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Race Report: Second Half of Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014

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.

10 KM To Go
I spot this on the run. I must be at KM 32

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.

Sunrise On Penang Bridge
The Blue Sky and Sunrise on Penang 2nd Bridge

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.

The Finish Area
The Finish Area. Few hundred meters left

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

Race Report: First Half of Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014

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.

The Bridge Icon
The icon of the bridge, with nice light

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.

Near The Halfway Mark
Beyond the toll plaza is the 21.1 km turn mark

Race Report: Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014

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.

Lets Get The Race Started
The Starting Line of Penang Bridge Marathon 2014

“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.