My (Half) Marathon Story

Went for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon yesterday. The atmosphere was great. Expected to be one of the slowest runners, but for most of the race I was not.

How the race went

Before the race I had a runny nose, and my first instinct was to take medicine to dry it up. I looked for the medicine, found it, and read the label: May Cause Drowsiness. I had woken up only a little earlier, and thought that the drowsiness was no match for my night’s rest — I was to find out how wrong I was later.

Right after taking the medicine, I was surprised how much more easily I could breathe. The difference was like dusk and night, not very different, but different enough. Soon after taking it, off I went.

Many people

Many people were there for the run. Officially, there were 9000++ participants, though I bet many people didn’t make it — I was obligated to go as I had promised my friend to accompany him. If I had signed up alone, I would have stayed at home and rued my sloth.

Wow… would you be my girlfriend?

If there was one thing I really like about running, is that girls tend to wear very light clothing. They wear less to make themselves feel less hot — it has the opposite effect on men.

Due to the very high number of participants, we (my friend and I) had to wait about 10 minutes after the official start of the race before we eventually reached the starting line and headed off on our run. My friend ran off and left me behind — he had been looking forward to this day with anticipation, I had been looking forward to it with apprehension.

The race started very well for him, and well for me. I picked my pacer, an expatriate with an orange shirt and blue pants. He had a good pace and was easy to spot. I followed him for about 8 kilometers before I decided to increase my speed a little.

My fear of running slower than the majority of the girls had been unwarrented — my pace was pleasantly faster than I had anticipated, and I had over-taken many of the girls to my great relief.

The unlucky 13th

Then at the 13th kilometer mark it happened — I started feeling a little drowsy, my legs felt like bricks had been attached to them. By the 14th kilometer, I was getting giddy, and suffered some numbness in my hands and feet — flu medicine or not, I don’t know — I slowed to a walk. All the girls I had gleefully overtaken returned like ex-girlfriends seeking revenge.

What made me walk?

Between the 14th and 17th kilometer, I had one of those epic psychological battles. Half of me kept telling me to push on (and to my dismay, so did the numerous cheering teams — they really pulled my spirits lower than the pits of Hell itself).

My self-talk went like this: “Push! Push! Push! You are not feeling unwell, it’s all in the head! Come on Donn, this is all bullshit. You are here to do your best, not give up at the first sign of trouble! Look at all those girls over-taking you. Flu medicine giving you trouble? Hah, bull; the only thing giving you trouble is your poor attitude. Giving up so easily, loser.”

The other half of me though, was more forgiving.

“Take your time, don’t push beyond what your body is capable of withstanding. It’s the flu medicine. If there’s one thing you can learn from this is that one should never take flu medicine before going on a long run. You can even advise people on your blog on this matter! If you run too hard you may just collapse and die, like the recent case of the National Service Man who did just that. Honestly, the part of you telling you to carry on even when you’re feeling unwell is just your inflated ego.”

I don’t know which side was telling the truth that day — perhaps a little bit of both?

The 18th kilometer

On the 18th I felt much better. The giddiness was gone, the numbing feeling too. Walked past a water station, took a gulp, and with renewed vigour I charged on. 200 metres later, minor cramps in my calves caused me some concern, and I slowed down, and then yet again returned to my favoured walk.

20th kilometer

Got hold of a isotonic drink, and armed with the knowledge that only one kilometre separated me from the finish line, I ran once more, only to be stopped by severe cramping soon after — never increase speed to quickly, or risk cramping. I walked, trotted and lumbered towards the finish line…

The finish line

An anti-climax if I ever knew one. Sense of achievement, satisfaction, accomplishment — feelings I imagined I would feel — were non-existent. But there was a feeling of being part of something larger than oneself though, a very “connected” feeling; I imagine myself preparing for the next marathon held in Kuala Lumpur next year in February — and this time, no flu medicine.

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