This would be my eighth full marathon race – the 4th Sundown Marathon which I ran. Sundown will have a special place in my heart because it is the first marathon I signed up back in 2015. I’ve signed up every year since, except last year. So this year was a comeback.
(Flashback to 2015 post marathon scene and what I thought was the nicest medal for Sundown Marathon)
This is the 12th in the series. Thankful to a veteran runner (Mr Tan Kim Lai) who is well known in the running affinity group as he also shoots photos in races; he actually ran in all 12 and photo credit is due to him for the featured cover page of this blog !
This year’s race would start on 11.30 pm on Sat 1st Jun. Collection of race pack was a breeze still, the week before race. It had one of the best race pack contents in recent times though it came in a simple big bag (in line keeping with green environment, I suppose). It was held at the Marina Bay Sands, Expo and Convention Hall C. The expo was pretty well received from what I observed that Saturday.
On race day, I reached the venue at about 11 pm and entered the pen soon after. Still, I did observe the race village was abuzz with cheers and activities – some food stalls and movie screening, other category races had concluded. A success, I thought then.
The night was cool, humid but with a slight breeze. The music was blaring and the emcees Ross and Kelly were heard conversing with and cheering the crowd. Nearer the start time they explained that there would be a delay as the roads were being cleared for the runners’ safety. I wasn’t as concerned though it took perhaps another 15 minutes. After the first wave we moved forward and there was another flagoff, 10 minutes or so after . I was in the third wave when I started noticing raindrops falling just under the bright lights from the frame overhanging just above me. It was about then that the emcees announced there would be another 10 minutes’ delay. A collective groan of protest came from the crowd. I was disappointed but again I wasn’t too worried at this point. I just prayed for the drizzle to stop so that they can give the go ahead. My prayers were answered. I think in less than 10 minutes they flagged the wave off.
(See the crowd of runners! And unknown to me then, another runner whom I got to know on Strava started off at same hour and minute for his half marathon in the same pen !)
As I started off my Garmin I saw the emcees apologizing profusely to the runners as they high-five and cheered them on. I thought it was very sincere but it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Safety was a real concern when 25000 runners are involved in such a major event. Organizers tend to be more cautious when it came to inclement weather.
We were off, 12 minutes past midnight. The night was humid, cool due to the drizzle which came on and off. In the last 8 km it rained but at a light tempo. Some parts of the route were narrow and you probably could squeeze two runners abreast and it was tough when they choose to walk. I needed to say ‘excuse me’ often though I was going at a ‘slow jog’.
I knew I started off faster than my intended pace. I realized it was probably good when I started noticing the congestion. And most of the hydration stations had only water and few carried Pocari Sweat. Even at the first station where it would provide energy gel (14 km) which I looked forward to, it came in the form of a tube. I unscrewed the cap and then struggled with the sealant wafer with wet fingers due to sweat or rain. I gave up after standing there struggling and returned the tube. I knew it was going to be tough without adequate booster – I had my own to last till 21 km or thereabouts. And later waves experienced the running out of water in the earlier stations which would have been frustrating if not risky for some of the runners. Still, if they reach East Coast, there were public toilets and water coolers which could be tapped on. This meant that for most of the later wave runners, it would have been harder to get a PB if they were trying for one.
As it was night, some parts of the route were dark and I noticed there were glow sticks at two points. Maybe there were more but I didn’t notice as they could have been kicked away too. At some points there were volunteers who were cheering away. Kudos to them because all this was happening between midnight and 7-8 am. Due to the rain, the surface was also wet and slippery so it was quite miraculous too that I didn’t experience slipping nor notice anyone missing his/her steps. I probably have learnt much too from the falls I had !
After consuming my last energy gel at about 22 km, I ran on, losing hope to maintain my planned pace. I felt my energy level dipping as I went on to the 30s. Lasted till about 36/37 km where I believed the last hydration station would have the bananas. Boy, was I glad to see them at last. (Apparently the earlier one should have but have run out). Still by then, somehow I could only consume just 3/4 piece of banana. I ran on. I didn’t hit the wall but I could feel my muscles tightening up already. The last 2 km somehow I managed to ignore all the pain in my toes which have swollen up – as usual. Even reached 6 min pace for last km plus. I didn’t know from where I summoned such energy given my state.
I didn’t target a PB and my plan was to finish within my usual timeframe. I did it and this was still the fastest Sundown for me. Sundown marathons are tougher in my opinion too for most unless they are night owls for their runs. One would have to contend with the natural need for sleep in those hours. I didn’t really suffer this time because I managed to tune out this mentally somehow. I was just focused on my ballpark average pace for the distance done at some milestones – 10, 21, 30, 35 km.
As I ran towards the finishing point, there were three things I noticed. There was almost nobody. It was raining. It was so quiet. I believe it was around 6.30 am then. As I walked towards the tent, I was given the finisher tee, a banana, a bottle of water and can of Pocari Sweat by the volunteers. I walked further up to get the finisher medal and confirmed it was the right distance with the smiling volunteer. And then walked on.
And the race village buzz that I saw on arrival, had gone. Of course, mainly due to the rain, I suspect. Well, it would be expecting too much, I guess, if I think organizers would arrange a welcome party ! But perhaps if event organizers want to make a difference, they could consider being there even for the last finisher at cutoff. Still, as usual, I finished the drinks and banana as I walked out of F1 pit and made my way home.
Sleep can wait. I wasn’t able to sleep after I reached home nor do I expect to with the adrenaline pumped up after the race. Sleep only came in the night but I fell into a deep one for the first time in many weeks. And then woke up at 5 am and went for a walk and reflecting on last night’s marathon.
Positives of the event: Race Pack Collection, Content, the Expo. The attractive design of the singlet, the medal and the tee, the race village concept (at least when there were things happening – movie screening, football race and food). The distance marker was accurate by my Garmin. The public results were available on Monday but the FB officially announced the links on Tuesday – this was fairly fast still.
Positives of this race for me: a trial on toughness, physical and mental. I would need to be better prepared with the nutrition or energy supplement if I intend to achieve a Personal Best on a marathon distance and beyond. Counting on the event’s organizers may not be adequate. I love rain but I cannot run well with wet socks and shoes so the last 8 km was just about right distance.
As for negatives, I don’t need to dwell on them in this blog. Still, I would probably take part next year, hoping the organizers learned and improved on the failure points.
So for me, it has been a fulfilling two months’ of events. I’ve yet to complete the writeup for one of April’s event but should be doing soon before the next race comes. And this run was also dedicated in memory of a friend who had passed away due to cancer and to continue the cause to fight against cancer. Run Free. Run Happy. Run Safe.