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multiple reasons why I will not run another marathon.

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There aren’t many places where I can think aloud and hence I shall use this platform to extract the many thoughts in my head after “A race like no other”. I don’t normally lament on my blog so this will be an honest evaluation of myself for myself. Do bear with it; I’ve learnt so much from this race.

***

The good.

This was officially my worst run ever – in every sense of the word – be it the poor timing or post-run physical condition. I’m immobilised (oh, have mercy on my left knee!) as I write this entry and I’m experiencing a facial breakout as expected. Nonetheless, I thank God that I do not have a fever like I did in 2006.

Unlike 2006, where I was extremely determined to finish it, I had nearly wanted to throw in the towel this year. At 9:30am, I thought to myself – how in the world was I going to crawl at this deathly pace for another 4 hours? 2010 was undoubtedly a lot more mental than 2006; finishing it was my only objective.

Strangely enough, even though 2006 was a greater performance, I felt that 2010’s run was by far a greater accomplishment. My finishing time had worsened by nearly two hours – TWO HOURS(!) – that’s a massive deterioration! Yet the sense of satisfaction doubled. However, I don’t plan to accomplish it again.

Frankly, I tried a lot harder this year than in 2006. Each attempt to restart running ended up in failure within 100m. Relentless cramps, low energy resources and an absence of Tiger Balm remedies resulted in over 10 failed restarts; each successive resumption made the subsequent one even more demoralising.

Running with someone with a similar fitness level makes a big difference. In 2006, Adrian and I endured and encouraged each other until the end. This year, I told Kun Jie and Bradley to proceed without me since they could go much faster. I was on my own from the 15th km and that was disheartening.

I’ve never felt so horrible walking; if there was only one wish I could make, it’d simply be to be able to run. I’d rather 长痛不如短痛 anytime. This served as a reminder that I must carry on moving even when I stumble or even when my walk becomes a crawl; a small step forward is still one step forward.

The bad.

I could always have trained a little more but no amount of training would prepare you to deal with cramps. I ran at a steady pace up to the 18th km (and I didn’t stop at all). But when multiple leg cramps hit my body – the excruciating painful kind of cramps – I knew my race was over.

In 2006, there were ample stations distributing energy fluids and muscle rub. The absence of it this year caught me by surprise. I was desperately in search of deep-heat cream to relieve my cramp, which got so throbbing at one point I had to stop. And even at that, I struggled to stretch for the pain left me frozen.

Juxtaposing 2010 and 2006, there was a significant drop of runners carrying a Christian message at the back of their singlet; it was something I had looked forward to – making conversation with people. Either these runners were way ahead of me, or that no one put Scripture on their back.

Age is a significant factor – especially in recovery phase. While it may only be four years apart, I felt four times worse this year than in 2006. I remember telling Huiyi how disappointed I felt after this run; by athletic or achievable measurement, I was left chagrined by my performance, or the lack of.

The 14km at East Coast Park was and always will be the most mentally torturous leg of the race. At the 14th/28th km Fort Road entrance/exit, you will runners entering and leaving the park. I think this was the most challenging phase because it felt like I was returning to square-one without progress.

Two things kept plaguing my mind. I pinned a yellow number tag (for runners aimed to run below 6 hours; a natural decision since I clocked 5.5hours in 2006) in front and an encouragement note behind. This backfired for my optimism on both front and back labels became my vehicle for self-consciousness.

The ugly.

My poor timing resulted in many things after the run. Firstly, I am thoroughly sunburnt. In 2006, I finished at around 11am but this year, I had to endure the midday scorching sun and now the mirror reveals the sunglass and singlet tan lines. I am truly and literally Joey Asher TAN.

I felt that the route-planning for 2010 was a disappointing anti-climax too, with considerable media spotlight; the uphill climb (on the Benjamin Sheares Bridge) at the end of the race decimated many runners; squeezing us dry on the home-run wasn’t uplifting and it just didn’t make sense to me.

There’s a limit to pep-talks from uncles. “Young man, you can give some more”, was what he cried each time he ran past me. At first, it fired me up and I found that extra energy to pick up my pace. But at the third time, with multiple cramps to deal with, all I wanted to do was to ask him to shut up.

Secondly, though there were thousands who completed after me, the thousands who completed before me meant that there were no more M-sized finisher T-shirts. I returned home with an XL pajamas which I obviously will not wear. What an apt (and ironic) conclusion to a sadly forgettable race.

Lastly, I’m convinced that marathons are organised for those complete within 6 hours. At the 38th km, water points had disappeared, medical teams were packing up and volunteers were either having lunch or dozing off – not a motivating sight at all, but they are not to blame. I can only examine myself.

***

I remember telling Bradley at the start of the run, that if I were to run another marathon, it’d be either as a mascot or with my kids. I have done it for them for I want to collect stories to inspire my children; I’ve twice-accomplished one of life’s to-do’s and I shall have the wisdom to declare that that’s enough. I’ve proven my physical and mental mettle and I will always be able to brag about these two achievements to my grandchildren. Pain is temporary but pride is forever. “Ya, you look at Gong-Gong’s belly and may not believe it, but Gong-Gong has run two marathons before.” No one can take that away from me.

I honestly doubt that I would be able to find motivation to train for such a distance again. In fact, when Huiyi picked me up from Raffles City (thank you, dear), I told her I would not run beyond 10km ever again because it doesn’t justify the physical aftermath. This novelty has now been attained and is officially over. I shall move on now in life and look for other challenges to accomplish. I’ve learnt so much about myself and about the journey of life in running these two marathons and these experiences will forever remain embedded in my mind. For all it’s worth, I shall close the chapter on running extreme distances.

Two is better than one.

Edit at 23:59! Next year, I might just join the Ekiden race instead! Perfect substitute for the 42km. Six is better than one. HAHA! (:

i’m running for King Jesus. you?

The last and only time I ran a full marathon was way back in 2006, together with AT. I remember how we encouraged one another to keep the limbs moving, slapped Deep Heat on our legs, consumed those horribly-tasting power fluids, drowned ourselves with 100plus, grunted like a man at every restart and more memorably, how we told each other that we would start and end the marathon together. At the final kilometre, as we caught sight of the end point, we miraculously found strength from I-don’t-know-where and sprinted to the finish line. When we crossed it, our legs never felt that jelly before. It was a defining moment, for sure. Marathons are brotherhood-inducing activities.

Fast-foward four years, I signed myself up for the Standard Chartered Marathon that will take place on 5th Dec 2010. Registration opened today and I took advantage of the early bird price. (Thanks VY, for posting the link on Facebook – can’t wait to train together!) Yes, another gruelling 42.195km worth of sweat and pain. I look forward to the actual run as much as I look forward to the months of progressively intensive training; I remember how AT and I met at Bishan on a weekday at 7pm, ran to Sembawang and back and covered 27km, did our cool-down at 1130pm, looked at each other and wondered how we we were going to make it to work the next day. It was pure insanity, but it was good.

I was so proud of my achievement I kept my finisher’s medal and certificate, as well as my front and back runner’s tag. I also found a picture of myself online running the marathon!

I stayed over at AT’s place the night before and I remember designing the back tag. Adidas ran a campaign on your Reason for Running that year and I took a long time to ponder my message before I wrote that on my tag. Honestly, I didn’t know who or what else to run for except for the glory of God. If I was going to have six hours with thousands of other runners, then I might as well do something with it – so I told myself that I was going to run for Jesus, my King. This gesture to please God turned out to be an interesting experience for me. I had Christians of all ages and gender coming up to me to encourage and to affirm me. It was really quite an experience! I’d encourage everyone to consider taking part in a marathon at least once in their lives; I always tell myself it’d be a tale I’d be able to regale to my grandchildren.

It’s not about how well we start, or how well we run, but about us finishing it as well. Some people say life is short – but how short is it, really, if it’s all we have as mortal beings? Life on earth is actually pretty long – just about the longest duration of any event that we’ll ever experience! To me, life is a marathon – and I am determined to end it well to receive my medal, certificate, memory as well as a good pat on the back and a voice that will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” This year, as with every subsequent year from this point forth, I’m going to run for Jesus again. What about you?

ever-ready, everybody; anytime, anywhere.

After youth service today, I found myself presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with two pre-believers, in the presence of two other R-AGE youths who are believers. It wasn’t these guests’ first time in our service, so I was a little surprised that no one has taken the effort to formally share the Gospel with them. I enjoyed the 45-minute conversation with these youths because it has been a while since I presented the Gospel in such an informal manner; it was refreshing to remind myself of my own salvation.

As I shared, the Spirit started to bring back to memory on exactly how to do it in a systematic manner. The sequence, scriptures, truths and probing questions all arrived at the right time. I was a little rusty but I thought I managed to deliver the message clearly while interweaving my own testimony into it as well as involving the two christian youths to share as well as inviting the pre-believers to ask questions. Interestingly enough, on my way home after sending HY back, JP’s sermon on Romans 1:16 was the first track on my shuffled playlist.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

In the very short message, JP compared the shame of the 60’s against the shame of the 90’s. In the 60’s, a believer would be ridiculed for believing the Gospel to be the truth. In the 90’s, a believer would be ridiculed for believing that there’s even a truth. Isn’t that postmodernism in a nutshell? I realised that youths today are a lot less receptive to the truth (regardless of whether it’s biblical truth or moral truth), and would much prefer to define it for themselves, according to their terms and what works best for them. No wonder we have more and more free-thinkers and pseudo-intellectuals thinking that they know everything. (I don’t even dare to say I know anything, hence my personal pursuit of knowledge and prayer for wisdom.)

I’d like to think that believers these days, as many are second-generation Christians, are becoming slack in their knowledge of the Word, hence they are unable to put up a defense for their own faith. I’m not talking about big-time apologetics; I’m talking about the simple justification of why they are even a Christian to begin with. Faith is never a hand-me-down commodity. It has been well-documented and preached by many pastors that “God has no grandchildren”. I firmly opine that one must own and be responsible for their own faith!

Faith is becoming a poisonous element to skeptics. It is precisely due to the subject of faith, their lack of and non-subscription to it which prompted their skepticism. No wonder the Word declared it clearly in Hebrews 11:6, as if it preempted postmodernism, that, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” I’d like to think that one reward of having faith in God is that we have the peace of God that reigns in our hearts forever, in the face of skepticism and postmodernism, rendering our faith to be unshakeable (by God’s grace).

In future posts perhaps, I’ll share my other thoughts on my faith issues. But for now, I’d like to exhort all serious Christians (who naturally should be compelled to be passionate about evangelism) to be prepared to present the Gospel and their testimonies at any given time, for any given occasion, simply by ensuring that they have:

  • Memorised the necessary scriptures for sharing (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9 etc.)
  • Practised the chronological sequence of themes (Creation, Judgment, Sin, Redemption etc.)
  • Written and rehearsed their own testimonies of how they came to know the Lord or how the Lord has been real to them
  • Familiarised themselves with frequency asked questions about the Christian faith

May I also encourage you to engage the Holy Spirit and rely on Him to direct the session and to do the convicting; this is crucial because we must remember that our duty is evanglism, not salvation – we leave that to Jesus. In closing, note that these above four factors are in past tense. I firmly believe that we must be in state of readiness, not preparation. Perhaps it’s time to have remedial sessions for Gospel-sharing.

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