Newton Challenge 32km

My target for this race was to attempt 4:35-4:37″/km pace. I wasn’t too sure if I was up to it but I guess if I never try, I would never know. It’s daunting but I knew if I succeed, it is certainly going to be a confidence booster for my marathon in 6 weeks’ time.

Jackie and I reached ECP early at about 4.15am as we were worried about the limited car park lots at the B1 carpark. There were already many runners getting ready at the race venue over at Big Splash. We quickly changed into our shoes, visited the toilets closer to the start line and entered the race pen at about 5am. While waiting, I did some light stretching and scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Speedy Japanese lady veteran, Itsuko Tanaka was there. Smiled and we chatted briefly. I also recognised Jenny Huang, Sundown Ultra Marathon Champion who was just standing slightly behind me. She looked very focused. Zhilei, Weisian, Andy, Ray were slightly behind on our left side. Joe entered the pen from the right a few minutes before the flag off.

At close to 5.30am, Newton Challenge pacers with colourful balloons arrived for photo-taking sessions at the start line. Local elite runners arrived too, ready to start their average 4:15″/km run.

Soon, the race started. And to everyone’s surprise, other than a few competitive runners who shot off in lighting speed,  the “supposedly” front pack led by Mok started at an unusually “slow” pace of 4:40″/km.  And because Mok and his group were running at 4:40″/km pace, I was able to tag along with them for a while. Moments later, I noticed Jenny Huang picking up her speed and running ahead. I resisted the urge to chase after her since the pace was just right for a start.

I ran alongside with Ronnie who had planned to do a 18km run at about my race pace.  We picked up our pace gradually and broke away from the pack behind. I could see Jackie ahead, slowly catching up with Jenny and finally overtaking her. Andy Neo was nowhere in sight.

Ronnie and I settled into a comfortable pace of about 4:33″/km after about 5km. It was faster than my target pace, but I was still feeling good and I wanted to keep Jenny, (who was currently leading) in sight. Passed the 6km mark, I could sense that she was slowing down and eventually Ronnie and I overtook her. However, it was still very early into the race. I tell myself not to get too excited and to remain focus on my pace.

At about 7-8km mark, I could hear chatters behind me. Mok’s group has caught up and they were calling out to Ronnie from behind to join them. It was like a walk in the park for them! They must be aiming for a super negative split! I kept left and let them passed me, better not to be drawn into their pace if I wish to complete my run in one piece.

Saw the faster runners, while on my way to the first u-turn towards nsrcc. Derek Li, who sped off so fast before I realised it was him. Andy Neo, still looking strong, and of course Jackie who waved and we cheered for each other. Did my u-turn at the 9km and not long after I spotted Kenneth on the other side. I shouted out to him to run together. Did a time check, and I realised that my pace has dropped to average 4:35″/km. Ronnie, on the other hand, was going strong and ran ahead with a tall Caucasian guy.  I tried my best to keep him in sight.

Shortly after, I could sense Kenneth behind me and he was soon running alongside with me. Cheered for and also received many encouragements from friends who were on the other side along the way. Spotted Jackie still going strong for the 2nd time when I was approaching the next u-turn to start my 2nd loop. The first loop (first 16km) was over in a flash. However, by then I realised my average pace has already dropped to 4:36″/km. With just one more loop to complete the race, I tried to increase my pace. The sun was inching up and the initially dark blue sky was gradually getting brighter. As Kenneth and I approached the lagoon, there were more runners, mainly 18km participants who were flagged off at 6:15am. It was quite crowded at the hydration points and it was getting more difficult to grab cups of water smoothly while on the run. Fortunately, other than the hydration points, my run wasn’t much affected by the crowd, thanks to the cyclist who was riding alongside with us and clearing the path for us. Kenneth who was always a step ahead, watched out for me and alerted runners to keep left too. (Lucky me!) Time checked at 21km marker: just under 1hr 36min. (Perfect!)

Soon, we were approaching nsrcc again. Once again on the other side, I could see some speedy runners for the third time. Mok and his group were no longer chatting but chasing the negative split they had set out to do at the start. I was happy to see Jackie doing well and going faster than his targeted pace. We cheered for each other as we ran past. Did my u-turn and I kept a lookout for friends on the other side too. At the same time, also took the chance to check out who were catching up. Jenny was still 2nd, though Zhilei seemed to be getting closer and still going strong. Jasmine Goh, Jamie Koh and Itsuko were slightly behind. Spotted few more Safra friends, Trevor, Joe, Andy, Ray etc, all running strong and well.

I pressed on, chasing after Kenneth. I was beginning to feel tired but I was determined to try my best to see if I could lower my average pace to 4:35″/km. Soon, we reached the lagoon. I was getting more excited as it was less than 5km to the finishing line. However, I was beginning to feel the heat and I was finding it more difficult to keep up with my pace. Kenneth on the other hand, was running faster and faster. Finally, we were just 2km from the finishing line. I told Kenneth to ran ahead and not wait for me.

Almost to the big splash, I saw Sue Corser (last year’s champion) with Lexus standing at the side. They cheered for me and even gave me a high five when I ran past. That really made me feel quite high! Many 18km runners were also finishing their race and it was kind of crowded towards the finishing line. Jackie and Andy who have already finished the race, were standing outside the barricade, a few metres from the finishing line, cheering for me . The crew who were present held the finishing tape when they saw me (or rather the cyclist) approaching. With last year’s not-so-pleasant finish, I decided not to dash through this time but to smile and break the tape more gracefully. haha!

Completed the 32km in 2:25:36 coupled with a first position. My very first “First” for an open road race. Absolutely delighted that I achieved my target average pace of 4:35″/km too!

Zhilei came in 2nd! She has improved lots!

Zhilei came in 2nd! She has improved much! Happy for her! 

Jackie ran well too! Exceeded his expectation and finished under 2:20hr for his 32km. =)

Jackie ran well too! Exceeded his expectation and finished under 2:20hr for his 32km. =)

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