Event: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, July 5, 2015
Soon after reaching the finish line, my crew joined me on the grass where I did my usual cool down stretch routine. I didn’t feel too bad after over five hours of running. All my toenails were intact; I had no blisters, no chafes, no knee, calf, nor ankle pain. Just all around fatigue in a very massive way. I really got off lightly for a first marathon.
It was just freaking long and it took forever to finish.
Ariel handed me a Magnum ice cream and it tasted heavenly. I didn’t feel like eating any of the food on offer at the race precinct. I opted to have instant mee goreng (pansit) instead back at the hotel. That tasted heavenly too. Hahaha. It would seem that all my senses were heightened post marathon!
I really want to write a detailed race recap. I must admit that everything went by in a blur, but i will try my best to share my story. More so for me as a reminder of my folly when I grow old…
My family watched Forrest Gump the night before the big day. I needed the inspiration and it succeeded in pumping me up. I slept early, around 10.00pm, but I kept on waking up. I woke up at 11.30pm, at 1am, at 3am. I finally got up at 4am, then tinkered with my iPhone for the next 15 minutes. Breakfast was just two toasts with peanut butter and jam. No eggs, no avocado, just a no-frills carb brekky so as not to upset the tummy. It was of utmost importance not to eat anything spicy nor greasy days before the marathon. After brekky, a visit to the toilet was a must! Ariel and I left the apartment hotel at 5.30am. He couldn’t board the bus to the race precinct as only runners were allowed on it. I was on my own onwards. Was I nervous? Not too much. I was more nervous during the lead up, such that I think I kinda squeezed the anxiety out of my system. I went into autopilot. The experience of 4 half marathons kicked in.
I arrived at the race precinct a bit past 6am. I had plenty of time to muck around and get my bearings. I made three trips to the toilet, three! A lady I chatted on the toilet queue said it was her fourth! I love it when I chat up random strangers like we were friends. I guess we do have a common bond, and soon, a shared experience. Besides we can’t wait to share our running CV to each other! I did my warm up stretches, my dynamic leg swings and my 40 lunges. I was ready to rock and roll.
The weather was a cool 10°C with no hint of rain. I did pack a poncho just in case. I also packed a banana (I ate half at KM30), 5 gels (I only had two), cut protein bar (that I never ate), a hanky (for nose drips 😝), sanitary napkin (my monthly period has a habit of visiting during an event), some wet ones (in case of a toilet emergency) and lots of jelly beans. All these I packed into my Flipbelt and a bum bag (sorry Dungho😝).
The start gun went off at at 7.20am, and 6,118 runners headed south of the Gold Coast esplanade. Mums and dads, lolos and lolas of all sizes outnumbered young people in their twenties. I was relaxed, I was in my zone. I imagined phantom pains everywhere in my legs the day before, but they were a no-show today. There were so many Asian tourists from Japan, Hongkong, Taiwan and Malaysia. What with direct bargain flights from those countries. They added colour and banter into the “seriousness” of us Aussies. They ran with flags and selfie sticks and go-pro gadgets. We, the locals simply ran with our earphones! Everyone was friendly and supportive, we were united in our own goals that day – to give our very best.
My coach and hubby Ariel reminded me weeks before that this marathon was equivalent to only 8 parkruns and a bit. So at KM5, I ticked off one parkrun with 7 to go. (Please look up your nearest 5K free parkrun and give it a go!)
At KM9, I saw my family with so much glee. Ariel, Gabo and Migo were in pre-agreed vantage points. Migo was carrying the placard they made for me which read ~ “Finish what you started, mum!” Ariel later told me that people loved their placard. One dude even joked near the finish line, “Did your mum finish?”
I was feeling A-OK at KM10, my pace was at an even 7mins/km, my desired pace. At this point, I decided to listen to my newly purchased audible book called “Running like a girl”. It served me well for the next 20Ks coz it was witty and funny in a natural way. I took my first energy gel here. The temperature rose to 21 degrees with hardly any shade, so I made sure I drank at every water station, even if some were just sips as I felt my tummy becoming queasy early on. This marathon ran alongside the water for 40% of the time. To break the monotony, I entertained myself by soaking in the breathtaking ocean views. A gentle breeze whispered and soothed us warm runners.
We also encountered the lead pack at this stage, they were already on their way back to the north where the finish line was. Oh my, how fast can these elite athletes fly! Japanese women won the top 3 female medals. I have utmost respect for these female athletes. In fact, I have increased respect to all marathoners hands down regardless of finish times. It was becoming apparent to me that race day itself was tougher than the months of training.
I allowed myself one toilet break at KM15. I high fived so many kids cheering their mums/dads along the course. My heart swelled at their little smiles. One little kid said “oh that hurt but yes!” after getting a high five from an enthused runner.
At KM 24, my friend Brenda rang me. I told her the other week that I will ring her at the hardest part of my run. But here she was now, ringing me instead. Because I was already beginning to tire at this stage, I kept our conversation brief. I told her I was feeling fine and that I was in KM24. It was true, I felt fine, despite my right quad giving me grief. A familiar small cramp arrived, but nothing I could not handle.
This cramp moved to the left quad later. Then disappeared altogether after I ignored it. My half marathons taught me that depending on the severity of a cramp, some cramps can be ignored. I didn’t even stop to stretch, I just kept going. I didn’t mind people overtaking me. You can’t let that bother you. In the end, I know, I will be overtaking them!
I again see my kids and hubby. This time, I stopped to have my photo taken. Hey, I am running for 5 hours, what’s a few seconds lost?
At KM30, I started having a brain fade. The endless stretch of road seemed super wide and infinitely long to me. I chose to run in the middle where the ground was even, to keep my hips in complete alignment, right on the white line as some kind of dazed entertainment. I allowed myself to walk by the drinking stations. I obsessed at reaching KM35. This was a mistake. Focusing on long distances can play havoc in one’s mind. Our biggest enemy, I do declare, is not our bodies. The enemy is our monkey minds! In retrospect, I should have focused on other things such as, what will be my next challenge (a yoga headstand!), what is my reward waiting at the finish line, why am I taking all this punishment, my next upcoming holiday, my boys, and Roxy whom I missed dearly! I really wanted to stop right there. It was not fun anymore. Did I bite more than I could chew? I switched to music and I heard Sia blasting “Elastic Heart”.
I want this so bad, it hurts!
What a relief to arrive at KM35 and how excruciating it was to get there! One more parkrun to go and a bit. If I remember it right, this was the turnaround point; and this was when I stopped every 2 kilometers and wasted time. Looking at my Garmin, I realised I will never make sub-5 hours. So I might as well give myself a break and go easy. I jogged/walked for the next 5 kilometers. There were so many walkers around me by this time (people started walking at KM30). In fact, I felt like I was the only one shuffling along. The temptation to walk was great, it’s like when someone yawns, everybody else yawns too. I did my best to keep shuffling as much as I could, overtaking everybody around me, keeping my walk breaks short. I felt like Wonder Woman. I saw a fit guy and a fit girl, and I am overtaking them ~ Woohoo! My new goal was to finish at sub 5:30 hours.
At KM39, Brenda rang me again. I was waiting for her call and we chatted a bit. What a friend, how very supportive and very loving. I don’t think I deserve someone super like that. It’s making me teary thinking about it now.
At KM40, I felt a surge of happiness, a victory even. I can finish this. So I went to the side of the road to take a moment, faced the ocean surf which was so inviting, and said a silent prayer of thanks. Never have I felt so alive. I felt my humanity, my vulnerability, my insanity. I was grateful and I was humbled by this experience. A few folks had to be medically attended to on the side of the road. I saw one woman crying. And here I was, intact and about to become a marathoner.
As if by magic, I felt my leaden legs wake up. I found renewed (emotional) energy. I ran with all my heart the last 2.2 kilometers. Towards the end of a race, when all energy is sapped, your heart’s desire will take you to the finish line. I wasn’t jogging nor shuffling anymore, I was in full stride, or so it seemed to me.
The spectator support was unbelievable. The Running Mums Australia Facebook support group made a big difference throughout the morning. I kept getting waves and big yells of “go running mum”. The magic of the RMA shirt was in full throttle, I am glad i wore it today. I knew I couldn’t do this alone. One running mum even crossed the road to get closer to me and high fived me.
And so I finished “strong” at heart. My finish time was 5 hours and 26 minutes. 26 minutes more than I intended to. But I couldn’t have done any better. It was a case of mental fatigue, nothing else. But hey, I learned plenty about myself today. I grew as a person. I was curious, I was hungry, I dared bravely. I risked failing and falling flat on my face.
My most important takeaway was ~ I can achieve what I can imagine with the right training, motivation and attitude. Improved nutrition and increased fitness are necessary inputs. Yes, it is called hard work, so it must be something you LOVE. Anyone can do this too methinks. Well maybe not the full marathon but certainly anyone can do a half marathon!
I am now a marathoner. And yes I am getting used to “Daring Greatly”. (Thank you, Brene Brown).
“If you are going to fail, fail gloriously.” – Cate Blanchett
PS: Will I run a marathon again? Honestly, I answered an emphatic NO to that question immediately after the marathon. This was my reply to my dearest friend Weng when I poured my race recap to her as I always do. But the next morning, when my runner’s high (I am still highly strung) woke me up at 3am, thoughts of my next marathon plan swirled in my brain. I became so alert suddenly, that I had to write this blog. My question to other marathoners reading this, does it get any better after the first?
First marathon finish time: 5:26 hours
Goal: To finish ~ Achieved
Secondary goal: To finish under five hours ~ Failed