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