I THOUGHT I should've learnt by now.
"How well you prepare for the marathon is as important as how fast you run it." I know.
The Singapore Marathon was the third full 42km marathon I competed in.
The first one I did was in Kuala Lumpur. My preparation was bad. I began training only 2 weeks before the race, and I completed it in 6 hours 30 minutes.
The second marathon I did was in Penang. My preparation was also bad. I remember sleeping only 2 hours the night before and suffered a bad cramp very early into the race. My finishing time was 6 hours 25 minutes. A slight improvement.
Compared to the first two, my preparation leading up to race day was considered not bad lah.
I had begun training like four months before the race. Somemore I trained like crazy.
People in Kuching are so used to seeing this fat boy running by the side of the road sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late in the evening, no matter if it's rain or shine.
Bloody hell, I stuck to my training plan so closely that I even packed my running shoes in my luggage and forgot to pack my underwear.
The only thing setback I faced this year was my workload in the office which has increased tremendously. My sleeping pattern had gone completely out of whack. Still, I always made the conscious effort to dedicate some hours for my run.
Four months of heavy training and it has finally come down to this.
I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday, ate some multigrain bread and bananas before making my way down to the Esplanade. Once again, I checked through all my essentials I had in my bag. Shoes - checked. Vaseline - checked. Energy gels - checked.
As I boarded on the bus going towards Esplanade, I put on my earphones and took out my iPod.
Only to see this.
WHAT. THE. HELL.
YOU. GOTTA. BE. KIDDING. ME.
I had done everything right up to this point. EVERYTHING. And with 50 minutes left till the race starts, my iPod ran out of juice!?
Why am I so stupid I accidentally left it playing overnight!
Shit lah. I needed my iPod to run. Without my iPod, I dunno what the hell I'm gonna do.
No iPod didn't just mean no music.
No iPod also means no pedometer, no clock, no motivation towards the latter part of the race when I definitely would need something to take the pain off my mind.
I specifically loaded up Kanye West's Stronger for that purpose, and bloody hell I'm gonna lose that too.
I was pretty much left with two choice: (1) Take a cab back to my guesthouse and miss out on the start of the race, or (2) Run without an iPod.
I chose to (2) Run without an iPod. God help me.
How the heck I'm gonna keep myself mentally entertained for the next 6 hours is gonna be fun. NOT. *Borat accent*
As I got to the Esplanade, I faced another challenge.
I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE STARTING POINT IS.
The Singapore Marathon is the biggest race I have ever took part in. There were 50,000 runners competing in various categories, with 15,000 alone doing the full 42km marathon.
It was so dark and there were so many people that I couldn't even see where the starting point is.
It didn't help that there are so many ERP gantries in Singapore. And ALL of them look like the damn starting point!
I was starting to worry a bit when so long after the gun went off, I still hadn't see the starting line. I was so slow to start, the Kenyan runners were already running back the opposite direction BEFORE I even reached the starting line.
Anyhow, I finally managed to cross the starting line and worked myself up into rhythm.
I'm in the race!
The Singapore marathon starts at the Esplanade, loops around Temasek Tower, back past Suntec City, up to the Golden Mile Complex, then all the way down the entire stretch of East Coast Park before turning back to City Hall.
Even without music playing in my ears, I thought I was doing quite well. I didn't have my iPod or watch so I can't tell the time.
Instead, I used the clock on my camera to keep track of my progress.
I ran past the gorgeous Singapore Flyer early in the race. The next time I saw it would be in full daylight, towards the end.
The first 10km, I finished it in 1 hr 17 minutes - just in time for the break of dawn.
No aches in the ankle, no stiches on the sides, no soreness in the muscle. I was running not too fast and not too slow. In fact, I was still on track to finish the race within my target time of 5 hr 30 mins.
Running in Singapore was quite an experience.
There were so many runners and was constantly surrounded by people. Unlike in KL where I was always one of the last few, I never felt alone here.
But having many people sucks also because I kept having to avoid bumping into people. It's not easy resisting the urge to whack them slow-walking idiots not considerate enough to move to the side and let others overtake.
Everytime we approached a drink station, it's a total nightmare. Whole bunch of human bodies just swooped in to grabbed all the drinks.
But then I saw something funny. Some runners were actually queuing up to use the loo!
How law-abiding are these Singaporeans! Marathon racing time is way too precious to be spent queuing for toilets. At every other race I've been to, people just don't care and pee behind a tree.
Not like the police gonna run 42km to catch them.
By the time I reached the 21km halfway point, I was clocking in at 2 hr 53 mins. That's a tad slower than the Borneo Marathon I did a few weeks ago. I needed to pick up my pace.
I was beginning to feel a bit sore in my legs. The volunteers passed me some analgesic gel to rub on my knees, but that only helped temporarily.
To take my mind off the pain, I observed the people around me.
It's nice to see there were so many people of all ages, races, shapes and sizes doing the marathon.
There were 15,000 of us doing the full marathon. Most of us weren't expecting to win anything, because we weren't competing against each other. We're competing against ourselves.
A majority of runners there are lean and mean.
Luckily, I wasn't the only fat one doing the full 42km. There were plenty others bigger, fatter and meatier than I am, and they're all doing the full 42km!
The girls who ran in the marathon were quite good too. And dammit, they're yummy. Who needs iPods when you got so many girls in short shorts?
When you're tired, your mind can't think straight and every girl in short shorts looks pretty.
Even Rafidah Aziz can look like Amber Chia.
Truth is, I had never seen so many sweet sexy women in pony-tails and mid-riff baring outfits blazing past me. I couldn't even keep up with them. Whoever thought Singaporean girls are all lazy princessy barbie dolls waiting for the next angmoh to pick them up have obviously got it wrong.
Those girls were really good.
They must've got their training from walking through all those shopping malls.
I was happily running along when disaster suddenly struck at the 28km mark.
The first sign of cramp creeped up on my right knee. It was a mild one. I ignored it, hoping it'll go away eventually.
No such luck. Instead the cramp on my knees spreaded out to my ankles, my calves and thighs. With every step, the pain got worse and worse. I wanted to go on, but I couldn't.
It was almost like that Christina Aguilera song. My heart is saying let's go, but my body is saying NO!
I concluded that I have officially "hit the wall".
It was truly a depressing sight looking at the people around.
By the time I passed 33km, everyone around me was slowing down to a slow lazy crawl. Some were even lying down flat on the side of the road, preferring to forfeit the race even when it's only less than 10km to go. Nobody had any motivation left in them.
I tried to stay positive despite all these, pushing and limping and trotting along. I overtook whole bunch of people albeit at a much slower speed. My leg muscles begged for mercy and all I wanna do is go home.
With the pain, the cramp and the fatigue overtaking my entire body, my mental willpower was the only thing that kept me going.
I kept on running and running. And somewhere along the side of the road, a supporter smiled at me and held up a sign.
"PAIN IS TEMPORARY. BUT PRIDE LASTS FOREVER."
Almost instantly, tears began flowing down my cheeks. I was so moved that I cried like an idiot for the next 20 minutes, wiping tears off along with my sweat.
Of course, those were merely words of encouragement meant for the marathon runners. But I was touched because it related so well to the situation I am in.
I was extremely depressed after having ended a stressful relationship where my pride was constantly being assaulted. Seeing that sign gave me the self-confidence I needed so much to move on with my life.
I knew I've missed my target when by 5 hr 30 mins, I was still at the Singapore F1 race track.
It's 3km left to go.
As more and more runners fell around the F1 race track like crashed cars, I gritted my teeth, forcing myself to take that one step at the time.
"Go-go! Go-go!" I chanted as I jogged.
I imagined myself as Lewis Hamilton driving a Ferrari. Exept I was probably more like Lewis Hamilton driving a Kancil.
After what seemed like eternity, the end was finally in sight. From 42km, now it's just 200m left to go.
The crowd was cheering. The music was pumping. A rush of adrenaline took over me as I surged towards the finishing line.
And I crossed at 6 hr 15 min.
YES! I have completed the Singapore International Marathon!
Oh how I love the feeling of crossing the finishing line after 42km. This never gets old. :)
I ran 42km and all I got was a medal and this lousy T-shirt!
Just kidding, I still love you adidas.
There were actually heaps of freebies given out to the race finishers. I grabbed my free 100 Plus and nutrition bars, then went straight off to the massage tent.
The masseuses in the massage tent are all volunteers. Their humility warmed my hearts.
Imagine 15,000 marathoners, all smelly and dirty after running 42km getting into your tent, and then you're tasked with rubbing and kneading their sweaty (and in my case, hairy) legs.
You can't get anymore humble than that as a human being.
Eventhough the massage hurt so much worse than the marathon!
I was over the moon that I finally completed the marathon in one of my favourite cities in the world.
Of course I'm disappointed that I missed out on my target. But hey, at least I improved my time, eventhough it's just 10 minutes. Next marathon, I'd do better!
I can't write a blog entry on my marathon race without at least mentioning Eddie, a friend of kennysia.com who motivated me to compete in my first marathon three years ago. That marathon changed me as a person.
Thank you again, Eddie. :) Next time I'll heed your advice and not wear new shoes one week before my race!
Eddie has been trying to get me to sign up for his favourite event - the Los Angeles marathon. He even gave me a shirt that says "LA Marathon In Training".
But I don't think I'm ready for such a challenge yet!
Personally, I'd wanna first achieve 42km in less than 6 hours before buying myself a ticket to L.A. Perhaps I'll target to run with Eddie in L.A. in two years time. 2010, my friend! :)
Meanwhile, I'm content with getting this for completing the Singapore Marathon.
You can't appreciate how beautiful this medal is until you've done 42km.
To conclude this entry, here's a video I made from my journey through the Lion City.
For now, I'll take a long good rest, drink some Guinness, and look out for another city to do my next marathon in 2009.