As I am still digesting all the impressions and emotions from this spectacular event, a nice link to all the pretty ‘pro’ photos appears in my inbox!
I think what makes them very ‘pro’ is that they somehow managed to NOT show the suffering, instead I look actually still very much put together.
And mind you that most of those photos are taken in broad daylight, which means that was after 7AM, 2.5h into the run (so, after 25km of me pounding asphalt and the mercury crossing the 30˚C mark on its way up)
Full gallery over on SmugMug
This last Sunday started very early at 2:30AM with waking up and getting ready, in preparation I had already laid out all my gear (I learned later that runners call this a ‘flat lay’ photo, which is both, showcase and mental reminder) the evening before, I just had to remember to fuel up with some coffee, protein shake, put vaseline on potential chaffing areas and at 3AM I left the hotel.
The walk to the start point is a mellow 30 minutes and from the moment I hit the streets I saw other people in running gear heading in the same direction. More and more the closer we came.
Singapore’s Formula 1 pit made for a great start ‘chute’, everything was very well organized, things like bag check / drop. Ample toilets, water stations (would not have mind some more coffee), and booming loud music to get the energy pumping.
By 4AM we were asked to enter our ‘pens’, those are the holding areas in the start crowd, based on what time you think you will finish. This way there is some more crowd control and quicker runners don’t have to pass slower runners for the first few kilometers.
And then at 4:30 they started sending off the first wave of runners, beginning with the elite-atheletes. By 4:42 it was the turn of my half of pen C and the race had officially started for me.
The way they take the time with all those runners starting in waves is through a chip implanted in the bib, which starts the clock once I get over the start line, takes readings along the way (see the above pic) and when I cross the finish line.
One thing that did not work out too well: I wanted to hang on to the group of 4h pacers, but somehow they were in a wave earlier (despite us being in the same pen) and I had no chance to catch up with them.
Funny thing I noticed: right after the start, quite a few of the (male) runners went to the nearby trees to relieve themselves. Seems that they had waited too long, had too much water, did not want to line of for the restrooms.
It was still pitch black and would stay like this for the next 2h.
After crossing a bridge, we made our way through the Central Business District, where everyones’ GPS watches went haywire (tall buildings messing with the satellite signal), from that moment on I could not totally rely on my pace info anymore.
We went down the westside highway, which was very easy running.
I was able to judge by marker points and my total time that I was doing well within my planned parameters.
After 12Km we did a U-turn and headed back, and once we hit the CBD again, there was already the divide for half-marathon and full-marathon. After that it got more empty and I spotted the first twinkle of daylight.
But they had also a half-marathon marker for us and I could see that I was still doing well, clocking in at exactly 2h, just as I did during training. But slowly I noticed that I got tired and even though I ate & drank as much as possible along the way, around 25km I got first thoughts of ‘maybe I can’t do it under 4h’ … which soon turned into ‘you don’t HAVE to do it under 4h’.
Still, I reached 30km well under 3h and now would have been the time to start my ‘fast finish’ … but this is when I felt the first signs of cramps!
Did I mention that it was pretty warm for early morning, very humid, both things I trained for, but this was even a bit more than Colombo. Also, there was no wind at all and the sun was coming up.
Keep in mind that Singapore is only 140km north of the equator. This, for sure, makes for some extra challenges.
After those first signs I slowed down in hopes they go away before they actually manifest, but at 32K I got the first serious cramp-on. What helped me was a shot of concentrated pickle juice (this is how the sales lady described it) called ‘CrampFix‘, which I had purchased for 5S$ at the expo. And lo-and-behold, it works!
One time only though … as I wobbled on, it did not take too long for the cramps to return.
By now all the medical tents had brought out their supply of Tiger Balm for all runners to freely use. Put that on your leg (or other affected areas) and you get a pretty hot, soothing, tingly sensation, which seems to alleviate the pain (and the cramp) …
At that time I was down to walking and I had found company in another walking runner, which greatly helped getting over the pain (and disappointment), from time to time we would start up again running a bit, and stopping a bit.
Particularly brutal was that around 39K we had to cross a big and TALL highway bridge, going up was actually not that bad, but the strain in the thighs when going down was constantly triggering cramp-return .. so, I mainly kept walking.
With the end in sight and hearing the crowds and another runner passing me, encouraging me to run the last bit, I got started again, only to get hit not only with the biggest cramp-on yet, but while I was trying to stretch out those contracted muscles, I felt like I was about to pass out! That was truly scary! Just shy of 500m before the finish line!
My immediate thought was that if I dropped to the floor, the medics would come and take me away and my race would be DNF (did not finish) [only later I thought those medics might be race experienced and would giver runners a chance to recover on the spot so they could still hobble over the finish line]
(This is a copy/paste job of 3 images from an independent photographer who set up camp at 41KM, just before my ‘near faint’ experience. How am I still smiling?)
I managed to hang on and slowly staggered along on my jelly legs until I was about to come around the bend for the finish cute and the sign read ‘150m’ … and that’s when I put my last energy into it, put a smile on (fully aware there would be cameras) and made it over the finish line, looking like I had a fun, joyous & gentle run!
We each got our medals after that point and had the wonderful Marina Bay as a backdrop to pose with it. We also got more drinks and cool towels and seems there was still much more going on (like ‘engraving station’, get your name and time engraved on your medal), but I really just wanted to lay down in my AC’d hotel room and made my way back.
Maybe I should have stuck around a bit longer, or laid down there to rest a bit, or checked with a medic, but on the way back I had another scary return of the ‘I am about to pass out’ sensation. I very quickly found something to lean / sit on, as to appear resting casually and not like someone who is about to faint. And this way I managed to slowly get some power back and after 30 minutes I was ok to move on and made it back to the hotel.
Would I do it again?
My initial thoughts of the event were very different compared to now, 3 days later, as I type this.
I felt like I never wanted to run a marathon again. “Been there, done that”, item off the bucket list, no need to repeat.
This has since then changed a bit. I will give it some time and probably look for a place with more moderate climate. But I still want to, some day, finish a marathon under 4h, before old age makes that impossible.