Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Borneo International Marathon 2016

As I'm posting this, my legs are still recovering from the torture of the full marathon in the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) last Sunday (1st May). BIM 2016 is the 9th edition of the race, and I can say that it's the best one yet. I'll share my journey from the start to the finish line of the full marathon in this post, and then later I will deal with the other aspects of the organisation of the race in a separate post.

A few months ago, when I registered for the BIM 2016, I had foreseen that I won't be ready for a PB-hunting mission in early May. I've been training regularly, of course, but my training was mainly for the Half Ironman distance (triathlon), of which the run leg was of the half marathon (21km) only. I've raced 2 Half Ironman distance triathlons this year—in March and in April—and to train for a PB in the full marathon in less than a month after the Putrajaya 70.3 was just something that's too tough for me. Running the full marathon, especially if hunting for a PB, is a different ballgame, and requires a slightly different level of training.

Accordingly, I set my mind on a modest target of a 4:30 finish last Sunday. My running buddy, Dr Peter Ong has also agreed to run a 4:30 full marathon, thus treating the BIM as his peak long slow distance (LSD) as a preparation for his race in the Great Wall Marathon in mid May.

Incidentally, I saw a lady friend named Dazeree posted on her facebook that she's aiming for a sub-4:30 full marathon finish in the BIM, having achieved 4:52 in BIM last year. My first reaction was that she was too ambitious, because it's not so easy to shave more than 20 minutes in the full marathon. However, after finding out some of her running credentials, e.g. 10km pace, training patterns etc, I thought that she had enough ingredients for a sub-4:30 full marathon. I offered her my guidance on how to achieve the 4:30 target, including drawing up a basic training programme for her.

My only concern for Dazeree was that she had way too many mid-distance races on her calendar, thus depriving her much-needed LSDs over the weekends. But on the other hand, the good news was that she was also training for the Beaufort 60km Ultra a few months ago, and the LSD from the training for that race was beneficial for the BIM. The only remaining factor was the racing pace, since many fast runners fail to reach their true potential because they run way too fast in the early stages of the full marathon.

I had another 2 lady friends who wanted to join us on the 4:30 FM mission, but they did not quite live up to the training programme that I had drawn up. I also invited members of the Kota Kinabalu Running Club to join us if they're aiming for a 4:30 FM finish.

On the morning of the race, however, Peter and I started on our own. I tried looking for the ladies in the crowd, but my eyes failed me without my glasses. Because we had intended to run slow, we started from the back of the pack. So many people were blocking our way, and we had to run at 8min/km pace for about 1.5km until we reached the coastal highway. In order to achieve the 4:30 finish, we had to average at 6:10min/km-6:15min/km. Peter said he will let me take the lead, and he will just follow. But as soon as we hit the coastal highway, I think he was suddenly overwhelmed by the kiasunisis disease, and he was the one who initiated the "course correction", thus building up his pace to 5:30min/km. I tagged along and felt surprisingly comfortable. However, as soon as I saw my average pace hit 6:10min/km, I eased down a bit, and saw Peter drifting ahead in the dark.

It was such a pathetic experience running as a pacer, but without anybody running along. However, I caught up with Peter again later just as he was about to climb the first hill in UMS. We ran a little, and then he suggested that we shouldn't waste energy, and just walk up that hill. I had accounted for that walking break anyway, so both of us took our time walking uphill. Then a swift downhill run on the other side. Not too long after that we reached the bottom of the hill, and while running the internal loop, I caught up with Ziezye. I heard that she's a fast short-distance runner, and this was her debut full marathon. Seeing her slender body—my guess is she's probably around 42kg-43kg—and the way she was running, I was thinking that I can transform her into a top Sabahan marathoner. Watch out for her name in the years to come!

But there was no time to lose focus. A little further ahead, I finally caught up with Dazeree. She must have started the race in front of the pack, and it took me about 20km to finally catch up! I was worried that she had started too fast. I tailed her for a kilometre or so, and was pleased to note that she was pacing her run extremely well.

It was just about daylight when we emerged from UMS. Peter was running ahead; I was a few metres behind him; and Dazeree was a few metres behind me. Every now and then I had to check on my Garmin to ensure that we're still on target for the 4:30 finish.

Then a pleasant surprise—the organiser had apparently adjusted the location of the turning point a little nearer, thus arriving at a more accurate 42km for the full marathon. Last year the distance was over by more than half a kilometre. With that correction, I was slightly ahead of my target, and I was able to relax a bit by slowing down my pace. Turning to Dazeree, I told her that we're still on target for the 4:30 finish, but she seemed not fully convinced.

It was a very nice slow jog on the return leg. It was bright morning by then, and it was obvious that the temperature would be building up swiftly very soon. I merely maintained a 6:15min/km pace, and I told Dazeree to go ahead if she could run faster. But each time she went ahead, I noticed that she's getting slower after a while. She was obviously getting exhausted, but fighting very hard to keep running. Each time she became slower, I would catch up and encourage her to keep going. That went on and on for a while. With about 3km to go, I knew that she had the sub-4:30 finish in the bag.

The three of us eventually finished sub-4:30, but I thought it's quite a waste that we couldn't tag along a few more runners with us. Peter finished in 4:26:06; Dazeree did it in 4:27:00; and I did it in 4:26:42. I'm sure there must have been several more runners capable of the sub-4:30 finish if they had paced their runs well.

Photo credit: Jessy Roxy
(For those who don't know me, I'm the sexy runner in front!)

Then another big surprise—Dazeree crossed the finish line in 8th position in her category. An awesome performance. I was, like, "Wow!"

Now that the torture of BIM 2016 is over, I will take a short break with a week of recovery workouts before embarking on an approximate 6 weeks serious training for a PB-hunting mission at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in early July. Time to beat is 3:52. It's tough, but trying is a lot of fun!

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