Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Standard Chartered Brunei Half Marathon 2013

When I registered for the Standard Chartered Brunei Half Marathon (SCBHM) a few months ago, I made up my mind to use the event as my long slow distance (LSD) run in the build up to the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) in May. I meant it to be a routine Sunday workout while collecting a finisher medal in the process; perhaps running at about 6min/km pace. But recently, it turned into a mission to pace my friend, Hana Harun, in an attempt to achieve her personal best (PB). She had a 2:10 finish under her belt, achieved at the same event about a year ago, but perhaps because of all the excitement following the recent Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in February as reported here, she was hoping for a sub-2hours finish this year. 

Recovering from a severe knee injury after the Vibram HK 100 as reported here, Hana was out of action for some weeks, and by the time she resumed training for Brunei, there was somewhat too little time left for a major breakthrough. I gave her some tips on how to approach her training, but cautioned her not to expect too much. Unfortunately, I had no chance to see her run prior to Brunei, so I had no idea if my training tips were working well for her. Nonetheless, I suggested to her to revise her target to 2:05, and she readily agreed with me. 

A short discussion on the running configuration. Should Hana be running in front of me? I thought that’s an appealing idea, but that could potentially lead to two things: 1) My mind would be more focused on Hana’s rear instead of dictating the pace, or 2) Hana would be at risk of slowing down whenever she felt like it. It was also suggested that I should be running in front of Hana. But in that case, Hana might get distracted by my sexy bottom! So in the end, we agreed that we should run side by side. 

That, then, was the mission for SCBHM 2013. 

We found ourselves at the starting line just shortly before the flag off. Hana seemed all set for a good show. Although it was a small crowd when compared to other major races, it was still a little congested immediately after the start. We began at a pace of about 6min/km while waiting for the crowd to thin out a bit. I turned to Hana, saying that we'll take it easy for the moment, perhaps treat it like a warming up session, but we would have to pay back a little later. Hana had that grave expression on her face, but I pretended not to notice it. 

Shortly after hitting the highway, I gradually increased the pace. By about 3km into the race, I was happy to note an average pace of 5:48min/km on my Garmin. I said to Hana that we're doing great up to that point and on target for a 2:05 finish. In fact, we would have to maintain a 5:55min/km pace for a 2:05 finish, but I needed to allow a bit of time buffer for drink stops as well as the impending hills during the latter part of the race. 

Hana played the obedient runner all too well; she didn’t say much, but when she eventually broke her silence, she said her Garmin was showing a pace of 5:16min/km. It was in fact the Garmin that Darren had lent her for this race. But I dismissed it as inaccurate, as I was sure that we were running much slower than 5:16. 

We duly made our way into the Bandar Seri Begawan town centre, going around the Yayasan Building, and then passing through the Standard Chareted Bank along Jalan Sultan. After allowing for a couple of drink stops, my Garmin was still showing an average pace of 5:50min/km, but I knew that we would lose speed when we come to the hilly portions. As we were just about to exit the town centre, we caught up with Tan Yoke Lee, and eventually overtook her. And when we were approaching the drink station at Km8, we took an energy gel each in anticipation of the long climb after Km9. That climb wasn’t very steep, but it was almost a kilometre of hardwork. I was pleased, however, to see that Hana was able to keep going, although with a significant drop in her pace. It was quite a long downhill section on the other side. And just as we were climbing another hill, I was surprised to see Amy walking! But when we overtook her, she started running again. Shortly after that, John Chin came passing by, looking very relaxed and enjoying his run. 

The hills had quite an impact on many runners, and Hana was not immune from them. I noticed the gradual decline in her pace. On a few occasions I ran a little faster ahead in the hope that that might provoke her to follow suit, but when I turned back, she was lagging further behind. So I had to slow down again to wait for her. For a brief moment though, I thought perhaps a bit of spanking on her buttocks could jump-start her pace again. But I guess that was not a procedure to be recommended——for one thing, it may unintentionally turn into squeezing instead of spanking; and for another, Hana may deliberately slow down even more so that I’d continue spanking her! After all, women are not meant to be easily understood, if you know what I mean? 

And then suddenly Amy began running a little faster again, thus leaving us behind. I looked at my Garmin and noticed that we had declined to about 5:54min/km, barely enough to finish within the 2:05 target. I asked Hana if she could catch up with Amy, but looking at her face, I knew that that was out of the question. With a final short climb to the roundabout, I thought Hana was gonna sprint the whole way to the finish, but instead she was growing increasingly tired. We had by then declined further to about 6min/km average, thus indicating that we have gone beyond the 2:05 target. I said to Hana, we were now looking at a possible 2:06-2:07 finish, but if we slowed down further, we may even touch 2:08. She was in fact in danger of losing her PB even! 

As Hana was becoming increasingly slower during those last few kilometres, she was also making a lot of strange noises——a bit of “uhh” and “ooh” with increasing frequency; if I were not careful, I would be in danger of getting sexually aroused! We kept going like that for what must have seemed like eternity to Hana, until we arrived at the signboard pointing to the junction leading to the finish line. In between her grunts and moans, she said: “Is that it?”, meaning, “Is that the junction to the finish line?”, but it sounded more like “That run was too short!” I replied in the affirmative, and as we turned the corner, we could see the finish line! 

And then there was a sudden increase of those wicked and sexy, if painful, noises from Hana; and they were louder too! With all her might, face distorted into a painful grimace, she started running hard. And I started running hard too. I said, “Follow me, Hana!” and then went off in a sprint, thinking that this time I would provoke Hana for the homestretch dash. But she had very little left in the tank. Hence I slowed down again after a few metres as she was lagging behind, and we ran those last few metres and crossed the finish line together in a little over 2:08. A 2-minute improvement may not seem like a big thing to some people, but seeing how hard Hana had worked for that 2 minutes, I know that that was an extremely huge achievement for her. Shortly later, all the pain on her face melted away, and a huge smile emerged…laughter ensued… 

A friend took this photo of a very happy PB-achiever and her proud pacer. I’m sure with just one look at her big smile, you could tell that Hana was the happiest woman at the race venue that morning. 

There were many other familiar faces from KK too. These are just some of them. 

Some of you may know The Singapore Blade Runner (extreme right in yellow shirt) who was also there to grace the occasion by running the half marathon. Jai was also there and finished in an impressive 2:04. In fact he did so well that he became confused and entangled with his medal. But thankfully he finally figured out how to put the medal on. Audrey aka Odry (in blue running vest) finished in a decent 2:23 and was inclined to pose like a kaki pukul. Oh... what a happy moment for everybody.

Jiki also ran the half marathon that morning and I was given to understand that she finished in 1:57, which if I'm not mistaken, is her PB. That small little creature can run, I tell you. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of hers during the event, but I managed to get this photo of the Ratatouille in action during a recent race in KK.

This was the first time I've actually paced another runner in a race since I started running in 2008. I didn't realise that I could get so much satisfaction from seeing a fellow runner achieving her goal.Who knows, maybe next year Hana will eventually achieve her sub-2hours in Brunei!

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