It is strange that although I've been running races since 2008, I have never run a full marathon in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM). I have run quite a number of races in KL, of course, but for shorter distances. If I'm not mistaken, before this, the longest race I've joined in KL was for 30km only. Last year, I ran a half marathon in the SCKLM. But this year, I decided to join the full marathon in the SCKLM. The main reason was because this year I did not run the Borneo International Marathon in May, because I was a member of the organising committee.
About a month ago, I ran the Sundown Marathon in Singapore and I finished in 4:33 in spite of my target to achieve 4:20. I'm not sure why I failed. Maybe it was because of the heavy rain; maybe it was because I couldn't get enough sleep before the race. But it made me think that perhaps I'm just not destined to achieve anywhere near 4 hours for the full marathon within Malaysia or Singapore. So my mission going into the SCKLM was to achieve a 4:20 finish. My personal best (PB) is 4:07. But that was set in Hong Kong at a temperature of about 18C.
My game plan for SCKLM was to run a steady pace throughout the race. However, from my past marathons, I knew that I would slow down significantly beyond the 30km point. So I had planned to run an average pace of 5:40-5:45 mins/km for the first 30km. After that I had expected to slow down to perhaps 6 mins/km or even 7 mins/km, especially since I was aware of the hilly route within the last 6-7km.
I found myself at the starting line at Dataran Merdeka at about 4:15am. It was a huge crowd. But since I was just targetting for a 4:20 finish, I decided that there was not much point to squeeze myself through to the front of the pack.
At the sound of the start horn, it took a minute or two to finally cross the starting line. And even after I've crossed that line, it was still difficult to run. But a few metres later, I was able to start jogging. I think that was a blessing in disguise, as I was able to gradually build up my speed. According to my Garmin, I ran that first km at about 6.5 min/km. But beyond that I was able to maintain about 5:40 mins/km. I felt strong and fresh even after 7-8km, and I had to suppress my inclination to run faster.
It must have been about 5km into the race when I realised that my friend, Judy Liew, was running ahead. She was running beside her boyfriend. Knowing that she's running close to the 4 hour marathon pace, I carefully refrained from overtaking her.
I maintained that pace until 24km - 25km when suddenly Judy stopped at a water station, and I just continued running. A little later, perhaps at Km27, I saw Dr Liaw ahead. As I approached closer to him, I realised that he was slowing down. I overtook him, and a few hundred metres later, when I stopped to drink at a hydration station, I saw him seeking help to nurse his cramps.
As I had expected, I began to feel a bit tired when I was approaching 30km. Just as I was about to turn into the hills, Judy came from behind. As I began to climb the slope, I could feel that my legs were beginning to seize up. Fearing that it would develop into a full-fledged cramp, I had to slow down. At that point, Judy went ahead, and I merely watched her building up the gap between us.
A few kilometres later, at about Km36, I saw my friend Khadeeja cheering from the roadside. She took this photo of me.
For the most part, I try my best to prevent heel striking when I run. In fact, I still do at this point, even though it appears very much like I was heel-striking. But no, when my weight fully came to rest on that foot, it's completely flat on the ground—honest!
That hilly portion of the route was so punishing that I had to slow down to a briskwalk. If I had forced myself to run, I'm sure my legs would have seized up and I would be in big trouble. Judy, however, pushed on bravely over the hills. A short while later, it was time to descend, and I was able to build up speed again.
As we approached the last few kilometres of the race, we merged into the 10km runners and it became quite congested. And then upon turning into the final stretch, we merged with the half marathoners. But the road was wide enough, and I was able to squeeze my way through without much difficulty.
And then to my surprise, my friend, KK Chai, called out my name. I slowed down just a bit for him to take this photo.
Judy was still ahead of me, but I could see she was already very slow. After the race, she told me that she suffered cramps towards the end of the race. But she was still steady as she approached the finish line.
Courtesy of Tey Eng Tiong
I ran the remaining few hundred metres, gaining speed and finishing just a few metres behind Judy. It doesn't really matter how many marathons one had conquered; the ending of a race is always very exhausting! I'm happy that I've managed to do better than 4:20, but unfortunately, I was unable to improve on my PB. Perhaps reason enough to return for another attempt next year?
After collecting my finisher medal and finisher T, I limped slowly to my hotel. And on my way there, I bumped into KK Chai again for the second time that morning. He took this photo of me.
The SCKLM was a well-organised event. The volunteers did a good job. But I stayed at a nearby hotel, so I did not experience the shuttle buses or car park. Neither did I deposit any bags while I run. But I have no reason to doubt that the organiser must have done a good job.
As always, we come to that funny moment after the race. Spending weeks training for the race; spending hard-earned money for the flights, hotel and other expenses; plus the torture of running 42km in the wee hours of the morning with absolutely no chance whatsoever of winning the race, I come home with sore legs and this medal.
Here are the net times of some of my fellow runners from KK:
Judy Liew: 4:10:37
Liaw Yun Haw: 4:30:35
Victoria Jingulam: 6:14:08
Jainuddin Malik: 5:27:41
Audrey Tuzan: 2:32:59
Erlinda R B: 2:18:33
Harry Koh: 2:41:35
Nur Abidah Ramlan: 2:37:24
Md Jumat Md Tahir: 2:22:27
Darren Jee: 2:10
Esther Sim: 2:20:56
Patricia Ratnam: 1:58:36