My Race Journey
Transcend yourself, did you? Were you able to achieve the goals you have set for yourself? Were you able to push yourselves beyond the limits of those goals? These are just a few of the questions I have in mind as I reflect on this year’s running journey.
Recently, themed “The Farm” – the concluding race of the 5-part running series took event at the Kranji Countryside. There was so much anticipation with what is in store for me this last round as I committed myself to run all the races of this series. Aside from aiming to complete the 5 cool finisher medals that when pieced altogether becomes our little island home – Singapore, I also aimed to transcend myself in any way as what the whole series is all about.
Two weeks after the SCMS 2016, where I barely missed my goal sub 5 hour finish, the race that was coined to be the final race of the year by most including me started with…a heavy downpour. It was not raining at least when I woke up around 5am on the 18th of December and I was so shocked when my wife told me and I have to see it for myself outside our room window an almost zero visible open area with the scattered bright light from a familiar lamp post as the only reference point. I convinced myself it was still early though and this unlikely weather will stop just nice before the flag off at 6:30 AM. Similar to SCMS, TPS5 flagged off all distance categories all at the same time. This may seem odd to some as larger crowd could choke a narrow road but when you come to think of it, the earlier you start off, the higher the probability of avoiding the terribly scorching heat of the morning sun. This is to the latter wave’s advantage which is usually the 5KM runners and other categories so for me, flagging off this way is not too bad at all. I cannot clearly remember how the previous TPS races went but I know I always chose to run on the first wave and to confirm (checking on my race bibs while writing this), only TPS5 has no wave specified on the bib.
Like the previous TPS races, there was no shuttle bus pick up at Ang Mo Kio MRT station. I feel AMK is more centrally located to be a pick up point for shuttle bus services rather than at Bishan MRT station. Do you agree? With this, since it is raining and my way to AMK MRT station is unsheltered, I had to book a cab to Bishan MRT station. I feel very positive as I walked out of our HDB block towards the taxi bay: cool wind and heavy rain will yield a perfectly cool race environment. On the contrary, as far as my mind can imagine of a ‘farm’, I honestly expected an extremely difficult muddy trail resulting from an over damped earth. The uncle cab driver, as we passed by Bishan-AMK Park mentioned how intrigued he was with the road closures around Kranji area and is more curious at the same time on how am I going to run in this kind of weather. I just kept silent, instead I crossed my fingers and hoped that he will drive me safely to our destination and that, ultimately, I will not miss the shuttle bus. Previously, I always take a cab to the race area but after this experience, I feel it is a great deal to avail of these shuttle bus services if not driving to a race. Firstly because it is basically way cheaper than getting a cab to the event site and secondly, these shuttle buses are given priority on the road to the location and therefore avoiding traffic jam. This assures you that you will get in to the event area with ample time to do all your pre-race activities if everyone agrees.
It was dark and still slightly drizzling at the shuttle bus drop-off. There was no shelter too! To make things worse the race village is still about 500m away. I don’t usually use umbrellas, in fact, I hate bringing umbrellas. They are heavy and annoying and bulky and also troublesome to keep specially after using it in the rain. The slight drizzle to me is tolerable and I didn’t really bother so much too because I’m going to get soaked in sweat later on anyways, although I saw a few making their way towards Gardenesia on their umbrellas in different sizes and colours. Direction sign boards were placed vividly on the side of the road and can be easily seen as I walked. As I approach the race village, I observed a guy on the green TPS race shirt puffing a cigarette! At the back of my mind I was thinking you run to be fit and then you smoke for what? Moving on, a queue to about 4 to 5 portable toilets slowly built up across the road congesting the area before entering the race village. Although not feeling good with the congestion, I felt the drizzle is gone, I joined the queue and added to the congestion. I thought of queuing now or suffer a longer one that will take forever later. The indoor race village is well lit, dry and cozy. I checked the place a bit and actually found it to be quite nice that runners are seated everywhere comfortably waiting. At this point I didn’t know that the flag-off was already delayed to 6:45AM. Like the other TPS races (and most other races), announcements were only made through Facebook channel which I missed out. A personal SMS I think is still the best and ideal way. I like the sounds played at the village, my kind of playlist (Keane, Coldplay, etc.). It did set the mood. I did not see much of familiar faces this time except for the F1 runners that stood out from the huge neon green crowd in that small race village area. All set, I deposited my bag though it took me awhile to decipher the tags as each queue seemed to be labeled with a range of few digits of number.
Initially I thought the baggage queue is arranged according to your bib number but later on I found out after asking one of the crew that it wasn’t and that I can queue in anywhere.
I forgot to bring my waist pouch for my phone neither my arm band so I decided to deposit it too inside my bag. Not carrying a pouch with a phone on the waist or on the arm is also something for me to always observe during a race. This eliminates the extra weight of the heavy smartphone on the waist as well as the discomfort of having unbalanced arms. With my bag secured, I went for a little warm up at the nearby car park. I have never felt so ready. With all the perfect conditions, I felt like I am going to surprise myself with another personal best, an ideal way to finish the last race of the year.
6:30 AM. I squeezed in to the start pen. Runners accumulating at the start pen fast but it wasn’t moving. No announcements whatsoever. Another 15 minutes went by and the crowd moved to another stop. Patiently waited unaware of the further flag-off delay to 7:00 AM. I managed to exchange well wishes to runners next to me as we waited shoulder to shoulder nearer the start line. A middle-aged man on my immediately left was so busy checking his phone and, being taller than him by a few inches, I glanced at what he was busy looking at (kaypoh me!) and it’s the TPS Facebook page! I asked him immediately for any update and he shared with me disappointingly with the update and that’s the only time I have learned of the delay. A white guy on my right overheard us and he is quite not impressed too with the lack of live announcements from the organizers. Both of them aimed for less than 1 hour and less than 45 minutes respectively. I hoped they had achieved what they aimed for. Like them, I was aiming for a PB of less than 50 minutes which I wasn’t able to share with the two guys as the time went too quickly before we noticed we were finally and officially flagging off!
I was set to do a 5 minute pace or faster all the way to the finish. Focusing on this, it was a surprise having ran less than 2km is already an uphill slope! And then more uphill slopes that eventually went down too, thankfully! Few hydration stops were evenly distributed enough for the entire 10km route. A strong odour from an unknown source started to smell at some areas. I didn’t quite like it but it did make me continue running at constant pace and did not slow down. Volunteers were absolutely awesome cheering runners after runners as they actively give directions as to where to turn. A volunteer at one of the hydration points did extra by getting nearer to the runners and offering drinks. Big thanks to the lady, though I didn’t stop nor get the drink she was offering. Coming back from the sharp curve I saw elites in the likes of Ashly Liew, the Chee siblings, Jasmine Goh, F1’s, Shufflers, etc. I always look up to these runners. Dedicated. Disciplined. Determined. I wish I could be like them in the future but then no, we cannot be somebody else. We can only try to be the best of what we can be. Running is a matter of improving one’s self and the only opponent is no one else but you yesterday. The undulating up and downhill slopes went on. The imagination of a muddy trail never came to existence. I quietly passed every hydration. I was counting down to every kilometer and constantly checking my pace. Am I going to make it to a sub 50? Being able to squeeze in through the head of the crowd has given me the advantage of not getting caught on bottlenecks. I noticed not only once of the merging and narrowing of the lanes especially at the latter half. At the same time, being in front too gives you an excellent base pace and a motivation to run faster, if not as fast as the elites leading the pack if that makes sense to you. The last 2 kilometers was quite tough as there were a couple of sharp left turns and an uphill slope. The final kilometer was rather flat if not downhill. The weather allowed me to sprint the last 400-500 meters and I was so proud of my finish that I felt like I won a major prize at the grandest lucky draw!
Overly conscious on my “consciousness”, I took a little break at the side fence right after the finish as I am too scared of fainting. After confirming that I am still doing perfectly fine, I walked towards the race village and collected my medal and my finisher shirt smoothly. Retrieving my bag was rather quick too! Took it to avoid the queue. I sent the good news to my wife, hydrated and rested a bit at the congregating stage area.
The baggage claim, the stage, the recovery area, the finisher collection and porta-loos are all closely adjacent to each other making the entire place seriously congested with queues and runners resting all over the place that from a bird’s eye view, it seemed like a celebration of everyone’s personal achievement for the year that is nearly coming to its close.
It was a memorable conclusion of the performance series for me. I couldn’t ask for more neither complain for anything less. From race 1 to race 5, I am completely satisfied. It was well organized, safety was always the priority and the welfare of runners is always taken into consideration.
Did I transcend myself? Yes. We are limitless. As a runner, there is no endpoint to improvement. I transcended I believe and even started writing trying to record my running journey in words. Thanks JustRunLah! for giving us this opportunity and space to share our thoughts with regards to the love of this sport.
Was I able to achieve the goals I have set for myself? Yes. Earlier this year, I set out my goals for every distance. From 5kilometers to a full 42 kilometers. Looking back, I am very much satisfied with my year-end report.
Was I able to push myself beyond the limits of those goals? Yes. Surpassed and exceeded my goals.
The Performance Series enabled me to continuously challenge myself and motivated me to train persistently harder and to beat the former me. The race results showed how much I have improved over the past races. Thank you JustRunLah! Thank you The Performance Series! Thank you coaches and friends. 2017 is a promising year. See you there!
Meanwhile, enjoy the festive season. Merry Christmas everyone!