A week out from race day, I worked myself up into a nervous state. You may read about it later here. It came to a point where I just wanted to get it over and done with.
Race Day, Sunday, 18th of May, 2014
Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon
Ariel and I woke up at an ungodly hour of 3am. I took a quick shower and went down to brekky that the bloke prepared (Thank You, Wookie Ko!) It was a brekky of bacon and egg, with a handful of rice. Not much rice even if race was not until 6.45am. I’ve had no coffee since Saturday, a tip from running buddy, Kim (who lives a million miles away). I have also been off my nightly booze (read: glass of red wine) for a week already. Ariel felt unwell (fluish) the night before, so I was thankful that he felt better this morning and my number one supporter looked after me as he always does, in his quiet way.
We left the house at 4.20am, and drove to Gordon to catch a 5.15am train. We saw a few solo runners in the train. It was Sunday morning, people were in bed. But we runners were united in our obsession. We arrived at Town Hall station at 5.50am. We quickly made our way to the toilet, I knew that the portaloo queue will be very long, I wanted to do my business early.
We made our way to the start line. Again I made a beeline to the portaloos, after my usual warmup of 24 back lunges; I added 24 forward lunges just to ease my mind. Goodness me, my portaloo queue was the slowest in the world.
We were off at 7am. What a festive atmosphere! I heard there were 12,000+ participants today and I knew that a lot of them were interstate visitors. It would seem that seriously serious runners spend a lot of money just to join a meet. I was lucky I only paid a $6.20 train ticket. Return pa!
Everybody was running happy at Km 1. I was running strong. My first 5km was so fast, faster than my runs on the streets of The Hills suburbia. I was averaging 6min/km. All parts of me were feeling good. My legs, my knees (left knee was uncomfortable the past few days), my shins, my calves, my back, my ankles, my sides, my breathing ~ they were all cooperating. I drank two mouthfuls of Gatorade along the way, nothing more coz I did not want a full bladder. At 5Ks, I was meant to take an energy gel, but I didn’t. Just keep going, I was in full flight after all. I will never forget running under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Hickson Road. I was on a high! I soaked in the views of Sydney. It was a majestic Sunday morning, cool autumn feel of 16deg Celcius, and no chance of rain. Perfection!
At 6km, we were running over the water views of Darling Harbour. I said a little prayer. I thanked God for this desire to run! Lately, I’ve become closer to God in my own way. I don’t go to church every Sunday. So I believe, this running of mine has brought me closer to my faith.
Runkeeper kept telling me how great my pace was (well it was telling me that i was running below 7min/km which is great to me), and that it took me 60mins approximately to reach 10km! What? Are you serious? My official 10K PB was 69 mins in last year’s RunSydney event. I can’t believe it. It’s a dream. Suddenly this new PB gave me renewed energy, my happiness spurred me on!
By 13K, my legs have become leaden. There were some serious hills. I have not seen so many hills in my running life. Not that my running life is mature. I told myself to run a flatter course next time around. The hills were like mountains. I began to curse them! I walked some of the steepest and longest. I bravely shuffled on on some!
It’s now 15km and a row of empty portaloos brought me out of my pain-trance. I didn’t think I needed to go, but what the heck, use the loo while I can. This was a mistake, it affected my time. I really could have skipped it. But by then, I think my body needed a break, and my mind thought that a loo break was a good excuse as any.
True enough, off I went again with renewed vitality.
At 16km, we were over the Cahill Expressway, which they closed for us. This stretch of overpass has a spectacular view of the Opera House. All the runners looked and ogled at the icon. It’s like we were all praying for fresh legs. Oh there’s also a Princess Cruise liner. I dreamt of going on a cruise soon.
I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
Read more: Sia – Titanium Lyrics | MetroLyrics
I started feeling a slight stitch on my right side. Dammit. I cannot afford a stitch! Slow down. I talked to it. I told the stitch to please go away. You are unwanted. It went away.
At 18Km (the longest training run I did), I started hallucinating for the finish line. Where the heck is it? Still 3 kms to go. It was the hardest 3kms I’ve ever run. The runners around me were deathly quiet (and dare I say, pastely quiet? Kasi namumutla na kami?). The chatterers (there were so many of them having conversations along the way) who dominated the first 10kms were all very quiet. Everyone was struggling.
A mum who offered me a protein bar somewhere at 10km where we both walked a steep hill was my pacesetter. I kept up with her. She was running steady, stronger than I. We walked some of the most painful uphill climbs. There was no point running myself to exhaustion. I made up for lost time on flats and downhills. But I never forgot to keep form, to not overspeed on downhill, I was always in control of my legs. I just used gravity a lot.
At 19km, so close to finish line, we reached Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. I felt my leg muscles start to tighten. Oh no. Please muscles, not now, not ever. I had to walk again, and stretch my tired legs. My calves started making small twitches. What’s that? I’ve never had this before. Muscles were fatiguing. Cramping was rearing its ugly head. So, just like my fave author Haruki Murakami did (he who runs marathons and ran for 2 decades and some), I talked to my body parts . This is what Murakami wrote in his running memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. A bit woowoo. But what am I gonna do? “Don’t cramp legs. We are nearly at the finish. Let’s go, ladies!”
My lofty ambition of taking on a full marathon in September seemed farfetched at that very moment. Thinking of doubling the distance to 42Kms was making me ill. Now, why in the world will I do that? Am I punishing myself? Like I said, I had big ambitions! A bit too much for my own good.
At the last K, I gave it all I got. And man, I still have some reserve left. How was that possible? The last 500 meters was all heart. Keep The Feet Moving. I remembered and I ran! I heard my name on the loudspeaker, someone was actually reading out the names of each person crossing the finish line. I jogged drunkenly after crossing the finish, then I heard Ariel call out. He was on the course route 3 times, at strategic points. Everytime I saw him, my legs were refreshed! I ran into his arms. So exhausted-happy was I. And there he was, beaming with pride!!! And that was good enough for me!
OFFICIAL TIME: 2 Hours, 31 Minutes (HOORAY!)
PACE: 7.11 mins/KM
PERSONAL BEST: 10KM at 60Mins (HOORAY!)