Saturday, 16 July
I was standing in line outside around the back of Novena Square shopping mall. A vision of my future in 1 week’s time started forming in head.
In a crowded holding pen at the start line, I am standing. Shoulder to sweaty shoulder, everyone wearing their prized singlets. The ladies from Fitness First screaming through the loudspeakers for everyone to bend over and stretch, like there is still enough room left to do zumba moves. Yet, people still do find space but to extend an arm and take selfies and a pictures of the gantry showing “START”. If it isn’t in Facebook or Instagram, it did not happen, of course. As lucky as l was in the 2014 Army Half Marathon 10K, the smell of humans around me just just… wafting. From flag off, its a dodge and weave affair within the sea of runners for the first 2-3 kilometres.
My consciousness drifted back to reality. Of me, still waiting at the Pocari Sweat Run race pack collection. Its not always like this. However…
“This is the LAST thing I need right now… I can’t believe my luck.”
The queue has moved! So I took one and half step forward. I am now 40+ minutes away from getting my race pack. Yaaaay……. Not.
“I have joined enough running events in the last 2 years to know how, a popular annual 10K event coupled with a race route that is more PCNs, promenades, pavements than road, will pan out. Not pretty.”
I started running 2014 and by mid year I did my first 10K event. I did 5 events in total by year end, including an 18K. The year after, it’s the usual progression for new runners to gather more medals, singlets, finisher shirts, going further in the distance, etc. So I have 8 more medals in 2015, with a 32K my longest to date, and my first overseas. Its mix of experiences, good and bad and ugly, but in the end all that matters were running itself, and my goals achieved.
“In the first place, should I still be signing up for 10K events?”
By the end of last year, I had come to conclude that the 10K distance was my favourite event. In fact, half of all the events I completed are all 10Ks
This distance has become my personal performance and fitness benchmark. I measured my improvements based on my 10K times. My pace zones in Strava is based off my 10K PR. I analyse my runs based on my splits within 10K so I can further improve my pacing.
On weekends, if do not feel like doing long runs, I will at least run 10K. lt is the perfect workout, I only need just over an hour to complete and be satisfied with the amount of sweat l have shed. Where rice is my staple food, 10K is my staple workout.
I am still in the part of the queue far away from the air-conditioned confines of the mall. I am slowly but surely stewing in every sense of the word.
“Having to line up in this bloody long queue – just for a 10K event – is NOT my idea of savouring my latest crowning glory…”
I resolved to do more trail runs/events in 2016. MacRitchie Reservoir Park is the perfect playground as its 10K around, and with the added challenge of slopes and rocky terrain. And the more I do trail runs, the more I drifted to ever more challenging runs routes, routines. From being able to do a 10K road run on any given Sunday, I am already doing 10K or more any time of the week, night or day.
Just this morning past 4AM, I woke up, headed down to Chestnut Nature Park, and did the MSlG 21K trail run category. A finishing time of almost 3 hours isn’t something to shout about. Given that I am a mid-20s (back in ’90s), never-been-athletic average-schmoe runner, I planned from the start to just walk up the hills to save energy and run/catch up whenever I can when its flat and downhill. I never stopped at any checkpoints for food and relied on my soft flasks of water and isotonic drink solely. And l was still feeling good immediately getting past the line with a final sprint. I was filled with a great sense of accomplishment, regardless of what place I am out of the 300+ runners.
After the euphoria, the nasi lemak, the cucumber lime popsicle had been washed down by Red Bull, I reaaallly would have loved to take a slow relaxing bus ride home, taken a shower, to gotten a well deserved rest in an air-conditioned room. But noooo…. I still have this Pocari Sweat Run race pack to collect. I have to thank myself so being so eager to signup for it months ago.
“Would I fly overseas, bring my family over-for runcation-disguised-as-a-vacation, just for a 10K event? Noooo…..”
“Why am I still here anyway?
I paid for it. I’m here already. I’m tired, really tired.
Maybe I have already outgrown 10Ks? No more fun? No more joy?
Saturday, 23 July
I find myself in a crowded holding pen. It’s a sea of luminescent blue runners in their prized Pocari Sweat singlets, standing shoulder to Pocari Sweaty shoulder. Guys from Fitness First this time, not screaming, but if when you find yourself inadvertently standing in front of loudspeakers, they are just that loud no matter what. The smell of humanity, inescapable.
“I paid money for this. I took time to get here while knowing well what to expect, might as well just get it done.”
Earlier on my way to the event I was thought of running with the pacers, at least some sort of plan to make all this trouble worthwhile. But with the crowd I got myself into, the last set of balloons were already 2 minutes gone by the time I toed the start line. And it’s the usual dodge-and-weave fight for space in the first 2K.
I hit the halfway mark and surprisingly find myself overtaking the pink-balloon (65 minute) pacers.
“It looks like am doing faster than usual, maybe even for my 10K PR? Can’t trust my Garmin now with the obvious GPS screw up earlier near Collyer Quay…”
“Probably due to the build up of pent-up energy at that starting pen to run away from the humanity around me.”
“Whatever. Don’t get too kan chong. Pace carefully so you do not bonk out in the end.”
Running always have that mental side of it no matter what distance. There is a devil on your left shoulder always tempting you to believe that you’re tired, thirsty, that you need to stop for a while for something.
“Final hydration stop at Marina Barrage, 8K. Should I stop for a while and drink?”
“Almost at the underside of the Bayfront Bridge. I am close to panting already. Should I walk and catch my breath? “
“Final slope going up the Bayfront Bridge. Do I still have anything left in the tank?”
All dismissed like scammers calling my mobile phone. All those trail runs and long runs must have helped me get to this level of fitness.
At the final U-turn on the other side of the bridge, I felt that I can still give it a go, so I sprinted the last 100m to the finish. I stopped my Garmin and checked my time.
“Sub-60 10K. Whoa, wait… My first sub-60… Really? But I never…”
I walked over to the volunteers and thanked them for the medal, banana, and drink. For now, I need to recover, but I will be checking the race calendar for the next available 10Ks.