This thing about successively failing to achieve my race targets is beginning to get to me. In fact, it's beginning to embarrass me! Andrew Voon has lost his magic touch to give us a cool weather today as he did in the last Borneo International Marathon (BIM) in October last year. But cool or hot weather, I did not have it in me to do what I set out to do today.
From the start horn, I thought I ran a smart race, holding an average 6-min kilometre, with a couple of minutes' to spare to achieve my target of 4:30. I carefully refrained from increasing my pace within the first 10km of the race. I felt strong and no exhaustion whatsoever during that first hour, and I thought it would have been possible to run a bit faster. But I remained true to my game plan. Despite that, I still hit the wall after the 30km point. And that absolutely spoiled my chances to achieve my target!
As expected, I managed to get about 3 hours' sleep last night—if you could really call that a "sleep" sleep. The mind was all too excited thinking about the race, and everything that could go wrong with it! I'm just a born worry-er, you see, there's just nothing much I can do about it!
We reached the stadium shortly before 3:30am and found a nice parking spot. Inside, there were already so many people there. I met CP Tan, who came all the way from KL for this race in the hope of improving on his 3:57 he achieved in Penang last year. I told him that the terrain in the BIM is perfect for setting a personal best (PB). But what he did not know was the kind of morning heat we have in KK!
Dr Peter Ong arrived shortly later and was all smiles. I don't know if it's me but this guy has a curious effect on me. He is obviously a faster and stronger runner than I, and I keep finding myself trying so damn hard to live up to his standard! And for this race, we had a meal of lobster on stake between the two of us.
The next couple of minutes, our friends arrived one by one—Dr Joseph, Kevin, and at the dying minutes, Judy and Dr Felice. The latter had to rush from her clinic where she had just performed a delivery on one of her patients.
In the days prior to this race, Dr Peter and I had planned to run together. And then Judy said that she will run with us too, though I doubted it very much because she's not one who would run slow.
In spite of our plan, upon the sound of the start horn, Judy, as expected quickly disappeared into the darkness of the morning ahead of us; I was running a 6-minute kilometre; whereas Dr Peter decided to adopt the plan of running a 6:15-minute kilometre. So throughout the race, we never did run together! Mia, who's making her debut full marathon this year, adopted the plan of running a 7-minute kilometre. So I quickly lost sight of her.
Well-rested legs are quite hard to control somehow; there's that tendency to build up on speed subconsciously, and I had to keep checking my pace throughout that first hour or so. I arrived at the northern loop (12km) in about 1:10. Making my return leg to the south, I saw Dr Peter coming from the other direction, approaching the loop. I reckon that he was almost 1km behind me by then. But I knew being the strong and fast runner that he is, it was just a matter of time that he will turn the table on me. I think it was from that moment on that I constantly felt the presence of Dr Peter hot on my heels. And Judy? Well, she's hot for just being a young woman in tight running outfit! I managed to catch a glimpse of Mia in the dark on my way back from the northern loop. She appeared to be doing great.
Well, the run was surprisingly enjoyable up to the Wisma Perindustrian roundabout (22.5km). Beyond that point, however, heading south to KK City and Tg Aru, I began to feel a little bit of tiredness in my legs, but I was still able to hold my pace quite confortably. I looked back a couple of times, but I still failed to see Dr Peter anywhere in the crowd. I wondered when he was gonna make his move.
I think it must have been around the 27km point at the Wawasan roundabout when I started to feel the exhaustion in my legs. I carefully reduced my pace a bit, but still holding steady, especially after I had a banana at a water station. Just as I was approaching the Sutera traffic lights (29km), I saw Teo coming from the opposite direction on the return leg of his half marathon. By then the heat was already building up rather quickly, and it was obvious that I was gonna get caught in one of the most punishing of morning suns in KK! Looking at my watch, I was pleased to note 2:54, which meant that I've managed to maintain my 6-minute kilometre pace.
However, when I reached the 30km point, I felt a sudden change—my legs became so tired and I could feel cramps developing on both thighs. As I was passing the Tg Aru town, I saw Judy coming from the opposite direction. She was hot, but this time literally so. The sun was beating onto her face; I dreaded the thought of having to go through this route on my return leg. Well, I basically struggled all the way to reach the Tg Aru first beach. And right there at the loop, I was pleasantly surprised to see Shan who was volunteering at a water station. I think she said something like, "Hi Cornelius, you're looking fit!" And in my heart, I was like, "Yeah, well, looks can be deceiving!" I grabbed a drink, and then I saw the Sloan deep-heat cream. I've never used it before, but because I was already suffering cramps on both thighs and calves by then, I emptied the entire tube and rubbed the cream onto both legs. Then I started running again for the final 10km torture back to the stadium.
About 500 metres into my return leg to the stadium, I met Dr Peter approaching the loop. It meant that I was ahead by about 1km. I thought I saw a big smile on his face, and immediately I knew that it's just a matter of time that he would overtake me. In my condition, there was just no way I could hold on to that 1km lead. And from that point onwards, the whole marathon suddenly became a race of cat and mouse between Dr Peter and I.
Oh! that last 10km was so painful, I had to stop several times. And then as if that wasn't bad enough, the cream I applied onto my legs began to take effect, and it was so damn hot it felt like chilli, burning both my legs to the extent of great discomfort! Well, I ran and walked alternately until I reached a water station where I could find water sponges. I used a couple to cool down my face and neck which were already burning from the scorching sun; and then took some more sponges to wash off as much of the cream as possible. Then I continued running with sponges in both hands. Whenever I felt like the cramps were building up again, I would use the cold sponges to dab my legs.
While I was passing Sutera for the second time, I was already conscious of Dr Peter gaining on me. But because I did not have my glasses on, I couldn't tell for sure even though I kept looking back. By the time I reached in front of Standard Chartered Bank, Dr Peter emerged from the traffic lights of Wisma Merdeka. I tried my best to keep running, but by the time I passed the Wisma Perkasa roundabout, Dr Peter was already a meager 30 metres behind me. With my legs still in pain, and still about 4km to go to the finish line, it was obvious it's time to surrender. I looked back to Dr Peter, I waved a hand, shouting, "Doc, you go ahead, I'm done!" Then I stopped running and started walking.
A moment later, I looked back, and to my surprise, Dr Peter had also stopped and apparently massaging his legs! It was obvious that he, too, was suffering from severe cramps! I suddenly felt there's hope again. I don't know how, but I found myself running again. And Dr Peter kept trying to close the gap. Those last few kilometres, the two of us were very comical. Who would've thought that one can still laugh like that while in pain?
As we got closer and closer to the stadium, the struggle became more and more punishing. And Dr Peter, in spite of stopping several times, did not show any sign of giving up! I just kept running—and walking when I saw Dr Peter walked. Before I knew it, we were already fast approaching the stadium. As I was entering the stadium, I saw Dr Peter at some distance away. Looking at my watch, I realised I had failed to achieve my target of 4:30. Immediately after I passed the arch into the stadium, and seeing the finish line about 200 metres away, I slowed down to a walk. My legs were just like jelly. I had nothing left in them. I have missed my target, but at least I was ahead of Dr Peter. And then about 100 metres to the finish line, when I looked back, to my horror, I saw Dr Peter running into the stadium, obviously still not done tormenting me! I don't know where I got the energy, or how I could move my legs, but I started sprinting that last 100 metres to the finish line.
So in the end, I failed yet again to achieve my target. Now this is getting quite embarrassing, maybe I'm just not good enough for this sport. But at least the good news is that I've improved my PB from 4:40 to 4:36; and won a lobster from the forsaken tormentor!
After that, I had to wait for almost 2 hours before Mia's arrival within a time of 6:25 based on her watch. She, too, suffered cramps and had to walk for more than 8km from Tg Aru first beach up to Wisma Perindustrian roundabout before starting to run again for the finish. I remember feeling worried when Mia did not arrive after 5:45. And by 6:15, I was already thinking that she might be in an ambulance. Looking at the hot weather beyond 10am, I could just imagine how much she must be suffering out there. And then at almost 10:30am, Mia ran into the stadium through the arch. For a brief moment, my heart sank and I was overwhelmed by emotion. Amazing fighting spirit, but how my heart broke to see my wife suffer like that!
Well, there isn't much more to tell. I think Andrew and his team did a very good job this year, except of course he failed to hire a reliable bomoh to arrange for some clouds in the sky today. I'm impressed that unlike in previous BIMs, there were still drinks at the last few water stations this time round.
I will try to sort out the photos as soon as I can and post them in a separate post later. I will also post some of the results involving some of my friends.