Thursday, March 10, 2005

How to Run a Marathon - An Average Joe's Encounter

Written by my fellow runner/cyclist/team mate/slut/bitch/senior on his first marathon run.

take it away doc:

Hi everyone,
Last sunday 6/march/ 2005, a couple of us OP's and mountain biker friends (KOP's){kawan OP} raced in the Kuala Lumpur International Marathon. Some of us did the full monty of 42km, some did the 21Km(half) and a few did the 10km. It was the first competitive race for some, and for others it was a beginning of a new era. A time when average Joe's can try to claim to be marathoners.

As you would probably have known, the group has been involved in weekend warrior mountain biking activity for the past one year and on occasion has entered some competitive races where we usually do it with the motto of light and easy in mind. The KL marathon was our biggest hurdle thus far. Its not everyday we can run 21 or even 42 Km especially when its non stop. ( we do run 21km but done over 3 days in a week!). As Steve our Canadian KOP plainly put it"it's all in the mind". 90% of people has mentally quit the race even before the race itself..

Having said all this, it was as usual an early morning wake up. 3 AM! I was awakened by OP Amir's SMS at 3am...."mengantuknya!" With a quick reply of "siapa suruh mengada-ngada jadi atlet" I quickly showered and had coffee and was off at 0325hrs. Fear of going to the toilet during the race made me skip any light breakfast. A fact that will bother me later on. On to the RV point of Taman Tun Ismail KHS bike store at 0345hrs, where Stupe's wife was waiting to ferry us to the Dataran Merdeka. Me, Amir and Stupes were then ferried in Aileen's new car for the RV at the water fountain at the Merdeka Square. By 0415hrs, we were joined by Bean(OP Shahrir Abdullah), Op mat Gan(Muhamad Riza Razman), Steve (Our Canadian KOP), Azman(Our regular KOP). The atmosphere was exciting to say the least. At the road side we saw some kids lepakking, probably just coming out of clubbing and other nonsense. Some were clearly amused at the sight of so many runners at the square. Other runners were there too. Some obviously pumped and ready for action with the usual stretch and running around routine. Those black guys from Africe (? Kenyan ? Ethiopians) were the most aggressive with very heavy warm up routines. Off course watching them do that made us tired already.Here we were, average Joe's minggling with the pros. Off course what race would be complete without the all Kiasu, All conquering, All dressed up Pace setters. They came from everywhere....KL. Ipoh, Klang, Bidor, Melaka etc...and with funny names like Bidor kaki lari, Tung shin malacca marathon club and wearing fancy attires with crap slogans like "impossible is nothing" "run to the wall" " pain is my friend" and other such demotivating slogans to the average Joe's.

Azman came with some of his friends. One of them was this thin, skinny Indian kid whose legs was the size of a hockey stick. Im running the marathon! was his confident introduction. This was clearly fresh from Batang Berjuntai estate....estate runner as we like to joke about. Amir couldnt stop giggling looking at the poor fella. After a quick 'dancing around" (stretching) and a quick cigarrete by Amir who had to borrow a lighter from a policeman and some photographs we were just about ready. It was already 0430hrs, time for the marathoners to register. The marathon race was scheduled to be flagged off at 5am, the half marathon at 630am and the 10km at 7am. Azman and Bean who clearly were aiming for something(sub 4hr) was the first to enter the enclosement area. Me and Steve stayed back till the very last moment. The area was a bee hive of human activity! What must have been 1000 people cramped into a small alley of road enclosure. At the front, the serious runners were jostling for space, while lite and easy ones were pacing nervously at the back. They were announcing the names and introducing to the VIP's the many foreign elite runners. From Kenya Henry Odumbe! clap clap clap From China Lee Xuan clap clap clap! Me and Steve were waiting for the announcement for From Canada...Steve Lee or even better still...from USJ Doc! Reality check. It didnt happen. But it was fun as we looked around and saw other people from all walks of life....the overwight chinese uncle, the 60 something uncle wearing his Pallas school shoes, the Pace setters with their fancy gears, the tecno gadgets with their armbands, MP3 player, waist water pouch filed with Power gels, the fit looking middle aged ladies some wearing tudung and long pants, the fit looking Mat sallehs expat and the punk. The punk was this malay chap, mid 20's who comes to running races dressed in tight jeans,Cat style heavy duty boots and some rock group T shirt. I saw him at all my previous PJ half marathon and according to Steve, he's a regular at the KL Marathon. Gee man, I sure dont want to be behind him. Everyone was ready and out of a sudden, we were off! Bang ! Gun time. It took another minute for me and steve to reach the starting line...out net time. Each runner was tagged using a chip tied to your laces. It measures electronically the exact time you cross the start/finish line and also at certain markers on the way. In other words, it measures exactly your time covered during the race, excluding the josstling and walking toward the line at the beginning of the race and it also attempts to eliminate cheats who takes short cuts etc as you have to pass trough certain checkpoints and step on designated mats on the way. However the winner is still the one who crosses the finish line first.

From Dataran merdeka we headed south towards the train station. The front runners were clearly sprinting for the lead . Most people by now were racing forwards. By the first 2 km, I was already half a km behind the leaders. At the nearby bush after the railway station, many of us had to empty our bladder....including me. So it was an open air exhibition of watering the plants. Im sure the flowers there would grow well from all the urea dumped there. For me the first timer, it was just a matter of completing the race. Our pace was slow at normal talking speed of 7minutes per km. At that rate if you could maintain it for 42 km, you would do a 5 hour race. But I was aware to the fact that you would definitely be slower at the last quarter of the race and mentally was prepared for a longer than 6 hour time...if ever i could complete the race. Rahim (another KOP), my 59 year old wily friend came late and had to run to the start line and run back to us to catch up. He was supposed to run with another (younger ) girl but as he was late had to do with me and Steve. We ran together for the next 7km passing trough Jalan Syed Putra, Kampung Attap to the Sg Besi Air Base and the headed back north towards KL with the airfield on our left. By now Rahim has met another running partner (of the opposite sex off course) and me and Steve went on with our pace. I dont want to boast but the first 20 km went like a breeze. Its amazing what the mind can do to you. If had intended to do the 21Km, surely I would have groaned about the 20km. But as we were mentally prepared for the long slog, the 20km which on normal days would be a nightmare turned out to be pleasantly sweet. It was stiill dark as the sun was not up yet. At the North end of the runaway (10km) we headed to jln Lapangan Terbang and passed by the cemetary.Took the flyover to the right towards jln Wisma putera and turned left towards Dewan Bahasa. At that point turned right on Jalan Loke Yew toward Cheras.It must have been 630am by then and traffic was beginning to build. Traffic crawled because of us and Im sure people in the cars passing by were not impressed by the jam at that early hour on a Sunday!

By the way, the Marathon logistical support was commendable to say the least with drink station every 4km interspaced with sponging station every 4km. We also got our free Power gel twice during the route. Me and Steve continued to talk basically about nothing just to ease the pain that slowly were creeping in. A fun activity that we did was counting the number of Pacesetters(PS) that we overtook....and also admiring the female anatomy as we passed them by. By the time we reached the 30km mark we have reached 190 PS's overtaken."Impossible is nothing"

From Loke Yew, we turned left towards jalan Cheras passing the KL Badminton stadium.We even passed this old chinese store selling sausages on our right. Ah lee Sausages if Im not mistaken.Mmm suddenly the thought of food overwhelmed us. But in the same shop lot at the end was a shop selling coffins and undertaker services. No doubt if you eat a lot of sausages(or even nasi lemak and canai for breakfast)and dont look after yourself you will need their services a little bit earlier than your supposed to.

From there we turned towards Jln Tun Razak via the Jln Peel interchange. This was the crappy part of KL as Steve puts it. The running was still pleasant though as the sun was not out in force yet. Headed North on Jalan Tun Razak via the Bulatan Kg Pandan and exitted left towards Jln Bukit Bintang. All these places were familiar but they sure look different when your running them. By now we have covered 22km, just barely halfway 2hr 25min of continous running. The knees were starting to ache and your thighs especially the adductors(the part of the thigh lying on the inner part) was starting to niggle.Many runners were alredy stopping and walking. I was surprised to find that I was still able to maintain a 7min/km pace up to this point. At the JW Marriot hotel Bukit Bintang, we were joined by the main group of 10 and 21km runners. Shit! They were coming in their thousands and obviously fresh, were burning rubber all around us. This fast paced environment disturbed me and steve's pace as we were somehow pulled along with the crowd and our pace quickened....to my regrets later on. From Lot 10 we turned right on Sultan Ismail and nearing Hard Rock caught up with Bean who was walking(limping was more like it) Apparently he had a worsening pain in his arch oh the foot which made running painful. Poor guy! He was the most dedicated among us all Joe's with proper scheduled training regime and plans. He even continued with his training even while flying out of the country. I really felt sorry for him. By now the road was crowded with runners of all shapes and sizes. At the roadside we saw clubbers having done with their all nite partying etc....some cheered us on. Cheer for me! Im doing the 42! was my plea,...

We turned left and headed back toward Dataran Merdeka via Tunku abdul Rahman. The road was cobbled at places and this was really painful!! The uneven surface made the foot drop awkwardly and made tired soles and ankles hurt even more. By now I was hurting everywhere. Good thing as by then you cant pin point any specific part of the body and make it your handicap, so you just have to go on. The 10km runners finished at the square and the half and full marathoners continued and made a U turn heading north on Raja Laut. Even the Mak Nyah's were out early and some were even cheering us on.It was cobblestone most way and my toe was throbbing. At the Mara building the 21km runners turned back towards rhe square.The marathoners were left alone now. At this point, traffic was heavy and you were beginning to eat dust. At Jln Pahang we turned to Jln Raja Muda Musa. Cobblestones again! We rejoined Jln Tun Razak at the Semarak end. I left Steve as he made his way to the nearby petronas to empty his bowel. Turning west on Tun Razak passing the Heart Institute and Hospital on the left.....I was a bit relaxed knowing the fact that if i get chest pains now, I could just walk into the emergency room. It didnt happen though. I was getting sun burnt more than a heart attack. The sun was in full force by now. Even though I was still at the 5hr pace, I realised that it wont be long before I would go off pace.I made some small talk with some fellow runners....a middle aged indian guy doing his 3rd marathon complaining that this marathon was more difficult than the one in Singapore..bla bla bla..No doubt our neighbour from Singapore. "Then if KL is hard, I like this one then ....I'll skip Singapore" came my kiasu answer and left him to eat my dust. A couple of Mat salleh's and other regular Joe's were more friendly and we supported each other. It was 34 km and we were obviously beat. To my surprise in a car crawling in the jam next to me was my old badminton sparring partner from medical school...Alvince. Wah Hisyam! Bila masa kau boleh buat marathon ni? He was a fit guy previously but looking at the waist now probably has retired from sports. Hari ini boleh! To be honest, I wasnt sure whether i could do it at that point. I was tempted to join the many people who simply gave up and were starting to walk. Some even gave up and followed the accompanying ambulance back. Come on man! dont give up now! I have covered 36km but I knew that the worse was yet to come......I had reached what runners called the "wall" .

Normally its at the 25 to 30km mark where you simply burn out of steam physically and mentally. Apparently I forgot to bump into the wall at the 30km mark. We continued toward Jln Mahameru and the beginning of the brutally long and hot climbing part of the marathon. Out of a sudden Steve came running by. Come on Doc! apparently after unloading some faecal material you feel a bit better from the way he was running. I told him I was bonked and was slowing down and told him to go on his pace. ( I didnt want to slow him down). Dont forget to tell stupes to get the camera ready! I'll be there by 1030! with that he was off....and I was again alone . The Kiasu singaporean Indian caught up with me...Aduhh!! He was my partner for the next few kms. Mahameru was pleasantly shaded but the road was on an uphill gradient. I was running quite awkwardly by now....but to my surprise hasnt stopped yet. 5km to go. A roadside sign showed. Under normal circumstance I could cover that in 40 minutes of light jog. It was 930am and I was knackered! The 6 hour qualifying time was at 11am. Shit! forget that dude! just dont quit and finish the race...

An ambulance drove by and the nurse on board asked " you ok or not?"..."Off course I'm OK! Wait for me at the finish line and put up a resus drip for me.....1 pint Hartmann's solution and 1 pint 5% dextrose...." The nurse and paramedic clearly realised that I was a doctor with the technical jargon and clearly were enjoying the scene of a doctor suffering for a change. They chereed me on and sped off to attend to other weaklings like me who has given up.

We exitted towards Duta and across the road you could see the faster runners coming back on Mahameru toward Parliment. Some of them were walking too! Dont walk dude continue...! Jalan Duta was straight and hot and dusty towards the Indian Embassy. I ran with a fit looking middle age malay lady whom was equally in distress. we kept each other company. Off course I had to enjoy the beautiful female anatomy running next to me. Steve shouted from the opposite side of the road! Come on Doc! Oh yeah man! see You at the finish! Lets go biking Batu Dam later in the afternoon! People around me were not amused....Maybe I'll keep my mouth shut from now on.

We made a U turn before the Embassy and went back towards the Parliment. Exitted left at Jln Tunku and went up the flyover and crossed right towards the Forestery Department. KM 38.5....Okay, I gave up. I could not continue running. My legs were aching and I was feeling giddy... I slowed down and walked( hobbled). It was excruciatingly painful! I felt tears in my eyes...no that was sweat of courage. And to make it worse, the Hippie in the jeans was walking next to me. I walked faster and left him behind. I made small talk with some Thai runners ( walkers) and exchanged painful stories.. It was their 3rd marathon and apparently this was the hardest. If 3rd timers walked some parts, then its not so bad for me right? At 40km the 2km sign was accompanied by a cheerful guy saying out the time aloud....5hr 1 min...It was 10am. " 10 setengah nanti sampai la " I have missed the 5hr mark but was still able to qualify for the 6 hr accepted mark even if I walked all the way! The temptation was great but I sohehow pulled myself together and made my legs to work again. It was horrible! Having to restart from comfortably walking was a nightmare. It didnt help too when the road went downhill for 500metres at the JKR building. People were walking and even crying by the road side and here I was struggling down that hill. Usually we bike down that stretch and its usually my favourite part of our weekly KL by night ride....but now i hated it. I saw a chinese guy having the same biker's tan on his thigh and immediately made conversation to ease the pain. The roadie from Boon Foo's gang was equally happy for the company. we ran together till the bottom of the hill at Bank Negara. 750metres to go. The guy sped off and I picked myself up and hobbled on. You could see the flagpole fom there and even hear the cheering crowds. Almost there. At the high court we turned right and to my pleasant surprise the whole gang was waiting and cheering for me. That really pulled me and with the last burst of aerobic reserve left...i tried to sprint to the line...cobblestone....pain. Reached the line grinning with tears (no, sweats of courage) and waved like I was the winner. 1126am.

42 km covered in 5hr 26min 07sec.

I crawled on my knees as off my usual signature finishing pose in any race and was immediately attended by a paramedic who thought that i had collapsed. HA HA! Made him panic there.

Stupe's attended to me while I was sitting by the road side crying in pain. He got me some food and made me as comfy as he could. Gobbled some fluids and bread and limped back to the rest of the gang.

Sat at the finishing stretch and cheered people on. I was the last member to be there.... Untill I saw Rahim jogging slowly. We all stood up and shouted in unison. Go Man! Stupe's ran to get his photos. I ran along to give support....my brain wanted to run but my legs didnt comply. Instead I limped to the side of the road and cheered people on.

Some runners were cheerful and waved back as we cheered them on. We cheered louder for the older guys and the makciks and aunties...some clearly struggling. Off course some PS's didnt even return a wave while they ran trough....dicks.

I bought this up to the guys during the after race lunch.." Kau pun muka masam juga tadi masa kita cheer you..." Oh dear....what have I become? Nothing actually. Still an average Joe who has shown that with a bit of perserverance and a bit of mental block you can achieve what others thought is impossible...

Next time I would smile while crying in pain...

Marathon:
Azman 4hr19min52sec
Steve 5hr00min12sec
Me (doc)5hr26min12sec
Rahim 5hr55min16sec
Bean DNF (injured) No matter what he deserves a medal just by attempting the run. Well done dude
Half marathon 21km
Ashley 2hr04min10sec
Amir 2hr12min25sec
Stupes 2hr21min13sec
Mat Gan 2hr50min02sec

Quarter marathon 10km
Bacin 57min
Kiat Hong (Kit) 1hr04min
Derek 1hr06min
Stephanie 1hr07min


Warm regards,
Doc

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