I can only thank God.
This has been the run I've been training for ever since I started my training log which has encompassed my 4 odd months of training - though possibly only 2 months involved serious training - with a fair amount falling a midst my IB examinations. Over time I believe I've attached great aspirations and hopes for a respectable performance - to the extent of sacrificing time for sleep, studies or other activities.
However, as much as I attribute my success solely to God, I am by no means suggesting that I did not do anything and God did everything. Rather, I did (some of) what God enabled me to, and God did the remainder.
Over the past few days, as I reflected upon my thoughts pertaining to this run, I was considering my various sources of motivation - and I wondered if I could find a Bible verse that was apt for this occasion. Yet as I perused, I was reminded of the necessity of contextual application. Bearing this in mind, I did not feel that a verse would be appropriate. Instead, I simply remembered a source of motivation - God.
The race was to begin at 5am along Orchard Rd on 2nd December, 2012. Being mildly obsessive, I got up promptly at 2:55am(2 alarms, though 1 didn't go off!) after a mere 4 hours of sleep(despite being in bed for 6). After getting ready and heading to venue via MRT, I headed in to the sub-5 race corral at about 4:25. Some runners had already found spots at the side as they waited for the flag-off. While waiting, I caught a glimpse of some elites doing their warm-ups along 313. It was a truly spectacular sight - the guys were sub 2:15 marathoners(though the race winner eventually clocked 2:17).
With about 35 minutes to spare, I found a spot at the side, 30m from the start, and mentally prepared myself while sipping on a bottle of water. Humidity seemed mildly high and I heard it would rain(didn't after all!), which seemed like a blessing after the previous scorching mornings. While waiting, I contemplated my race plan - begin slow, ensure that the 4:00 pacers are in sight all the way, catch them at 20k and hang on before moving ahead after 30k+ if I felt good.
Eventually, the race begin promptly at 5am. The first 100m was mildly uphill, and that came as a surprise. However, I knew that the run would then continue with downhills, hence I made sure my pace was conservative. I clocked about 6:00min for the first km. Legs felt a little heavy, though expectedly, after the previous 3 days of carbo-loading. I gradually increased my pace as I tried to catch sight of the 4:00 pacers. It was slightly humorous to note the multiple (male) runners that ran to the bushes and appeared to be adjusting their shorts right before we entered the Fort Canning tunnel. I wonder if females experienced the same bush-observing phenomenon? Nature was whispering my name but I ignored it(all the way~). [As we lose water through sweat, thereby increasing the osmolarity of blood, which is then detected by osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus, anti-diuretic hormone is synthesized by the neurosecretory cells of the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland, causing the production of aquaporins to .. basically reduce urine production.] You may choose to ignore the informative statements in square brackets ;)
Anyway, after exiting the tunnel, I sped up, rather afraid that I'll lose sight of the fluttering orange balloons that were to be my guides for much of the race. However, after the 5k mark, I felt I was approaching the floating objects too quickly(I was planning a 5:45 avg pace for the first 5k), so I dropped back a little. Perhaps a little too much. They seemed to be vanishing from my life forever. On hindsight, it was more likely that some insanely tall runners were blocking my view.
This caused me to speed up again, which left me scrutinising them a little too closely as we entered the ECP stretch. Personally, I never liked running with groups of people - and pacers attracted just that. Hence, I relaxed on the pace again, but this time they were well within my range of vision so we beat on,
boats legs against the current ground, borne back forward ceaselessly. Continuing along the ECP route, I saw the elites pass! Graceful yet powerful. With no sexism intended, my personal opinion is that (some) males run with much more fluidity than elite women.
To spare you from boredom, I shall not elaborate on the remainder of the ECP route. It was terribly familiar, having been there twice in the past 2 weeks and usually twice annually for other years. This was authentically relaxing. Somehow I never got to see the sunset though:\
An issue arose as I hit the 28km mark, having accidentally sped up such that I was within the range of assaults from the fluttering ballons against my face - and I so happened to hear the pacers say that we were 2 seconds off pace!! This was indeed a crucial moment because I felt AWESOME at this point of time - nowhere near to the infamous marathon wall. I asked God - go or no? And quite possibly I answered, go. My prior race plan was to stick with the inflated objects till 30+km, then speed up if I felt good. Perhaps one might question what difference does 2+km make in a 42k race. I think my pride nearly cost my dearly.
I picked up the pace mildly. I felt awesome, legs seemed alright, breathing was comfortable, I was in a state of bliss as I attached my imaginary ropes to the runners ahead and dragged them towards me. My arms grew a little tired as I was dragging them too quickly to me - and secretly grinning at the middle-aged Europeans and other runners who quite certainly were wondering how to get past the wall. I could not help but smile at all the volunteers(lovely volunteers in purple!). I was thanking God for all the training that seemed to be paying off.
Then I felt the tingling. Right quad. Barely passed 33km. I knew it was a warning. And it certainly was one that I had to heed. Drop the pace now. I began a sophisticated "shuffling"(go google this in the context of running) to minimise the utilisation of my quads(or at least I thought it had this effect).
The next 9k was dangerous. So dangerous that I need to rush off to the airport and I'll spend my time in New Zealand considering if I should inform you all about it. Meanwhile, here are some photos and my race-splits.
|I do think it was a negative split :)|
|Immensely thankful to my church friends for turning up to support us,|
pity I didn't get to see the other runners from school ;/
------------------------------------------------------ cont'd ------------------------------------------------------I've just returned from an immensely enjoyable(and exhausting) 12 days in NZ, 4 days of Frontline Youth Camp and 4 days of a trip to Batam with my batch from church, all of which were back-to-back from 2nd Dec to 21st Dec. I am tempted not to bother recounting my last 9km of the run but I shall force myself to, in order that I may remember this experience.
With about 9km left to go, I had already exited ECP. I was reluctant to slow down, yet I knew it was necessary lest the haunting, familiar, acute pain shot through my leg. Thankfully there were multiple tiger balm muscle rub stations around and some application of the muscle rub to my quads helped to numb my legs, falsely convincing me that I wasn't uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I reminded myself to relax the pace. As I passed the giant monitor which was around Kallang River, I suddenly heard people shouting my name. Thanks a tonne to Anmol and Tenn Joe for the video of encouragement(though I had no clue what was being said in it) ;) It was truly encouraging and it kinda made me improve my running form, though that may have meant the increased usage of my quads(which was tremendously dangerous) ~
The next few km, up to the 37/38km mark or so, was definitely not easy, but manageable. Upon reaching the 37km mark, the route brought us to the East Coast Parkway which then led up the infamous Benjamin Sheares Bridge. Why in the world did the organisers have to use a route that required the conquering of the bridge at the painful 38km mark of the full marathon -_-" I was perturbed at the frightening mass of concrete that appeared to approach the sky. It possibly looked like this ~
|It certainly looked like this to me.|
More than the rise, however, I was afraid of the drop. I knew that downhill running was wayyy tougher on the quads than uphill running, and that was exactly the areas of my leg which I had to protect at present. Going up was not easy. Going down was rather comical, yet hazardous. The bridge probably had a 10% incline/decline. The decline was so great that I took measures to minimise every bit of impact on my legs. This possibly left me moving diagonally downwards to minimise the effect of the decline. Thankfully, this seemed to pay off.
The last few km went by in a blur. At that time, I was stuck in the midst of the moderate/slower 10km and 21km runners, hence I was forced to weave in and out through the crowd. This was annoying, yet it was doable as I wasn't moving too fast(my marathon-pace is relatively slow). Just a few nights before, I recalled seeing a sign stating "last 1km of the full marathon" and I was desperately looking out for it. When I saw 3:55 on my watch and I had yet to catch sight of the sign, I quivered at the thought of failing to break the 4-hour mark. Yet barely a minute later, I caught sight of the finish after rounding a bend.
With the end in sight and mind and straining toward what lay ahead, I pressed on towards my goal, the finish. I caught sight of a 3:57:XX in the distance and I knew I would not only achieved a sub 4 nett time, but also a sub 4 gun time. I began my sprint(no longer was I in fear of cramping), possibly brushing past a few 10km and 21km runners who were inconsiderate enough to venture into the boundary marked for the full marathon finishers and eventually, I crossed the line. It was finished.
|A smile masking the fear at the 36km mark. Credit to Marathon-Photos.|
|Hmm I'm the guy in white. Credit to Marathon-Photos|
|3:57:05(nett) - A considerable improvement from my first marathon 6 months earlier|
(Sundown Marathon 2012).
In summary, this race experience was probably my most memorable experience - being relatively pain-free and thrilling(overtaking the middle-aged Caucasians and seeing the Kenyans) - though I was definitely worried at the prospect of failing to achieve my goal.
I realised the satisfaction in attaining a goal, yet the dangers of having a goal as well. In our society, I suppose the societal competitiveness (especially in Singapore) requires us to have goals and to achieve them, repeated failure to do so often labels us as useless. The hazards presented during the process of working towards attaining a goal can however, be offset, if one begins the process already certain of and secure in his identity.
My eyes prefer to keep shut now, but before I go to bed I'll leave a few points of advice and some lessons I have learnt through the marathon(and the training for it).
~ Advice ~
2) Knowledge is power. Perhaps what's the next most important aspect in attempting to run well(by each individual's own standards), second to simply running, is to know how to train. Specificity is important if one attempts to optimise one's time during a race. During the few months, I read up a fair bit about running technique, strategies and nutrition. Knowledge of these details were paramount in enabling me to run a mild negative split in the marathon and letting no runner overtake me in the last 12km :)
3) Desire. In races such as the marathon, one probably has to tap into his mental reserves to get through the last 10-20km, depending on one's athletic ability. When the body screams stop, the mind has to be certain enough of why the suffering is worthwhile. During my first marathon (Sundown Marathon 2012), as much as I knew I was going to complete it, there were multiple instances where I simply wished to stop, yet the desire kept me going(slowly).
The 3 points cover the physical, intellectual and emotional aspects, all of which are required to run a good (longer distance) race.
~ Learning points ~
1) Control what I'm able to. I made multiple preparations, such as those 3 points of advice above, yet there were other conditions which I couldn't control such as race congestion, race-day weather conditions, etc. By doing what I could and through much prayer, the race went well. I suppose this extends to life as well - exams, sports, relationships - all of which we only have a limited grasp over.
2) Ambition. It nearly cost me. I ventured into the unknown (30km onwards) feeling great, hence increasing my pace, yet I nearly induced cramps. This is probably a double-edged sword and it is definitely a struggle to decide what degree of it is acceptable.
3) Acceptance of failure. Though I didn't "fail" myself during this race, I was close to it. I think I must not be too comfortable with failure, yet not afraid of failing either. I still have yet to figure where the boundary ought to be for myself.