It has been some time since the last post I did about race reviews. I decided to run less races, though not necessarily run less kilometres. Primary reasons were cost and commitment to schedules.
As a result, I am hesitant about writing race reviews. If I run less then I would share less and I think a review is also usually subjective and relative. I assume genuine race reviewers want an understanding of the quality of the races and not really the experience of each runner but the mass. So to me if I am looking for a review of the race, I would probably disregard most of those I came across and maybe including mine in the past.
I think race reviews should be done by an objective group of experienced regular race runners and there would be specific areas which they focus on for each race review or they be based on a poll by independent parties based on the average of participants in the races. In that way, folks can then pick out on which are the better organized, exciting, value for money races or whatever criteria they may be looking for. So while this may seem like a race review that I have written in the past, I don’t want to call it a race review anymore. I can then take more liberty perhaps with the content while perhaps still on the topic of a race event. So this is more about a promise I made and the marathon I just ran.
I did manage to increase my training sessions the last two months relatively, after I suffered two fractures of the lumbar bone (spine) and suspected coccyx damage. While my back pain had reduced considerably, I couldn’t sit too long without having pain near the coccyx area. I also bought a Garmin watch finally to help me monitor my ‘training’ and helped me to keep pace. After 3 years plus of running, this was the most expensive equipment I bought for myself. But it was interesting as I found my resting heart rate (RHR) to be in the 40s but my VO2Max was around 38. And I found I don’t have more than 1.5 hour of deep sleep most of the days.
Last year, I had attempted to run two half marathons on consecutive weeks. (https://www.justrunlah.com/2016/04/13/tale-of-two-half-marathons/) So after that challenge, I had made up my mind to do a full marathon and a half marathon on consecutive weeks to test my limits this year. So it was going to be Sundown Marathon and the 2XU Compression Half Marathon. The incident occurred after my signing up but that didn’t halt my resolve. It did cause me to train much less for the full marathon. I couldn’t manage more than a maximum of 16 km on a training run, and I often found myself having to take 2 days or more off after a training that cause some disturbing pain on the back. I learnt how to cope with listening to my body more and taking those recovery days.
So it was that in whole month of November (injury), I ran only 30 km, followed by 92 km, then picked up to 102 and then 164 km in Feb. In March, my back pain was subsiding considerably but the pain at the coccyx area was getting worse. While doctors advised painkillers and another more costly MRI scan I avoided both. Everything was still manageable to some extent till the week before 25th, day of run. And I had made a ‘promise’ to run both races to support the Children’s Cancer Foundation.
After only 65 km in March, my back pain came back somehow so I was taking the 2-3 days recovery rest again. Then it was Black Monday for me. Somehow the electricity power shut down at my home. Did I forget to pay the bill ? After determining that the other neighbors were not suffering the same fate and after taking all the diligent steps to turn off each appliance before attempting to on the power at the main switch electrical board again, I had to call the electricians. Only one finally promised to come down the following day as it was past 5 o’clock. So no choice, the family needed to pass the next 12 hours or more without electricity. The food in the fridge would be spoilt. Missus decided to salvage the food and so I got to eat something that I don’t normally take for my dinner. Usually it would have been my sons’ as mine was much blander. It was the start of my miserable week without me realizing. But it was a good reminder. Don’t try new food on the last week before a marathon.
The following day, I woke up hot and sweaty without the benefit of the fan. And found I had a sore throat. Anyway after doing the usual errands I settled down to wait for the electrician. As I had some time, I decided to try and check the main switchboard again. After I switched it on, suddenly the electricity came back as it remained in the ‘on’ position instead of jumping back like what it did many times the day before. After slowly switching on each appliance in the household, I found everything to be working fine. The electrician wouldn’t be able to detect what went wrong if this was happening so I called him and informed him of the situation. He agreed so I saved him the trip. Then I found also that my RHR had increased somehow to 50s for the first time. This was not a good sign.
In the evening, I went to collect the race pack for the Sundown Marathon. This time I was meeting up too with Francis. I took dinner with my mum before going for the queue. I expected a queue given that I know Sundown was hyping it up with 5 nights of celebration. When I reached F1 Pit, I just joined the long queue and informed my friend that a queue had formed and he should look out for me when he reached. When he reached, the queue had probably increased by some 30 folks within the short few minutes. The queue took 2 hours in the end. I had company for the first time in a queue. We chatted about the preparation for the marathon.
Towards the end of waiting in the queue, the person in front turned to us and joined in our conversation about marathons. In fact it turned out he had participated in a few Ironman races and I tried to find out more about the experience. When it was our turn, he was off in a couple of minutes as he had his pack pretty fast. I got mine too in quick time. Francis was collecting for his friends as well and one of them held him back. As it was past 10 o’clock and near closing time, I went off to get the energy gels which I planned for. I joined Francis again at one of the booths where he signed up for the Nat Geo Earth Run day. He had to go back and collect the pack again as they were still processing one of his friend’s pack somehow.
While the race pack collection that day and the days followed was considered a fiasco, I did walk away with other thoughts. While I was collecting, I suddenly heard a woman shouting and then stomping off with her race pack. Apparently she was giving a mouthful to the volunteer. I glanced back at the volunteer but she was smiling and handling the next in line. I thought she should be praised for coping with the situation well. She was also not prepared for the change in situation. The new system for printing out bib on demand wasn’t able to cope with workload so they had to switch to a manual system. I had been a volunteer before so I understood that leaders and volunteers were briefed beforehand on the process. So there would have been a lot of last minute instructions and changes. So I must give kudos to the volunteers for hanging in there the 5 nights of the race pack collection, no matter how pressurizing it was also to keep receiving negative comments on the FB.
Only upset was that I reached home rather late past midnight due to the public transport I was taking. Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling slightly better. I went for the last tapering run trying to take it easy and to get back my running legs after a lapse of two days. Felt better after the run and thought I had put the flu away without taking any medication. RHR was ‘higher’ still in the 50s. By night, the coughing came back. The next day the flu came back with a vengeance and the coughing caused pain to the back so I started taking the panadols that I had. I knew I needed to nurse my body back to normal without coughing by Saturday midnight. On Saturday morning, when the coughing didn’t get that much better, I decided to buy the Panadol for Coughing and Pain instead. I had been taking the normal Panadol. I took the first two tablets from the pack to the F1 Pit. I took them after I arrived at the MRT station. I knew I could run but I probably would be hurting very bad if I were to start coughing.
I wanted to get the opportunity to do some good through running even if it would be to raise a few dollars for the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Even just raising awareness was good enough for me. I was early for this race. After bag deposit, I met Francis and realized I had deposited my water bottle too in my excitement. Went back to retrieve it – it was just a normal juice bottle filled with water. It was donated by my father-in-law after he learnt I was looking for a small handy bottle.
The race was flagged off about 10 minutes after midnight. Wasn’t sure what the delay was due to as the announcement was a bit muffled to those near the middle. The starting was preceded by fantastic on-screen count down displays but only for those 10 seconds. The night was still holding in terms of weather though it had rained rather heavily in some parts of Singapore earlier that day. We were off and soon I lost sight of Francis and I focused on keeping pace with my Garmin. In my excitement, I also mishandled the buttons and caused the watch to pause for a short distance. After 10 km, I did realize I was doing too fast for me to sustain the effort. About 18 km or so, my watch suddenly showed I was on threshold of something (probably lactate threshold) but which I failed to appreciate during the run as I was only focused on maintaining my pacing.
I made a stop at every hydration point and the volunteers were definitely all ready for the runners each time. I was on the lookout for my friend when I saw some runners running on the other side at certain parts of the route. But I didn’t see him. I thought I passed one of the regular bloggers but hesitated to call her as she wouldn’t recognize me and I would be interrupting her pacing. I was watching out for some of my other FB friends but I failed to locate them. I was very focused on the running and able to channel my thoughts just on running. I was determined to complete. And also I was also hoping not to increase my timing this round even though I was giving myself some allowance due to my injuries. I tried to pick up pace with 14 km to go.
It was at this stage too, I realized somehow I was able to really push on without thinking of any pain. Basically as I registered the pain, either in my foot or my right lower leg, I just consciously placed it aside and looked ahead. I also found breathing in a certain way helped to alleviate the pain and exhaustion I was feeling in the last third of the marathon. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer any cramps despite the low mileage I covered during training. Thankfully too, I didn’t cough too much, just twice but I slowed down and breathed deeply using my diaphragm. I just kept going, telling myself I needed to finish it so that the Children’s Cancer Foundation get some funds. At certain stages, it seemed like my consciousness floated outside of my body as I heard my breathing and feeling my temperature rising. But these were ephemeral in nature but occurred frequently in the last 10 km.
I did notice the beautiful skyline a few times but continued to pound away at certain stages. The pace in the second half was slower (looking at the Garmin summary) but there were certain km when I picked up surprisingly. Crossing the finishing line gave me a pleasant feel of joy and relief. I have delivered on part 1 of the promise to keep running for supporting the cancer cause. I didn’t see many spectators as there was a big open space for finishers. I slowed down and only stopped my Garmin later as I forgot about it in the end ! I was taking in the final scene in this race.
Till I realize someone was asking if I could take a photo for him. I took one for him and he was very nice to ask if I wanted to take mine. I replied that I couldn’t because my phone was in the baggage deposits. He offered to take one for me on his phone and whatsapp me the pics. He took two shots actually. First time I had photos taken where I was just after the finishing line.
I looked out for my friend as I collected my medal and finisher medal plus the 100 plus and bananas. I met him again after I had retrieved my baggage. He had waited for an hour for me as he finished sub 6 hour for his very first marathon ! I was happy for him. Later I found he was keeping our other friend updated on the progress and they were ‘waiting’ for me to finish. Such touching moments though virtual at that point and I only read those comments after I returned home that day. Running friends are a rare lot too. One of my earlier post talked about a lady neighbor too who picked up running. She became a very nice running friend though she has since moved out. She is the first to support the cause that I am running for and I hope she will not be the last. Another great running friend Chris also joked I could swagger for a month now. I thought I could do that only if I could do sub-6 one day. Another competent ultra runner was also there to congratulate me virtually though we didn’t manage to meet again this round. He was just too fast – even when he was not in the mood he finished more than 2 hours ahead of me.
Francis and I found a spot to sit on – some stairs across the road. A few other runners came to join us as they realized it was a good idea to sit on steps. That’s one lesson I got from past races, better than sitting on the ground. A lady runner joined us and joined our conversation on the marathon. An avid and friendly runner apparently and she was also attempting to run the half marathon the following week too. We left after some time as she waited for her friend. The weather had been kind and it was not sunny but still fairly dark and cooling in the open sky.
We finished our own mission that morning. Thank God for answering our prayers. It was my 4th marathon, my timing going slower each time unfortunately. But it was the most meaningful marathon for many reasons. The most important of which I was able to complete it despite my conditions and hope to get the support for Children’ Cancer Foundation. My mission however is not complete. I needed to complete next Sunday’s 2XU half marathon too. For now, I needed to recover from the pricks and needles on my back (nerve pain), my flu and the few physical hurts on the toes and knees. Still, I must say I am never more proud than this moment to hold the medal and say I’ve completed another marathon, number 4 in coming 4th year of running. In running as in life, committing to a higher goal could bring us through the toughest obstacles.
So now, I’ll have to recover and then on to the next half marathon. Stay safe and happy running. And if you feel you can spare some resources to help others, please donate by clicking on this https://www.simplygiving.com/runforthekids.
Afternote : Perhaps some last words on the Sundown Marathon since it received a lot of flak especially for the race pack collection. Sundown Marathon organizers, I felt had been bold in how they bring a running event to the masses. From the first one which I attended, Pulse of a Tribe, Limitless and this year’s Sleep Can Wait, the themes are interesting and spelt excitement. In their boldness, they attempted to bring a different experience from having night marathons to night festival, they had been innovative. They supported charity this round too, got the sponsors to put up the cubicles and I don’t think the logistics were easy, including spreading out the DIY dispensers in a few malls though they had to withdraw the idea due to the glitches. Hyping up expectations also mean greater disappointment when you fall short. 27000 runners from local and overseas put much pressure too on this 10th anniversary celebration perhaps. Poor in execution due to lack of planning for contingencies but still, I would add kudos to their efforts : in apology, getting volunteers and putting up with the negative publicity and putting up necessary changes albeit too late somewhat for some. No, I am not sponsored by nor related to the organizers nor did I get any benefits from them. I felt there is always some good out of all the efforts to bring about a better sustainable racing event for runners and I believe it will grow more challenging as time passes. Runners especially local ones are also a demanding lot and some are quick to give opinions, right or wrong. Organizers cannot rest on their laurels though and learn from the better ones. That’s how anyone improves.