SCSM 22 - My First Marathon
Bucket list kinda thing.
The origins of the Marathon has always been an interesting story to me. At 42.195 kilometers or 26.2 miles, it's not a nice, whole number that seems to have any significance.
Legend has it that Philippides, a Greek messenger, raced from the city of Marathon to Athens to announce victory over the Persians, and, upon doing so, promptly died.
And of course, when people heard this tragic story, they went like "oh yeah that sounds like a good time, I should do this as well," and organised marathons became a thing.
This year, roughly 40000 people signed up for the Standard Chartered Marathon, with around 6000 people opting for the full 42.195km — and I happened to be one of them.
I'm someone who's hated running for much of his life. I've always enjoyed sports but never been a great athlete, or someone who's naturally athletic. When I played soccer way back in primary school, I often opted to be the keeper so I wouldn't have to run.
During national service, we got forced to run a lot more and I slowly got fitter, better, faster, allowing me to enjoy the process just a lil more.
So, on 18th December, whilst running a chill 5k, with a 12k being the longest run in my belt, I suddenly had the brilliant idea to sign up for SCSM and "check this off my bucket list."
I was joined without hesitation by a good friend whom I did weekly runs with (they were usually less than 8km and always ended up with a good meal at McDonalds.)
After paying $110 for the privilege of running 42 kilometers, with ~80 days to prepare for this, I sat down at my computer and looked for a training plan.
I figured a 10-week training plan would suit our needs, but after quite extensive google-ing, couldn't really find one that made sense. They were mostly 12-week plans, or plans that were catered towards much more advanced runners with a lot of mileage under their belt.
At this point, my combined mileage for the past 2 months (Jul + Aug) was 3.65km, though I had done quite a bit of walking as I'd just returned from a trekking trip in Nepal. In the end, I just decided to create my own training plan in GCal and hope for the best.
Some training stats:
My plan was one long training run per week — this was the most important part of any marathon training plan, the idea is a progressively longer run each week to get used to the long distance, peaking at a 33km run that would hopefully be enough to get us through the finish line.
The highlight of my training was also running my first ever half-marathon on my birthday.
Marathon prep introduced me to the idea of paced runs — there was a super friendly Singaporean running community - Running Department - that organised 2 runs per week: (1) a shorter, faster run in the CBD on Wednesdays, (2) a longer, slower run at East Coast Park on Saturday mornings.
Running Department was an absolute godsent. The pain of the long runs were made bearable by them.
- talking to strangers helped take my mind off the pain and boredom of running,
- pacers allowed me to zone out and not think about my speed,
- water points set up by them allowed us to run without carrying water,
- energy from fellow runners helped amped me up (the community is super cute and wholesome — people clap and cheer for you each time you pass them!)
Race Report: Marathon Itself
It was my first marathon and I'm no runner so the goal was just completion.
|Finish||Would drag myself across the finish line if I had to||Yes|
|Be able to walk tomorrow||Had school the next day||Yes|
Woke up around 1:30am (flag-off was supposed to be at 4:30am), had some oats and chilled, waiting for Joseph to pick me up.
Arrived at 3:15am-ish. Realised I forgot my race bib. Panicked. Suddenly super awake.
Rushed back to take bib. Joseph broke several speeding records.
Arrived back at Suntec at 4:10ish. Weather looked kinda sus.
Turns out being late was a good idea — the race was delayed due to weather and because we were late, we managed to find shelter easily while the majority of other runners were stuck in the rain and cold.
Flag-off announced at 5:30. Being Pen F, we waited for quite awhile before it was our turn. started at 6am. Holy shit it begins.
|Distance||Time (H:m)||My Face|
First 10 kilometers flew by. Enjoyed the energy of the crowd, stuck in the masses but we were taking it slow and steady. Fist bumps every kilometer marker, water stations weren't needed. Weather was nice and cooling. Feeling good.
Felt kinda wild running in the middle of the CBD on the roads. Whenever I saw a traffic light, had the strange, primal instinct to slow down.
10km - 21.1km
Cruising. Slowly started to feel my legs around the 18km mark, but spirits were high, broke off from the half marathon people, crowd thinned out. I remember telling Joseph "Ok time to start digging deep and holding on".
21.1km - 30km
Half marathon done... only...??
Said I had to use the restroom around the 25km mark but actually I just wanted a respite from running. Really started to feel my legs, especially my right knee. But ok, still manageable.
30km - 35km
Finally saw the 31km marker at ECP that we drove past in the morning.
33km was the longest run I completed in training. Everything from here on out was uncharted territory. At this point, we were around 4 hours in, and the Sun was starting to burn down on us.
35km - 39km
Oh my god. The Marina Barrage bridge has never felt so long in my entire life. Walking more than running at this point. Nursing a side stitch. Quite a few people cheering around GBTB though, which was always a much-needed morale boost. Really appreciated all the people taking time off their day to cheer people on.
Walk breaks started to become longer and were needed more frequently. The Sun was relentless and the unsheltered stretches were an absolute killer.
39km - End
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN.
Most painful 3 kilometers of my life. The bridge was an absolute killer, and seeing the float right next to us was a massive bait that caused us to speed up, when in actuality we had to run away from it before making a u-turn in front.
Finish didn't really feel very climatic or amazing. It felt sweet to finish, but I guess deep down I knew that I'd have to put in more effort for this to truly feel special.
Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.
~ Lori Culnane
This quote seemed really deep and I had hoped for something during the marathon.
Not sure what. Nirvana? Absolution? Clarity?
Unfortunately, I had no such epiphanies.
Instead of figuring out the meaning of life, most of my thoughts consisted of wah where's the next water point pls.
What I learnt was that 42 kilometers is a long distance, Singapore is really hot, and running for a long time definitely hurts the legs.
But it was fun. I remember joking with Joseph: "Spirits are high, heart is willing, but the body is broken and bruised."
Notes to future self
Bucket list items tend to be one-off but I did title this my first marathon, so in the event that I decide to do this again, future gavin pls listen up.
- Plan early and train properly please.
- Have a timing goal. You've already done this before — don't be lame and just "try for completion"
- Bad run days happen, don't get demoralised and just stick to the plan
- Listen to your body
- Earlier race pen! Don't get stuck in Pen F again!
- Remember to bring your race bib you dumbass
- The real going starts at around ~35km
- MUSIC! Get a good playlist going so you're not running to all the slow, emo songs you like to listen to!
- Run w someone else!
- Properly fitted shoes!
- Most importantly, gotta keep your spirits high. It was an enjoyable experience overall cause we were having fun throughout, even when our legs felt absolutely trashed.
But for me, the biggest takeaway is truly appreciating the age-old adage:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
~ African Proverb (?)
While running can seem like a very solitary sport and many people use it to escape into their own heads, de-stress, or take some alone time, for me, being with others really allowed me to push further, dig deeper, and go longer.
As I'm writing this in Dec 2022, I think it seems fitting to take this time to reflect on my running goals for the future and hopefully keep me accountable.
- Sub 10min 2.4km: Elusive barrier that I have not been able to break.
- Sub 2hr 15min half marathon: Friends have been talking about doing the 2XU half in April. Would like to break my half PB (2:27 according to Garmin)