For the first time ever, I was given the privilege of joining the elite pen for a marathon. I was also able to deposit my personal beverages at 8 different stations (every 5km) along the race route. Surely, I am no elite so I am very thankful and honoured that the SAA and Spectrum Worldwide have extended the privileges (which are usually given to overseas elite runners) to me and other local winners of SCMS 2012.
A day before race day, I headed down to Conrad Hotel with Jackie to collect my race bib per instructed. Not much information was given prior to this other than I was suppose to pick up my race bib and deposit my bottles at the hotel on 30 Nov. I collected my own empty bottles and brought along my own masking tape and scissors.
As I have no personal beverages to speak of i.e mixture of water with electrolytes or powder in precise ratio, I settled for some Gatorade which I purchased beforehand and some mineral water I got from the crew.
Being my first time depositing personal beverages, I have no idea what to expect at all. I decided that it would be the best to carry all 5 packets of gels with me rather than sticking them to the bottles and fear missing any of them out along the way. I did however, attached a packet of gel to two mineral water bottles for 20km and 30km, just in case if any of my gels dropped, kiasu me still have back up. The rest of the 6 bottles were either mineral water or Gatorade in my favourite lime flavour.
1 Dec 2013 – Race day
My younger brother gave me and Jackie a lift to the race venue at wee hours. We arrived closed to 3:45am, which was slightly too late this time as we failed to anticipate the crowd. We took some time to queue to deposit our baggage. After that was done, we went around looking for toilets. But all were taken and had long queues. As we saw more and more runners streaming into the pens, we decided to just get into the pen first before it got way too crowded to squeeze to the front. Happy to see some familiar faces and exchanged greetings with everyone as we made our way as close as possible to the start line. Right at the front, we saw Baldwin (3:45hr pacer), Derek, Andy, Sky all sitting together, waiting patiently for the race to start. It was slightly less than 30 mins to 5am and there were already many participants inside the pen.
I noticed there was a portable loo right next to the start line, and I quickly scrambled out of the sub 4 pen to use the toilet. Grateful for the “elite” bid which allowed me to use the toilet 15 minutes before the flag off. A couple of female runners were also queuing for the loo. They all looked so serious. I hung around at the side for a while and entered the pen again this time with Anne. Angie Tan, 2nd runner-up from last year, joined us not long after.
As the clock crept closer to 5am, it was an exciting wait for the flag-off. The emcee mentioned about a 10 sec silence before the horn will blow. So it was a surprise for all of us when the horn was sounded with no countdown. Was that the signal to start? I hesitated a bit not daring to move in case it was a false start.
Then the elite runners shot off and taking that as the cue, everyone in the first pen followed suit. Strangely, other than the runners in the first pen which consists of the elite category and Ekiden runners, the rest of the runners did not start the race together. I glanced behind and realised they were still at the same starting point. Mok Ying Ren who was just jogging alongside kept looking back, possibly waiting for the rest to catch up and run together.
Certain that Jackie would be able to catch up with me, sooner or later, I ran on, following Angie Tan. I thought I was starting too fast as I could see Anne ahead. I decided to slow down a little while trying to make sure I wasn’t too far away from Angie too. A while later as I approached the underground tunnel, more and more runners, Wenlong, Derek, Mok, Alex, Ghim Koon ran past me. Cheered for the speedy runners as I eased into 4:40″/km pace. Seemed like Angie was also doing about the same pace as we ran alongside each other. I was glad to have her company as there are no other female runners (due to different start time) around us.
About 2 km into the race, I was surprised when I saw Rachel ran past me. She must have started at an amazing fast pace considering that the runners were held up by 50 seconds. I resisted the urge to give chase as it was still early into the race. I just hope that I would be able to catch up with her eventually. Shortly after, I saw Andy Neo ran past me too.
At 5km, I kept to the left to grab my bottle of water from the elite table. Pour some water over my head to cool myself down. By then, Angie has dropped back and I could no longer hear her from behind. Time checked on my Garmin, about 23 min, right on target.
As it was already 5km into the race, I was wondering where was Jackie. He should have caught up with me by now as his target pace was somewhat the same, if not faster. I continued running, turning into the dark F1 track and out onto Nicoll Highway where I picked up my 2nd bottle containing Gatorade from the elite table. Time check at 10km: 23 min plus. I had slowed down a bit and my average pace is now 4:37″/km. There was still no sign of Jackie. It was only until about 12km when I spotted Jackie behind as I turned into the east coast park. It did not take him long to catch up and soon I was running together with him and a few other guys in a pack. Knowing I was slipping away from my target pace, I tried to keep close to them and pushed myself to hang on to the pace.
As I ran on, I began to feel some tightness in my shoes especially my right foot. My right toe seemed to smash against the toe box every time I put my foot forward. Ouch, not again. Previously when this happened during Newton Challenge towards the end of the race, I thought it was because I have tied my shoelaces too tightly. So for this race, I have intentionally skipped the first set of shoelaces holes to relieve the tightness in front. Seems like this method did not help. I really need a half a size bigger pair of shoes for this model.
I continued running, trying to stay focus and not think too much of the tightness. At 15 km, I grabbed my bottle of water and pour the water over my head to cool myself down. The last 5km has took me more than 24 mins. Average pace became 4:40″/km. I tried to run faster to keep up with the pack. At about 18km, I was gradually slipping away from the pack and I told myself to just try to maintain my current pace and let them go. I was already panting and they were too fast for me. Took my 2nd pack of gel as I approached the next water station. The sky was gradually lightening up. Saw a few speedy runners like Wen Long already on the other side of the road. Soon, I arrived at the 20km elite table again and I grabbed my bottle of Gatorade to hydrate myself. As the routes before and after u-turn were parallel to each other, it was easy to spot and cheered for the runners who were on the other side. Spotted Andy first and also Poon Zili (clad in his Captain America costume). Some time later, also saw and cheered for Rachel who was going strong and fast. She was currently in the 2nd place for the female category. Anne, of course was no where in sight. Not long after, Jackie came running past. Knowing I was approaching the u-turn, I tried to speed up and hope I can get my wind back at the second half. My time at 21km distance marker was about 1hr 38min plus. I was more than 2 mins behind my target.
I ran on and was surprised to see Morgan. He has started very fast and was way ahead initially. He accompanied me to run for a while but I guess his fast start has drained him and he dropped behind shortly. On the other side of the road, I could see many more familiar faces. Chia from Safra Jurong gave me a thumb up sign when he saw me. Spotted Mok Ying Rong running with a couple of guys, looking very focused. I know it was a matter of time before she would catch up with me. I pressed on, hoping I could delay this from happening as long as possible. Exchanged cheers with other female runners, Jenny, Kaifen, Jamie, Zhilei. Daniel was still looking fresh and strong when he shouted for me too. Encouraged by all the cheers and greetings, I pressed on to run a tab faster, targeting to catch up with Rachel ahead and at the same time hoping Ying Rong will not catch up with me.
As I approached the lagoon at 25km mark, I was beginning to feel the fatigue. I was looking forward to have my Gatorade to hydrate myself. From far, I noticed there was only one bottle left standing on the women’s elite table. As I approached the table, to my dismay, it was not my bottle but bib no. 61’s. She had probably took my bottle by mistake. Not sure what to do with her bottle, I placed the bottle back to the table and continue my run. A few metres away, I spotted my bottle labelled in my bib no lying on the grass with some Gatorade left inside. =( My average pace at 25km mark dropped to about 4:42″/km.
I ran on, telling myself to just keep moving and not think too much about my pace. At about 27km, I sensed Ying Rong behind me. She picked up her pace and soon overtook me. It was then I realised that she has pulled away from the guys and was now running alone. I tried to keep her in sight, but she was running at a much faster pace than I was. Soon, she was way ahead. Heard someone shouted my name. I think it was Gen’s girlfriend, Wenyi and I thought I saw Gen running with her too. But I was in a daze and too tired to return the greeting.
I quickly lost sight of Ying Rong and many more male runners ran past me too. It was a bit demoralizing to know I was running slower than before and I was in fourth place. Saw Kien Mau pacing a couple of guys. He was very encouraging and also cheered for me when he saw me. Finally, I was approaching the 30km and I knew I had a packet of gel stashed with my bottle of water at this checkpoint. This time round, however, I could not see my bottle on the table at all. And the next water point gotta be more than 3km away. I was running past the table when a volunteer from afar pointed his finger on a styrofoam box placed on the ground.
Not wanting to waste time to turn back and take my bottle and gel, I decided to do without it. I was glad I had decided to carry all my gels with me and not relay on such support as unforeseen circumstances like this could happened. Time check at 30km, about 2hr 21min. Average pace has dropped to 4:43″/km. Finally, I was out of ECP and running towards the Marina Bay golf course. It was a long lonely, dusty stretch and I was glad to see a few runners ahead. From far, I caught a glimpse of Rachel’s back view. She was now running with Poon Zili. I knew then that she had also slowed down considerably. I just hope I could sustain my current pace to catch up with her later.
Joshua ran past me and cheered for me. I was surprised to see him as I have expected him to be running with Ying Rong. But Joshua was still strong and soon he disappeared from sight. It seemed like an eternity when I finally reached Gardens By the Bay. The change of the scenery was a welcoming sight. But never would I expect to see Jackie at this point too. Looks like the race did not work out for him too. He was walking when I saw him and he started running with me when I caught up with him. Not far ahead, I could see Rachel more clearly now. Her husband was no longer running with her. Jackie and I ran on at a moving pace of about 5min/km. Knowing that Rachel was just a bit more ahead and I might had a chance for a podium finish after all, I pressed on to try my best to catch up. As Jackie and I ran towards the Marina Barrage, I got a bit more excited that I was getting closer to Rachel and started running a bit faster. Jackie fell back again and I could no longer hear him behind. Crossed the bridge to Marina Barrage and I was happy to see Stella. She was there to cheer for safra runners and friends. Safra Jurong had set up a support point at the barrage and I was looking forward to receiving a sng pao from them.
Melvin’s wife, Eileen saw me and even took a scissors to cut open a sng pao for me. Then she jogged a little to catch up with me to pass me the sng pao. Very very touched by the good support. Refreshed by the packet of sng pao, I quickly caught up with Rachel. She told me that she has started too fast in the beginning of the race, thinking that we were all ahead. After exchanging some encouragements for each other, I ran on, determined to keep moving and finished the run.
Though I was running much slower than before, I was glad to be back in 3rd placing. Still I knew it was too early to get too excited. I still have have about 7km to go and I could already feel the first sign of cramps on my calves. I had to slow down a little to prevent the cramps from setting in.
Finally, I reached the hydration point at 37km mark, just before where runners ran up the ECP expressway. I took my last packet of gel and ran on. The target of 3hr 15mins was way out of reach. It’s not quite possible to run under 3hr 20mins either at the rate I was going. However, a sub 3hrs 25mins did seem quite possible judging by my average pace which has dropped significantly to 4:48″/km.
Just a moment ago, I was still feeling confident about completing the marathon under 3hr 25min. However, as I trudged up ECP, I was beginning to doubt myself. The long incline up ECP was tougher than I imagined. The 1km alone had taken me 5mins 40sec and the cramps seems to be setting in quickly. I slowed to a jog to avoid aggravating the cramps, telling myself as long as I keep moving, I would be fine. The next 1 km of incline took me more than 6mins. Still, I was glad I did not stop. At about 39km mark, it was a gentle down slope. I jogged gingerly, worried that any sudden movement or jerk would trigger the cramps. At the rate I was going, it wasn’t a surprise when Rachel caught up with me. She encouraged me to finish the run and I could rest thereafter. I told her about my cramps and asked her to run ahead. I continued jogging in agony, hoping that the marathon would end soon. It took me more than 7mins for that km alone.
I was glad to finally reach the 40km hydration point. This sort of give me a reason or excuse to stop and walk. I took my time to drink the water and looked out for the elite table for my bottle of Gatorade. No one was manning the table anymore. Guess I was too slow and all volunteers had left to finish some other tasks. Once again, I did not see my bottle on the table so I looked around for a styrofoam box and spotted it on the pavement. Went up onto the curb to retrieve my bottle. I drank thirstily and continued walking as the pain got more unbearable for a decent jog.
Saw Kaifen running strong on the right hand side of the road. She was gone before I had a chance to shout out to her. Which means now I’m in the 5th position. That got me a little anxious as I was certain that there would be more people catching up. I attempted to run again. But I have not even run more than 5 steps when the cramps hit me again and I had to stop right in the middle to balance myself and reached out to hold the barricades at the side. A kind lady stopped and asked if I needed help. Finally, my cramps subsided and I resume walking again. A moment later, I recognised Baoying from her back view running strongly ahead. Shortly, I saw Jasmine Goh running past too. With so many female runners running past in the crowd, some whom I spot and some probably I might have missed, I would be happy if I could finish inside top 10 at the rate I was going.
I finally reached the 41km mark and I told myself to just pushed through the last km. I began jogging up the Raffles Avenue. I was at the bottom of the slope when I spotted Jackie’s back view. He was power walking up the slope. I must have missed him in the crowd earlier on. Anyway, seeing him got me really excited and I tried to jog a little faster to catch up. Shouted out to him and he turned around to wait for me. We started jogging together and turned into Esplanade Drive. It was super crowded and we had to weave in and out (albeit at a slower pace) to try our best to make up for the lost time.
As we got closer to the finishing line, we saw Diana with her children standing along the road cheering for participants. We shouted out to her before we ran on to finish the last stretch of the race. It was a bit of chaos towards the end though as there were no barricade separating the 10km runners and full marathon runners. We could only rely on the clock ahead to decide which lane to run in.
Knowing this was where we will get a finishing pic, we hold our hands, put on our best smile and crossed the finishing line together. Yay, the worst is over! We have finished the race!
Though I was disappointed that I finished nowhere near my target time and even dropped a few placings in the end, I was glad that I have persevered and finished the Singapore marathon in 3hr 36min 35 sec under the circumstances. Fortunately, I also managed to finished 6th position under Singapore Women category. No doubt it’s a far cry from 2nd place last year but I did my best and I got nothing to lose. Every race is a new and learning experience. The race did not work out for me this time and it could be due to many factors which I am still trying to figure it out. It also means that I still got much to learn about running marathons. Not just in training, but also in terms of nutrition and hydration, pacing and racing strategy.
Hopefully, for the next race I will be more well-prepared and ready. Physically and mentally.