Posted by Joey Asher Tan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! (:
Tags: Adrian Tay, Benjamin Sheares Bridge, Bradley Lam, children, Christian message, East Coast Park, Ekiden, finisher t-shirt, Fort Road, Gong-Gong, grandchildren, Lee Huiyi, Lim Kun Jie, marathon, number tag, Race, Raffles City, Sports, Standard Chartered Marathon 2006, Standard Chartered Marathon 2010, sunburnt, Tiger Balm