It started with our regular weekend LSDs. The men, Choi, Wong sifu, Jamie, Pelle and Ben were training for the PBM and Pelle maintaining his mileage for his wanderlust marathons in Beijing and Stockholm.
These are the very guys that I would salute with two hands. Despite their varying work and family commitments, they are out there at every possible opportunity to complete the LSDs. The other person that I ought to mention is Tey, the IronHand & Legs, the Man with a camera whether he is running or just simply covering an event. A very supportive (no pun intended) and positive person.
To run a marathon has been quite remote as I had only run in half-marathons several times. Moreover, I had only attempted one or two 30k runs. In fact, the remoteness of it all came to nought when the guys were more than positive of my form. That probably pressed the right button. And so in mid-May, I courageously booked myself on the last flight to Penang. This is it. No turning back, no second thoughts unless thunderstorms prevail the very morning on race day.
After getting picked up by Ben, Choi, Wong sifu and William (felt like a pampered princess) at the airport, we returned to the lodge and Ben carbo-loaded with some durians. I did not sleep a wink. It was rather unnerving to be watchful of the time, though alarm was to set off at 2.08am (lucky digits to start off the morning).
I was mentally psyched by the time we gathered at the starting line. For once, I did not look back at the starting line to gaze the number of runners, which I usually do. It has always been a male-dominant event so I saw a number of ladies gathered at the left of the start line. I wondered why.
The gun off was on time and there we went. Jamie was supposed to pace with me. Somehow, they were behind probably hindered with the chit-chattering. I was in the lone dark world of me and myself. Take it easy as I reminded myself. This is not a 10k race. Just as we passed the starting point again, many of the half-marathoners were cheering on the side and I slapped the hand of captain Phoon in a spontaneous moment.
Somewhere after the loop and heading towards to bridge, if my recollection is right, the Eng sisters went ahead. I think they do make a formidable pair – no doubt, brisk and consistent pacers for each other.
I never knew the span of the bridge was that long (even though the figure said it all) until you start running on it – to and fro. To my pleasant surprise, the incline on both sides were gentle and I could overcome that easily. Despite that, I had to remind myself to go easy as there was still a long way to go.
I realized that the best part of running is to run in a new place with absolutely zilch idea of the landmarks to look for (other than the obvious bridge to complete). Even at some stretches of total darkness which I cannot even see my fingers at arm’s length, I was more worried about potholes than a flasher whom I would not have minded, just to bury the thoughts of miles and miles of the mundane flat coastal road which Ben never ceased to mention.
I was mentally revitalized when Eugene, Tey called my name out at the bridge. Somewhere along the bridge, Ben caught up and he offered a spare Powergel after I told him that mine was jettisoned along the loop run. We were running about the same pace with him later ahead to chase a lady runner whom I managed to drop her out of sight at the return uphill bridge span.
At the U-turn loop, I heard Tey again. This part of the long stretch enabled me to see Ben and Jamie, both of whom surprised me as I thought Ben was ahead all this while and Jamie uttered euphemistically that he was way out of target. I felt bad as they were the very people whom I run with quite regularly.
Now I can fully understand that no matter how hard one trains, when you are on the run, small encouragement such as a cheer or two do make or break one’s spirit. At the same time, training runs have no guarantee on the outcome of the actual event. It is anything goes. Only consolation is that training perks up one’s confidence to be at the starting line.
My legs were still strong with no pain or whatsoever. I did thank God for the dry weather but maybe my non-running girl pal ‘over-prayed’ for this weather that it turned humid instead. Hee! Hee! Her prayers are just too ‘powderful’.
Once I re-passed Villa Emas condo, I was happy as it means the end of the coastal road is near. I passed quite a number of runners along the way and I asked a blue-vested runner how long more before the end. “About 4k”, he said. Boy, that 4k is LONG.
After that I hit The Wall – A-ha – not the proverbial Wall but the moving Wall of walkers on the flyover leading to the USM grounds. I was probably at my strongest now but these meandering stream of people are downright frustrating to any runner especially for one who was just about to see the glory of finishing. I extended my arms to move the people out of the way. Almost wanted to shout “Air Panas” which is the magic word for ‘siam’ in Hokkien. This always worked in coffee shops and hawker centres. But of course, the probable “Air Panas” would have been to pee along the way. Oops!
A group of Mat Sallehs was sitting along the road divider after the flyover and they applauded as I approached. That was indeed a very soothing and nice feeling. After acknowledging their applause, I dashed and ‘fought’ my way into the grounds. The bottleneck was almost mockingly laughable. After all the preparation works for VMY and attracting the thousands of runners, organizers had yet to possess the vision of the sea of people coming through that small-waisted gate. It was compounded by the presence of more RELA members. Might as well add in the GOF for good measure. All right, enough philippic.
Coming back to the moment at the glorious finishing line, I was given a tag for 20th position. Wow! The feeling of elation was just top of the world. Few steps later, a lady crowned a pewter medal over me. I think this is the best reception I ever had; It was as if I were a top runner. The officials at the finishing line actually congratulated me. First time ever!
As I ambled across the field, I met SL who took the 10th position and followed by Grace who completed her half-marathon. We both went to collect our goodies bag. We parted ways to be back to our respective comfortable resting places.
You never knew 500m is that far away (where the lodge is) until you have completed 42k. My quads were beginning to feel the beating. I could hardly lift my legs to go on the kerb just to avoid the road traffic. Crossing the junction was like a mother duck waddling. Was I ever so delighted to see the lodge and get back to the room.
I am grateful to Eugene and his son Yixi who helped me load the goodies of my prize into the car. Thereafter, Eugene drove back to KL after a lunch stop in Ipoh.
I guess I am one happy debutante in this event. An encore performance? Try me again in 2008. Right now, just let me bask in the limelight of this run.
Labels: Penang Marathon, Race Report