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.
W2: 42K run
W3: 47K run
W4: 50K run
W5: 60K run
W1: 45K run
W2: 26K run, 44K bike
W3: 64K run, 44K bike
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.
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!
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!