Gold Coast Virtual Marathon: The Big Four


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.

GCM20_FM Start

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!

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!

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


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



Download ASICS Runkeeper here (iOS | Android)

Gold Coast Airport 5.7KM Fun Run 2019

I returned to run the 5.7K as a form of pre-marathon shakedown. The inclement weather meant that my plan to run with the Insta360 One X was scuppered since I don’t have the waterproof casing. Instead I relied on hand-holding the GoPro (without the gimbal) and the video came out all right. I ran 26:16 for the distance and got a good work out for next day’s big race. Taking into account carrying a camera, sling bag and water-resistant shoes! Enjoy the video!

*Follow this link to my Gold Coast Marathon Race Report.

Gold Coast Marathon 2019

The runners around me let out a collective groan as the rain came down, light shower at first before developing into something more threatening. I had on me 3 old race tees on top of my singlet, a disposable arm warmer, a cap and shorts. I’d completed my warm up prior but with the wind and rain, the body was quickly cooling down. Even the singing of the Australia National Anthem sounded listless. Memories of Kasumigaura Marathon some years ago came flooding back. Unlike Kasumi however, there was less fretting on my part as I was determined not to let 18 weeks of training go down the drain. The little tree cover above provided a bit of protection, enough to keep my 2 inner layers dry but my shoes were soaked through from the running rainwater. I hopped in place to keep some semblance of warmth as the emcee counted down the start. I had discarded 2 tees and decided to keep 1 around my neck just a bit longer. When the gun went off, I immediately lost Budiman who had been standing next to me. GCM19 was the second marathon we found ourselves participating together, after Nagano. I consumed a gel and kept hopping to keep my muscles warm. The gut issues I’ve endured the past 3 days due to being lactose intolerant, seemed to have abated. I’d been concerned about the power in the legs being zapped as a result of my visits to the WC but Saturday’s 5.7K Fun Run (26:16) seemed to suggest otherwise.

Very happy to have met Erin again, my 3:40 pacer from GCM18.

My goal time was a conservative 3:30 (4:58/km) but I carried some confidence from having completed my longer MPs and a tough simulator quicker than that. While several weeks didn’t turn out as planned in terms of mileage, I’ve kept up with the SOS workouts once I’ve readjusted my initial 3:25 goal time pace from Week 10 onwards. I even scaled back the easy miles on certain weeks to allow the body more time to recover. Despite cutting back, I still ran more miles per week over the course of 4 months than I did training for GCM18. I was confident that I caught myself, just in time, from tipping over into the burnout zone, so anything between 3:25 and 3:30 was a possibility on a good day.

The crowd moved hesitantly at first but quickly progressed to the target pace when the road opened up 300m after the start. As sudden as it had came down, the rain stopped right about then. I closed in on Sally and her co-pacer, but due to the crowd, I only caught up after the course hooked a left towards Main Beach, and because I was cloistered within my own little pack of runners, I occasionally  found myself running ahead of the pacers! There was a danger in getting bunched in, and I extricated myself from the pack to avoid going out way too fast. Racing at this pace certainly required a bit more situational awareness and being mindful of the goings-on within and around ourselves. That is why I love the marathon. The goals you set, the distance to be run, the miles you’re required to put in, and the mind games you play with yourself, all elevate the marathon to a very cerebral undertaking!

Back to the race. The running was effortless and got to the 5K mark at Surfers Paradise in 24:25 having taken my 2nd gel.  I was pretty much in my own world, trying to get into a meditative state of pacing when Hee Boo suddenly appeared next to me having chased the 3:30 bus all the way from Pen B! As we chugged along smoothly, I pointed out to him the upcoming aid stations and course turns so that we could adjust our trajectory. The post-rain weather was fantastic. By 7K, we realized that the pacers were holding a much faster clip than necessary for a 3:30 and definitely not slowing down, an observation validated by some runners around us. The duo were pulling 10 seconds quicker than goal pace and once we recognized that the pace weren’t going to be sustainable for us, we let them go.

After a few turns along familiar streets, we finally joined the Gold Coast Highway, the new section of the course, at the 10K mark (48:53). This wider stretch certainly more accommodating for the masses. By then the sun was up but conditions were generally cool and pleasant to run. I removed and tucked the disposable arm warmers into my shorts waist. We continued our merry way to the Southern-most u-turn at Burleigh Heads, which once again in my opinion  retained its reputation as the best supported section of the marathon. I low-fived as many adorable kids as I could, supporting us that morning. This time around, runners made the left u-turn as opposed to right the previous years. We hit 15K in 1:13.00, just 2 minutes off April’s NatGeo 15K of 1:11.28. We hit the halfway mark in 1:42.04, 2-minute PR over Jan’s Twincity Half of 1:44.06 and couldn’t help but feel over the moon about the whole thing. It served to illustrate just how much quicker the pacers were going even if we held ourselves back. Had we been that crazy and completed the 2nd half in a similar pace, we’d have run a 3:24 marathon! Hypothetically speaking of course, since to produce that effort was simply beyond us at our current fitness levels. Instead I kept reminding Hee Boo that we needn’t be running any quicker and just needed to stay loose and relaxed – 4:50 to 4:55/km were plenty good!

We kept a very consistent average pace and with buoyant spirits, in no small part due to the raucous support from the crowd lining the streets, we arrived back at Surfers Paradise in 2:02 (25K), determined to get to the 30K mark in as good shape as possible for the final assault. The sparse crowd between 25K and 30K allowed for some introspection and warming up of the mental resolve that would be called upon pretty soon. After all, my legs were already reminding that they were a little tired. Other than that, I was good for the race. Burping was always a good sign to me – an indication that my gut was still functioning well, which also meant that the gels ingested would still be converted to fuel.

30K. Only 12 to go! We’ve got this!

This year, the 30K mark (2:26) came earlier on the course. Instead of being on the Sundale Bridge, it was right at the foot of it. No worries, flash our best smiles at the camera and get on with the job! As usual, the support in Southport was fantastic. Crowds were thick on both sides and they gave us runners fantastic support. Hint: To those with a rather difficult name to shout out, be sure to adopt a simpler one for the race bib, like Alex, Tim or Ken! You’ll appreciate the hollers coming your way!

I grabbed 2 packs of Endura gels from the table and hurried along. I believe Hee Boo dropped off sometime along this stretch and I was suddenly alone. I lost 5 seconds heading up the hump at 31K mark but regained back the pace the next 2Ks. The pace dropped again over the next KM, but clawed back the next. My mantra was, “There’s no pain, there’s no self.” as long as I could. This went on rather frustratingly until the finish, firstly trying my darndest to sustain the effort going up the Land’s End Bridge and then decided to walk 6 steps when drinking from the 2nd last water station.

Cleared the Land’s End Bridge and about to face off with a malicious head wind.

Yet, that wasn’t my slowest split. The slowest was when my fellow comrades and I were battling head wind along Marine Parade. 5:23 was all my tight legs could muster. It was inspiring to see how the runners around me didn’t throw up their hands and walked. Except for one of the 3:30 pacer who had headed out too quickly! Everyone else put their heads down, leaned into the wind and fought the final 2Ks. Shuffling as quickly as I could was I could do and when I saw that iconic Macca signage, I knew the worst was over and it was time to enjoy the run in. My name was easy to scream and thus I was able to just take it all in, even if it was all a blur.

Someone screamed my name (it was Jessie and her friend) just as I took the final left onto the final 250m. I couldn’t turn my head around so I just raised my hand in acknowledgement – thanks guys! The Emcee worked the crowd hard as we pushed and sprinted the final 200m to the finish line. Sally, the other 3:30 pacer was there jogging and urging the runners on. I’d lost visual contact of the pace team since the 30K mark, so that was quite unexpected. Only then did I allow a peek at the official clock on the gantry, which flashed 3:30 and change. It was just a matter of how much I managed to dip under it.

Even as I’m typing this now, it’s a little difficult describing my feelings of crossing the finish line – just so many emotions. A mixture of joy, relief, and pride I guess. I did nearly jumped for joy when I spotted Stella right after the finish line! She definitely needed a little vacation herself, having run around chaperoning the SEA athletes!

Post-race opportunistic photo with Sally, the 3:30 pacer and Han Chee, the GCM 10-Year Club legend from Singapore.

Pace breakdown:

4:59 > 4:47 > 4:50 > 4:58 > 4:52 > 4:50 > 4:49 > 4:58 > 4:59 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:49 > 4:50 > 4:50 > 4:45 > 4:49 > 4:53 > 4:47 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 4:51 (HM PR – 1:42.04) > 4:54 > 4:54 > 4:55 > 4:54 > 5:00 > 4:57 > 4:52 > 4:55 > 4:50 (30K PR – 2:26.14) > 4:55 > 5:04 > 4:51 > 4:53 > 5:08 > 4:53 > 5:03 > 5:14 > 5:12 > 5:11 > 5:23 > 5:03 > 4:19

Congrats guys! Sub-3 to 3:33 – just very well done!

Collectively, we wolved down plenty of burgers!

Post-race notes:

I don’t think I’ll need to change much of my current approach. Just a tweak here and there and looking after myself better.

  1. There’s been little downtime from running since GCM18 and even if there was a dip in Macao (3:48), the accumulated mileage certainly helped. Over the 18-week period, I logged over 1,300km but I’d like more. The challenge would be finding a solution around time constraints – despite resorting to train commutes, I’m still spending too much time traveling to and from the office.
  2. I ran a great 30K (sub-2021 BQ Standard) and if I could train well, stay healthy and injury-free and pray that the planets align themselves, I could be in with a chance next year.
  3. I’d neglected drills and strength work and it was clear that there’s room for improvement in my ability to run the final 12K very well.
  4. Pacing was consistent, the hallmark of the LHR/HMM program. Even though my pace dropped the final few kms, I didn’t slow down as much as the other runners.
  5. My next Goal MP is going to be between 4:47 to 4:50/km. I ran 14 secs/km quicker this time around compared to last year, but I’d be very very happy with an 8 to 10 seconds improvement next year. It gets harder and harder.
  6. I’ll still be going with the LHR/HMM program for my 37th marathon. Since adopting elements of it in 2017 and fully integrating it for the 2018 and 2019 races, I’ve shaved off close to 30 minutes off the 2016 timing.

A successful execution depends on so many factors and elements. My heartfelt thanks go out to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and Holiday Tours for their hospitality and professionalism once again, for allowing me to be part of the 5-Star Family. GCM19 was yet another stupendous edition despite the weather challenges. They’ve always looked out for me and always seeking to improve the event. The number of runners keep rising year-on-year and who knows, entries in the near future may be going to the ballot! Back at home, the support from the family, running mates are not forgotten and when others are racing this year end, it would be my turn to return the favour (even if a 4:42 MP pace sounds impossible!). Team work rocks, and congrats to all the runners for toughening out!

Until the next race!

Gold Coast Marathon 2018

Note: For the other fun activities I managed to cram into my itinerary this year, and more photos of my trip to the Gold Coast, click this link.

The alarm rang at 4:50am and in certain ways, it was as if the starter’s gun had been fired signalling the start of my long day. For the past 18 weeks (longer if I included the low volume base months), my daily routine has been practically locked in, from bedtime to the habitual chilling of my drinks in the fridge the night before, laying out of the next morning’s workout gear and logging down the post-workout data. It got so regimented that by the 2nd half of my training program, I no longer needed the 4:30am alarm. The goings-on in the hotel room were calm and quiet – the mandatory toilet visit, a light snack of banana, a Clif bar, and a small cup of black coffee before heading out for a warm up jog around the block with Francis and Nick. Nick, who had been struggling the past few days, would later break the bad news that he would not be starting. It was a tough decision and we were sure he was even more devastated to have literally come so far, to not start. But health is something one shouldn’t be risking over a pursuit as strenuous as a Marathon, and we were all truly sorry for him. If anything, it made me even more determined to run well for my fellow “Hansoner”.

Since the race precinct was just 10 minutes away by foot, Francis and I took our time is getting ourselves there. By the time we got to the main road crossing, the Half Marathoners had completely cleared the start line. At the lawn, we were spotted by some of our friends and everyone looked eager to race. I didn’t warm up any further and with the baggage checked in a short while later, and with wishes of “good luck”, it was time to head to our respective corrals.

The atmosphere crackled with energy and excitement. The event just gets better and better each year. The morning conditions were quite mild and the skies were overcast with little wind. In my opinion, it was perfect weather for racing but I was sure the locals would beg to differ. I certainly didn’t feel the reported 90 to 100% humidity! Once in the corral, I discarded my layers almost immediately. I made the mistake of standing too near to one of the loudspeakers and as a result, nearly had my eardrums shattered by Deek’s customary enthusiastic rallying speech. The Australian national anthem followed next and the 40th Gold Coast Marathon was off and running!

Within a km, Erin, the 3:40 gun time pacer, was already 250m ahead but I stuck to my pace. My goal was to stay comfortable and stay embedded between the gun and chip time pacers till 30K and, depending on how I felt, make a push from there. All I needed to focus on was to manage the fueling and hydration well and just enjoy the easy miles. To my surprise, I bumped into Yaziz around the 2.5K mark and traded some quick greetings with him and continued on my way. Even with the larger numbers this year, the crowd was manageable and didn’t pose any problems.

The number of supporters on the course quickly increased as we approached Surfers Paradise, the 5K mark (25:53). After the first few kilometres, I decided not to micromanage my pace. Afterall, a good race execution was about keeping to the average pace. There would be slight deviations here and there as a result of surges, and slowing-downs (for example at the water stations, possible toilet stops, or fatigue) but as long as the average pace equalled that of the marathon goal pace, that would be fine. The hours already invested running the tempo sessions at marathon pace should be enough. It was about trusting the plan, training and letting those work for the runner on race day. Well-trained, the “Hansoner” will be literally toeing the start line locked (to the goal pace) and loaded (with confidence). There were also visual cues providing a measure of guide of my progress – Erin’s pace flag. As long as the gap between us stayed the same, I knew I was on track – neither gaining nor losing speed.

I used the same fueling and hydration strategy as the previous year – a gel every 5K, along with regular sipping of diluted Powerade from the bottle, supplemented by 2 cups of water at each station.

As usual, the elites came charging from the opposite side of the road around the 10K mark (51:40). Crowd favourite, Yuki Kawauchi appeared to be struggling way behind the 2nd chasing pack and would finish 9th. By then, the watch’s distance reading was already off by some 30m, even though I was running much of the race on the painted blue line, and even some tangents. Nevertheless, that didn’t cause much consternation to me as my average pace was still solidly pegged at 5:10. As we ate up the miles, the level of confidence in me rose as well.

Other than a few visual distractions like the elites and the beautiful beaches to our left, I was in my usual focused self. I did struggle with the road camber along Hedges Avenue dubbed Gold Coast’s Millionaires’ Row. The Nike Vaporfly 4% isn’t the most stable shoes around and do tend to exaggerate a mid to late stage pronation effect. Heading southwards towards Burleigh, I had to run as close to the middle of the road as possible to avoid exacting too much pressure and stress on my right foot due to the inward rolling of the foot. It affected my concentration a little but I tried not to let it bug me too much.

There wasn’t much I could recollect in those early miles except high-fiving Francis who was simply flying with Philip in tow. I was thrilled to see them at the Gold Coast Highway instead of Marine Parade, which meant that I was quicker this year than ever before. It wasn’t much but it was progress for me and it was an uplifting feeling to have approaching the Burleigh U-turn – the best stretch (after the final 1K of the course, of course!) for runners during the marathon. Huge and loud crowds and so easy for a runner to surge only to pay the price 5K later. I hit 15K in 1:17.24 and from 18K to Surfers, battled boredom and impatience. Part of me wanted to be at the 30K mark and get down to racing and hurting.

Staying relaxed before the halfway point. Photo courtesy of Tey ET.
Fortunately, I knew better and when I spotted Calvin just up ahead around 19K and my wayward mind was kept occupied at least for a few kilometres. He wasn’t the only one I saw. My sub 5:13 pace had over the distance brought me ever closer to Erin and I wanted to only get ahead of her after the 30K mark to ensure I hit my primary goal of sub 3:40. As bad luck would have it, she appeared to have hit some problems with her pacer flag holder and 2 runners were seen desperately helping her with the contraption by the roadside. I would learn later that she had to DNF not from the accessory malfunction but from a foot injury 😟.

With Erin sidelined, I ended up passing the 3:40 gun time pacer earlier than I’d planned but it was too late to over-analyse strategies this late into the race. I’d trained for a 5:10 MP, I’ve been churning out the very same average pace this far, weather conditions were ideal with the sun remaining hidden, and I was still good. It was time to pucker up and get on with the race. Other than the sightings of Calvin and Erin, there wasn’t much to write home about. I chugged through 20K (1:43.13), 21K (1:48.24) and 25K (2:09.02) pretty unscathed. The crowds at Surfers had built up and their vociferous support was fantastic. I dropped 5 seconds for 27K but rallied the next 3Ks to pulled back 5:12, 5:06 and 5:09 to establish pace parity.

Just after 30K (2:34.54), I spotted Calvin again and he appeared to be running very well. I decided that I’d better consume the sachet of CrampFix I’d bought at the expo and its tart taste jolted me. To avoid any potential gut issues, I avoided taking a gel here since CrampFix already contained carbs. I took in water as usual and consciously avoided looking over the other side of the road to the finish to minimise distraction. Cleared the short but steep rise (it’s actually steeper than the Sundale Bridge just a kilometre earlier) before the gentle down slope in 5:13.

I’ve to work on my stride length! Photo courtesy of Nick.

The distance from the iconic McDonald’s to the finish was just 10K. At that point, I had run a 2:45 32K and fatigue was starting to creep in. I had finally got to the racing and hurting phase! But first, I attempted to pee in my shorts but nothing came out. I continued to drink over the next few water stations to avoid slipping too much into a dehydrated state. The next 2Ks were hard as I slipped to 5:15 and 5:16 splits. I remembered being upset with myself and questioned my desire. That seemed to work as I dug in and rallied back for the second time from 35K to 38K with a couple of 5:12s and 5:11s. The toughest part of the course was over and it was just about hanging on to the end.

At this point last year, I held back and avoided pushing the pace for fear of cramping but this time around, I didn’t hold anything back. I skipped the last water station and pressed a sustained sub 5:10 pace through the final 4K. Mentally, I replayed all the hard workouts I’d completed, my motivations, the work challenges that I had to navigate throughout training. Learning to tap of this pool of thoughts was a large part of my training.

Coincidentally I found myself running next to a bloke named James and was able to leech off the raucous cheers he got. I didn’t have a personalised bib, you see, so it would be ridiculous to expect the supporters to be yelling, “Go, hashtag GCM18!”

I sprinted the final 300m and finally crossed the finish in 3:38.41, a 9-minute PR.

Intervals, Easy Runs, MPs, Long Runs, Finishing Strong With Arms In The Air – I trained them all!

Here’s to you, Nick! With fellow “Hansoner”, Calvin, who ran a by-the-book and disciplined race to finish nearly a minute ahead!

Official split times, which are obviously a little different from my watch’s.

Crossing the line felt like some weight being taken off my shoulders. It proved that I could pull it off, no matter how impossible it felt like after last year’s 3:47. It justified the months of keeping to the plan and not missing a single workout except for a more drastic cutback in mileage the final week. It made me a little emotional inside but there were no tears. Perhaps I will shed a little some months down the road. Perhaps I won’t. I high-fived Bonza and congratulated other finishers around me. My legs felt extremely fine after having finished this way. As I gathered up my post-race refreshments of fruit and water, I lingered a little longer and enjoyed the moment in the still sparse area. I kept thinking to myself as I sank my teeth into the orange slices, “The plan worked. It really worked!”

Post Race Analysis
The PR was a personal triumph on so many levels. Just 3 years ago I asked myself if 3:58 was as good as it got for me and how running 5:20 pace would be impossible given how hard training had been to even run 3:58. But I’d proven myself wrong last year and yet again this year that with a regimented program, determination, positive mindset, self discipline and consistency one’s limitations can usually be breached.

The Hansons Marathon Method has worked for me for 2 years in a row. Last year’s program was a modified one but this year, I purchased the 18-week plan from Final Surge. 18 weeks was the longest period I’ve spent training for a single event and the most miles I’ve put in. By default, it was also the hardest, although it got easier and was quite enjoyable when I approached peak fitness. All the 3 27K long runs were pretty easy even with negative splits, compared to the week day SOS sessions. To succeed at an aggressive goal, I believe one has to be a little obsessed. You answer only to the program and trust it completely – no races on weekends that will take away the long runs. The 2 tune up races were done early in the program, daily routines became regimented over the weeks and months. I obsessed with data and from the numbers, knew for a fact that my past failures were due to doing too little running, and when I did head out to run, running the miles at the wrong paces. The mind was weak and spirit broken at the slightest challenge. I had no program to speak of as well. This year, I wanted to make sure that I leave myself with no excuses should I fail to achieve my goals.

With data, I was forced to be honest with myself. The first step was to acknowledge the past mistakes and the second step to start working on the weaknesses. I extracted the past years’ records dating back to 2015 and there was no escaping the fact that my training was see-sawing between high mileage weeks and downright horrendous numbers. There was zero consistency.

Mileage tracker of the years. Click to enlarge.

It became clear that with the Hansons, there were more running, at a wider pace range, allowing adaptation to take place. The SOS sessions truly put steel into the mind and body.

I trained to run the marathon at a 5:13 pace but by the end of the training, I knew I could do 5:10. And that was that.

Not only was my 5K splits astonishingly consistent (mind you, I didn’t micro-manage my pace during the race), only 13 runners passed me over the final 5K, while I somehow dropped a mind-blowing 221! It was crazy but that happened!

In closing this already lengthy post, my gratitude goes to Francis who first planted the belief in me 2 years ago and pointing me to the right direction.
Thanks also to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and HTT for the hospitality once again, for allowing me to be part of the historic 40th edition of GCM and looking out for me as always. My best runs have always been on the Gold Coast! Finally, to my family who gave me much moral support in their own quiet manner. My kids even slipped me a good luck note prior to my departure.
It will soon be time to prepare for my next race, and it will be one which I’ll be using as a test bed. I’m prepared to try new things, learn and chart my 2019 goals from there.

Gold Coast 2018

Warning: This is not the race report but a recap of this year’s visit to the amazing Gold Coast. The race is covered here 🙂

A week on and I’m still trying to get the race recap done. The mind has been in a fog ever since getting back to the daily grind. I need to get going on another running goal soon, or I’ll go mad just dealing with work issues and the 3-hour daily drive.

Considering greater volume and higher intensity, and more days spent training for this year’s Gold Coast Marathon (GCM18), I’d say training went very well, even if I spent the final 2 weeks of training in fear of falling sick. During that crucial period, I was in constant company of the unwell – from sick colleagues to living with 3 stricken family members. The Marathon Gods certainly spared me and blessed me yet again this year with a smooth 18 weeks of training.

The flight into the Gold Coast was smooth and I even got 5 hours of sleep. Arriving earlier this year, on Thursday, allowed us to take things on a more leisure pace. We also got some essential to-do’s taken care of – visit to Harbour Town and the collection of the race bibs – early before the record crowd descended on the popular holiday and marathon destination. There would be close to 400 Malaysians running GCM18 (which was an 82% increase over 2017) and very good numbers from East Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. GCM18 remains popular with Singaporeans, Malaysians and an increasing number of Indonesians.

Once Nick and I were checked into the Woodroffe Hotel in Southport, we waited for the gang who rented a nice house adjacent to David Fleay Wildlife Park to pick us up. The itinerary? Harbour Town Premium Outlets of course! Good thing, the place was just 10 minutes’ drive away. We were all super famished and the thought of sinking our teeth into the juicy burgers dished out by the folks at Grill’d was just too much. And that was what we did, along with some grocery shopping.

Next destination would be the Expo to pick up our race bibs. On the way, we just had to stop by this spot along Marine Parade to grab a few photos of the achingly beautiful sunset.

As GCM18 was the 40th running, a large part of the expo hall was dedicated to the history of the marathon. There were several great buys at the expo but the ones that caught my eyes were the Clif (12 bars for 12 bucks!) and Garmin booths (plenty of happy faces were seen leaving that particular one!).

Naturally, we had plenty of time to catch up with our friends, local and from back home. There’s something about GCM that makes it so welcoming. Yep, it was like coming home 🙂 ! It’s little wonder then that many of us make more than a single visit here.

With the burgers still sitting in our guts, we decided to skip dinner and CY was kind enough to drop us back to the hotel. Before heading up to the rooms, I managed to get some grocery shopping done at the nearby Australia Fair. Southport may be a quiet place to be putting up, but the place has its charms. I discovered several fantastic eateries, truly underrated coffee joints here and shopping for the essentials (both Coles and Woolies are located in Australia Fair) are never far away.

Day 2 would similarly be quite easy with a photo meet up with the South East Asian contingent at the Expo and Convention Centre. Before that, we had to fill up our tummies with a $10 breakfast set at 6729 Bakery just across the Convention Centre. Highly recommended and super-value sets, it’s a place worth supporting. Check out the story behind 6729 here.

Day 3 would be activity-filled! With such close proximity to the race precinct, arrangements for Saturday’s Fun Run were simple. The gang would drive to and park in the vicinity of our hotel, and we will all walk to the start together. It was a nice cool and sunny morning. After the usual banter and countless photo ops (there were no shortage of Marvel Super Heroes!), we kicked off the run positioned in Pen B.

This year’s plan to run a Personal Worst for the 5.7K didn’t materialize as Nick and I had to be ready for our 9:50am pickup for the much anticipated Scenic Helicopter Ride. So after a slow start, I gradually increased the pace from the 2nd km onwards pushing it to MP and below 5-minutes to the finish. My splits were 6:29 > 5:19 > 5:09 > 5:06 > 4:55 > 4:45 for a 30:11 finish (averaging 5:17/km). Body felt good and my mind fresh which were more than I could’ve asked for. Quickly caught up with Mal, who was one of the camera crew this year before heading back to refresh for the plans of the day,

Next up was the much anticipated helicopter ride from Sea World, which lived up to every bit as memorable although I didn’t get my Hollywood Chopper experience (think Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now) hahaha! I’m such a movie buff! It was my first ride and the scenery was simply breathtaking, from the views of the coastline, the waterways and suburbs and the hinterland in the distant. We could’ve been flying at around 3,000 feet but I couldn’t be sure as I was consumed by excitement! At that altitude, all the famous spots and landmarks were easily identifiable. The 15-minute ride may have sounded short but it was just nice, by my take.

Post-ride group photos with the Indonesian and Singaporean teams.

Still buzzing from the chopper ride high, the visit to Paradox Coffee was next for a cupping session. Located right in Surfers, it was just a short drive from Main Beach. The set up of the place was really impressive, down to the $800,000 Brambati roaster which could produce 15kg of beans at a time. Paradox roasts and supplies cafes throughout Australia so it goes without saying that they known their stuff.

Their beans are single origins purchased from sustainable sources. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to venture to the other topics such as espresso brewing and the such. Still, it was great to learn more about my pick-me-up beverage of choice. My routine towards to the final 3 weeks of training includes downing an espresso before my midweek SOS workouts! Paradox regularly holds such sessions for the general public, so do check out their website and make the necessary appointments, or just pop over to savour some delicious brew.

After Paradox, Nick and I parted ways with the media group. They were headed to Harbour Town for some shopping and we to meet up with Francis, who had flew in from Melbourne. Coincidentally, Francis had bumped into Hong Kong-based duo Yann Kai and Sheel earlier and thanks to modern tech, I managed to direct them to Lot 1 for lunch. It was fantastic to catch up with YK and Sheel again after my misadventures on the trails of Hong Kong some years ago. There were certainly plenty of hardcoreness at the table with this trio of sub-3 marathoners, but you wouldn’t have known it. They’re just down to earth and often funny folks who worked hard to get to where they are. For me, it was just wonderful surrounding myself with such positive and like-minded people before a key race! That must’ve worked up my appetite because I downed a scrumptious Acai Bowl and a Turkey Sandwich in that one sitting! It wasn’t easy, but I nailed that heavy lunch!

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by the arch to take some photos with some of the Team Malaysia runners. Penang was well represented, thanks to the work of our embedded Penangite-in-Coomera, Khoo. We even inducted Sheel as a temp Malaysian!

After the day’s activities and interactions, it was back to quieter stuff and getting ready for the next day. Physically, I was at the best condition I could possibly be. The important thing was to rest up, stretch, stay hydrated and think positive. I may have a pace band printed but I didn’t even bother fussing over it. The race gear’s all laid out and there was very little anxiety. Just a general sense of calmness. The physical and mental work had all been done in the earlier 18 weeks and the race day was just sticking to the plan and see how it will all unfold.

Dinner was an early affair with Nick and Francis at a nearby ramen shop. Food was excellent and to ensure that I was topped up, I supplemented the bowl of tonkatsu with gyoza just to be sure I didn’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.

To read how the race unfolded for me the next day, head on to my race report. This one will continue with some photo recap of the spots I managed to see this time around.

The 2 days after Sunday’s race were spent covering the activities and seeing the sights I’ve missed over the years. The planned recovery run on Monday didn’t happen as most preferred to sleep in. The runners had earned their rest and a 5:30am pickup to head to The Federation Walk for a run in the dark and cold, wasn’t that wild an idea. So while Nick and his wife headed off to check out some sights, I decided to link up with the gang. A quick lunch of Shroom Burger at Betty’s was stupendous, deserving of the hype!

We then headed to Burleigh Heads, hiked the trails of the National Park to the Tallebudgera Creek before returning to the group’s home for a feast. Richi, who went overboard with his grocery shopping, made sure the output from the oven were finger licking good while Jeanie’s pumpkin soup was comforting on a cold night.

The planned hot-air ballooning excursion didn’t quite happen though. We were picked up by the ballooning company very early in the morning and after a 50-minute drive towards foggy Canungra and Lamington, the winds still didn’t ease up. The pilots were forced to break the news to us on account of safety. No worries, I quite enjoyed the drive and fresh air and have made it a point to give this place another visit next time!
Before flying home, I still had time to explore The Spit at Main Beach, followed by Southern Queensland and totally fell in love with that area. Pat Fagan Park, Snapper Rocks, Tweeds and we even crossed over to NSW! There’s just so much to see and soak in and I’ll definitely be back to stay a few days there the next time.
Thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland, Events Management Queensland and HTT for the hospitality once again, for allowing me to be part of the historic 40th edition of GCM and looking out for me as always. With their ever ready support, and with those from the GCM Training Group, we were able to extend our assistance and experience to those looking to run their first GCM. The dates for the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon has been announced – 6th and 7th July 2019! Be on the lookout for great deals on the airfare! And if you’re based in Malaysia, be sure to come join our Facebook Page where we publish tips about everything GCM, sightseeing on the Gold Coast and more. Till the next time, keep your running going!

GCM18: Week 17 (SOS Week 12)

Menu: 11.3K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span

Menu: 10.1K Easy
Shoes: Clifton 4

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 5x2K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Lunar Tempo
Wrapped up the final strength session! Once I was warmed up, it was smooth going and I needn’t even monitor the watch. Reading through the feedback from the Hansons FB page, a number of runners seem to practise a longer taper period than the traditional 10 days on account that they raced better having rested more. While it’s an easy decision (going by how I feel this morning) for me to continue with the final week’s program of 8K > 8K > 10K > Rest > 8K > 5K > Race, I’m opting to tone that down a bit with 5K > 5K > 8K > Rest > 6K (optional) > 5K > Race. I want to toe the start line fresh and eager to race, and not overcooked. With the much lower mileage, I’ll be able to catch a little more sleep, and boy, as I’m typing this do I need some!

2K Average Pace – 4:57 > 5:00 > 5:00 > 5:00 > 4:49

Thursday: No Running.😁

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 15K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Zoom Elite 9
In my haste to get things started I completely forgot to take the water bottle out from the fridge. So the entire 19K was run without fluids. Just a shot of Espresso and a glass of water prior. Dehydrated, but I got the final SOS done! Time to taper and allow the body to adapt.
5:15 > 5:12 > 5:09 > 5:04 > 5:09 > 5:04 > 5:02 > 5:08 > 5:11 > 5:07 > 5:12 > 5:12 > 5:11 > 5:12 > 5:08 (Avg 5:09)

Menu: 6K Easy
Shoes: Pureboost ATR
The 10K plan was scuppered due to rain. Managed only 6.4K before it got heavier and not wanting to risk catching a cold this close to race day, I made the decision to stop. Wore the weather ATR for the first time and they felt fine. Certainly didn’t feel the 11.4oz weight. Then had to rush to the pre-departure briefing – good to know that we’ve nearly 400 Malaysians running the Gold Coast Marathon this year! A sports massage session was next and had a good one, working out the knots which weren’t much. That’s always a great thing to hear when the masseuse tells you that. The nearly nightly routine of stretching and self massaging certainly help in the maintenance of the body.

Menu: 13K Long Run
Shoes: Pureboost ATR
1 week to the race day! Final Sunday run with the group and everyone is looking forward to the race and holiday. Took it easy as the legs were a little sore from yesterday’s massage.

I can’t believe I completed 17 weeks of training! Not missing a single workout. The only day I had to cut the workout short was this Saturday’s, missing 3.6K. From this point on, it’s all about the mental aspect, focusing on the positives and trying not to let Life’s uncertainties throw me off tangent.

This will be the final training log post until after the race. Wish me luck!

GCM18: Week 16 (SOS Week 11)

Menu: 8.1K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span
Legs were a little stiff from the get go but quickly loosened up. 391K logged in the Span!

Menu: 8.3K Easy
Shoes: Clayton 2
A bit of TLC with the Clayton. 326K logged in the Clayton!

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 2x4K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Tracer
Legs felt good and it wasn’t as hard to run at this pace. While this won’t be my MP anytime soon, this does demonstrates that the training has made even running at this pace and effort level possible. This goes way beyond this year and even next year’s marathons. It will be a base from which I can build on. 5:00 pace is something I’ve to get used to running and patient, consistent building are what I need to do to bring myself to that level. That’s a few years’ work right there! 287K logged in the Tracer! This is a shoe that just wants to go fast.

5:08 > 4:55 > 4:52 > 4:48 (19:42, avg pace 4:56) > 6:49 > 4:50 > 4:54 > 4:56 > 4:53 (19:32, avg pace 4:53).

Thursday: No Running.😁

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 16K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: VF 4%
Went minimalist, no calf compression, just good old plain shorts and singlet. Pretty much nailed the workout, the second of 3 10-mile tempos. On race day, I’ll be reeling in the pace by running with the pacers, so this workout is basically just a measure of the pace I could still run – hopefully over the last 5K.
5:10 > 5:11 > 5:13 > 5:15 > 5:00 > 5:11 > 5:04 > 4:56 > 5:08 > 5:01 > 5:01 > 4:58 > 5:01 > 4:59 > 5:02 > 4:52 > 4:38 (5:03 avg).

Menu: 13.06K Easy
Shoes: Epic React
Legs were stiff and going was tough, even though I massaged the legs last night. Yep, that’s cumulative fatigue for you! Running fast around the same neighbourhood is boring. Running slow around the same neighbourhood is worse than waiting for your turn at some government departments. So I ventured out of the area. Much much hillier (I walked those sections) but at least it helped passed the time/miles. Last week, I said I couldn’t wait until this week is over and now I’m wishing for next week to conclude!

Menu: 16K Long Run
Shoes: Clayton 2
Started raining after the 4K mark and conditions worsened with thunder and lightning. Sought shelter twice but braved the weather to quickly headed back to the car for a total of 10K. After a nice glass of hot coffee and slices of toast, the rain had stopped and the weather was just too nice, so Nick and I decided to wrap up the balance 6K and thus saving the need to run again in the evening. It is always more beneficial to complete your workouts early in the day so that you can get your recovery in before the next day’s session.

A 79.6K week and another week to go before tapering starts!

GCM18: Week 15 (SOS Week 10, Hell Week 3)

Menu: 11.2K Easy
Shoes: Epic React

Menu: 10.3K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 3x3K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Tracer
A good workout to celebrate World Running Day. Minor pace drop off towards the end, but something I won’t lose sleep over. Something went wrong with the Garmin reading a 5:40 split in the 2nd set which didn’t make sense since the total time and average for that set reflected otherwise.
4:54 > 4:57 > 5:00 > Recovery > 4:59 > 4:50 > 5:40 (??) > Recovery > 4:58 > 5:01 > 5:08
14:51 (4:57 avg) > 14:53 (4:58 avg) > 15:04 (5:01 avg)

Thursday: No Running.😁

Menu: 2K Warm Up > 16K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Zoom Elite 9
As this week will be the 3rd and final Hell Week, I decided to see how the body will respond – a quick checkpoint test if you will. Instead of the 15K, I opted for 10 miles instead. It’s just an additional KM but I felt that the session would be a confidence builder going into the final 3 weeks of training. I wanted to challenge the mind and train it to respond to the difficult miles. Once again, I ran the workout replaying the GCM course and the supporters’ cheers. I want the mind to be as strong as the body on race day!

5:12 > 5:08 > 5:07 > 5:05 > 5:12 > 5:06 > 5:02 > 5:04 > 5:14 > 5:10 > 5:17 > 5:14 > 5:10 > 5:11 > 5:06 > 5:00 (5:09 avg).

Menu: 10K Easy
Shoes: Zoom Span
Keep it super slow as I was able to feel the tiredness.

Menu: 27K Long Run
Shoes: Clayton 2
Pushed through the discomfort of stomach bloating to finish the 2nd half of the distance stronger and faster. As usual for the series of 3 27Ks, I took a gel at the mid-point. Easy way to get rid of old packs that were either expired or nearing expiration date. Averaged 5:55 pace for the total distance. Also, good to know that we’ve a handful of BQ potentials from the group!
At 93.9K, this final week would second highest mileage logged in training for GCM18. However, there would be no taper yet. That would be 10 days out from race day!

GCM18: Week 14 (SOS Week 9)

8K Easy
Shoes: Span

11K Easy
Shoes: Tracer
Disrupted sleep made worse by the futile attempt to avoid the garbage truck. After the warm up, I just call time on the strength intervals and downgraded the run to an aerobic slog. As these SOS sessions are reaching their peak in the coming 3 weeks, I’ll be switching the SOS days to avoid the garbage collection days. The narrow neighborhood roads are already tough to run fast workouts and I thought it’s pointless to add to the frustration of having to compete with the truck.

2K Warm Up > 2x5K @ MP-5 secs > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Lunar Tempo
A vastly improved run following yesterday’s fiasco. Pretty much in control with good form. Looking forward to a nice long sleep tonight.

5:00 > 4:56 > 5:04 > 4:54 > 4:57 > Recovery > 4:58 > 5:01 > 4:56 > 5:07 > 5:04
24:50 (4:58 avg) > 25:06 (5:01 avg)

Thursday: No Running.

2K Warm Up > 14K @ MP > 2K Cool Down
Shoes: Zoom Fly/Elite 9

Sort of stumbled along without minding the watch. Started picking things up after 5K. Went a little too quick from 8K but dug in for a fast finish. In a marathon, while every split counts, it’s the average pace that matters. No more tough runs until next Wednesday! The HR readings and run metrics look very consistent with last Thursday’s tempo. I suppose that’s a good thing.

5:11 > 5:11 > 5:19 > 5:13 > 5:19 > 5:08 > 5:16 > 5:04 > 5:06 > 5:07 > 5:03 > 5:07 > 5:00 > 4:56 (5:09 avg).

13K Easy
Shoes: Clayton 2
Easy run with Nick and CY around USJ for a change. It’s great to break away from the humdrum of the usual running route!

16K Long Run
Shoes: Span
Certainly took the body to wake up! In fact it took 8K for things to settle in, from the legs, body and pace. Nothing much to report for this faster-paced finish session so all’s good for this week.

84K this week! Next week will be the 3rd and final Hell Week, and the start of 15K Tempo/MP workouts leading to the closing of the 18-week program.

It’s counting down to the closing of entries. If you want to be part of the 40th running of the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM), hit the image below to get to the official Gold Coast Marathon website to register! Do join the Team Malaysia Facebook page to get all the local happenings, updates on training sessions, tips on travel and running the race on the Gold Coast.