... my list of things to do before i die: complete a full marathon.
3am, 24 june, penang. the gun goes off and my 42.195km journey began. ronald, peter, bernard, senn and i started off at the back of the pack, enjoying the cool morning air.
my goals for this run was 1) to run all the way across the bridge, one way, without walking and 2) to finish within cutoff. i figured if i can finish 30km within 4 hours i can coast the remaining 12 and finish well within cutoff. that was the plan, the reality was completely different.
the course took us on a 7.5km loop around the gelugor area before getting on the 8.6km bridge. i got on the bridge in 52 minutes. so far, i was on target.
10km in and i looked at my watch. 1h10m. still well within the target. i continued running. after 1h50m on the road, i hit the end of the bridge. goal no.1 accomplished. at this rate, goal no.2 should be a breeze. or so i thought.
at this point, we had already done about 16km. i continued running. hey, if i can go all the way without walking on the bridge once, i can do it on the return trip, right? wrong.
at about 20km my watch said 2h21m. still within target. but then, the knee pain started coming. i kept running till the 21km mark till. that's when the pain intensified. so i started walking.
i thought i'd walk a bit and continue running after a few hundred metres. but that wasn't to be. everytime i ran, after a few steps the pain would kick in.
so for the rest of the trip on the bridge, it was a run/walk. they say you hit the wall at 30km. i hit mine at 25.
at 27.5km, the powerbar reps were there to give out free powergel samples. local triathlon hero, dino, gave me one along with some words of encouragement.
as it turned out, i really needed the encouragement. this stretch proved to be the longest, most gruelling stretch of the marathon. by now, my thigh muscles were already screaming to give up. and my knee was getting unbearable.
as i passed the queensbay mall, i met bernard, who was going the other way. i asked him how far the u-turn was and he said, "quite a bit." how demotivating.
everytime i saw a traffic light, i was hoping that was the u-turn. but it wasn't. next traffic light. and again, no u-turn. i was beginning to believe the u-turn doesn't exist.
when i hit 30km, i was already 3h55m into the run. it was painful, but i was still on target.
7km after the bridge, (31km of the marathon) i finally came to the u-turn. by this time. i was just walking. not even a brisk walk. this is where my plan of comfortably coasting the last 12km went to shit. there were water stations every 2.5km, but these felt like they were 5km apart. it took me close to half an hour to get from one drink station to the next. 5km took me close to an hour. my thighs were burning. each step was agony.
at this point, it was a survival game. i didn't care about the time anymore. i just wanted to finish the run. marshalls were telling me to get on the bus. i refused. i had given up during ironman, and that was an expensive lesson. i'm not about to give up this one.
so i started playing a game. i'd find a landmark, run to it, then walk to the the next landmark. i'd do this while trying very hard to ignore the pain going through my legs. soon, however, the walk distances became longer than the run distances. but, it didn't matter, at least i was running again. i was sure , though, that i wasn't going to make the 6-hour cutoff.
after about 10km and close to 2 hours of pure agony and pain, i finally saw the 1km to go marker. i tell you, that was the prettiest sight in penang at that moment. i'm almost home.
suddenly, i got a second wind. i started running again. running at the pace i had earlier. as i approached the entrance to USM, where the finish line was, there were people shouting encouragement, spurring me to go on, even though i desperately wanted to walk.
entering USM, there were crowds of people blocking the way to the finish line. but by now, adrenaline had kicked in again, and i was pushing these people out of my way. how dare they block my passage to glory!
got to the USM field and i saw the finish line ahead of me. and i started to sprint! knee pain? burning thighs? they mysteriously disappeared during the last 100m.
finally, i crossed the line. however, it wasn't as victorious as most of the other events i've been to: there was no finishing tape to cross, no announcer yelling, "you're a finisher!", no one to put an icy cold towel on your shoulders and give you a bottle of mineral water. just a marshall telling you to hand over your wristbands. despite the huge crowds, it was one of the loneliest finsihes.
but that didn't matter, i've officially finished a marathon distance. a quick glance at my watch:
i made cutoff. goal no.2 accomplished.
after finishing, i waited for senn to come in. she finally showed up about an hour later, having fought with a policeman, who insisted she get on the sweeper bus. she refused, of course, and went on her merry way, after threatening the cop to leave her alone or else! you go girl!