Seoul 10 km Challenge

I received an invitation from Pocari Sweat Singapore last November to participate in the Seoul Marathon. There was a change in plan however, after I unexpectedly qualified for Rio Olympics’ women marathon.

As I do not have a coach, SAA stepped in to appoint Mr Steven Quek to be my coach. His first advice was that there is no need for me to do another marathon from now until the Olympics. This is because I have just completed SCMS in Dec 15 and if I were to run Seoul marathon in Mar 16, followed by Olympics in Aug 16, that will be 3 marathons in 8 months and that would be quite taxing on my body. I would not be able to perform with Rio being the last and most important marathon too.

I agreed with Coach and also feel that I was not ready to do another marathon in March. So I quickly requested Pocari Sweat to change my race slot for the 10km race instead. This would also be in line with the training which Coach has planned for me, which is to improve my 10km and 21km timing first before we start preparing for the full marathon.

The Plan 

I met up with coach in late January to discuss my training program for Rio. As the time frame was too short, he does not wish to make any drastic changes to my current training regime. I shared with him my training log, personal bests for my 10km and 21km and he feels that we should focus on improving my speed for 10km first, followed by 21km before we focus on preparing for full marathon. Thus, my training was broken into three phases:

(1) Feb – Mar, 10km focused training and compete in Seoul 10km challenge on 20 March.

(2) Apr-May, half marathon focused training. Find a half marathon race in mid or end May.

(3) June-July, full marathon training. No more races until Rio Olympics.

The Target

My personal best for 10km races were around 41-42 mins. Coach set the target of achieving 40 mins, a personal best for Seoul 10km challenge. We will then target to do a half marathon in May.

Training (1st Phase) 

My training officially began on 1 Feb 2016. As my workplace is at Fusionopolis, which is a stone’s throw away from NUS, I could train with the NUS cross-country team at NUS track on Mondays and Thursday evenings after work. I remembered meeting Janielle and Faith for the first time and both of them shared with me their warm up routine and drills they did before they start their workout. It was the first time I was introduced to these drills and I took some time to learn and do the drills properly.

My weekdays training are intervals, ranging for 6km to 10km, starting with 400m repeats at 10km race pace (96s per 400m). We started with 16 x 500m intervals and coach gradually increased the intervals to 15 x 600m, 13 x 700m, 12 x 800m and finally 10 x 1km one week before my race.

For shorter intervals, it will be at a faster pace, 92s per 400m. At first, I was not used to the intervals as the number of intervals were more than what I usually do back when I train with Jurong Safra Running Club. But after a few weeks, I learnt how to run relax and run comfortably. I rest on Wednesday and do easy runs on Tuesday, cross training/easy run on Friday and Sunday.

There is no major change in my weekend training. I still stick to 20km long run on Saturdays, though Coach emphasized that the long run should not be too hard as I need to recover for the two hard interval training on weekdays.

Frankly speaking, I wasn’t sure if I would be able achieve the target time for my 10km race as I have not exactly been running at 4mins/km pace continuously. No doubt I have several good workouts during this 7 weeks of training, but there were times I struggled through the training. Like the 13 x 700m workout which I felt the fatigue right after 3 sets and in the end managed only 12 sets and did not complete the workout as plan.

Still, Coach is very encouraging and believes that it is possible. I just have to believe in myself and the training. The final workout 10 x 1km was a confidence booster as I managed complete the workout successfully.

Pre-Race

I departed Singapore on 18 March afternoon and arrived in Seoul on 18 March night. One of the Korea Pocari Sweat staff,  Lee Sang Kyu is very kind to pick me up from airport and send me all the way to the hotel. It was close to midnight by the time I settled in my hotel.

I woke up early to meet the Pocari Sweat team from Indonesia at 8am. They have two runners, one a national runner and another a celebrity, participating in Seoul Marathon. We did our easy run at the Gwanghwamun Square, where it would be the start of the full marathon event. I jogged for 30 minutes and did some drills.

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With team Pocari Sweat from Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Korea!

We met up with Team Pocari Sweat for lunch before going to the Olympic Stadium to check out the expo.

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In the evening, Wina and I meet up with Alex and Rudin who were also in Seoul to do the Seoul Marathon. Alex was injured so he decided not to race and support Rudin instead.

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20 March 2016, race day

Thanks to Pocari Sweat’s hospitality, I have no trouble getting to the venue and arrived at the race site with plenty of time to change, attend to a short interview, and warm up. It was easy getting to the front of the start line too with Pocari Sweat’s help.

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The race started at 1030am. Weather was cool at around 10 degree cel. I wasn’t feeling cold at all as the sun was out. Decided that I will not need my arm sleeves, I removed them just before I entered the race pen and put on my shades when I toed the starting line.

Many runners shot off when the race started and passed me. Adrenaline pumping, I ran along, telling myself to keep to my own race pace. My garmin alerted me 3:57min for my first km and it was exactly 4mins when I passed the first kilometer distance marker. I realised I may have to run slightly faster than what my Garmin indicated so as to meet my target of sub 40 mins. My pace for the 2nd km and 3rd km dropped due to undulating terrain and an incline. I was behind my target by 8 seconds when I passed the 3km distance marker.

I pressed on, determined to chase the time. I could see a girl running ahead of me and target to keep her sight. Got a little worried when my 4th km took me 4:08min and I was behind time by 16 seconds. Still, I kept going, knowing that the 2nd half of the race is flat and I still have a chance to do a sub 40mins 10km.

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Half way point, time check at 20 min 12 sec. I was gradually gaining back the time lost. I was also closing up on the girl ahead of me and that got me quite motivated. And at 7km mark, I finally caught up with her. My split read 3:52″/km. She tried to keep up and followed me for a while. 8th km was slightly slower at 3:58″/km so I was still slightly behind my target time. I knew I have to speed up or risk missing my target. It was only until 9km, with my watch reading I finally on track for a 40mins 10km.

As I approached the Jamsil Olympic Main Stadium, I got really excited and sped up a bit. As I entered the stadium and stepped onto the track, I could see and hear many supporters cheering for the runners. Gave my all and ran as fast as I could round the track. The finishing line was in sight and I was determined to finish the race under 40mins.

And I did it! Crossed the finishing line in 39 min 50 sec, a personal best. It is my first sub 40 mins 10km run. 1796440_10153612246761025_7422838963730084352_n

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Wina, country manager of Pocari Sweat Singapore was there welcoming me back with a hug.

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Make a new friend that day. =) This is Nicole, the girl whom I was chasing from the 1st to 7th km of the race. She came in 2nd, not far away from me.

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And what a surprise and bonus to come in first for the 10km race for the women’s category!

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In the evening, team Pocari Sweat hosted a dinner for all of us to celebrate our achievement. We had such a good time eating, drinking and chatting. Thank you team Pocari Sweat for the hospitality and support! So glad to be part of this family.

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