After finishing my third Marathon at Penang Bridge in November 2014, i resolve not to run another marathon again in 2015. There are several reasons for that:
Marathon training took too much commitment and time. Time is something of luxury in 2015, as so many things going to happen this year. From Grace starting her own business, to Ethan going to public school full time
I want to improve my speed. I used to say that I will only run a marathon if I can finish sub 2 hours half marathon. I violate it three times. Now, I think it is time to improve my speed before starting another marathon training.
So, this is my running resolution this year. First: to finish 10k under 1 hour. This will be my first step to achieve sub 2 hours half marathon. I don’t think I need to run as much as training for a Marathon. But, I plan to include some upper body training to improve my speed, in addition in running. Look for me in the nearest gym.
Second, to run for charity. The early running race in Jakarta started as fund-raising for a cause. As more people started to run, many corporate see a running race as marketing event, and start sponsoring them. As time pass, more and more running event become a sponsored, and less event for fund-raising
I want to go back on how it all started. I will run for a cause, raising funds to help children education on the eastern part of Indonesia. Why education, you may ask? I can talk all day to answer that question, but bottom line is, I am already running a non profit organization to help education in east Indonesia. If you would like to know more, check out ribbonoflove.org.
From the 21km turning point, I can see that runners had falling apart. Runners rub painkillers on their calf, and even sit on the asphalt road, head down. Their face look tired, thinking that they are only half way point. I’m not with the fastest pack, so I know that, if these runners spend much longer time, they might not make it before the cut off time. I wish them to move forward soon, pushing through the pain, and somehow able to muster new power from their believe, anger or any other source.
I spend another boring 3km back to the bridge by counting how long is the tail of the Marathon. There are still crowds up to 2km behind me. At my current speed, that means the runners are 20 minutes behind me. The crowd start to dissipate beyond that, until I saw the last person walking almost 5 km behind me. I wish him well and safe to the finish line.
Back on the bridge, I started to feel my energy dissipating. My leg had also start to tighten. “Here come the wall, and I still have 17 km to go”, I thought. On the next walking interval, I start nibbling on the bread that was given at the water station. It seems to work, as the hunger start to dissipate. And when I hit km 28, I open my 2nd gel as planned. From then on, it was a breeze up to km 33.
As expected, the hunger returns, and the pain was getting more intense. But it was definitely much less when compared to my last marathon. Definitely, the run/walk strategy works. I still haven’t figure out how the run/walk strategy works. Probably running use different muscle than walking, and by alternating both, I conserve the running muscle.
The sky slowly turn from dark to blue. The sun will soon rise. I consult my watch to check the time. Running some calculation on my oxygen-deprived and glucose-deprived head, I figure out that not only I will be able to make it to the finish line with my current pace, but I will also make it much faster than my previous marathon. I re-run the math to ensure that my brain didn’t play a trick on me. Both this calculation and sunrise gave the much needed second wind, the one that every long distance runner wish for.
It is full daylight already when I see the crowd in front of me. It is the 10k runners. There are a lot of them, with fresh face. For a moment I thought, next time I should probably join a 10k instead. Run for 1 hour or so, then have a good breakfast. I quickly shave that thought off, and immerse myself back into finishing the marathon.
I was so tired and my hamstring start to scream by the time I’m at 38 km mark. For the last km or so, I have been zig zaging the 10k runner who took the race as simply a morning walk with a friend. The zig-zag, combined with the heat and the 38km that I put behind really took a toll on my feet. I’m relying on the ice cube that they provide at water station to numb my pain nerve. After the short ice session I would run off, zig-zagging again, until the ice effect dissipate. Then I’ll repeat the same ritual at the next water station.
“This is it, the final kilometer”, I said. I took the time to take a picture in front of the 41km mark. I was standing at a high point of the bridge, from which the finish line and area was visible below. It is just downhill from here through the ramp of the bridge. I look at my watch, do my math, and found out that I will still be able to finish much faster than my previous marathon. “Lets finish this”, I told myself and took off.
There are no really much feeling of glory after I pass the finish line. It is just a feeling of grateful that I finish this marathon. Especially with a thought of being picked up by the cut off bus when I started. Grateful that I did finish it 10 minutes faster than my previous marathon. Grateful that, unlike my former marathon, I really enjoy this one. “Breakfast, cold shower, and a nap”, that’s what I need now.
“And no more Marathon”, I told my wife. But deep inside I know, the runner’s leg never lie. “Not until I can run faster. Now, lets nail the sub 2 hours half marathon”, I smiled
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.
Penang Bridge Marathon will be my third full Marathon. And in 2014, it will be the first time the Penang Bridge Marathon to be held at the new Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, or more known as Penang 2nd Bridge. It was longer, and supposedly more challenging, as the bridge will expose runners longer to the wind and open water.
Standing at the starting line, I don’t have much expectation. The bridge itself will be so boring I thought. And boredom is what killed a marathon runner, as your negative thought will start to pop up. In fact, I was expecting not to finish before the 7 hours cut off time, and going to be picked up by the cut off bus.
“I’m not going to run the Penang Bridge Marathon”, I told Grace, my wife, 2 months ago after a disappointing performance at Half Marathon race at BII Maybank Bali Marathon. Few weeks later, I told myself that probably it is because of the challenging elevation gain in Bali that hurt my performance. So I run another Half Marathon at Jakarta Marathon, only again to finish with disappointing result. I was 30 minutes slower than my fastest Half Marathon time.With this performance, I don’t think I will be able Penang Bridge Marathon in 7 hours cut off time.
So, I just enjoyed myself and let the music trigger the adrenaline release in my system. I don’t really chat a lot, preferring to calm my mind. My friend was out of sight, after we separate for them to drop their bag. I just digest the fireworks that they throw few minutes before flag off. It was beautiful, and really prepared my thought into the race.
“It’s all going to be OK”, I told myself as the gun shot mark the start of Penang Bridge Marathon 2014. Slowly, I move forward and start a jog once I pass the startling line.
Today is 1 week after Penang Bridge Marathon. My leg has almost recovered, but the memory of the run still linger on my mind. The marathon is so enjoyable, being so quiet on Penang Bridge in the middle of the ocean, made more surreal with the street lights.
More importantly, I was so in control with my pace. Walking to the starting line with the thought that I will not reach the finish line within the 7 hour cut off time, I manage to pace myself so that I reach the half marathon mark still feeling fresh. There are only slight pain on my leg, but other than that, my breath and heart rate is very much under control.
I run the second half with confidence to make a new personal best of marathon run. And I did clip almost full 10 minutes faster than my previous marathon.
So, in the last 3 days, I can’t stop to think, what I did right days before and during the run? And what to improve to finish in less time for my next marathon, if I’m going to run another one?
So, here is the list.
What did I do right in Penang Bridge Marathon?
Proper food. Yes, the proverb is right, you are what you eat. After a not so great medical check up result, I started to pay attention to what I eat in the last 2 weeks before the run. In particular, I start to consume coconut water, vanilla rooibos tea and replace my snack of fried food with fruits.
Endurance training. Different with my former marathon training, I run more half marathon during my training. Sometimes I run 2 half marathon in 2 consecutive weeks. Each run focus on endurance training: slower speed with lower heart rate. This training sacrifice my speed in race of half marathon or less distance, but it pay off during full marathon run
Nibble during the run. This is an advice that was given my a friend, an ultra runner. Instead of finishing a bread in one go, try to nibble it in a small chunk. It didn’t make me bloated and make your throat dry. Yet, at the same time, nibbling will give constant supply of carbohydrate as energy source. I nibble my bread from km 28 up to 38. It is also help to pass the time.
Keep your heart rate under control. This means that you run slower to achieve target heart rate, giving illusion that you will finish mich longer. But, it will prevent the exhaustion and drop in speed at the later part of the race. I reach the half marathon mark in 3 hours in my previous marathon, compared to 3:15 in Penang Bridge Marathon. Yet, I finish almost 10 minutes faster than my previous marathon
What Should I Improve for my Next Marathon?
Do non-running training. In particular, I feel that I need to do more weight training, and improve my core muscle strength. Swimming is a good exercise that will develop core and upper body strength necessary to improve running endurance
More mileage. I did one 100km/month project in June. Instead of one time project, I need to be more consistent to achieve 100km running per month
Include speed training. Endurance training will decrease your speed. So, to be faster, you need to include speed training along with endurance training.
Eventually, all the improvement will need significant amount of time to put in place. Am I able to commit the time necessary for the training? That is the question that I have to answer before deciding to run another marathon.