With just 8 weeks’ of training and a not too fantastic marathon in early Dec, I was wondering if it is too ambitious for me to target for a personal best time for SCHKM i.e under 3:17 hr. I was also feeling unwell during the festive season in late Dec and my fitness dropped. Thankfully, I recovered fully in early January and was able to put in more effort in my training.
Tuesday was intervals with Jurong Safra. Wednesday was lonely tempo runs, usually around NUS. Time was running out then and to increase my weekly mileage, I stepped up the volume from usual 15km (3 loops of NUS 5km route) to 20km (extend a bit more by running around SP). Thursday was easy runs of about 10km to 13km. Sunday was catered for long runs.
Having trained consistently in January, I could feel myself growing stronger and fitter. Tempo runs felt easier and I find myself running faster each week. Same for long runs. By mid Jan, Jackie and I were running close to 5min/km for our long runs and this small milestone got us very motivated to aim to hit the same pace over and over again for the next few weeks. It was a marked improvement from 5:20-5:30″/km we used to do while training for Singapore marathon. The real confidence booster came 3 weeks before the marathon when we managed to run an average 5min/km pace for our 38km long run. Suddenly, a new PB does not seem so distant anymore. I dare to dream a little further too and set my target at 3hr 15min.
Feb arrived and it was Lunar New Year. Having learned my lesson in Dec, I watched what I ate and avoid overeating during the festive season. Soon, it was time to taper. But just the week before the race, I suddenly felt tired and I struggled through some of my workouts. This was possibly due to the accumulated fatigue over the past few weeks of hard training. Due to the fatigue, I started having cold feet. Suddenly 3:15 seems daunting again. Should I be more conservative and aim for 3:20 instead?
16 Feb 2014. Race Day.
The day started as early as 4.45 am for Jackie and myself. After putting on our “customised” garbage bags to block the chill wind, we left the hotel and proceed to the bag deposit area. Having done a sub 3:30 marathon last year, Jackie got the priority stamp on his bib which allowed him to start in the priority pen with all other sub 3:30 marathoners and invited representatives. The bag deposit area for the priority runners was also closer to our hotel. There was even a warm up area for this group of runners. Saw Alex and Kaifen (Singapore representatives) while on our way to deposit our bags. We chatted with them for a while before I left to enter the race pen first.
At 5.30 am, the organisers flag off the Half Marathon Challenge category. Full marathoners were slowly gathering inside the race pen. I quickly get into the race pen before it gets too crowded. Spotted Sumiko inside the pen and after saying goodbye to Jackie, I waited patiently for the race to start. As more people join us inside the pen, it got warmer and I removed the garbage bag and the extra t-shirt I wore over my running vest.
Time was close to 6:10am. I ate my gel. We were slowly moving forward towards the start line. I was getting a bit anxious as I had difficulty capturing the satellites. Suddenly, there was a commotion in front and we realised that the huge air bag has deflated and was falling apart. This resulted in some delay in the flag off. The event crew was quick enough to rectify this though. Minutes later, the “Start” banner was up again and this brought much cheers from the crowd. Everyone was pumped up for the race, just like the newly inflated banner.
The horn sounded and off we went. As much as I tried to control my pace, I found myself being suck into Sumiko’s and other runners’ pace at sub 4:30″/km pace. At 2nd km, I realised I was going too fast when my split reads 4:22″/km. I hold back while Sumiko went on to chase Kaifen who was ahead of us. Shortly later, I saw Kaifen pulling away from Sumiko and ran ahead. I slowed down a little, keeping a look out for familiar faces on the other side of the road where the half-marathoners were. Spotted Zhilei running with Weisian and Xavier a short while later and I called out to her. I was settling into my race pace which was around 4:35″/km and feeling good. Caught up with Sumiko at an upslope about 4-5km into the race. A distance away, I could see Kaifen ahead running strongly. I ran on, hoping to keep her in sight for as long as possible. Reached the first hydration station and I grabbed the isotonic drink which came in a packet. There was plenty of water too along the long stretch of station too. Runners were able to grab their drinks and ran without stopping. No jam or abrupt stops at all.
While running, at the back of my mind, I was wondering where was Jackie. We have wanted to do somewhat a similar pace, so I thought we should have seen each other by now. Since he started with the priority runners group, my first thought was that he was way ahead. 10 km was over in a flash. I took my gel and checked the time: 46min 22sec. (a tab too fast). We entered Nam Wan tunnel shortly later and Kaifen picked up her pace so quickly that I lost sight of her completely after we got out of the tunnel.
I was approaching the first U-turn at Tsing Ma Bridge. I kept a lookout at the other side of the road where the faster runners would be, hopefully to find Jackie. Spotted Alex Ong and also many more fast runners running together in packs. Still no sight of Jackie after I saw Kaifen. Did I miss him along the way? It might not be possible to see him if he was running with a group. Did my u-turn at 15km mark and we get to enjoy a bit of down slope. On the other side of the road, I saw Sumiko and Trevor Chua. He was still wearing a poncho, probably still feeling cold as the wind was quite chilly on the highway. We cheered for each other and pressed on. Spotted a few other MF runners like Ken, Andrew and Qian yi too.
I was really enjoying the run and was so engrossed that I forgot to take my 2nd packet of gel as planned at 18km mark! I still remembered seeing Alex cruising by for the 2nd time at the other side of the road as I was running towards the 2nd u-turn. He shouted to me, “Go Jieshi! This is easier than Singapore!” Haha! Seemed like the boy who was doing his first overseas debut was also having lots of fun! Encouraged by his enthusiasm, I ran up the incline and and completed the u-turn at the 20km mark. Moments later, I heard Jackie called out to me from the other side of the road. It was then I realised he was all along behind me, not ahead. He must have started at a much slower pace, if not he wouldn’t be a couple of minutes behind me. I was feeling uneasy. Am I going too fast? Or was the run not working out well for him? My worry for him was unfounded; it was just a matter of time before he caught up with me at the second half of the race.
Ran past the big clock positioned at 21.1 km mark. Time check: 1hr 37mins 06 sec. Still within target. So far so good.
I suddenly remembered that I had not taken my 2nd packet of gel. I quickly took one after 22km after doing some calculations. Seem like 4 packets (instead of 5 as planned) were enough to last me for the marathon. I also tried taking the first hammer endurolyte which I kept in a small ziplock bag. However, I was having difficulty opening the ziplock bag with my gloves. Tried taking off my gloves, but they were wet and stick to my hands like glue. It was until 25km, I resorted to tearing the ziplock bag open with my teeth and getting the capsule out from a small opening. Then it was the difficulty of stuffing the ziplock bag into a tiny pocket on my gloves. I probably spent a great deal of time meddling with that while running and I could also feel myself slowing down.
I was feeling tired. More runners were overtaking me now. I wasn’t focused and felt as if I was just going through the motion. Got a shock when I realised my split at 28km read 4:53″/km. And just when I thought I was going to slow down some more, someone came from behind, ran alongside with me and said “jiayou”. It’s Jackie! He has caught up with me. And Kenneth was right beside him. Both were still running strong. I was so happy and relieved to see them. It was like a wake-up call to me when they overtook me. I pressed on and tried to keep up with their pace.
Crossed the 30km mark together with them at 2hr 18 min 23 sec. Jackie and Kenneth were picking up pace. I tried my best to keep up with them. However, when I noticed my split read sub 4:30″/km, I decided it was time to let them go and hopefully I could still keep them within my sight. Knowing that they were both ahead of me and running strongly, I dare not slacken too. Soon, I arrived at the last tunnel of the race, the Western Harbour Tunnel. I lost the satellite once I entered the tunnel and had no idea how fast or slow I was running. My only consolation was I could still see Jackie and Kenneth ahead, albeit smaller figures now. I lost sight of both of them completely when I came out of the tunnel. We were now on Hong Kong island and It was less than 7km to the finishing point. Exhausted but excited that I was going to complete the race soon, I took my last packet of gel and pressed on.
At about 39km, I could see Kaifen ahead again! Motivated to see a familiar face, I tried to increase my pace to close up the gap. There was one final short but very steep slope at the 40km mark. I ran up as quickly as my tired legs could carry me.
One last turn and we arrived at Causeway Bay. There were lots of supporters along the road cheering wildly for all the runners. I sped up again and finally caught up with Kaifen at 41km. As I ran alongside with her, I cheered, “Jiayou, Kaifen! One last km to go only!” She did not need a second encouragement. She picked up her pace immediately and in unison, we increased our cadence and raced each other to the finishing line.
Green and blue carpet greeted us when we turned into Victoria Park. The finishing line was a welcoming sight. As precious seconds ticked away, I gave one last surge over the last stretch and completed the marathon in 3hrs 14mins 19 sec (nett time). A personal best! And my very first sub 3:15 hr marathon! *Elated*
Gave Kaifen a hug at the finishing line. I was really happy and grateful to have her pushed me to run so hard over the last stretch. She, too achieved a new personal best time. Jackie and Kenneth, both whom I lost sight of after the last tunnel, finished the race with an awesome time of 3hr 13mins ++. =)