Observant readers will note that I didn’t classify this post as a “Race Report”. That’s because it wasn’t a race. IMHO, an event is only a race if the participant has put training hours, effort, and planning into executing it. Otherwise it’s just a run, an outing or experience. And that was the state of my fitness when I toed the start line of the MGEIM last Sunday.
It all started with my plan to insert a year-end race so that I keep my training going. But it became clear that picking myself up post-GCAM17 was going to be tough. I tried easing into it and when that failed, tried pushing the pace in whatever shorter distances I managed to squeeze out. Neither approach worked. A hectic 2nd half of the year at work and the ever-present PF issue added to the misery. A major work event that was supposed to have wrapped up in November was instead deferred to a December start, and that pretty much doused whatever optimism I’ve left – the hope that I can get in 2 months of decent running for a 3:55 was abandoned.
Languishing in no-man’s-land running wise, I quickly emailed the organizers to downgrade my distance to the Half. Unfortunately all slots for the Half had been filled and they were no longer accepting any requests for that distance. The Mini Marathon turned out to be only a 5K instead of 10K, so that option was immediately dismissed as well. Que sera sera!
The 6:40am flight into Macao was smooth and I even managed to nap some time into the 3 hour 45 minute flight. A short 10-minute cab ride into Taipa (all cab drivers in Macao are hell drivers, there I said it!) cost me RM34 and since it was too early to check in, I dropped my bags at the concierge and went off to get my race bib at the nearby Olympic Sport Centre Stadium where the race would start and finish, looking for late breakfast and do some photo-walking.
It was my first time in Macao and I enjoyed the laid back old town feel. Crowded but not entirely without the old town charms. By the time I returned to the hotel, I’d got some fantastic shopping done at the Nike Factory Outlet and tens of nice photos. Simple meals cost between RM16-RM25. Drinks, unless they’re alcohol, aren’t that cheap though.
It was dark by 6pm, but with the public track just adjacent to the stadium complex, a shakedown run was in order. This track was a godsend to me. The upkeep of the infra was excellent with a well-maintained track, superbly well-lit and there’s even a drinking fountain, lockers and a couple of vending machines. The 300m track goes around 3 tennis courts (all utilized the time I was there) and 2 football fields. All these smack in the middle of high-rise flats. My routine was a mixed one, easy jogs, strides and stretching. There were even several elites from Japan, South Korea, India and Africa working out. With the exception of my departure day, I ran everyday in Macao.
With no goal time, getting kitted out for Sunday morning was so easily done. No point fretting over every piece of gear – just a training run, with the GoPro coming along for the outing. Contrast that to Saturday night prep-up for the Gold Coast Marathon! The only thing I did that took more time was taping up my foot.
The event attracted around 12,000 runners across all categories but everything was pretty well organized in such a small area. The marathoners get the section at the head with the “halvers” corralled off in the rear. I was positioned right in the middle of the pack. Weather was comfortably cool, no shivering at all. The start was stop and go due to the narrow exit out of the stadium but immediately after that, there were plenty of space on the roads. The stabbing pain on the PF surfaced right after the start but the discomfort eased off with each passing mile and I was able to gradually enjoy the run. Temps were at a perfect 17 Celcius and a little foggy. The 2.5K long Gov. Nobre de Carvalho Bridge was our first challenge. The bridge was strangely not lit, so we weren’t treated to a scenic view. No vain shots then! Before hitting the 300m stretch of climb that was steeper than Mayor Hill (see photo), the bridge was completely flat and we were even treated to gentle cool breeze. At my conservative 6:05 pace, the climb didn’t pose much of a problem.
Runners were taken past some landmarks such as the mega casinos, the Guan Yin statue, and the famous Ah Ma Temple (because we’ve to balance the sin of gambling with absolution, don’t we?). All very grand and glitzy but if you’re observant, you’ll see some pretty grungy shop-apartments too.
The event was sparsely supported by the locals. Other than the crew at the road junctions and drink stations, most of the folks out there were senior citizens – some offered claps while most just went about their morning exercise routines. The roads were well maintained with no potholes and traffic weren’t that much of a problem either, with very few cars out.
After a couple of switchbacks, it was another bridge to tackle – the Sai Van Bridge back to Taipa. This climb was gentler but longer, and the entire bridge was closed to us runners. By the time I got back to the vicinity of Galaxy Casino (20K mark), I had to make a call. To continue at the easy pace I was going would mean I’d outdone my own doubt of finishing within the 5-hour cut off with the PF. I reckoned that even factoring some slowing down in the late stages, finishing around 4:15 wasn’t that far-fetched. Considering my longest run was a 23K a couple of months ago, along with 30km/weeks the last 2 months devoid of running mojo, I was a happy chump.
At that point, there would be no doubt that I would be able to finish well within the cutoff time. But at what price? Would it make the PF worse, being out there so long? With base training starting January, just 3 weeks away, it was a risk I daren’t take. Another 22K would’ve meant longer time spent on my feet pounding it out. That pretty much decided it for me, to be conservative. Focus on the big goal in July 2018.
Once the decision was made, it was easy to run the 8K to the 28K mark without any pace inhibitions. So I went for it. It was just a lovely feeling to run unburdened by pace restrictions knowing that I could just go with the flow and how I felt. At 4:57 to 5:05 pace, I was still largely in control. At that pace for the marathon, it was thrilling to pass many runners. While I was in a high to entertain the thoughts of continuing right through to the 35K mark, I was also savvy enough to know that the crash will probably hit me hard at the 30K point, potentially aggravating the PF further.
So I stuck to the plan to stop at the starting point of the 2nd loop for the marathon, roughly the 28K mark. I removed my bib before walking 1.3K to the stadium to collect my bag. Along the way I couldn’t help but cast envious looks at the huge medals and towels the HM finishers sported. The faster marathoners were just coming in.
I reminded myself that that morning I made the right choice, ran smart and in the later miles, at a pace that conjures up wild imaginations despite my lack of physical fitness. Most importantly, I managed the injury risk prudently and didn’t end up worse than when I started. It was time for serious rehab work and getting stronger for 2018.
In closing, 2017 was becoming an extreme case of the highs and lows for me, running wise. I ran my best ever marathon on the Gold Coast, yet until Macao, 2 races – SCKLM and GCAM – were all that I’ve done. It would’ve been 3 but I DNFed Twincity Marathon due to stomach issues. Thank goodness I don’t have anything in the pipeline for the remainder of the year. Let’s get this year over and done with already!
Entries: Opens sometime in September, capping off at 12,000 runners, across the Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run categories.
Race Fees: 400 MOP (approx RM210) for both the Full and Half Marathon; 70 MOP for the Fun Run.
Race start: 6am for the Full and Half Marathons, 6:15am for the Fun Run.
Cutoff: 5 hours.
Entitlements: Towelette, sling bag for baggage deposit. Post-race: Finisher towel, medal.
Description: AIMS certified. Other than 2 bridges, the course is largely flat. Marathoners go on a 2nd loop within the island of Macao (covering Taipa and Cotai) after the first 28K. Course is not very scenic on the island, with the sights around the peninsula faring better, with the casinos, Guan Yin statue, Ah Ma Temple and 2 bridges. Support is sparse.
Weather: Hard to predict Spring weather. Monitor the weather constantly.
Quirks: Baggage deposit area is inaccessible from the start area even though they’re within the same stadium complex.
Challenges: Hotels are expensive in Macao. A bit of digging around is necessary and I was lucky to have found the Asia Boutique Inn located in Tapia and a short walk to the start/finish.
Good: Comparatively small event. Well-stocked drink stations that included Pocari sports drinks and sponges. Well-managed traffic. I may one day return to run the half marathon and will have my wife along as a tourist.
Bad: None that I can think of, except the late opening of entries and narrow exit out of the stadium.
2018 will be the 40th running of the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM). I’ll be returning for my 8th GCM and training plans have been drawn up. Won’t you join me for some Good Times? Hit the image below to get to the official Gold Coast Marathon website! 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.