The route of Penang Bridge Marathon 2014 is very simple. Runners will climb the ramp to the bridge right of the starting gate, then cross the bridge towards the mainland, then turn back at 21.1km half marathon mark and cross the bridge back to Penang Island. A short downhill will bring runners to the finish line.
The route is relatively flat, aside from the initial climb to the bridge, and the climb to the light triangle that is the trademark of Penang Bridge. Not so long after the initial climb, my heart rate rose quite high. I decided to walk, although I think I still can run. “Don’t push it now, you still have 41 km to go”, I told myself. My heart rate dropped lower after 1 minute walk, so I started to run again. The drill repeats. Each time I see that my heart rate rose too high (above 155 bpm), I would walk until it drops significantly (below 145). Soon enough, I started to enjoy this race.
I never thought that one can walk a Marathon. The 42.195 km distance is simply too long to walk and finish within the 7 hour cut off time. But apparently someone intend to do that. Someone was fast-walking while passing me. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to chase and pass him, while maintaining my heart rate below 155 bpm.
One by one, the official pacers start passing by. First, the 3:30 hours pacer, followed by other pacers. The lead runner of the women open, who started 15 minutes later, soon also pass by me, followed by the lead veteran runner, who started 30 minutes after my starting time. But there are nothing more disheartening that passing the half marathon turning point.
The Half Marathon turning point is located not far from 10km mark. The thought that I’m only halfway to my own turning point always distraught me. But at least, I still feel good and strong. I can continue the heart-rate-based run walk forever, and the next 10km should be easy to the 21.1km turning point.
I continue the run-walk routine, keeping my focus on the only light available: the bridge light. To be exact, I focus on the next turn. I plan to take the shortest distance of each turn, so I time myself to move to the left side of the road in preparation for left turn, and moving right to anticipate right turn. Soon, my GPS watch beep. I’m already running for 18km. Three more kilometer to the half way mark.
We have reached the other side of the bridge. My mind is anticipating the 21km turning point not far from the bridge, so the thought of having another 3km before the turning point lower my spirit. The route has become warm, with the wind being blocked by nearby hill. These 3km is the heaviest part of the race, not on your feet, but on your mind.
When the blinding light of the toll plaza passed, I see the clear uphill road in the distance. There are no runners there. Instantly I know that the dreaded turning point is very near. Not long, I pass the checkpoint mat and turn back to the bridge. Halfway done, and I still feel strong.