I was hesitant to sign up for SCHKM at first for two reasons: (1) I just completed the Singapore Marathon in early Dec last year; (2) I have also signed up for Tokyo marathon which is on 22 Feb 2015 (which means 4 weeks after SCHKM). Yes, that sums up to 3 marathons in 3 months! Something which I have never thought I would have attempt if you ask me a year ago. But I guess, I am not getting any younger. If not now, then when?
The Training Phase
Some may feel it is a tab too soon to race in another marathon after SCMS. I thought so too but took the plunge anyway. Somehow, the fact that I only have 7 weeks to prepare for the marathon made me treasure my time and training sessions more than ever. The shorter training period made the training phase more bearable too. I find myself putting in my best effort during the training because time is running out and I have to make the most of every training session. Learning from past experience, I also reminded myself to stay positive and happy during training, and not to beat myself up if I had a bad workout, or if I did not clock enough mileage. Undertrain is better than overtrain. So, despite failing to meet my target weekly mileage of 80km in what was supposed to be my peak week, I was not too upset about it. (after all 79.3km was pretty close to 80km =p). I simply have to believe that the hard work and effort put into each training session would be good enough to pull me through on race day.
Jackie and I arrived in Hong Kong on Friday morning, two days before race day. We spend most of our time on Friday and Saturday eating, walking around, shopping, keeping our legs active and made sure we hydrate ourselves with isotonic drinks. We had about 5-6 hours’ of sleep on the night before the marathon. I was hoping to get at least 8hrs of rest, but we got carried away with shopping and spent a longer time than expected preparing for our race gears the night before.Still, it was a quality sleep and I woke up feeling relaxed and fresh.
Jackie and I woke up at 4.15am in the morning to get ready for the race. Breakfast was a chocolate croissant which we bought from Marks & Spencer the night before and a can of warm coffee which we got from 7-11 while we were on our way to Granville Road in the morning. Visited the loo and deposited our baggage at my allocated van. It was not as cold as last year, so I decided to do away with my arm sleeves. There was no need for gloves at all. I also took off an old T-shirt which I was wearing to keep myself warm, leaving only my poncho over my race attire which were just my Asics running vest and shorts. As Jackie did not have a priority start this time round (standards for men raises to sub 3hr for the priority start this year compared to 3:30hr last year), he has to made his way quickly to the start pen, which was already quite crowded by 5:40am. I was thankful to be given a priority entry (standards for women priority start is sub 3:30hr) as it saved me a lot of hassle.
After a short warm up jog up and down Granville Road and some dynamic stretching, I entered the priority start pen at the Nathan Road when I see more and more runners with a red stamp on their bibs filling the pen. In front of us was the elites’ pen, including overseas invited runners. They had a gold stamp on their race bibs. The time crept closer to 6am, the working crew who were holding back the general public pen slowly marched forward till they finally let go of their hands and allow the runners to merge with us. We were all pushed to the front as well, merging with the elites runners. It was about 6am. Feeling warm now that all participants are all huddled, I removed my poncho and took a packet of gel while waiting patiently for the flag-off. The emcee shared with us the temperature of the day, which was about 17 degree Celsius. Humidity was on the high side at 80 over percent.
“Ten..nine..eight..” the countdown began. I checked my Garmin for the last time to see that it has not lost the satellite. “Three.. two.. one..Beeeep” The race is on! Upon hearing the horn, the front pack shot off in lightning speed. Runners from behind also started fast, and many dashed past me in a flash. Adrenaline pumping, I ran on, following the runners ahead, running at 4:27″/km pace for the first km. There was a road divider separating the runners into two groups right from the start. Out of a corner of my eye, I saw a runner stumbled forward and fell onto the ground. Thankfully, he did not suffer from any injury, he was up again and continue running.
Three kilometers later we were on West Kowloon Highway. It was then I realised that there was more runners ahead than I thought. There was a long train of runners ahead and I could not even see where this train ended. From this part onwards, it was a gradual uphill. We could see the half marathoners who were flagged off at 5.30am on the other side of the road too. I was feeling ok, but as much as I would like to go faster, I could not seem to increase my pace comfortably. At about 5km mark, my average pace was hovering at about 4:28″/km. I got a little worried because I have yet to get into the “zone” and I could feel my breathing got heavier when I ran up the hills. I decided to just maintain my pace until I reach the 10km mark and hopefully be able to speed up thereafter. It was getting warm and I was grateful for the wet sponges provided at all the water stations. I almost missed grabbing one sponge and a kind runner from behind passed me one. It happened so smoothly and quickly; almost like passing a baton that I forgot to thank him.
Time check at 10km: 44:50 min.
Not too bad though I was hoping I could do 44mins for my first 10km. Nevertheless, I was pleased that I was finally getting the rhythm and running more efficiently. The downhill just before the 10km was a good breather. A few kilometers later, I could see the elite pack consisting mainly of Kenyan and Ethiopian male runners flying past on the other side, followed by another pack of elite female runners few minutes later.
I wonder how was Jackie doing. He was probably behind me as he has intention to start at a much slower pace. I was also keeping a lookout for fellow Asics team mates, Rachel and Kaifen, wondering where they were too Soon, I find myself running on Tsing Ma Bridge (青马大桥) and I get to see the faster runners on the other side of the road. Caught sight of Ramesh, Singapore representative. Not too long after, saw Rachel running strong. Her husband, clad in Captain America costume was a few seconds behind her. Gosh! They were really fast! I estimate that they were at least 1km ahead.
Knowing the u-turn point at 15km mark was near, I pressed on. I was surprised to see Thow Wee ahead. Caught up with him and chatted a bit with him. He encouraged me to run ahead.
After the u-turn, I kept a lookout of the runners on the other side of the road for familiar faces. Saw Jackie not long after and we cheered for each other. He was not as far behind as I thought after all! I know it would be just a matter of time before he caught up with me. I increased my pace unconsciously, looking forward to the next turning point at 20km mark. Spotted a few more familiar faces along the way, Kaifen, Peyling, Sebastian from NB. Heard someone shouted my name but I did not manage to see who it was.
Getting into the zone
There was a right angel left turn as I cruised downhill to North West Tsing Yi Interchange. Somewhere along this route toward the turning point on Ting Kau Bridge (汀九桥), I found myself relaxing and beginning to enjoy the run. Jackie was catching up. He was just a few seconds behind me after I u-turn at the 20km mark. Am I slowing down? I tried to speed up a little. Crossed the 21.1km marker and glanced at the clock placed beside the marker, which read 1:33:48. “1hr 34 min for the first half, can I do an even split and finish under 3:08?” My mind raced.
Jackie soon caught up with me again and we ran alongside each other for a while. I was glad to have his company as I always have the tendency to slow down after the half way mark. It was long stretch of downhill and a couple of uphill from 20km onwards. We were definitely on runners’ high, running faster at sub 4:25’/km pace at certain stretches and my fastest split recorded here was 4:15″/km. Jackie was on fire and soon was pulling away from me. I dare not keep chase and was contented with the pace that I hope I could sustain throughout the race.
Fatigue set in
However, by 28km, I was fading away when I approached yet another slope. My running pace dropped to 4:35″/km as I pushed myself up the hill. “What goes up must come down.” I chanted the mantra to myself. By then Jackie, who was stronger at tackling hills, was about fifty meters ahead of me but still within sight.
Passed the 30km distance marker and checked my time: 2:13:22. Am I still on target for 3:08? I have no idea. By then, fatigue was attacking me in waves and I was too drained to work out any calculation. I only know I have 12km to go and less than 1 hr to finish the marathon to get myself a PB.
It was mostly flat for the next three km. I pressed on, hoping to close the gap between myself and Jackie. I was happy to finally see the entrance to the Western Harbour tunnel leading to Causeway Bay. My Garmin lost the satellite a few seconds after I entered the tunnel. It was a long stretch and I could see many runners ahead. I ran purely based on feel, not knowing my pace. By 35km, I could sense that Jackie was slowing down because I was closing up on him. “7km more to go, come on!” I tried to think positive. Soon, I was approaching the exit. The light at the end of the tunnel never feel so welcoming before. Suddenly, Jackie who was just a few meters ahead of me stopped and started walking. Oh no! Did he pick up his pace too fast earlier on? I hope he would feel better and start running soon. I gave him a pat on his back from behind as I ran past. Too exhausted to exchange any words after conquering the hilly terrain, all I could mustered was a eye contact which I hope it conveyed Jiayou for him.
The challenging terrains
Despite running the same route as last year, I was totally unprepared for the undulating terrains when I came out of the tunnel. I did not remember this part of the route being so hilly. Little did I expect myself to be huffing and puffing as I ran on the Connaught Road West Flyover. It seemed much easier last year, probably because I was chasing after Jackie and Kenneth right after I came out of the tunnel.
From this point onwards, I was running alone most of the time. The only motivation was that the end point was near and there were now more photographers taking photos and supporters cheering for participants along the roadside. My Garmin did not recalculate the distance even thought it captured the satellite after I came out of the tunnel. Hence, my average pace shown on the Garmin became 4:40″/km. Distance was also not accurate anymore. I kept running, looking forward to hit the streets at Causeway Bay.
Past the 40km mark and I saw a familiar figure in red vest ahead. It was Rachel! I hurried along, hoping to close up the gap. It took a while for me to finally catch up with her and we cheered for each other. I was less than 2km away from finishing point and was feeling excited and anxious all at once because I realised I was very close to getting a personal best.
I could see the 41km mark in a distance on the top of one last hill. I psych myself up to prepare for the steep ascent. Thankfully it was a short one. I tried to catch my breath as I cruised down the slope. There was no chance for a 3:08 finish but there was still hope for a sub 3:10 if all worked out.
I pounded through the streets at Causeway Bay, soaking in the race atmosphere and running as fast as my legs could carry me. I was getting more anxious by the minute. The organiser had changed the last one km of the route this year. Where was Victoria Park? Where was the prominent green carpet leading to the finishing line?
Ah.. there it was! I took a glance at the clock ahead the moment I stepped onto the green carpet. The clock was already counting at 3:09:xx. I had less than a minute to finish the marathon in under 3:10!
With no time to lose, I made my final sprint towards the finishing line, just on the dot too with a gun time of 3:09:59. Mardiah from SAA managed to take a nice finishing shot of me at the end. =)
So yes, I did it! Completed the SCHKM in 3:09:57 (nett time). Finally a sub 3:10 marathon to my name! A new personal best, shaving about 1min plus from the 3hr 11 min achieved at GCAM last July. =D
Up next, Tokyo Marathon in 4 weeks’ time!