I was down with flu and fever a week before the KL Marathon and was somewhat upset that I was not able to do my last week of training as planned. Was given 2 days MC on Monday and Tuesday. Fortunately, I felt much better on Wednesday and managed to cover a 3x3km run at a decent pace in the evening. Rest on Thursday due to a dinner appointment. And to make myself feel better for the low mileage covered during the final wk, I went for a 15 mins jog around my neighbourhood on Friday morning.
On Friday night, the group of us from Safra: Jackie, Weisian, Zhilei, David, Bear, Freddy, Jiahui, Gis, Elston, Henry, Andy and myself took an overnight coach to KL. Only Jackie, Henry and I were doing the full marathon. Most of them signed up for half marathon while Gis and Jiahui were doing 10km. We reached KL very early on Saturday morning and went for breakfast before checking into the hotel. Arranged to meet up with Laichee and Gen in the afternoon to collect our race kits at the race expo together. Nothing much at the expo though a few of us bought some PowerBar energy bars (choco peanut butter flavoured pre-race snack which actually taste quite good). Dinner was zi-char at the same restaurant which Jurong Safra had arranged for us last year.
Fast forward to race day, 24 June 2012.
3.30 am. Jackie and I met up with Laichee at the hotel reception area. We strolled to Detaran Merdeka where we deposited our bags and visited the toilets before walking towards the starting line. Jackie entered the pen early to begin his warm-up. I decided to queue for toilet again (nervous perhaps) and realised that most of the portable toilets located near the start point were still locked. It was only until 4.10 am, someone came along unlocking all the toilets. Afraid that the pen would get more crowded, I entered quickly after using the toilet and started jogging to the front. I squeezed my way through to look for Jackie. He was with Gen and they were right at the front as expected. Smiled at Sumiko who was standing just right behind us. Ray’s wife, Yvonne appeared suddenly beside me and we chatted while waiting for the race to start.
The horn sounded slightly after 4.30am. Elite runners from Kenya and Ethiopia disappeared from sight immediately. Yvonne shot off and runners behind zoomed past me. I controlled my pace to avoid going too fast at the start. My target was to try 5 min/km pace for this marathon, and hopefully finished between 3hr 30min and 3hr 35min (Boston qualifying time). There was a 3:30 pacer with a huge blue balloon and there was quite a number of runners following him. As he was about a few hundred metres ahead, and I was already running faster than my intended 5min/km pace, I decided to just maintain my pace and keep him in sight.
A few kilometres later, Ben Swee, looking very relaxed, ran past and we chatted briefly for a while before he sped up again. It was then I noticed his hot pink compression socks. Very striking! Continued my run at an average pace of 4:57”/km. At about 5km mark, I finally saw Yvonne ahead. She seemed to be slowing down. I sped up a little to catch up with her. It was then I overtook a female runner in long tights. Did not realised it was Jasmine Goh (whom I got to know after Sundown Marathon) until she shouted for me from behind. As we were running at about the same pace, we ran side-by-side for a while, slowly catching up with the 3:30hr pacer ahead. It started raining suddenly at a point and for a moment I was worried it would be a repeat of Sundown Marathon. Luckily, the rain ceased after a while. The rain was timely as it cooled me and the surroundings down tremendously. I was feeling excited as I was getting closer and closer to the pacer. After a while, I caught up with Han who was also following the 3:30hr pacer closely. The first 10km went smoothly and was over in less than 50 mins.
I was surprised to see this particular drink station located on an upslope. Here, the runners were split into twos. Those who needed water had to run up the slope to grab a cup. Those who did not need a drink would just continue to run straight on the narrow flat pavement. Saw the slope from a distance and I was still contemplating if I should go up or just continued running straight. My mind told me to run straight to save my energy. But, as I approached the slope, I found myself running up the slope for a cup of water instead. Guess my body knows me better.
Though I was slightly behind the pacer again when I got down from the slope, I caught up with him soon after. I overtook a Malaysian female runner who asked for my position. But, I had no idea at all cos I was pretty sure that were many female runners ahead. 20 km seemed to be over in a flash too. By then, most of the faster runners (including Han) had ran ahead. At 21 km mark along Jalan Bukit Bintang, I checked my time, just under 1hr 44 min. Though I was feeling good, I was still doubtful as to whether I was able to meet my target. After all, the real challenge of the marathon only starts after 30km. I pressed on to continue at average 4:55″km pace.
We ran through the city where all the big shopping malls were. I started to envision the shopping that I could do after the race. By then, there was only another female runner following the pacer. So it was just the three of us running together. I was so close to the blue balloon tugging behind the pacer. A mentally challenging portion of the race cos I was beginning to feel tired, yet I refused to go slower than the female runner and pacer. I kept telling myself to hang on to the pace, at least till the 30km mark. Finally, the female runner could not keep up anymore. And it was just the pacer and I. I wondered if the pacer would talk to me if I attempt to chat with him. He seemed so focused.
Finally, we reached the 30km mark (time check: 2hr 28min) and I received an energy gel which was already cut opened for the runners. I felt energised after taking the gel. I was really enjoying the race. There were also more photographers along the way and I tried to smile at all the cameras I saw. The fatigue I felt previously slowly diminished probably becos I knew I was only 12 km away from the finishing line. Sky was getting brighter by the minute and I decided to take a hammer endurolyte just in case any cramps set in. The capsule was kind of stuck inside my wristband and I took a long time to fish it out. By the time I reached the next water station, I was slowing down to a walk so I could grab a cup of water before I took the endurolyte. A volunteer at the drink station saw me slowing down and encouraged me to continue to run. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw him running a few steps with me just to pass me a cold sponge which I had missed out earlier on. Such helpful crew leaves me a very good impression of the whole organisation.
My pace was still about the same, but I seemed to get further and further away from the pacer. In my attempt to chase the pacer, I caught up with another female runner clad in yellow top. From then on, it was like a competition between the two of us. Every time I overtook her, she would increase her cadence and tried to overtake me. Then, she would slow down till I overtake her again. This continued a few times and I could feel my energy depleting just trying to keep up with her. Though it was exhausting, I was glad to meet her at this point as she has forced me to hang on to my pace when I really felt like slowing down. Finally, I managed to break away from her and I caught up with the pacer again at the 35km mark. However, realising he was going to stop for a toilet break; I decided to run ahead on my own.
Last 7 km to go and I took my last packet of energy gel. I was keeping a look out and mentally preparing myself for the steep hill up the private houses towards the end of the race. This was supposedly the most difficult part of the race. I told myself to focus on maintaining the effort rather than pace as I ran up the hill. There was just a couple of runners ahead of me. My pace dropped significantly here as expected and average pace became 4:57″km. The worst was over soon enough. I was relieved to see a long stretch of down slopes ahead and just let my legs flow. Saw a female Kenyan runner walking down the slope, probably given up aiming for a podium finish.
I arrived at the bottom of the hill at the 39km mark and spotted Sumiko, looking very focused, on the other side of the road. Excited to see a familiar face, I cheered for her to press on while I continued to complete the u-turn. By the time, I reached the point where the half marathoners merged with full marathoners; I had lost sight of Sumiko. With a time of 3hr 18 min and about 2km more to go, I knew I should be able to complete my marathon under 3:30 hrs as long as I maintained my pace and nothing horrible cropped up. I could feel my heart beating fast in excitement as I got closer and closer to the finishing line. The question now was how much more minutes could I shave from my last pb (3hr 42min) achieved at Sundown Marathon . I could hear the crowd cheering hard. Motivated, I increased my speed gradually.
Last few hundred metres to the finishing line. It was then I suddenly caught sight of Sumiko in the crowd again. She was approaching the barricade dividing the full marathon runners and half marathon runners to their respective finishing line. I increased my cadence and ran (my heart and lungs out) after her. The last 200 metres was like a dream and was over in a blink of an eye.
Completed my 10th full marathon (first overseas full marathon) in 3hrs 28mins, coupled with a 8th placing in Women’s open category.=)
A confidence booster marathon that made me believes again. Hard work and training efforts do pay off. Persevere and who knows, you may surprise yourself. I did.