turnoff back to the stadium was a welcome sight. I passed Tey who was nursing his legs and surged again. I also passed Rohaizad who was stretching a little by the side and saw Karim who had finished. The watch read 1:45 and I knew for sure then that I’d go sub-2. But I underestimated the end where we were supposed to take the large loop around the stadium before entering the track! I had surged too early! Nevertheless I hung on for the final yards, overtoook another runner in the final 10m amidst cheers from the Gang. It was a nice race for me. Not only I returned with a sub-2 but the organisers also seemed to have gotten their act right (read about last year’s fiasco here) – the 21K route was separated from the 10K and 5Ks, thus ensuring sufficient sponges (ice-cool water) and refreshments for the half marathoners. The traffic management too have improved with many more marshals. I’ll be back next year!

Timing: 1:58.20
Average Pace: 5:38