Thursday, December 09, 2010

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2010

Indeed, it was a race like no other. Since 2007, I have been participating in the annual Stanchart Marathon event, from 10km to 21km to 42km and if any, it is my report card of sorts detailing my entire year performance. This year is no exception.

As I had already participated in the full marathon in September in France this year (only intended to run full marathon in a year), I’d decided to run the half marathon in this year Stanchart Marathon with a personal target to clock a sub 2 hours time. In August last year, I clocked 2 hrs 15 mins plus in my first 21km event in SAFRA Half Marathon and in May this year, I barely missed the 2 hours mark by a little over a minute in the Adidas Sundown event. It was that close for me and it only fueled me to train harder, with a vengeance to slash it down in this year end Stanchart Half Marathon.

Prior to the 21km half marathon which was scheduled on 5 Dec, Sunday, I have been training regularly with my buddy, Long Chua (who also completed his 4th 42km Stanchart marathon, kudos to him for his perseverance). I was also very much involved in other outdoor activities, such as cycling, trekking and long distance walking with my adventurous groups. All these different training of sorts did help me in one way or another to improve my stamina and endurance level.

Winnie was supposed to run this 21km event for the first time too but with some tinge of regret, she had decided to give it another miss due to her lack of regular training and also the persistent flu that did not seem to go away. Disappointed to say the least but we must always listen to our body. I fully supported her decision not to run this 21km at the last hour, as there’s always another chance to do so when she is fitter and raring to go. Fret not, will have realize your half marathon dream and beyond!

Typically of me, I was unusually quiet the day before the race. If I said I was not stressed up, I lied. The thought of not able to run my best race did rattle me somewhat. Later in the afternoon, Dora called, initiating a dinner with C.K., Anna & Esther and I agreed to join them to de-stress, perhaps. It was a sumptuous seafood dinner at a famous coffeeshop stall in Toa Payoh, recommended by Anna. After dinner, both C.K. and I left for home as we had the 21km to contend with the following morning. An early sleep was vital. The gals continued on their own at Anna’s place; understand they chatted till the wee hours of the morning…guys’ issues, gals’ issues & what not.

I got up at 0445 hrs. Brushed up, put on my running attire with the number tag on done the night before and I was already out of my house by 0500 hrs – that kiasu of me. I drove to HarbourFront, the flagged-off venue for our event. The flag-off was scheduled at 0630 hrs but by 0530 hrs, I already at the bridge warming up and looking out for familiar faces. By chance I met one of our SANL members, Jeannie who was one of the early birds too. I had a quick chat with her, conveyed my best wishes and then, I proceeded ahead to the start-line.

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was the guest-of-honour who was to flag the runners off at exactly 0630 hrs. As the minute was ticking away, throngs of runners slowly made their way to the start-line. There were 15,000 runners registered for the 21km half marathon and on whole, 60,000 runners registered for varied events in Stanchart Marathon, an Asia record I understand. At exactly 0630 hrs, we were flagged-off in three waves. I was in the first wave.

It was still pitch dark running to the direction of Sentosa island. About 2km into the race, I felt quite ‘high tide’ and not wanting to wash much time, I made a dash to the nearest bush to relieve myself. I felt better and lighter after the pee (sheepishly). Around 3km mark, I heaved a sigh of relief when I past the 2-hour pacers and I told myself that I must ensure to stay ahead of the 2-hour pacers if I intended to clock a sub 2 hours timing. I ran a faster than usual pace. My only fear was I could burn off fast if I kept that fast pace for the first 10km. However, the thought of the 2-hour pacers overtaking me anytime soon, somewhat fueled me to keep to a fast pace. With trepidation, I was looking forward to the run through Universal Studio. At 6km mark, I arrived at Universal Studio. The attraction staff and cartoon characters like Shrek and company were on hand to cheer us on. My adrenalin was pumped up and while running, I gave a high-five to the supporters and the cartoon characters including Shrek, of course. This was by far, the best part of the run; runners are always motivated when there are many supporters to root them on – never always seen in Singapore. This time, the organizers got it right.

As each km had past, I was yearning for the 100plus isotonic drinks (a ritual for me in such long race) and finally at the 10km mark, 100plus drinks were offered…phew! I grabbed one and downed it swiftly, heavenly man. At that point, we were out of Sentosa island and inched up the expressway to the direction of Pasir Panjang. I had to push harder going up the highway and my many trekking at Bukit Timah and most recently, Mt Kinabalu really did me a big favour. I was able to run the incline without my problem while many simply ran out of steam. When I was about to make a U-run to the direction of Singapore Flyer at some point, I can still see the 1 hr 45 mins pacer on the opposite side and not far behind me, the 2-hour pacers. I was smacked behind them and by my ‘guesstimation’, I should be more than 500 metres behind the 1 hr 45 mins pacers and lesser than 200 ahead of the 2 hours pacers. If I kept to that, my sub 2 hours target should remain intact. Admittedly, I was confident at that juncture (reckoned it was around 12km mark and still another 9km more to go). .

It was getting brighter by then and sun was already up. It was a long 7km run along the expressway from HarbourFront all the way to the turn at MBS. I began to feel tired, slowed somewhat and some fitter runners began to overtake me. I was conserving my last remaining energy (if it still lasts) for the last 5km to the finish at Padang. When I reached Singapore Flyer, it was already the 18km mark, another 3km left. I decided to open my strides, caught up some runners along the way. I was on cruise control.

After the turn at Esplanade, it was the last 1km to the finish and the 2-hours pacers were never in sight. Barring any major unforeseeable, I knew the sub 2-hour time was within my grab. Finally at the turn to the Padang with about 150 metres to the finishing, I stretched my strides to the fullest, took off my cap and started to wave to the cheering crowd like a winner. I then made the final dash and the big clock above showed 1 hour 56 mins plus and ticking. It was a race like never before, my best 21km race which I will relish for the longest time to come. For the record, my chip finish was 1 hour 56 mins 12 seconds, finishing in 237th position out of 11,274 runners, among the top 2%.

This Standard Chartered Half Marathon has ended on a high note for me and now, the bar has been raised and the target is set on the full marathon in May next year, the Adidas Sundown. 5 hours and under is my target.

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