Monday, June 28, 2010

Not the Best of Marathons...

Thankfully not the worst either.

If anything, the 2010 Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon taught me the importance of training. Without which, be prepared to suffer.

And suffer I did, from about 25k all the way to the end.

But before I get into my race, let me just say that this year's edition was a marked improvement over last year's. There was plenty of fluids at the water stations, the route was great and the medal collection was excellent. It's good to know that the organisers learnt their lessons from last year and made efforts to improve.

There were still a few issues though: traffic management was ok throughout but there were a few intersections where it could have been handled better. Particularly at the Jalan P. Ramlee/Jalan Ampang intersection but you can't really blame the cops when the motorists decide to ignore them and almost run down a few runners. Another issue was that there was no water given out at the finish line. If there was, it must have been hidden somewhere because I didn't see any. They should have given us water together with the medal/finisher t-shirt. Would have been a lot better that way for runners.

Anyway on to the race: it started wet. Really, really wet. But after a few km the rain stopped. I was doing a pretty decent pace, a pace I thought I'd be able to sustain for 42km. Hit the first 10k and I was going slightly quicker than I thought. My first 10k was 1h03m.

Continued on. By now the thighs were starting to feel the burn. Thought I'd slow the pace a little. But apparently, I didn't. Second 10k was 1h04m!

Now was when it started to unravel for me. At 25k, I lost it. Just couldn't run anymore. So I walked/ran. It was painful. Runners were passing me left, right and centre. It was quite demoralizing. At this point, I was wondering if I called it quits, how would I get back to the start line. Then Sofian runs by. He must have sensed my agony because he yelled out, "C'mon Arif, don't give up!"

That really helped. I went on till the 28km water station. I had some of my EFS gel, rubbed some ointment on my legs and took some ice from the nice medic there. This gave me a bit of a second wind. I managed to run till the 31km marker. Saw Jason going around on his bike, he asked if I needed anything. A taxi back to the start line perhaps, I wanted to say. But I kept on going.

Finally hit Jalan Kuching. Sun was up and blazing by now. This is one mentally challenging stretch. It goes on for only about 2km but it feels damn long. Meng, the 5-hour pacer, caught up with me now, and urged me to run with him. Made it as far as the 34km water station before I had to walk again.

At 35km, Adeline passed me. She looked damn strong. Guess all that distance/endurance training has paid off for her (she achieved her first sub-5 marathon!). She motioned me to tag on but at the pace she was going, there was no way I could. At this point, I couldn't tag on to anyone, no matter what the pace!

Shortly after the 36km water station, there was some welcomed relief. Kash, Rais and Uncle Allen were there with a mobile kedai runcit. Rais gave me some Counterpain, Kash offered me a Gatorade and Uncle Allen offered me encouragement. Thanks guys, you really helped! Thanks to them, I managed to run all the way to the bottom of that steep hill near the little roundabout.

After that steep hill, I knew we'd have a nice downhill stretch. I love going downhill, you can pick up speed with hardly any effort at all. But it was not to be this time. There was just so much lactic acid in my legs that each step was agony! And to make things worse, at the bottom of the hill, they made us go up another hill just to u-turn midway up. Cruel.

From there it was a slow run/walk all the way to the last turn at Pertama Complex. By then we had maybe about 800m to go so I threw all caution to the wind and ran all the way to the finish. It was painful, but it had to be done.

About 100m from the line, I saw Senn cheering me on and I knew I couldn't stop now. Passed a few other runners along the way too and finally crossed the line. Felt like collapsing right there and then.

The race clock showed me finishing at 5h10m. For a while I thought I'd come in closer to six hours, maybe even after six hours. I guess when I hit that wall at 25k, I knew sub-5 was out of the question so then it became a matter of limiting the damage. I hadn't set a target for this race as I knew I was unprepared for it. Still I wanted to do the best I could. And If I could go under 5, all the better. So doing a 5h10m was ok. Painful, but ok.

Lesson learnt. To run a marathon, you must get the miles in. Last year I was running 40-50k, sometimes even 60k, a week in the build-up to the marathon. This year, I was lucky to get in 20k a week. So for me, to finish itself is a result.

But I couldn't have finished it without the help of friends. Special thanks to Sofian, Eugene Teoh, Jason Hue, Dr.Sya, Kash, Rais, Uncle Allen, Bro Md Nor and a whole bunch of others for pushing me on in one way or another. That percussion group in front of Pavillion, all the medics and volunteers, you all were a great help.

And finally, a big special thank you to Senn, who was there for me after the run and took care of me when I could barely walk. Love ya, babe!