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Malakoff Penang 26K Run 2010 by Ooi Wei Min

How would you celebrate your 31st birthday? Some decided to do some crazy stuff like bungee jump, some went out with friends for karaoke session, or a good meal, and others just prefer to go through it quietly. Me? This year I decided to it differently. No party, no special celebration, just something different. I choose to go for Malakoff Penang 26km run. I have never run on my birthday before. Up o that point of my life, I also have never run 26km before. On top of that, the run date is close enough to my birthday. Participating in this run seems to fit the criteria. So, I sign up the run on April 21st.

26km? To be honest with you, the longest distance that I have ever completed prior to that was 21.5km in January during the Pacesetter New Balance run. Even though I sign up half marathon for Energizer night run in March, I could only finish 15km running non stop. After the run, I have been trying to run 21.5km on weekly routine run, but was not able to make it due to mental barrier, distractions and a lot of excuses. The running history does not convince that I can finish running 26km nonstop. Furthermore, one of the running mate who is the fastest runner in the group hurt the ankle and slow down on running. As you can see, the overall morale was very very low. I still run, but 6-8km/ run on average. I just do not have that oomph to run long distance; even double hill seems to be difficult for me.

Luckily, with the help of the group, I manage to finish double hill on 15th of April (since energizer run). At that point of time, there is only 14th days left before the run. With the momentum going on, I manage to finish 21.5km (struggling) the following Saturday. I go for 2 more run of 4km and 5km on Sunday and Friday before the real run. The 4km run on Sun was very fun. That morning I forgot to bring my mp3 player, this is the first time I ever run without listening to music. I mentioned this to Koo and he suggested we sing. Therefore 2 crazy guys started to sing some Chinese oldies out loudly. I never knew that Koo can sing well. Whereas for me, I have no clue how many birds got killed listen to my voice. Joline at the front kept on looking back, wondering what these 2 guys were doing. I really enjoyed every bit of the moment. It was fun and this is what running suppose to be. That is pretty much my preparation for Malakoff. Frankly speaking, even up to that point, I still do not have any confidence in completing 26km at all.

Thumbs up before the start

So, here comes the D-day. As usual during the start, I have to suppress the thought of speeding and keep on reminding myself to reduce the speed so that I do not used up all the energy half way of the race. The goal is to finish the race running 26km nonstop. The route is challenging on the first 10km as it covers a very hilly route which passes by Chinese and Malay cemetery. After passing Maybank turning to Jalan Tanjung Bungah, the route is pretty much flat. The route covers Chinese, Malay and Christian cemetery (cannot remember whether did we passed by Indian cemetery.). On top of that, we also pass by Mosque, Church, Hindu and Chinese temple and some historical monument. Therefore, I like to call this a 1 Malaysia running route. As I was running, I was calculating in my mind if my pace was 7min/km, I will definitely not be able to finish within the qualifying time (3 hours). I start to worry that this might be the first time I could not finish before the qualifying time. The worry faded away after having a few interesting conversations with other runners along the run. During the run, I notice that every people run differently. It is interesting to find out this small fact and it helps me to divert my focus from giving up.

Gurney Drive with the breaking of dawn

There is an old Chinese proverb saying “Early bird gets the worms”. I strongly agree on this run. When I reach Gurney drive, the sun is just in the mist of rising making the view of Gurney drive coastal line a superbly beautiful scene. The scenery itself is worth the effort of waking up in at 4:00 am in the morning. As I was running on Gurney drive, I came across a group consist of 4 uncles sitting on the bench quietly looking at the runners passing by. As we establish eye contact, I raised a good sign to them. Suddenly they burst into claps and cheers, encouraging me to move on. I do not know how to describe the situation that time, but it feel funny that we all burst into laughter together almost instantly. It sure was a great fun running experience. Towards the last drinking water station, I was exhausted and the foot was pain. My focus turns to my running steps and self talk. The background scenery and people just faded away. I suddenly realized that if I quit, whatever distance I have run up to that point of time will go into waste. Every step forward is one feet gain and one foot closer to the finishing line no matter how small the step is. Every step makes a difference. The next race is too far away. Whatever I do at that moment affects the end results, this is what it counts. 3km….. 2km…. as I turn into the Youth Park main gate, I knew deep down in my heart for sure that I will definitely complete the race. As I approach the finishing line, I raise my hand for the photographer to take the photo and finally I cross the finishing line. I have just finished my first ever 26km run nonstop with the time of 2:56:54. I beat the qualifying time by 3:06 minutes. My vest and shorts are fully wet as if I just been through a heavy rain. I felt relief. This is indeed a memorable moment for my birthday.

I am satisfied and pleased about the time and results and of course finishing 26km. But most important of all, manage to break through the self mental barrier. I found a way to communicate with myself. I think this is the biggest gain I get from the race. As early as the race, as soon as I sense a negative self doubt thought about not able to complete the run, I immediately replace the thought with 10 positive line statement stating :“I finished running 26km today.” I kept on repeating to myself along the run. I start from quite self talk inside heart. As it goes on I got more and more excited and started to speak out. The speaking eventually turns to shouting loud. The excitement and the momentum kept on building up then I started to tell myself I can finish 26km because I am a winner! A lot of runner and pedestrian looked at me as if I am crazy. Am I crazy? Maybe, but I don’t care, because I knew that my goal was to finish running 26km nonstop in that race. Every time as soon as I finish the self talk, I immediately accelerate. It still applies even when at the near end of the run, where I was very very tired and even the leg was very soar and pain. It is like putting the chemical booster into the car and it immediately picks up the speed. I have been hearing a lot about self talk for a long time, but this is the first time I ever see such big impact. I am so thrilled about this finding and am so eager to apply this to the next run and other part of my life! Yeah! SCKL I am ready! Finishing 26km is an accomplishment and milestone for me. I am very happy and proud of myself for finishing it. Nothing can be more satisfying than this! It feels awesome!

Post-run and proud to have completed a new milestone

I would like to give thanks to the organizer Malakoff and Pacesetters club and other sponsors for organizing this event. I know that it takes a lot of effort to put all this together. I would also like to thank the volunteers and the police, medical officers for efforts put in making the event a success such as directing the traffic, taking care of injured runners, race kits collections, preparation of foods and drinks……. and etc. Thank you. I would like to also thank my friend Jia Cheang (even though I know he will not be reading this) for letting me stayed overnight at his place at Batu Ferringgi on Saturday. I really enjoyed the stay and of course the motivation from the running group Ng, Koo, Joline and Uncle Jerry.

Ooi Wei Min


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