June 28th, 2011 by Karmun
So I’m back, alive and well, believe it or not, from running my first ever half marathon. I made it. I actually made it. I overshot the time I had set for myself by a little, but the point to take note of here is that I survived. While I’m still quietly beating myself over my less than ideal timing, my more rational alter-ego is telling myself that it’s okay. I finished, and in the top 40% while at it. What’s 15 minutes compared to the novelty experience of tasting something for yourself for the very first time, right?
Pain of unbelievable intensities are raking their way through every muscle on the lower part of my body right now, so blogging is about the only thing I can do without cringing. For some peculiar reasons, even the muscles on my back are hurting; let’s not get me started on my abs. It hurts to laugh, sneeze, take a breath too deep, even stretch. And that really sucks because I love my wake up stretches. Nothing like rolling about in bed for an extra 10minutes just yawning and pulling your arms over your head like a lazy cat!
But it is all worth it, I swear to God. The burning in my thighs, the pull in my calves, I’d do it all over again. I’ve never felt more accomplished at having finished something completely on my own. The pain, the soreness, the aches? Completely superficial compared to what running a solid 21km along with close to 5,000 others feels like. It is empowering, rejuvenating. It is the single most exhilirating experience ever. Even now, more than 24 hours since the race, I’m still feeling the tingles of excitement that were coursing through my veins fast and hard when at 6.15am sharp on the 26th of June, we took off in a stampede of rubber soles and running bibs, ready to take on Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived two hours ahead of flag-off, Khai Sim, Benny, Su Juin and I, afraid of getting stuck in a jam on account of several major roads being closed for the race. The Ninja Rabbit very kindly played driver and photographer that day, sacrificing some precious sleep and gaming hours. Only a fraction of the reasons why I love him to death! ♥
We loitered about a bit, exchanging running tips and nibbling away at our respective powerbars. The objective then, was merely to stay calm afloat the jitters that were swirling an undercurrent so strong in our stomachs, it made me want regurgitate my Chocolate and Peanut Butter bar I had just made myself swallow. Before we knew it, it was time to get warmed up!
The bunch of us who were running that day; Khai Sim and I for the 21km Women’s Open, and Benny and Juin for the 10km. Photography all by the Ninja Rabbit from here then on =)
I was too nervous to do any proper stretching or drills prior to the race. I did the mistake of assuming it was going to be just like my other 15km, for which I only do some light stretching that doesn’t involve much sweating. It was the biggest mistake of my entire run. Cramps of unworldly origins attacked my calves in the last 3km, gnawing it down to the bone, something I never expected since I’ve never gone as far as 18km before. But let’s leave that for later.
I tried on the vest they provided for a bit, just to see how it looks like on me, before changing my mind. I decided to stick to what I’m comfortable with. I’ve run with T-shirts all these while, so I figured it’s best I continue doing that. Don’t wanna be wearing something completely new, and then be chaffing at the most inconvenient places!
There was a flurry of activity in the last 10 minutes before flag-off. We rushed to pin our bibs on, fumbled to clip our timing devices onto our laces properly. It was like suddenly, there wasn’t enough time to get everything done before the race started despite our being there two hours early!
I was most excited to be running with my little brother! I don’t think we’ve ever participated in something like this together before.
We did it all with just enough time left to make our ways to the starting point. Already the road was clogged to the pavements with runners all ready to simply take off and go at the sound of the automatic horn. Guided my Khai Sim, we dodged and squeezed between sweaty arms and clammy bodies to make our way closest to the front.Yea, we’re a little kiasu like that. Must be the Chinese in us hahaha!
This girl here is invincible. She runs an average of two races a month, with the other weeks in between reserved for one extreme sports or another. Prior to this, she had just returned from the AXN Challenge and before that, a good session of rock climbing. Tell me she isn’t crazy!
Of the entire night (or should I say morning) the most nerve-wrecking ordeal has definitely got to be the flag-off from the starting line. The final three minutes before we were counted down to take off was pure torture. The suspense at waiting for the buzzer to sound nearly killed me.
There I was, squashed among thousands of other taller, bigger and buffer runners, small little me with my heart hammering a hole through my chest. Much to my annoyance, my toes kept slipping and sliding over one another in the confines of my socks, and I haven’t even started running yet! I was holding my breath because I was afraid I’d not hear the buzzer. I know it sounds stupid, because it was obviously going to be loud, and there’s no way one can not hear it, not to mention how when thousands of others are pushing forward, there’s no way you wont know the race has started… But there I was, knees shaking and hands trembling at the task that was ahead of me, never feeling more uncertain of myself.
I kept looking out for the Ninja Rabbit who had said he was going to be right by the starting line to catch my flag off. It had felt like forever, my standing there feeling like I was going to just throw up while scanning relentlessly over the sea of faces for that familiar dimpled grin.
I never saw him. But I heard very distinctly the horn that cut through the air loud and sharp. And suddenly, everything, even the ground beneath me, was moving. People to my left, right, front and back, were pushing forward. I did the only thing that made sense to me then – I followed and went with them. We were off.
Spot me, spot me!! The Ninja Rabbit actually found me! I’m beginning to think he might be a more talented photographer than I am! =D
Running 21km isn’t impossible, but I’ll have to come right out and say it that it’s not entirely easy either. It takes a lot of determination to go that far and finish what you’ve started, especially towards the end when the finishing line seems non-existent. You begin at some point to question what made you do it, and why you thought you could do it. Lucky for me, that didn’t happen until kilometre 18, and by then I was already 80% on my way.
The last 3km was the real test for me. I was strong all the way up till that point when the cramps kicked in. And they were merciless. Everything. fucking. hurt. I’m not kidding – my toes, the arc of my feet, my heels, my ankles, my calves, my knees, my thighs. You get the picture. Every part of me waist down felt like they weren’t mine anymore. I had no control over them, and it was all I could do keep pushing forward, one foot at a time.
That’s the big reason why I’m more than just a little disappointed with my timing. At kilometre 17, I was clocking a good 2hrs and 5mins. I was fairly certain then that I’d make my 2.5hours. 4km left with 25mins to do it. But when the cramps kicked in and I felt my lower half turn to jelly, my time went right out the window. I ended jogging the rest of the way when I’m not stopping to stretch out the knots in my calves. What followed was the most painful 40 minutes ever.
But equally as compelling and motivating, is looking around you when you’re on a runner’s high, and seeing all the many others ahead and behind of you, running for their own reasons. Some of the reason why these people run, are powerful enough to literally stop you in your tracks. None of that lose-weight be-fit bullshit. I saw for myself two guys who wore no bibs, and no fancy timing devices, clearly marking them non-competition runners. They had no tag clipped to their shoes, no ribbon tied around their arm. But pinned on each of their backs on a flimsy white square of cloth were the words, “Running for Andrew in Heaven. Once a runner, always a runner. RIP.” I wanted to call out to them to stop and give them both a hug.
Despite the pain, the exhaustion and the feeling of seemingly hopeless futility towards the end, I’d definitely do it all over again. For all that suffering, the rewards are still easily ten times more. Already pacts have been made to finally make it for the Penang Bridge Bridge International Marathon this November (I will make it below 2.5hrs this time!) and it is absolutely thrilling to have something like this to look forward to. For me, I’m eyeing the Adidas King of the Road this October. It’s only 16.8km this time, but hey practise makes perfect, right?
I finished this race in 2 hrs and 45mins, and that shall be my yardstick, something to better myself from. I will always remember that soothing rhythm in my steps when everything else around is blurring out, and the way the road looks like a big, wide ribbon of grey that just rolls away under my feet. There’s just you, and your body, up against all these outside elements that feel detached from you for some reason. Like as though you’re in a bubble of your own that keeps you just out of reach of the real world right outside. And seeing the sunrise when you’re on the road with thousands others all looking at the same goal, that’s one experience I won’t be forgetting in a while.
I’m extremely proud to announce that both Benny and Su Juin finished strong in their 10km race. They both did it in just a little over an hour, and came in through the finish line smiling at the camera.
Looks like those two months of boot camp worked out well!
I, on the other hand, looked like shit crossing the finishing line, so don’t laugh. I’m being extremely sporting in posting this up so don’t take advantage of that! In my defense, I saw the balloons and rafters that told me I was close, so I sped up and ran as fast as I could towards the finishing line. I took in the biggest breath of air, tucked in my tummy and sprinted towards sweet, sweet liberty. That explains my pained expression, thank you very much LOL. I overtook like 10 people in that last 400m or so, so again, no laughing!
Here, something nicer for you to look at now so you can at least sleep after this hahahaha!
My stomach fell when I checked for the time and saw that I was a whole 15 minutes off from what I had set for myself, but the Ninja Rabbit had just the solution to that. He bought me a massage while we waited for the rest of our friends to finish their own races. Most blissful 15 minutes of my life. I could feel the pain melting away in the hands of the two very skilled therapists, and my muscles relaxing as they kneaded and pressed at all the right places. Makes me want to run another 21km just to collect that pain, so they can massage it away all over again xD
Finisher, yo. My first running medal! Now it can join my many other basketball medals. I’m all about variety ;]
I crossed the finishing line and finished the race in exactly 2 hours, 45 minutes and 3 seconds. That placed me in 289th place out of 955 other women runners competing that day. It’s not the time I had set for myself, but it’s one I cannot complain of either given the circumstances in which I ended the race. I also tried to keep in mind that it was just my first time, so allowances have to be made for mistakes I would never have been able to predict due to the lack of experience. But there’s one thing I learnt from the entire ordeal. All that suffering, all that mental torture and physical torments, it becomes worth it in the end.
The rewards to running is always sweeter than any honey from the hive of the most hardworking bees.
It all happened so fast; we were done by 9am. We could’ve just gone on home, dive straight back into bed and no one would have been the wiser. It could very well have not happened. But it did, and that made last Sunday the most fulfilling Sunday in a long while. I saw the entire city on foot, got smiled at by the nicest people who were giving out water by the booths, and even caught glimpse of a rainbow somewhere along kilometre 13 when it began to drizzle slightly. It followed us for the next 2km, and it was prettiest rainbow ever. It was a good run.
I’m raring to lace up my ClimaCools again, eventhough the pain in my thighs still cripples me if I so much as try to squat, to properly prepare for my next 21. No more incomplete training and slacking off halfway this time. Lesson learnt! I will not succumb to those cramps! That will be my goal for July. With a month and half’s sem break coming right up, I have no excuses not to fulfill it!
What about you?