It was an exciting build up to the marathon. Three months before the race, a few of us started to do weekly East Coast Park long runs of up to 2 hours 45 minutes. The key runners in our group were Devathas Satianathan, Ramesh Palaniandy and me. It was good fun every Sunday and we really looked forward to these runs every week!
So when race day came, I was really excited for everyone and I could really feel the team spirit. My training though has not been specific for the marathon. My focus has been the ASEAN University Games (AUG) which will run from the 18th to 22nd December in Chiangmai where I will be doing the 5000m and 10000m. Thus, I have not been doing any marathon-paced runs but rather short and faster workouts balanced with the weekly long runs with the group. However, I was still confident of a good time in the marathon.
On race day, Devathas, Ramesh, Jason Lawrence (who just returned to Singapore after finishing his teaching degree in New Zealand), and I warmed up together under the beautiful Christmas lightings of Orchard Road.
I was amazingly relaxed as I knew I would definitely be doing a sub-2:40, especially with the help of Jason Lawrence whom I have trained with extensively. He was treating this as a glorified long run and he was going to run as far as he could with me as long as he was comfortable. In fact, my target was a 2:35 (a 3:40 per kilometre pace).
At the start line, Jason, Ramesh and I had the privilege to stand in front with the elites and the atmosphere was amazing. I was very excited and at the same time really calm. I could feel I was in good shape and I couldn’t wait for the fun to begin. I popped an SIS gel 30 minutes before the start to get my blood glucose levels high for the start.
Gun goes, everyone goes and surprisingly, many local runners shot to the front way ahead of me. Jason and I remained relaxed and it was really really comfortable. The first kilometre brought us through the tunnel and everyone’s GPS went haywire! I didn’t plan for this but I immediately pressed the lap button after the tunnel to get back in tune. After the first kilometre, Ashley Liew, the eventual runner-up, was a few hundred meters in front. It was just an early morning run with great company!
At 5km, we caught up with another local runner, Ang Chee Yong, who eventually finished fifth. We were in total control and were really comfortable. I popped another SIS gel at the 5km mark to start my nutrition plan early.
The route was rather winding in the city with lots of turns and corners though it did not affect us much. I must say the lack of supporters along the route really made the run dull, probably due to the very early start time of 5am.
At 10km, we finally caught up with Ashley. Here, I started to have the privilege of the elite water stations where we placed our own bottles of drinks along the course every 5km. Thus, I got my first dose of SuperHydro electrolyte drinks with my second gel of the run and third gel of the day. As Jason was not able to get elite status, I taped two gels to each bottle and he got one too. We were feeling amazingly good at this point and we were rolling!
At 12km, we entered East Coast Park and we noticed the elite women’s lead pack with their camera motorcycle about 300m ahead. I told Jason,”Shoot, we gotta catch the camera and get on TV!!” I got really excited about the prospect and we increased our pace slowly. At this point in time, our average pace was 3:42/km — it was healthy but about 1 minute off our target pace.
At 15km, I took my bottle again — but this time they misplaced my bottle and had put it on the women’s table! It was funny. I grabbed it and the official started screaming at me for taking the wrong bottle and even attempted to chase after us!! What a joke. We shouted back at him and that gave us an added adrenaline boost HAHA! Our pace increased beautifully. We were still comfortable and in control. However, after shouting, Jason had a tummy ache but I held up the pace.
At 21km, we made a U-turn and we noticed the elite women were just 200m away. We decided we would catch them by the time we ended the ECP stretch. We ran slightly harder but on hindsight, I think we went a bit too fast. The average pace for the last 10km after we caught them at 25km was 3:33/km – that’s an average of seven seconds faster per kilometre and I thought it would come back and haunt us near the end of the race.
Once we caught the elite women at 25km I was ecstatic! I made thumbs up signs at the camera and It was so so fun! Along the way back I also met many of my friends running the opposite direction and the atmosphere was great. Probably that’s why I ran faster too because it was so rejuvenating to hear all the cheering. I guess people were excited to see me running with some Kenyans even though they are women. HAHA!
We followed for 2km but Jason stubbornly went on to drive the women’s train and kept on leading. I told him “Cool it Jace, don’t make them mad!”, but he now denies it and says I am the one who agitated the ladies. HAHA.
Eventually at 27km, I found the pace was suicidal and decided to drop back. By then, the women’s pack of four broke up with only two ladies following the motor bike and two had dropped off.
Between 30km and 35km, I had by then eaten about five gels on my runs and was too full to eat anymore! So I skipped a few but ate the caffeine gel at the 35km mark. It was great and it powered me on till 37km when the dreaded Benjamin Sheares Bridge appeared in my sight! To be honest, till the day before, my friends were still debating if the bridge was part of the course, but I guess we just prepared ourselves for the worst.
Jason went up the 800m hill effortlessly but I was cramping up, probably from the fatigue exerted on the ECP chasing the elite ladies. At this point, our timing was still on time for a 2:35 but after the hill and after the crazy downhill that killed our quadriceps, my legs were just cramping up. It was not wise to push harder as cramping would only make me stop and lose even more time. Thus, it was wiser to slow down to cope with the cramp.
At 39km, the camera which finished following the men came back to follow me! How cool is that? Last year, all my friends commented how terrible I looked on the camera and this year I didn’t want to look that bad, man! So i told Jace, “Hey bro, lets take it easy, my legs are cramping up and it’s shitty here. I gotta smile for the camera!”
Being such a nice friend, he slowed down. I think he also got some good reviews from Pat Butcher, the official marathon commentator, who said how good Jason looked. Damn. I was hoping he wasn’t going to steal my limelight! But it was all really in good fun.
Though my goal of 2:35 was gone now, my 2:38 is still a great 5-minute improvement from last year.
As we turned into the finish for the last 1km, I put on my best smile and finished the race. The atmosphere was good. Though my breathing was pretty regulated, I couldn’t risk going harder or my cramps would have come on.
It was just a great marathon! My second one in my life.