my first marathon

Wonder Woman has left the building! (singapore marathon 1)

42.195 kilometers. Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2008. My first marathon.

For more than a year now, Wonder Woman has been squatting inside my head. Wonder Woman– the woman who wonders out loud if I actually have it in me to go the full 42.195 distance. She’s that woman who resides in the attic and is always trying to raise hell. The one who responds to every word, phrase, sentence of marathon related chutzpah and bravado I utter with her raised eyebrow quickly followed with the inevitable “I wonder if you can back those up with action?”

“We’ll see soon enough!” I would bravely reply as I make a quick grab for my high-tech security blanket that looks very much like my mobile phone and speed dial a friend’s number. Arrrgh!

Wonder Woman not only has a very strange fashion sense. She is also a very annoying roommate!

The alarm sounded at 3:30 am. I woke to a morning that came way too early in the day. I crawled out from under thick down comforters, stumbled towards the room’s mini bar, and got my caffeine fix.  Batgirl was already gulping down her pre-race pasta meal. I took a peek inside the take-out box and decided I would pass on it that morning. No more pasta for me! I’ve had all the pasta I could take for the year. I’ve used up my December and perhaps even January’s pasta quota in the two days we were in Singapore. If I had to gulp down another pasta dish, I knew I definitely wouldn’t need to worry about getting to the finish line. I was dead sure I wouldn’t even have to crawl to get to the finish line. I could just roll there…

“I’m just having a banana!” I announce to the universe and to no one in particular. “And maybe this cute mini muffin!”  And because they are so cute, I have two. One tastes like chocolate, the other one sweet and nutty. Just the way I like it. Perfect! After breakfast, I take an ice cold shower, put on my race gear on and turn the TV on. CNN is showing a special: SCREAM BLOODY MURDER. Christiane Amanpour repeats this phrase a number of times.  I meditate (and do my best at taming my unruly hair) as Christiane Amanpour’s voice drones on in the background. She sounds very much like my guardian angel sounds in my head whenever I end up having a conversation with her.Hmmm. Maybe Christiane Amanpour is my guardian angel? Is “scream bloody murder!” supposed to be my race mantra? I meditate more on this. The room stays quiet. All three of us inside are wrapped up in our own twilight zones…

By 4am Batgirl’s cellphone is beeping. RunMD is on his way. Serious Cat, Batgirl and I all troop out to the quiet lobby and meet him there. We greet each other with small talk, some tittering and lots of  nervous chuckles.

By the time we start walking towards the START AREA the sun is still nowhere near Singapore’s horizon.  There’s an almost palpable buzz in the air. Runners in all forms and sizes are already filling the streets. My head is humming with thoughts…A hornet’s nest of thoughts! Far too many vying for attention. I shut them all out. I have no room for them now.  Silently I pray that Christiane Amanpour does a good job keeping Wonder Woman entertained in my hotel room.  I had left Wonder Woman there. She can keep herself busy baby- sitting my gremlins of doubt. Where I was going, they were certainly not allowed to follow!

For on that day, on the morning of my first marathon run, I had no space for Wonder Woman inside my head. I had left no room for her. I had trained 16 weeks to go the full distance. I had logged in my 1000 kms. I had no need for a crazy woman to question my every step. And she certainly wasn’t going to be allowed to ridicule my sun-kissed dream. This 35-year-old little girl was headed for the run of her life. I was going to run my race, my first marathon… And I was set on running light.

First, the story in pictures…

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READY…

RunMD, Batgirl and Me
RunMD, Batgirl and Me

GET SET…

batgirl and me

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RUN!!

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Now run some more…

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Follow the Kenyan Blur….

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Wait for meeeeee!!!!

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waah!!! There’s a half naked man infront of me!!

7Ouch!!! whose idea was this again? But really, the little girl inside of me was jumping up and down with glee! Wonder Woman, you are definitely moving out! Does anyone know if THE FLASH is looking for some place to crash in this part of the world? Please tell him to give me a call. I could definitely use a new roommate!

10

THE RESULTS:mysgrace1

Later maybe, my marathon run story…

12/9/2008

—————————————————————-

:28 (THE RACE)

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!

idiot.idiot.idiot.

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.

12/12/2008

Comments
  1. Wayne says:

    Congratulations on the 3:57 at SF!

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