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Alright. So, this year’s Marathon was started not from Marathon registration, but from booking the airlines ticket. Venue: Penang Bridge International Marathon.

I was in another low point of my running, the last one was early 2012, after my son was born. The rain has been pouring almost every dawn, the time I mostly run. When it wasn’t raining, I was either slept too late, or just simply too lazy to get out of my comfortable bed. The culmination of this low point is: I have gained 2kg, and my 5km timing dropped from 28:44 to over 33 minutes.

JIS 2014

Not that I didn’t do anything for the last couple of weeks. I was doing core training to strengthen my core muscle, in hope that someday when I decided to run another marathon, the core training will pay off. Also, I still ride my bicycle for most of the time to commute to train station, some 5.5km each way.

“Time to get back on track”, I said to myself. I had a conversation with Grace last night about Penang Marathon, and the upcoming Air Asia promotion. This was actually last year plan, when Grace was travelling almost every month to Penang to bring my Mom-in-law for minor heart surgery and follow up.

While having breakfast this morning, I read through the website of Penang Bridge Marathon. Then around lunch time, Grace ping me that she has booked the ticket to Penang. I did have a second and third thought about training for another marathon. I was in the meeting that finish late, causing our booking to be released by the airlines.

Grace re-booked our flight, still at the same price. And without another hesitation, I paid for the ticket.

Suddenly, I feel that the lost running spirit become alive inside my heart. Yes, I’m going to get back on track…..

It was long detour. After the 36km mark, the course lead us heading to Singapore Flyer. The water station that we pass has run out of paper cup, so we took turn to drink from plastic jug. The pain in my feet has creped up to my right knee. Due to my weak Achilles Tendon, my knee has to take up the load of the running since the last 8km, and now it starts to complain. Not want to risk serious injury and worst, not able to finish, I resorted to walk even more.

Passing km 39 mark, I feel water trickling from above. It has started to rain, early in the morning, making the weather colder. The rain made the road more slippery, slowing me down even more. It is hard to walk on a dry road with weak knee, let alone running. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last long. Going into km 40, the rain has completely gone.

The sky has turned from dark to blue by the time I passed 41 km mark. I glanced at my watch. I have been running for over 6 hour, which is my initial goal. If I can pick my pace a bit, I can still make it to the finish line of my first marathon under 7 hours, and hopefully still beating the sunrise. For the next 1 km, I got another second wind, something that long distance runner wish they can have and maintain. The pain in my knee disappear, or rather subdued by excitement.

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Medals and Finisher T-Shirt. No longer Marathon Virgin

Then come the finish line, the mark that will end the 7 hour ordeal. In a few minutes I can call myself a marathon

er. I can go home and tick one item from my bucket list. At the same time, I concentrating to put one foot in front of the other, and smile as I pass the finish gate. Later I found out from the finish photo that it was a rather ugly smile on a tired face.

I glanced at my clock, 6:59:59. Somehow I made it under 7 hour. I put on the T-shirt that they give to everyone, then leave to hotel for a good shower and sleep. Written on the back of my T-Shirt: 42.195k Finisher.

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After well over 3 hours, I crossed into my personal no man’s land. It the distance beyond 25k mark, my longest run prior to the marathon. Three months ago, I run my first 25k in the morning, and almost collapse in the evening due to low blood sugar while walking at a shopping mall. Can I survive another 17k, and not collapsing during or after the run few hours later?

I took another shoot of Gu Gel at the next water station, and gulp 2 glass of water. By this time, what was suppose to be a running race has become a walk race. Many people have resorted to walking. In fact, by alternating between walking and running, I passed few runners.

Closing to 32k mark, the pain is more and more unbearable. During my training, I train to land with my forefeet, but now it is become impossible. The Achilles Tendon on the back of my leg has become weak. What brings me up to this point is remarkable cheers from race marshals. In the middle of silence between the sea on the left and forest to the right, the words of encouragement has helped us to push forward. One of them even say: “I suppose that it is a running race. Why are you all walking?” I’m sure had this happen earlier in the race, that man will be thrown to the ocean.

The East Coast Park is officially end at somewhere around 33k mark. From here, Singapore Flyer that marks the finish line was visible towering the night sky. Having the finish line in front of me infuse some energy, so I picked up the pace a bit. But alas, this is not for long. The first detour was after 34k mark where we run along the river away from Singapore Flyer. For a moment I stopped and cursed. I snapped a picture of Singapore Flyer, out of boredom and pain, then push forward.

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Singapore Flyer, from 34km Mark of Singapore Sundown Marathon 2013

When they published the route map, I know that the true test will come during the East Coast Park’s section of the run, between km 11 -34. Marathon is half endurance, half mental battle. The first 11 km goes through the city street, light and building that keeps your mind off the run and distance, and help to pass time. Into the east coast park, the light and building was replaced by trees and the sound of nature. It is easy for the mind to fall into the thought of many kilometres to go, or the pain that start to creep up on my feet.

One sign of the mind playing tricks on you is the feeling that water station become more spaced apart. The water station is supposed to stay between 2-2.5 km apart. It feels closer during the city part of the run. Well into the East Coast Park, the water station feels further apart.

The route through East Coast Park is also the kind of out-and-back route, where they turn at 24km mark back and run the same route back to the finish line. Near the 13km mark, the handcyclyst group passed me from the other direction. They did start few minutes ahead us, and did go fast with their handcycle. The lead runners passed me from the other direction when I’m reaching 15-16km mark.

The further out through the East Coast Park, the Marathon become more and more disheartening. More runners pass me fromt he other direction, and no city light or noise from cars to keep my mind busy. The beeping sound from my Polar Heart Rate Monitor is beeping every now and then, signalling me to slow down and keep my heart rate under control. The compression calf guard on my left foot was bruising my skin. I stopped every few kilometers to fix it, but decided to ignore it and run through the pain.

At one point in time, I started looking inside my soul. With nothing to keep my mind busy, I started thinking of life, about when thing get tough and hopeless. There are times in life that, when thing get tough, I was thinking of quitting, of giving up. It might be easier to quit a project, or work, when it seems to become unbearable. But to quit on your family is impossible. It is impossible to quit from fatherhood, from your wife, or from your parents. Sometimes, in such hopeless situation, there are only 1 choice: to preserve. It means to think harder about the problem, do harder to change what you can change, brace yourself with what you can’t change, and importantly, believe that things will be better at the end of the day, that the sun will rise.

With this in mind, I got my first Second Wind that brings me to the 21km mark. I have completed the first half of Sundown Marathon.

I started with a jog, and bid farewell to my friend. He is an experienced marathon, and this is his fourth. We come together to the starting line well early before the race to avoid the queue, and stayed together to take pictures and pass time while waiting for the start. I would like to start very conservative, so I decided not to keep up with him and wish him good luck for the rest of 42k.

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Posing with 6:00 pacers before the race. In the end, I lost them

My time goal to finish the Sundown Marathon is under 6 hour, by keeping up with 6 hour pacers. They are behind me now, so I should rely on my Polar Watch to pace. Since I started conservatively, I use my heart rate as guidance, putting my pace well over 6 hour pacers. When they catch up, I will try to keep up with them. Meanwhile, I enjoy the night scenery of Singapore Downtown. Light shower from the overhead street light as well buildings. When passing an overhead road, the view was even more amazing.

The 6 hours pacers finally catch up with me at 8km mark. I stayed with them for few hundred meters, but it turns out that the pace is too fast to maintain for the rest of 38k. They skipped the next water station, where I stopped to grab some drink. I tried to keep up with them for some time, before finally drop off the group. From a distance, I saw their balloon marker disappear in a right turn, together with my goal of finishing under 6 hours.

I’m again on my own, immersing myself into the night of Singapore, with its light. We even pass Singapore Flyer in the distance. Singapore Flyer is a landmark, so huge that it is easily visible from the distance. It was where we are started, and also the finish line. A sharp left turn around km 11 mark leave Singapore Flyer behind us. We are heading into the East Coast Park and I bid farewell to Singapore Flyer. See you again in a couple of hour.

Most of the time when I told people for the first time that I’m training for Marathon, the first question that get asked is: Why? It is a gruelling distance, one that require dedication through months of training. Training that require strong will to get out of the comfortable bed at 4am in the morning, pushing banana through your mouth, don your shorts and hit the road when the sky was barely lit, when most people will still be asleep. Some of the sceptics even go one step further, saying that I will ruin my knee.

I have never come out with a definite answer myself. I know that I need to run the marathon, but to say it why, I never have the right words for it. The best answer that I can give is that: personal achievement. I feel that I need to achieve something, that money alone can’t buy. Something that take courage, determination, preserverance, and a lot of luck to achieve. The fact is that, Marathon is only of of the big things in my bucket list that fit my description of achievement.

I started to put real action on my goal to finish a marathon in January 2013. Six months before the race, I dare myself to register to Sundown Marathon 2013. It was a daring thing to run your first Marathon at midnight. Having a date set for a goal is a real motivation to find a time to prepare for it. When work interfere with very late night assignment, I replaced the bike to train station with morning run, and took shower at the office. One morning I forgot to secure my iPhone, and lost it to pickpocket.

At another time, I did my first and longest run prior to the Marathon, 25k morning run. Long run is necessary not only to improve the endurance, but also to test out the fuelling and hydration strategy. I almost collapse few hours later, at a shopping mall, probably due to low blood sugar. My wife come to the rescue with a cup of Starbucks with a lot of sugar, and some cookies. I changed my fuelling strategy after that to ensure such thing won’t happen on the real Marathon race.

Eventually, I have never really fully prepared for the race. Life did interfere with my training schedule, with work, family and a 1 year old son who is my top priority. “To finish and enjoy a marathon, one should do a long run of at least 30-33k during training”, said my friend, a marathon finisher. That 25k where I almost collapse is my longest run. Even with delicate balancing of time, my weekly milleage was still below 40k, 10k short of my target weekly mileage.

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When the time come, I know that it will be courage, determination, perseverance and a lot of luck that will fill the gap in my training. I come to the starting line of Sundown Marathon 2013, physically half prepared, but mentally fully ready.

My first race year is almost over, with one last ultimate goals: Finishing a half marathon race. So far, this is my performance in 2011:

  • Reebok ISCI 5k Run, 30 January 2011 – 32:13 – 6:27 mins/km average
  • Brooks JIS 5k Run, 27 February 2011 – 31:17 – 6:16 mins/km average
  • Mizuno BIS 5k Run, 27 March 2011 – 30:57 – 6:12 mins/km average [PERSONAL BEST 5k]
  • Milo 10k Run, 5 June 2011 – 1:10:46 – 6:44 mins/km average [PERSONAL BEST 10k]
  • Adidas King of the Road 16.8k Run, 25 September 2011 – 1:52:16 – 6:48 mins/km average

There are 2 more races left in 2011 that I’m going to join:

  • Jakarta RACE 10k, 23 October 2011
  • Standard Chartered Zoo Half 21.1k, 30 October 2011