As most of you know, last Sunday morning i participated in my first marathon ever at the Penang Bridge International Marathon and it was quite an experience. All the training sessions i did really paid off as i was prepared for the run. But it wasn't quite what i expected on the actual race day. I guess nothing can prepare you for it until you actually do it.
Did i qualify in time? Did i collect my medal? Well lets save that bit till the end of the post. Let me share with you my overall experience and hopefully it will give everyone (especially those who have never participated in a marathon) a good feel of what to expect. So here goes.
The run was scheduled to kick off at 6am. We stayed in Tanjung Bungah and the starting line was at Queens Bay Mall. So it takes about 15 minutes to get there without any jam. But there is a catch. All the roads leading to Queens Bay Mall were closed because of the race. So the officials told us that we can head down to the ferry terminal and take a shuttle bus from there to the starting point. One of my very good friends who was not participating in the race was sweet enough to drop off me, my wife and one more friend. So we left our hotel room at 4:15am and reached the ferry terminal about 4:40am. Because the bridge was closed, people who wanted to travel to the main land had to depend on the ferry... which caused a jam leading to the the ferry terminal. So we decided to get down and walk to the terminal. The bus left at 5am and we reached Queensbay Mall at about 5:20am. So from there we walked over to Eastin Hotel which was the starting point and then i had to take a small toilet break before the race. The organizers were kind enough to set up 200 or so mobile toilets so i had to use one of them. It was disgusting to mention the least, but i shall spare you the details.
So after that, we walked over the starting line and there was this huge crowd of people. Yup, all the racers had begun to gather around for the race. I joined the huge group of people somewhere in the middle. Did some light stretching and waited for the gun to go off. To be honest, i was a little nervous, as it was my first race. At 6am sharp, they did the shoot off. But the crowd was so huge, it took me a good 2 or 3 minutes just to pass the starting line. I could not run for the first 5 minutes or so, as there were just too many people everywhere. One thing i am glad about, is that despite such a huge crowd, everyone was well behaved. There was no pushing or anything of that sort, despite it being a race. So after about 300 or 400 meters, there were some empty spaces appearing between the crowd so i could finally start jogging. But i had to zig zag as some people were running, some were walking fast, some were walking slow... man, it was crazy.
As the race went on, the crowd thinned out a bit more, so i could finally pick up pace. I ran pretty fast for the first 4KM, overtaking many other runners and i was feeling good. But after about 4KM, i was running out of breath. Maybe i pushed too hard too early, i am not sure. I brought along two 600ml bottles of mineral water with me (one in each hand) as i need lots of water when i run. I could have drank more, but i was worried about having to go again, so i cut down my intake of water... so maybe that caused me to burn out faster. I am not sure. But i am glad i brought it as there were only 2 water stations available. And as you can guess, the queue to get water was huge. I would not have made it with just 2 water stops. Phew.... good thing i brought my own water.
Anyway, after 4KM, i started walking while trying to catch my breath. I kept walking until the 5KM point. I tried to run again after that, but barely lasted 400 or 500 meters before i started walking again. At that moment, my mind started playing tricks on me. I think it was just out of fatigue. I actually started thinking, "gosh.... i don't think i am going to make it." I looked at the clock and 40 minutes had passed already. I really need to pick up my pace. Then i started thinking, "oh screw it, its just a race". So what if i don't make it. Then a little voice inside me said, "its not too late to make a difference". That gave me a bit of motivation. So i ran again but alas, same thing happened. I ran out of gas after about 500 meters. This really started to worry me. At that point, my legs started to get sore as well. I was expecting muscle soreness after 6KM, so it was no surprise. How am i going to run fast now?
50minutes had gone by, still walking. Recovery is slow. I suddenly hear the sound of police on motor bikes. The runners start moving to the side. Then i hear the ambulance... they whiz pass us. Not sure what happened, but someone must have gotten injured. Then i see the sign board that says 3KM to go. That's when i felt a glimmer of hope that i can actually do this. I downed and finished my first bottle of water drank some more from my second bottle. Normally when i do my practice runs, at this point, i would be halfway down my second bottle. But during the race, i had not consumed much water. So maybe this caused my fatigue. Not sure. Anyway, took a few deep breaths and said "Let's Go!" So i started running. And i kept running. Saw the sign that said 2.5KM to go. Alright... lets keep going. The crowd was still everywhere so i still had to weave in an out. 2KM to go. Lets go.... 1.5Km to go. I walked again for a bit till the 1KM mark and then i floored it. i took long strides but at a slower pace. It boosted me past many others. 500 meters to go. There were loads of people on the side cheering all the runners and clapping hands. Not sure if there were cheering for me or not, but it felt good. So i kept going. I saw one guy massaging his feet and all his friends had stopped by his side... apparently he was suffering from leg cramps. More people were clapping. One guy shouted "Come on guys, you're almost there". Wow, kept going and going. Saw the finish line in the distance. I can feel it. More and more people started cheering. YES... passed the finish line. Looked back at the clock, it was blurry and i could only see the minutes, 31. Oh dear. Did i just miss it? According to my time, it was only 7:20am. That means i still have 10 minutes more. So i saw one of the race officials and asked them - "Did i make it?" He said YES. Go over there and collect your medal. Wow... i did it.
So here are the results
10km in 1:19:24. 1 hour, 19 minutes and 24 seconds. qualifying time was 1:30:00. Could have been better, but hey, i made it. For a non runner like me, i am extremely happy with it. There you go... my shiny little medal.
Wifey did better than me. 1:16:44. All my friends who participated made it too. Going back to the hotel was a whole new saga as we tried to jump back on the shuttle bus. Some one told us to go to point A, when we walked all the way there, then someone else said, no, you need to go to point B. When we got to point B, someone else said, NO, you need to go to point C. Ordinarily i wouldn't have minded walking around and round, but after running 10KM, i don't think so. So we finally got fed up and paid a cab to take us back. We took the cab to Equatorial Hotel where one friend had a car and from there, we went for a much earned breakfast. We decided to check out the famous Roti Canai store in Jalan Tansfer. Mmmm... it was really awesome. Went back to the room, had a shower and went to bed. Forgot to mention, i woke up at 2:45am to do "my business" before the race, if you know what i mean. So was dead tired by then.
Would i do this again? Hmmm... i am not sure. To be honest i would have liked my timing to be better, so the competitor in me keeps saying - go for it. But then, my fitness goal is not to be an endurance athlete. I want to gain some serious mass and build some serious lifting strength. Running long distance is kinda going in the opposite direction. So for now, i have decided that i will most probably participate in maybe 1 race a year, just for fun. 21Km, unlikely. 10 KM, yep - once a year maybe. 5KM, bring it on anytime.
Anyone else want to share their experience for the race that day? Would love to hear your story. For now, i am on a serious mission to pound on some mass. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.