:28 (THE RACE) Singapore Marathon

Posted: December 12, 2008 in marathon, my favorite runs, running, singapore marathon
Tags: ,

Dawn was merely a promise on Singapore’s horizon when we walked the circuitous path towards the Start Line of the Singapore Marathon. In front of us loomed a towering granite monument.  Wrapped up in my blanket of thoughts, I read the sign on the cenotaph–OUR GLAMOROUS DEAD. “How strange and slightly kooky!” I thought to myself. Singapore is definitely starting to grow on me! But then as I got closer, I realized it actually read, OUR GLORIOUS DEAD. “Oh! Now that makes more sense!” It made me think about my toes then safely cushioned inside my Mizuno Waveriders. I had painted them a brilliant red color just before leaving Manila. It was one of the last things I did in my long list of to dos before the trip.  I figured if they were going to die, it would at least be fitting to give them a brilliant and flashy send off!  “Don’t worry, girls! We’ll build you your own glamorous monument should you die on me today…”

As is always the case before a race starts, I get a little nutty and a lot crazy inside.

While most people use kilometer markers to judge their progression in a run, I usually just entertain myself with stories and litter the route with it; Most are real and straightforward, some are interpretations of events as they unfold and then there others which are purely imagined.  While most sane runners would be paying attention to their form or their foot strides, I’m more likely to be having a discussion with an imaginary entity, maybe two. It is something I’ve learned to accept. There are people who, when they run, are destined for podium finishes. And then, I guess, there are people like me who, when they run, are barely able to skirt the sanitarium…

Sounds heralded  the approach of the 12393 runners to the starting line of the  Singapore Marathon. At the time the starting gun sounded (was there even a starting gun?) RunMD, Batgirl and I were still making the short and really slow but adrenaline-pumping walk to the start line. It was like a valedictory march of sorts. I felt like I was on my way to some kind of a graduation ceremony.

Just after we crossed the bridge, I turned to Batgirl and squeezed her shoulders. Her gaze was already focused on the start line banner. Then I reached over and shook RunMD’s hand.  We were just a few seconds away now from our longest and most challenging run yet.  I then tapped the back of my fuel belt and found reassurance there. I had  packed in 2 GU gels and an oatmeal bar. I was a GU gel short but I would get that from one of the stations. I brought no water bottles. This was a good thing because it would force me to pay attention to the drink stations and therefore drink at more regular intervals.  I had finished off my water in the walk to the start line and had handed them over to SeriousCaT (our one woman power support during the race). The next time I would be seeing those bottles would be in KM 35 where they would be handed to me filled with cold lime flavored Gatorade.

As we got closer to the Start Line, I heard the  DJ announce that 5 minutes have passed since gun time.  It was also just about that time when our slow walk shifted into a slow jog. And then just a few seconds after we were finally  loose and running  in the streets of Singapore. Our first marathon had started in earnest.

In those first few minutes there was a lot of bunching and weaving and sticky elbows rubbing (eeww!).  RunMD and I shared the first kilometer of that route.  Batgirl was running just a few paces behind us.

At kilometer 2, RunMD found his opening and  surged ahead. He always did like fast starts. I bid him good running.

Be patient. Be Patient. Be Patient.

It took a lot of effort to rein my enthusiasm in those first few kilometers. I knew I needed to conserve my energy so I focused on not weaving too much through the crowd. I kept reminding myself to run in as straight a line as possible. I had 42kms to go and about 5 hours of running ahead of me. Those first 20 minutes were all about finding and settling into the pace I had trained to run the marathon in.

The week before the marathon I was experiencing some pain with my left calf muscle. It would cramp up even on short distance runs. I suspected that my recent  travels had screwed up my body’s rhythm. I was jet lagged and simply wasn’t getting enough sleep. One look in the mirror confirmed that. I was beginning to look like a raccoon with the dark circles around my eyes.  I forced myself to hydrate more. But I still wasn’t recovering fast enough. I knew I needed help. So on Saturday morning, the week right before the marathon, I did my last long 12K run and then I paid the friendly neighborhood acupuncturist a visit.

Go light and Go steady!

I prayed the cramp demons that had been hounding me would oversleep on marathon day!

In that first 10KM I kept checking-in with my calves. I wasn’t sure if the acupuncture had helped. I haven’t road tested my legs until that morning. I just figured that the more rested they were, the better they would behave.  Go light and go steady. I whispered as the sun’s rays snaked over the horizon. Land as light as you can and go at a steady pace. Try not to wake those cramp demons up!

“So what’s your plan?” Mighty M asks just as we are about to finish our run. “Are you checking your time every kilometer?”

I smile. She does too. She knows me. I’m not exactly very good at sticking to plans. I don’t even like making them.

“Every 10K” I reassure her. I am, of course, making all this up as we are walking back to the parking lot. I haven’t really figured out what my plan is. Then I start getting more inspired.  “After the first 20K I’ll decide if I’m gunning for a 4:30 or a 4:45 finish depending on how my legs feel.” I add. “I really want to savor my first marathon. I want to finish it feeling good inside and out. I don’t want the pressure of a fast time. I don’t think I can handle it. It’s more about covering the distance. After all, you are only a marathon virgin once!”

“Ok, do 10, 10 and then 5, 5 checks then.” She tells me. “On the last 12K, I’d check every kilometer. That way you have a better chance of hitting your goal time.  As long as you maintain the average pace required, you’ll do fine.”

Mighty M is my running partner. She has run her fair share of marathons with fast times to boot. I take her instructions to heart.

KM10:  1:06:02 Ok. I’m on track. Just 2kms to go before the banana station!

KM 12-28

The bananas still look a bit greenish. I don’t like green bananas. I pass and take my first GU. “Espresso love, give me wings!”

Km12 is where the park starts or what they call the ECP. The road narrows considerably. It starts getting harder to pass people. There was a group of 4 that were all running in a line. I couldn’t find an opening to squeeze through. They ignored my polite “Excuse mes!”  I decided on a new strategy. I picked a person in the pack. I went up right behind him and then I just belted out the first nonsense song that came to mind! It startled the man enough that he actually slowed down a bit and turned to look behind him. It gave me just enough of an opening to pass. Then I picked up speed and hoped they wouldn’t tag me.  As an act of gratitude and charity to everyone else around me, I also stopped singing out loud.

KM 15. A chafing problem was distracting me.  Soon after, a man-made disaster struck. Actually, make that a girl-made disaster. All of it my own doing, of course. After I slowed down for a drink at the water station, I saw some men wearing plastic gloves handing out some whitish cream.  It was then I got my first idiot attack. I decided they  were sunblock lotion. I guess a glamorous death was still the theme going on in my head.  I don’t know where that thought came from. I just assumed that it was sunblock.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own little world. Without putting much thought into my actions,  I got some of  it  and just started rubbing it all over my arms and chest. Then I used that same hand to wipe the sweat off my forehead. I started feeling the burn immediately after. Goshdarnit! I had wiped some kind of deep heating ointment all over my chest and arms!


Don’t Panic. Don’t Panic. Don’t Panic.

My right eye started to twitch. It was getting irritated with the sweat from my forehead which was tainted with that deep heating rub. Having no idea what that rub was made of, I started worrying.  I am allergic to aspirin and most pain relievers (my eyes would start bulging like a frog’s). Please, please please, let it have no aspirin! And please don’t let it get into my eye!  It’s a good thing I had my Claritin with me and had taken it a few hours before the start of the race. That was because I knew we were going into the park. Sometimes I have a bad reaction to grass too. And trees, and pollen and nature in general. Maybe I was simply dumped on the wrong planet. I run as fast as I can towards the next drink station.  And then and there I take a bath. Well, I dump 5 glasses of water on my face, and my upper body. All the while apologizing to the surprised volunteers. And then once I had reassured myself that the disaster had been averted, I went back into my plodding pace. Whew!

KM 20 is where the turnaround is.

I checked my progress. 2:11:00 I’m still on track but I best speed up a bit.

The path back was much narrower and winding. The view of  the bay and the ships that were anchored there offered some distraction from the tedium of putting one foot in front of the other.  I felt a slight twitching in my calf muscle but it was manageable at that point. A few hundred meters after the 21KM mark I do a little jig just to stretch it out. Some people had put up  tents in the park. I wondered briefly what it’ll be like to stop and lie down in their shade… I started organizing a camping trip. I’d bring lots of cherries smothered in dark chocolate…

Now, I’m the girl with the negotiating skills of a bulldozer and the nurturing warmth of an umbrella stand. At km 22 I finally saw familiar faces in the park. I wasn’t expecting to see them at this point. “What are you doing here?” I asked.  Like I said, the nurturing warmth of an umbrella stand. The dragon had apparently reared it’s head for both of them. It was time to dig deep and fish out my inner Oprah. But I had no time to learn new tricks. So I reverted to what I knew best.  First, I tried to bribe them with food.  I offered them my oatmeal bar. They both refused. And because that didn’t work, I then ate my oatmeal bar and went straight to plan B. I bullied. And thereafter I launched plan C. I implored the great Scottie! Oh Great Scottie! BEAM.US.UP!  And we all just did the best we could. We kept going.

At Km 28, the road widens up again. I do my best to speed up. By this time the there are small patches of blue in the sky. There’s still enough cloud cover to keep the heat from getting too intense. But the heat is starting to get to me.

KM 32
I go into full-blown negotiations. I am now having an argument inside my head. Whose harebrained idea was this again? (Mine, of course!)

One foot over the other. One foot over the other. Come on legs, come on! I start talking to my legs in earnest. I tell them that if they just get me to the finish line I’ll stop all this craziness and just take up  a more sensible hobby like painting or playing the guitar.  I promised the end of all these tiring runs! Whose stupid idea was this again? I asked for the nth time! Mine, of course, was the unchanging answer. What else is there to do but to keep running?

I just need to get to KM 35. Serious Cat will be there.

KM 34. Is this ever going to end? I start looking for a portalet. But then Queen’s WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS starts playing on my ipod. This universe is having a grand time at my expense! Arrrghhh.. Just.Keep.Running.Girl.  I tell myself in between gasps.  Honestly, who goes to the portalet when WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS is playing? I’ll wait for the next song.  And then Evanescence starts singing. Who dares wuzz out infront of a girl who wears knee high black boots with a tutu and still manages to look cool in it? So yes. I keep running.

We are almost into KM 35-36. I don’t know. I’ve lost track. There is a traffic build up beside me. I’m running side by side with big buses packed with people on their daily commute. I look up and a man is staring back at me. I wave. He smiles then he starts clapping. I don’t hear it, of course, but I start running to its rhythm. I start feeling better.

Gatorade. Gatorade. Ice cold Gatorade.

Finally,  Serious Cat is right beside me. But she does not see me. She is staring off into the horizon. I call out her name. She turns to me surprised. “What are you still doing here?” She asks. What can I say? My friends and I, we are all very nurturing. Then she starts fumbling for my water bottle. As I am drinking she tells me very casually, “I just saw the 4:45 pacer a few minutes ago!” That’s why she’s my designated cheerer. She knows exactly what to say to get me going. None of that “You can do it!” drama. She goes straight for the jugular. I take one big gulp of gatorade and with nary a word I handed her the bottle and I just  started running like demons were behind me.

No way in hell was I going to miss my target time..

So I run. And I run. And people all around me have started walking. I see a blur of flashy sports cars  on the side. But I have no time to ask for a ride. I almost trip over my untied shoelaces. I slow down just enough to re-tie them and then I keep running.

I barely glance at my Garmin. I can’t. There’s way too many obstructions in front of me. I have no time to waste. I keep my focus on the road ahead.

And finally the Singapore Flyer is way past me and the bridge is approaching. It seems the whole world is walking now. Very few people are running. I push my tired legs, I cajole, I beg and I pound on them with my hands to keep them from going numb. I am huffing and I am gasping for air. I’m swinging my arms wildly as I feel my muscles twitching on my sides. I keep my gaze fixed on the horizon. Where the hell is that finish line?

According to my Garmin I ran my fastest laps in those last 31/2 KMS.

And then there is the finish line.  I see the clock from a distance and it reads 4:49:52. I am still about 100 meters away. I am an eternity away. Go! Go! Go! A half naked man is in front of me. Everything is in slow motion now. I’m actually staring at his back so intensely I see short hairs standing. The crowd at the finish line are clapping and cheering. They are all a blur on my side. And then just like that my feet are on the red carpet and I’ve passed the finish line!

I’m done??!!

I missed my 4:45:00 goal by 28 seconds according to the gun clock.  Technically, I missed my target. But I am keeping that 28 seconds and I’m holding it close. I know one thing for sure. I didn’t waste those 28 seconds. It’s a good 28 seconds. It’s 28 seconds I filled with all my running hopes for the past year.  HOPE! Now that is a good thing to be carrying around. Just you wait ’til my next marathon. That 28 seconds is going to come back and  bite the Universe’s ass! But first, of course, there is that breakfast to think about.

  1. Constantine says:

    Many Congratulations from me. If you hadn’t mistaken that deep heat for sunblock lotion you would have beaten your target time. Any way, there is always next year!! Have a fabulous X-mas and Keep running.

    Warmly Constantine

    Hello Constantine! Thank you for your visit. I’ve always enjoyed reading your blogs. You do come up with the most interesting running tidbits! Have yourself wonderful Xmas too and here’s looking forward to more amazing runs next year.

  2. prometheuscometh says:

    Wow! Amazing storytelling and great finish! One day I hope to have run a marathon where my fastest lap was the last 3.5kms too!

    Prom, Thanks! Haha! I think the time it takes me to finish my fastest 3.5 kms though is equivalent to the time it takes you to complete your doo-dee-doo 5K!! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the kwento.

  3. Gene says:

    Very nice! Hehe, partida pa pala yung heating ointment.

    Haha! Well, if you look at it from a skewed angle (a very skewed one) then I guess I can actually claim to being a red hot chick during the marathon and not be lying or exaggerating! Bwahahaha! 🙂

  4. sfrunner says:

    Congratulations on the marathon. Take care and have a nice weekend!

    Hi Wayne! Thank you! I did have a nice weekend. Spent it at the beach. The benefits of living very near the equator, I guess. 🙂 Keep warm and here’s wishing you all the best this holiday season.

  5. JunC says:

    Congratulations Mesh!Great time. Really enjoy reading your report.Truly inspiring!

    Thanks a lot Jun! Yes, I had a great fun time at the marathon, twitching muscles and all! 😉 Once in a while we really do need to allow our inner masochists time to bask in the sun.

  6. loonyrunner says:

    best marathon recap 😀 funny and yet inspiring! congratulations once again 😀

    Had you lent me your rocket boosters then I wouldn’t have had to depend too much on Scottie and his teleport machine! Hehe! 🙂 Thanks Joe!

  7. ricov says:

    I know marathons are hard, but you make it seem easy and fun. I suppose you ran your marathon the way you treat life – you put in the work required but you imbue it with the right dose of nonchalance, optimism, self-deprecation, humor, wit and chutzpah! You have wonderful spirit: keep running and writing 🙂

    Marathon? What marathon?! 🙂 I am from Albay. I grew up on the slopes of Mayon Volcano. An active volcano that can be both amazingly beautiful and yet extremely terrifying when it erupts. I’ve seen it erupt 4 times. Those qualities you mentioned in your comment? Why do you think Bicolanos are known as ORAGONS? We either call ourselves that or we admit we are crazy! It’s in our programming. After all, how else do you explain a people who choose to live and love and build homes AT THE FOOT OF AN ACTIVE VOLCANO??! 🙂 But really, thank you!

  8. sundaywarrior says:

    Hey Nesh, another interesting post, funny the sunblock thing, you were so focused you forgot to check everybody was putting it down there ha ha ha, anyway sayang yung mga ten mins dun your time might have been lower…

    Haha! Tama ka dun. But then again it could also have made me go faster just to counter the “bobingsky” momentum… 🙂

  9. ibetlacbay says:

    Hi Mesh. Great recap. Nice meeting you last night.

    🙂 It’s great to finally have the right faces attached to the stories… It was good to meet you too!

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