Was kind of looking forward to this Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon as a finale to this year. Had been a very productive year in a strange kind of way. Not really planned especially in the last 3 quarters of this year. I did my other usual races which included Sundown Marathon in March, then surprised myself with my PB in Gold Coast (Airport) Marathon in July and then the 2XU ultra 50 km in early October. So when Mr Peter Tan (JustRunLah) asked if I would like a slot for the full marathon, I said ‘sure, yes’. And Thank You !
It will be a nice challenge for me to end this year’s of what threatened to be a ‘weak’ year with a strong finish. ‘Weak’ because I was injured for just over a year ago and still on road to full recovery.
So four long distances, and 3rd Marathon this year, breaking my previous record of two is not that easy a feat as I thought. This was the only Marathon race that I’ve actually done long distances exceeding 21.1 km in the span of 6-9 months prior to the race itself. In fact I’ve just completed Newton Race – 32.195 km too. I knew that I may not have been able to speed up on my pace but have built up some level of endurance this year.
The race pack collection was very much a breeze – the hall was huge at Marina Bay Sands Convention Halls and reminded me of the Gold Coast Marathon Race Collection back in July. The expo had the usual and unusual (hair products, helmets, insurances) promotions. I took some time to browse through but only bought the energy gel since that was the only stuff I needed at this juncture. I was overly anxious to get to the shuttle bus booking and had to loop back after realizing it was actually nearer the start of the expo. There was a 2 am or 3 am timing. Recommendation was to take the 2 am if I wish to deposit baggage. I decided not to risk queuing for bag deposits and settled for 3 am. Also because I thought I needed the sleep. I hadn’t been able to sleep my usual time the last couple of nights or so.
On Sat night despite efforts to try and sleep early, I couldn’t quite get to dreamland. Woke up every few minutes perhaps due to the excitement too. Then I took a bit longer than usual to get ready this round.
This year I also had a bit of an extra role to play. At the back of my running singlet, I had also pinned a small bib to encourage runners to ‘Bin It’. I was one of the ‘light’ SCSM Green Ambassadors. Wearing the sign serves as a reminder to fellow runners to at least bin the cups, banana peels and energy gel bag into the appropriate trash bins provided. This was championed by Tyre Lady Ice (Rima) whom I actually ‘met’ in the ultra 50 as she passed me with a companion runner then (see my previous blog on ultra 50). Coincidentally met up virtually just weeks before the SCSM when a volunteer friend connected me to her and we got reacquainted and I took on this tiny role. She also kindly gave me some pointers on back recovery exercises that I could follow.
I took a bit longer than usual to finish my breakfast and so ended up running the 3-4 km to the bus stop to catch the shuttle bus. I got to the Orchard Area in good time but then lost many minutes to search for the toilets. Wasn’t the only one searching but we grouped together to look for toilets near the start area. I did find one used by some construction folks when the others gave up. At least, I managed to empty my bladder. I hurried to the start line feeling hot and sweaty though.
I was in Pen D and so waited for my turn. Heard our national anthem being played in the distance and then the race was flagged off. We were also flagged off probably about 10 minutes later than the scheduled time, but I wasn’t annoyed or anything. Delays were fairly usual to me after taking part in so many local races. I realized that it was better to expect the unexpected. Perhaps too, it was part of my inbuilt training from my corporate days. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I thought it was applicable in real life too and to running as well.
Later I did hear of horror stories where the folks had to queue for 1-2 hours to deposit their bags. One runner friend gave up the race in disgust. Another two decided to run with their bags on their back. I understood that participants were also supposed to empty their stuff into the transparent bags provided and that was also one of the reasons I decided to skip the bag deposit – I imagined it would take extra efforts. Anyway, hopefully the organizers took the feedback and would improve further. Some mentioned that the volunteer resources were inadequate at the deposit area.
Anyway, once I started running, I was consciously holding back on my pace this round, to ensure I didn’t start off too fast. The air was kind of still and very humid. We were running past shopping malls and the central district area buildings at the beginning. I thought it was still fine till around 10 km, when Garmin kept buzzing to tell me another kilometre had buzzed by, when I knew it was too soon. I realized that perhaps the tall buildings or too many signals sent by all the gadgets runners were wearing, were affecting the reception somehow. Distances were going haywire and therefore the paces shown were now inaccurate. This continued for some time, and I was feeling rather upset with this disruption.
Then I tried to calm down and started manually calculating the pace each time I came across a signage. Anyway, it did interrupt my sense of equilibrium, and perhaps too, with the humidity, I found myself slowing down, and felt rather heavy with the sweat that was pouring down my face and arms. I knew that I couldn’t get anywhere near my Gold Coast marathon pace that moment. I decided too that I would keep myself hydrated at every station that I came across. I must say that the hydration stations were more than adequate and I was able to get either water or 100-plus or both. There were also bananas at certain stations as well as energy gels in the later stations (at least two of them). And I made sure that I aimed properly to get the trash in the correct bins ! Below are the true Green Ambassadors whom some runners may have encountered in their race.
(The Pictures Below are sourced from SCSM2017 Album which I thought showed a good cross section of some of the interesting scenery/encounters.)
Probably in KM 20s, I experienced some pain in my right foot, at the area where I had gotten blisters in the ultra race. (Later at home, I realized indeed the blisters had developed again in the same area.) My shoes must have gotten wet with the water that I was pouring over my head or I was stepping into water patches near one of the stations. My toes were feeling weird and they seemed to be curling up with pain and tension in the 30s. I didn’t experience any cramps though. But I wasn’t able to really run at the pace I wanted. I was slowing down too much vs what I wanted. But I told myself to keep going. No pain. Just go. Next km, next km.
The humidity and heat kept going up. There were two mist tunnels that we looked forward to though it wasn’t as cooling somehow. But there was a few huge fans blowing just after the tunnels so some runners decided to stand in front of them and took a break. I shouldered on. There were some entertainments in the form of drums and even a couple, with the lady playing a violin. At one or two points, there were real cheerleaders who were very encouraging, thumbs up for them. Still, it was visibly and relatively much quieter than the overseas race or the last Mizuno race I had done just last week.
It was only towards the last 4 km or so, that I managed to force my pace up a bit and tried to target for 6.5 hour or better finish. This would be at least 15 minutes better than my first marathon of this year, though not the fastest. In the end I managed to hit it just below 6.5 hour reaching the Padang Finish Line. I collected the finisher medal and was told that the L size tee had run out, but I was alright with the M size they passed to me. I was given an apple, a very unripe banana that refused to peel and a can of 100plus. I slumped down at one of the closest shaded area I could find with a group of other runners. One of them was from Malaysia and he had driven in just last night and spent the night sleeping out in the open. He said it was more comfortable than in the car and he got enough sleep to get by since he found a place near one of the malls there, with his friends.
I didn’t have energy to roam around and my feet were killing me at this point. The rush in the last 4 km had exhausted me somewhat. I was feeling strange too given that I had not been as tired during the ultra and I had then continued with another 10 km race a few hours after (you can read it in my other previous blogs). I realized it was mainly the heat which had gotten to me this morning. That and perhaps the ingestion of the gel and 100 plus must have taken some kind a toll. I’m also thankful to two groups of volunteers who were giving away ice cubes which I used to suck and also slapped onto my neck. There was a family who was also using a hose to cool runners down if they wanted to. Very warm touch in the warm weather too ! THANK YOUS ! (and to all the volunteers who had to work in the sun as well.)
I’m grateful that I’ve finished this marathon and it was an apt finale to my building up of my endurance level. Not a perfect one but still satisfying.
Statistics reported after the race : 957,141 km of distance covered by runners, 73,840 litres of water, 48,000 participants, 28,992 litres of isotonic, 4,000 volunteers, 125 nationalities, 5 categories and 1 race of the year. Looking back, I would probably feel good to be part of this one race, not for having broken any PB but more for helping to carry two or three subtle messages : zero waste, running for ‘good’ and for self- improvement/ awareness. All the long distances done this year had given me some time for self reflection too during and after. I would share more of those in other blogs if I sense there is some interest in the sharing of an amateur old runner’s journey since 2015, or late 2014.
This marathon distance also went into the count for my ongoing campaign to complete 500 km since Oct 7th, by end of this year. It would not be easy given my usual mileage in the past. As I’m writing this piece, I’m still left with 151 km to cover in about 23 days. But I’m reminded of the saying ‘Don’t pray for easy tasks, but pray for the efforts/mentality to deal with uneasy ones, for life is often difficult and not easy’. I’m grateful I’ve completed my 6th marathons or 7th if you include the ultra marathon in just 3 years. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following persons who had helped strongly to support the latest journey of my contributing back in the fight against cancer : Hwee Bin, Swee Fong and her hubby, Shadus, Hock Chuan, Amelia, Jay, Linyou, Ming Hui, Siew Cho, Sie Yong and Dawn.
Stay Strong, Run Happy, Run Safe.
Just some final words on the race itself :
For the overall race review, I’ll rate it 3.8 out of 5, based on my own experience. Well organized for race pack collection, the expo, nice touch on printing the names of participants. At the race, the hydration and aid stations were adequate and placed at fairly consistent intervals; still fairly above average volunteers, nice entertainment though fewer at the later hours (because of the sun perhaps). Kudos for taking the initial steps towards Green Marathon as part of its initiatives this year.
Areas for improvement would be in the baggage deposits. I don’t know what could be done about transportation since if we had depended on MRT and if the MRT had issues, there would have been a lot more negative comments. My own observation of the shuttle bus service was that the bus didn’t open its doors till it stopped exactly at the bus stop. This could have been a legal or strict safety requirement. But as it was early morning hours, perhaps more rational decisions could have been made to allow runners to disembark and thus not caused further delays to the long queues behind. In future years, probably MRT would still be the best mode of transportation. I also would like to suggest that the marathon timing be shifted to around midnight or thereabouts and make it a midnight run instead. After all, with a start time of 4.30 am, and with road blocks starting from 12 midnight and even earlier, it resulted in runners not having enough time to sleep anyway, unless they are staying at hotels nearby. The average and slower runners would not have to contend with the high humidity and heat that’s prevalent in Singapore.