The Adidas King of the Road 2013 was meant to be my first race after I embarked on this journey to stay healthy. However, it was cancelled due to the heavy thunderstorm on the actual day itself. I was very excited about it actually since it was meant to be my first race, got all drenched to get to the race only to have it cancelled.
As such, the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run 2013 became my first race. It is a half marathon 21km, longer than the 16.8km of the Adidas KOTR 2013. I am not too sure I could even complete it. I have been doing Long Slow Distance runs on weekends, but the furthest that I manage to complete was a 19km run just the week before, so I was pretty nervous about it.
The night before I was to sleep at 8pm so as to have 7 hours of sleep when I wake up at 3am. However, I just could not sleep till past 12, perhaps due to the excitement or just that I am not used to sleeping early. After struggling to wake up at 3am, I took my breakfast, a meal of overnight oats with banana and honey. Then it was off to the starting point.
I arrived early, around 4.35am, and there was already a huge crowd at the starting point. The place was lighted up with the F1 lights switched on (must be specially arranged). This was also the first time that I have seen Kenyan runners up close. They looked lean and mean. I was wondering the kind of training they went through to stay in such shape.
Soon it was 5.15am and the Chief of Army flagged off. There was a lot of overtaking, jostling as some runners wanted to be in front. As for me, my strategy was pretty simple, to try to maintain a consistent pace of 7 minutes per km, a pace that I have been training at, and enjoy my first race.
The route took us from the start point at Esplanade Bridge through Robinson Road before making a U-turn at Shenton Way. This was when I realised running in a race is very different from training runs. It was hot, really hot even though it was early in the morning and the sun is not up yet. The body heat generated from thousands of runners around me caused me to be drench in sweat even before the 2km mark. Also, it was really crowded, and I really have to be careful where I was running as runners were jostling and overtaking dangerously, flying elbows hitting me a few times.
Towards Marina Barrage, it was dark, and the route was getting narrow. As I have been running along this route for training, it was quite familiar to me, though I still have to watch where I was going.
Then I hit the choke point. It was around the 7km mark, where the route narrows to a path which is wide enough only for 2 person to go through. I was stuck at the choke point for more than 10 minutes (those further behind me were complaining on forums they were stuck for more than 30 minutes). By the time I was free of the choke point, I had already warmed down. At this point I was worried if I will struggle.
The stoppage at the choke point messed up my rhythm. I was struggling to maintain my targeted pace of 7 minutes per km, and the fact that the route started to go up slope and down slope did not help. By the time I was at Nicoll Highway, the sun was up, and it was getting hot. Upon reaching 16km, I could feel tightness on my legs muscles, a prelude to cramps. I had to walk.
I was walking and running for the next few kilometres, and with the heat, I was clearly struggling. Upon reaching the 19km mark, I told myself I have to run the next 2 km to finish the race, however after passing the 20km mark, my left thigh started to cramp. I was limping and hoping I will not fail just before the finish line. After walking for a bit, the cramp went away, and I could run past the finish line. After collecting my finishers’ medal and tees, and one miserable can of cold 100plus, I found a nice little spot on the Padang grass to rest.
This was when I finally realised I had completed my first half marathon. I was really feeling emotional at that point, coming from unable to run 2km in December last year when I first started, to completing my first half marathon 9 months later. Coming from fat, obese and unhealthy to a thinner, 15kg lighter me. When I was struggling at 15km mark, I was cursing and swearing why did I sign up for races, having to wake up at 3am for a 5.15am race, struggling in pain for more than 2 hours. But upon completion, I found myself reviewing the mistakes and lessons learnt from my first race to prepare for the next one.
There were a couple of lessons learnt from my first race:
1) Train for slopes. I have been running on relatively flat grounds for training. This makes me ill-prepared for slopes during the race.
2) Have to find a better tasting energy gel. I had them during training and had no problems, however I almost threw up after my third energy gel during the race.
3) A better pair of running shorts, one that is not so thick that it becomes heavy after absorbing all my sweat.
4) A running belt that will hold my phone, keys etc and does not bounce during my runs. I was putting them in a ziplock bag and in my running shorts pocket. It became heavier with each kilometre.
5) More cross training, more core and strength training for a better time.
The next run will be the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run on the 15th September, a 10km run. After that it will be my second half marathon at the Standard Chartered Marathon in December.
My first half marathon timing:
Next target is to improve upon this timing in my next half marathon at the Standard Chartered Marathon. I will have 3 months to train for that!