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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Penang Bridge International Marathon - 17 November 2013 - 10K

I'd picked this marathon for the reasons I'd outlined here, but signing up for it in July and actually being there on 17 November are two totally different things; and up until, oh, about a month prior to the actual event, I was even in a bit of a denial mode over how (un)fit I was for this entire exercise - pun fully intended.

For one thing, I am not a runner.  I'm not even a jogger.  The only footrace in which I've ever participated ended in disaster.  And that, my friends, was way back in the 70's, when I was a wee mite in kindergarten.

Picture this: it was Sports Day; the whole school turned out; the teachers were there; my parents were there; everybody's parents were there.  I was roped in - I certainly didn't volunteer - to take part in a bizarre foot race where my fellow six-year old classmates (one of whom had stabbed me in the friggin' forehead with a 2B pencil a few months back, but I digress) had to run about 50 metres in our own respective lanes, put on an assortment of old clothing consisting of a hat, a man's shirt, and high heels, and make a mad dash of the remaining 50 metres to the finish line.  The top three finishers received a prize.

I came in fourth.

Pardon the hyperbole, but that loss stung like a thousand angry baby scorpions. 

Since then, I have never, ever participated in any competitive sport.

But a marathon is different.  I guess the good thing is that I am under no illusions whatsoever that I can ever hope (or want to) beat the Kenyans who dominate this arena - otherwise I should prepare to be disappointed for the rest of my life, amiright? - but I like that it's a competitive and solo sport at the same time.  The only one I've to beat is basically myself and my own personal records.  Kinda like surfing that way.

But back to the training.  So, how did I, basically a self-proclaimed human sloth, prep myself for it?  For starters, yoga helped quite a lot in terms of stretching my limbs and muscles.  Comes in handy in preventing the dreaded cramps during mid-run.  But yoga is nowhere near enough for building stamina, so I started running around my neighbourhood.  And even then, the term "running" is not wholly accurate. Basically, my gig is this: run for 150 to 200 metres - which is all I can manage without keeling over - and brisk walking for the next 700 to 800 km while I catch my breath.  Rinse and repeat.

I figured that I just needed to clock in at 9 minutes per kilometre (preferably less) to get my medal.  I started at around 9:30 but slowly whittled it down to 9 or so; on good days, I came in at 8:40.  And even then, the longest "run" I'd done was 8km with my pal Betty along Bowen Road exactly one week before race day.  Not quite a marathon simulation, but close enough.

And then, it was off to Penang.

Check out my first ever racer's kit - a strange assortment of freebies.  All I can say is thank god the shirt fit.

Thank goodness for Betty's work connections - we scored a sweet deal on our hotel rooms.  But we weren't so lucky with the flights though.  For a destination that's only just under three hours away from Hong Kong, we should've booked early and gotten ourselves a direct flight at a relatively cheap rate.  But being newbies, our procrastination cost us a near-stroke when we saw the astronomical airfares listed.  And so we paid handsomely for our non non-stop flight on MAS which pretty much took us about 7 hours each way, stopover time included.  Total amateurs we were in every sense of the word.

But we got there, met up with our cheerleaders who had flown in from Singapore, and then, the adventure continued......

Carb-loading at the Gurney Drive hawker centre 12 hours before race time: This is fast becoming my favourite part of the marathon......aside from getting that finisher's medal of course.   Unfortunately, the food was disappointingly mediocre, except for the char kway teow.

I love these photos....they show a totally surreal  Walking Dead-ish sight at 6.05 a.m. on race day.  And to think these are just the 10K women participants.  Amazing to see and a great feeling to run with 8,000 fellow marathoners.  In total, there were a record-breaking 47,000+ runners spread over the 42K, 21K, 10K and 5K categories, making it the largest marathon in Malaysia. 

Took a wee 20-second breather at around the 3km mark to stand to the side (and lessen chances of being trampled) to snap this photo just before we clomped onto the Penang Bridge.  We made a u-turn at the 5km mark, which was about 1.5km into the 13.5km bridge - the second longest in Malaysia, and fifth longest in Southeast Asia. the victory tents: These are the uber fit runners who'd crossed the finish line, enjoying their sponsored refreshments before the sun had even properly risen (and when I was probably trudging along at the 4K marker.)  Bastards.

This is the naively self-confident me before the race (left) and the wheezing, shell-shocked version 90 minutes later (right)

Virgin marathoners no more!
I clocked in right on the nose at 1:30 and Betty made it in 1:33 - awesome results for our very first try.  (And we weren't even anywhere near the bottom as we'd feared!)


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