SUNDOWN MARATHON 2008 by Jamie
At the agreed time of 9am a day before the race, the
group of us (Choi,
Shine, Cheang, Guna, Runwitme
and I) were there. I believe, including Uncle Sonny's
party, there were at least 14 of us in the same bus.
It almost felt like we were on the Pacesetters bus heading
to the Singapore Marathon. Shine and Tey
were penned down to run the ridiculously insane 84K
ultra marathon, while the rest of us "just"
the usual 42K.
This marathon was to be my 9th marathon, the 2nd for 2008.
By year end, I'd hopefully knocked off 3 marathons. The last
time I completed a trio of marathons were way back in 2004,
I think. Even after completing 9, I can attest that it never
gets any easier. Having trained for the 2008 KLIM in November
last year, Sundown was to be my winding down race before my
1 month break from any structured running. I'm just tired
and despite the 5 PRs set for the races done this year - GE30K
(2:56), KLIM (4:16), Orange Run (sub 49 minutes), NB15K (1:18)
and RMAF (1:48) - I've not felt comfortable nor relaxed doing
the last 2. It was time for a break before the periodization-base
phase in July for my November marathon.
Singapore here we come! Photo courtesy of Frank
Back to the race report. The journey down was very smooth
with a 20-minute stopover at Pagoh. I channel surfed - watching
Bruce Willis' 16 Blocks, Martin Lawrence's Big Momma 2 and
a bit of Armageddon. With little running the last 3 weeks
of the race, my race strategy was just to hack it. Get it
done and over with while trying to enjoy the experience. I
didn't anticipate sleepiness to be a factor having gone through
the much worse Penang 12-hour Walk and the Putrajaya Midnight
30K simulation run. With no regular runs, however, anything
and everything WILL go wrong.
We reached Singapore on schedule and while the rest separated
to collect their race kits from Hi-Velocity's office, I caught
a cab to my friend's apartment nearby. After rested for a
bit, I took the MRT to City Hall area to check out some stuff
for the family back home. It was, after all, the Great Singapore
Sales. Even so, our purchasing power were somewhat diminished
with the disadvantaged exchange rate, so it was just some
knick-knacks for the folks back home. I settled for a couple
of rare CDs at Grammophone and a few items at the Running
Lab, including a pair of Injinji toe-sock. Singapore runners
like to accessorize to the hilt, so it's a good place to check
out stuff that you read about in Runners World but never see
in Malaysia. I had pasta while waiting for my friend to get
off work and later a bowl of Korean noodles with him a few
hours later. I retired that night stuffed.
The spartan race kit - an ultra large bag for marketing and
the yet to be launched
adiZero vest. Note the personalized bib. Photo courtesy of
The next early afternoon was spent covering the Nike, Mizuno
and Asics running boutiques in The Paragon followed by another
hefty serving of pasta. Then it was back to the apartment
for some feet up. I napped for all of 10 minutes. Pre-race
dinner was a really tasty Subway Turkey Breast on Honey Oat
sandwich. After which I caught a cab with Justin and headed
for the Changi Village starting area. The crowd and cars leading
up to the area confirmed that we've arrived to the correct
place. Not long after we hooked up with my travel mates and
then all of us deposited our bags.
There wasn't much to do after that except to survey the area.
The crowd was big - a reported 6,000 for the marathon and
another 300 for the ultra but not too big to the point of
congestion. The crazy ultra marathoners were already in their
first loop having started at 8pm. Music and atmosphere were
tame compared to the Singapore Marathon. There's bound to
be comparison, but to be fair, this is a debut event.
Ready for the challenge! Photo courtesy of Runwitme
All of us walked to the starting line with 30 minutes to
go and before long, after the "good lucks" and "all
the bests", we were let off promptly at midnight. Because
we were only allowed a narrow lane to run, I covered the first
400m by power walking. Many overtook in the inner and outer
lanes. The organizers ought to have had the entire width of
the road for the runners. There was really nothing noteworthy
except the highlight of experiencing the sight and sound of
the airliners taking off into the still night. Despite an
unusually wet weather from the day we arrived, the rain did
nothing to lift the humidity.
Second grouse, after the forced-herding, was the unpreparedness
of the first 3 water stations. The 2 or 3 volunteers simply
couldn't cope. The stations were small and within seconds,
all filled cups were snatched up. Some runners even grabbed
the full 1.5L bottles. I was lucky as I was able to bypass
these stops as I was carrying my usual disposable bottle filled
with my personal concoction. Frank had raced ahead while Choi
wasn't far away. The objective of the event is to showcase
Singapore's new Park Connectors, a comprehensive network of
links between the established parks. After the Changi String
Of Lights stretch that never seemed to end, we finally reached
the East Coast Park (ECP). People were out in force there,
with many campers, picnickers and boozers providing some appreciated
vocal support. I was running OK, averaging a 6-minute pace
but was definitely tiring for some reason. Even with insufficient
training, tiredness seemed to come too early. Perhaps it was
I kept the effort until after the 22K mark just after we
cleared the ECP and had to climb over a pedestrian bridge.
Now the 5 pedestrian bridges were unlike those we see here
- you go up a flight of stairs, hit the short straight and
come down the other side. No siree. The ones we had to clear
were like monster bridges complete with multiple switchbacks.
That was to be my 3rd grouse, even though in hindsight, it
was something the organizers needed to do since this was a
feature of the park connectors. But I'll bet my bottom dollar
that everyone was cursing.
At the 23rd K, I told Choi to go ahead as I was starting
my walk breaks. It was going to be a long night/early morning.
I had long ceased to note my timing and was just focused on
clearing the remaining miles which never seemed to come any
earlier. We were led through apartment backlanes, car parks,
dark meandering and undulating paths, twists and turns and
here comes my 4th grouse. Concrete. 80% of the distance were
on concrete surface. We were asked to run on the concrete
pedestrians paths and not the roads and my lower legs were
being thrashed. That was why I was so happy to reach the packed
sand Bedok Reservoir loop where I was able to cover the 27
to 29K in 15K speed. There wasn't any pain in that stretch
and I was able to gain some ground. Alas, it was back to concrete
before I knew it. Both my archilles tendons were hurting and
my left plantar was twinging away too. Although I've no history
of injuries to these critical spots, I decided that I would
not risk them and just walk the rest of the way to the finish.
I remembered at the 30K mark that there was only 10 more
Ks to go and surely I could sustain a 10K race pace here to
quickly wrap up the proceedings? I was wrong as with how most
things went that night. So it was back to repeating the run-walk
routine till the 38K when I somehow got my wind back and managed
a decent running stretch right until the finish. We ran and
ran but the finish line didn't seem to appear. It was getting
quite demoralizing that the last K was uphill and twisting
over the concrete walkways again. We could hear no music nor
see any crowd. Then suddenly there it was in the distant.
But wait, we had to clear another pedestrian bridge, though
this one pales in comparison with all the others that came
before it. Finally the finishing chute and that was it - I
completed my 9th. In 4:49 - I somehow managed to come in under
My Garmin read 42.89K and another even read 43K. It was certainly
an overdistanced race. The consolation was the nice finisher
T-Shirt and the beautiful medal. After catching up with the
rest and wolfing down the drinks and bananas, we collected
our bags and waited for the rest to come back. Then it suddenly
rained and heaped more misery on us. It was getting quite
chilly too. I then decided to go back first, while the rest
continued to wait for Cheang, Shine and Runwitme. After failing
to spot a cab, I hopped on the feeder shuttle and then the
Pasir Ris MRT back to the City Hall interchange. Before I
reached back to the apartment, I made an error in getting
off the wrong station. Oh well.
All I can say was that the event met its objectives to highlight
the parks and the connectors, even if the runners suffered
for it. The men's winner was a Kenyan with a timing of 2:40
and that's the testament of how tough the race was.
Beautiful medal. Photo courtesy of Frank
I can't describe my respect for the ultra runners who had
to go through the course twice and in the later stages in
wet conditions. I'm equally intrigued and inspired by their
mental and physical strength. The distance they've to cover
is madness and for all my admiration, the thought of even
doing one right now simply eludes me. At this moment I can't
think of anything else except to recover, rejuvenate and rediscover
the hunger and be ready to come back to training.
I'm indebted to Justin and Jeanne for their time and hospitality,
and my travel mates for their company and Choi for arranging
the bus tickets. Malakoff 26K in Penang guys?
June 5, 2008