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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2011 - My 1st Full Marathon

Last year is the busiest year of my life and I accomplished many things. One of the most remarkable thing I've done is to complete a Full Marathon run and till to-day, I'm still resting trying to recover my body after almost 2 months from the event. However, I never regretted the experience as I know, finally I'm in the top 1% of the 7 billions world population to have ever complete a full marathon within qualifying time! Yes, I completed the 42km run within the 7 hours qualifying time, so grateful. It's not all glory, read on for the details and how I struggle to complete the astonishing distance.

This is me with my trusted gear taken before leaving the hotel to embark the important milestone in my life. A00781, that's tag that I've been aiming to wear since I started running back 2 years ago. Finally. I'm in my most healthy body ever since college and unfortunately my body weight didn't drop but instead I replaced those fats with muscles as I felt stronger and stronger everyday I train.

As my little baby is with us during this run, my wife cannot fetch me over to the event and give me support, so she stay in the hotel with our baby. Therefore I didn't bring a camera and only snap some photos with my iPhone. Bear with me on the bad quality of the photos, enjoy =)

The Penang Bridge International Marathon 2011 as my choice for my 1st full marathon event for some reason. First of all, most of the ground in this marathon is flat (the entire penang bridge), which will allow me to concentrate my run with good pace and breathing. Secondly, this marathon is held in the midnight, where I can avoid the hot weather in Malaysia, which will definitely exhaust me. I've done 21km in 2010, and target to complete the 42km now.

As I'm alone, so first thing I need to do is to store my luggage, which mainly consist of towel, dry shirt, dry socks, some cream for muscle and pain killer. I reach there early and luckily the line is empty. It's not fun when I'm back though.

The event is held just right beside the Queensbay Mall.

A strong presence of Digi Yellow People in the event, and they got special area with performance not accessible by public, what is that? Show off? I don't understand.

Life saver for runner, thousand of bottles of 100plus, wondering if international runner know what is this, hehe. My favourite!

As the time is ticking, more and more runners gathered around the starting line, stretching themselves and have their photograph taken. Good to have friends that's running, I'm with a friend of mine, but he is late and I didn't manage to meet him till in the middle of the run. All lonely, sob sob.

Some performance and clearing the finishing line for runners, that's where I would want to see again after 42km!

Ok, that's all for the photos and now back to the run. I'm feeling all good before it start and nervous at the same time. It's my first attempt for long distance run, and seriously I'm not sure if I've prepared enough for the 42km run. Months of training, and finally the day has come. Right after the start, I'm feeling all energetic and 42km runners are fast! It's not anything like 10km or 21km runners where there is a mixture of fast and slow runners, but all runners in 42km is in good pace / speed. Therefore I didn't feel much blockage from other runners much and I'm still overtaking some of them. Within just few kms into the run, I'm already trailing behind the 4-hours group. And their speed is comfortable for me, at least in the first few kms. I'm doing around 6mins per km that time. I know that I'm running too fast from my pace.

My plan earlier to run slow and keep my pace has changed and I thought if I can follow the 4-hours group into 15km / 21km, then I'm all set to complete the full marathon within my target of 6 hours as I know I cannot run non-stop for the entire 42km. Bad things do happen and just within 6km into the run, I got a severe diarrhea. I remember my breakfast that I stupidly chosen to order a set of chesse burger from the hotel menu and it's not clean! (I knew about it later because my wife also suffer severe diarrhea!) The pain is so severe and I can't hold it. There are no toilets around as we are running on the highway and portable toilet is no where to be seen. I'm thinking of giving up the run but I've trained so hard! You can guess what I do, and I "settled" it. By the time I continue running, I've lost the 4-hours runner and I think I've fallen behind by quite a big margin. I kept to my pace with faster runners started to overtake me. It's no fun after the incident and it hit my confidence hard. I kept to a slower pace of 7mins per km after that. Lucky that I don't feel diarrhea anymore.

Penang Bridge is so distant away and after feel like hours of running, finally I'm at the junction of the Penang Bridge entrance. I look at my timing, and I've done 9km in 1 hour. It's crazy that I need to run like what I did for another 5 hours and again my confidence level dropped. My body is still able to run but I feel disappointed as it does not turn out as my plan. My body started to feel the fatigue in 15km and every km is seem so distant away. The half way route towards Seberang Prai is worsen by the chemical smell from the factory across and it's really not helping. By the time I reached 18km, my body is already in severe fatigue mode and I've only just reached the end of Penang Bridge. I still have 24km to go. My timing is 2 hours and 10 minutes. That's worse than my normal timing of 21km run and my feet can't take the punishment anymore. I started walking. For the entire 4-5km walk back to the peak of the Penang Bridge, the idea of giving up flash through my mind hundreds time.

As I kept thinking of sitting down and wait for ambulance to pick me up, I just choose to continue walking struggling to give up possibly purely for ego because I know that my body is not capable of finishing the run. For no reason, I'm still walking. As more and more people is overtaking me, I try to start running again to follow their pace, but I can't even do slow pace. I'm then doing 10mins per km, dragging down to 11mins per km sometimes. I drink too much water and I feel the weight but yet I'm feeling thirsty, hoping for more water stations. My muscle cramped multiple times along the penang bridge and I rely on by borrowing muscle cream from other runners. Another mistake that I've done, didn't bring any muscle pain relief cream. Luckily other runners are helpful.

The weather is excellent and luckily there is no rain. If it does rain, I think I would have given up. I remember reading the internet to continue push your self by targetting the next lamp post, bullshit. It doesn't work for me and it's making the matter worse as I can't even run over a few lamp post. My struggle continue to push through until I reach 28km exiting the Penang Bridge with timing just 10 minutes short of 4 hours. I still have 14km to go and my target timing crushed. Somehow after the penang bridge, my confidence is back and since I'm already near the 30km mark, I swear to complete the run no matter what! However, my body is not able to comply. The muscle recovered a little after some rest but the feet started to feel the punishment of 30km. Imagine you walked the shopping mall until your feet pain and you still need to walk for few more hours. It's almost that only more pain and worse. The pain is into the bones. With my new target, I push my body with pain on the feet to do 9mins per km.

After few kms, even if my breathing and muscles allow, the pain in the feet will still stop me from running and from there, I struggle between walk and run doing pace of above 12mins per km, hoping to complete the run within the qualifying time. No matter what I do, I'm still slower than a quick walker that only walk to complete the run, somehow he will overtake me whenever I rest / walk. Eventually I lost him as well from my suffer of pain. We are suppose to reach the end of the road at 34km mark and turn back to the finishing line but it's taking forever to see that turning point. It's only a mere 4-5km but feels like forever. We started running in 2am and 7 hours target is 9am. The sun started to shine as I struggle on the road and it helped to boost my speed a little as I'm worried that I couldn't even finish the run within qualifying time.

After a long struggle, finally I'm at the turn-around point marked 34km! The pain is so severe but I'm still smiling as my iPhone show 5 hours. It means that I got another 2 hours to complete the remaining 8km. I collapse on every water stations and the ice pack on my muscle is the only that I'm looking forward to. Lack of cold drinks as it's approaching the end of the event is killing me. My stomach is fill with water but I need something cold. Now I understand why people splash water onto the head, it feels damn good, only for 2 seconds though. By 38km, my iPhone battery is dead and the timing is 6 hours. I started to panic and the idea of giving up is not an option anymore.

I find all the strength I can to push forward but still the pain in the feet bone is still killing me. I endure the pain and run whenever I can as I know I'm short of time to qualify for the 7 hours. There are elder women around giving me encouragement to finish it and one by one they overtake me until I lost sight of them. It's a real encouragement as that if they can do it, it's a must that I complete it as well! No matter what I do, I still cannot follow their slow pace. Reaching the final 2km is a real killing. Thousands of fun run people is blocking the entire road and my eyes started to lose focus. I ocassionally nearly crash into them and the heat from the morning sun is not helping either. As I take the final corner into the last stretch of the finishing line, I nearly cry. The pain is forgotten and as I run towards the finishing line, the adrenalin and emotion takes over. I'm so grateful that my persistent manage to bring me to achieve this lifetime target.

Determination and persistant is what help me to complete the run, as I'm seriously not trained and prepared for a full marathon run. I walked almost half of the marathon but still glad that I able to complete it. I didn't check my completion time as I collapse after that. What's worse is that the organiser is almost packed up and the massage center is closed down. I drag myself towards the massage tent, take off my shoes and lie on floor full of dirts and sands for almost an hour. I'm in severe pain, fatigue and thirst at the same time. My body is burning and I can't even stand up. It's until they are planning to closed down the tent only I'm forced to push myself up to the luggage tent to collect my belongings. I felt like vomitting walking below the morning sun and the walk to the hotel bus waiting area that's 200m away seems so distant! With bus arrived, I recovered a little but forced to stand as it's fully packed. Upon reaching hotel, then I'm truely relief. That's when I started to appreciate the victory of conquering the full marathon. My wife is still suffering diarrhea and I slept for the entire day. Pity her to fall sick but still take care of our baby but my body just couldn't do anything to help.

This is the Run Keeper apps that I used to track my run till 38.66km before battery depleted.
And my result? Here it goes.

Online certificate from PBIM, and I'm ranked 874th out of 1190 full marathon runners.

21km Checkpoint: 2 hrs 47 mins 00.47 secs
33km Checkpoint: 5 hrs 00 mins 51.06 secs

My first 42.195km result : 6 hrs 51 mins 10.81 secs
Just 9 mins short from the 7 hours qualifying time and I can gladly say that I'm a Full Marathon Finisher =)

From what I learned of this full marathon, I summarised it here hope can help others and remind myself for future event.

1. Trained your body to run / walk minimum 30km in single shot to qualify for full marathon. Running full distance is not about strength, but you need to condition your body to able to take the long distance punishment. Strength is only helpful to achieve better timing, not completing it.

2. Bring lubricants and muscle pain relief cream, and don't hesitate to borrow others.

3. Don't over drink water in the starting of the run, it will burden your body. Just sip enough to keep yourself fresh and hdyrated. Half cup is normally good enough.

4. Eat healthy food a day before the run and eat light and easy to digest food before the run. Food like energy bar, banana and bread is good. Never eat heavy food in days of Marathon.

5. Invest in good running gear and bring necessary to keep you focus.

6. Don't give up no matter what your body / mind think. You are more capable than you think of, continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Determination is what helped me to complete the run.

7. For overweight runner, invest in a good pair of shoe and knee guard. Take continuous supplement for your joints 3 months before and after the run. Don't stop eating supplements and vitamins.

8. Take care of your body after the run, your antibody dropped signigicantly after the exhaustive run and keep to your diet. I fall sick for multiple times over the last 2 months, which it barely happen even once in a year when I'm healthy.

Thank you =)

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