4 Dec 2011: 5am. Singapore Marathon. The start of a grueling 42.2km walk/run/crawl/whathaveyou. I thought I’d take 4.5, maybe 5 hours, max. I ran a 6.5. I remember this like it was yesterday, though as I write this, it’s really today. Tells you something about the state of mind I’m currently in.
I thought I’d prepared reasonably well for this run; my longest run, two weeks prior to the event, was a 22km affair with an approximate 3kg load on my back (I ran with a backpack holding my office clothes). I’d run back from work, looping around the new Punggol Promenade or whateveryoucallit route, made several scenic detours, and arrived home feeling good. For my last marathon in 2006, my training consisted of only one aspect of every elite runner’s workout regimen: rest. And still I managed a respectable 5 hours then, cramping up badly on the 30th kilometer but otherwise unscathed.
Here’s how my day went that day…
2.30-4.45am: Woke up, and felt good about the day. I’d rested well for the previous two weeks. Probably had more than enough sleep in the two nights leading up to this day. Having had an incident of terrible cramps during my previous marathon, I prepared myself this time, reading up on cramp-prevention. I had bananas every single day in the week leading up to the marathon, and loaded up on electrolyte drinks (self-mixed Gatorade). Today I packed a bottle of frozen Gatorade, the final check on my hydration plan. Frozen drinks, I read, helped the body keep cool, something especially important in warm and humid Singapore.
4.45-5.15am: I reached Orchard Road (where the race was starting) at about 4.45, and lined up way back along with the “more than 6 hours” pack. I, having expected a 4.5 hour finish, was in the “4 to 6 hours” category (different categories had different coloured bibs). “What losers,” I thought to myself, but remained with them. I read all about “start slow, finish strong”, and that was my plan today: starting with the “more than 6 hours”. Who knew that it’d be “start slow, finish slower” for me today. At 5am sharp they flagged off, but with the mass of people in front of me, by the time I crossed the start line it was about 5.15am.
6am: After close to an hour of slow running, I felt some pain in my left knee. It felt like cramp. “Impossible,” I thought to myself. At this (painfully slow) pace with just over 5km run, and with all the salts/electrolytes loaded in my body, there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d be cramping up (I’d sooner be a jackpot millionaire).
6.30am: Jackpot! I feel a sharp pain in my leg and I think to myself that it’s got to be some old knee injury. I walk and the pain dissipates after about ten metres or so. I run again, and the pain returns. I alternate running and walking.
7.30am: We’re now at East Coast Park. I stop and stretch my left leg. Ouch, my knee! Then I stretch my right. Ouch! My thighs! My right thigh cramped up, the pain surprisingly similar to that in my left knee. That was when I took stock again of the pain in my left knee… the pain wasn’t just at the knee, but was also around the knee. This wasn’t a knee injury. It was a cramp.
8am: After almost 3 hours of run/shuffle/walk, I’ve resigned myself to walking. The pain in my knee is so excruciatingly bad I’m thinking of dropping out. But with the lack of clear “dropping out” instructions, and the fact that I’ve written all about running this marathon, as well as carrying out fundraising for this (silly me), it’s harder to drop out now than it is to carry on. I carry on. For the children I try to tell myself. For the children.
9-11.30am: I want to quit. But I continue my walk/shuffle.”God put me out of my misery,” I think to myself, wishing I’d get a really bad injury that’d force me out. The sun’s shining brightly, and I can feel my skin getting burnt. I try to think lofty thoughts like “for the children!” but I’ll be honest here, in the state I was in, all I could think about was to finish the damn thing and get on with my life. What children?
11.50am: I’ve gotten my finisher tee and medal. I call Lix who answers the phone sounding so relieved I’m certain she thought I’d died. I tell her how much pain I’m in. I can’t walk up or down stairs. Sitting and getting up hurts like mad. My brain’s fried and I only think of… I forget. And my sunburnt skin feels like childbirth.
I swear to her that I’m retiring from running after this.
7 Dec: Pain’s almost gone from the knees. Looking at website for runs in 2012. Singapore Marathon 2012… I must be mad. But I can’t help thinking: I’ll be there.