Did we miss the race? That was the sole question on my mind as hubby and I stepped out of our taxi onto the empty street of the assembly area, Dataran Merdaka, on the drizzly morning of June 27, 2010. Race start was 6:15 a.m. and we arrived 5:30 a.m. In Manila, the starting area would have been bustling with runners, but, here, the entire street was empty.
Turns out, runners were near the stage area or lined up at the portalets, which were not enough I tell you (or I could’ve been spoiled by our local races.) We checked in our baggage and sat by the sidewalk trying to keep our eyelids from closing. Shouldn’t have slept at 11pm. Shouldn’t have gone touring the entire day before the race. Shouldn’t have binged on too much noodles and sumptuous Malaysian food. Ok, we may not have been THAT regretful about the last one.
By 6 a.m. the assembly area was packed. We managed to squeeze into the crowd of runners packed like sardines. I noticed that runners in KL aren’t as gear-crazy as we are in Manila. I didn’t spot too many Malaysians donning Garmins nor Polars, compression tights, or even caps or visors.
Amidst the mass of runners, it was a pleasant surprise when Lim (RunwitMe), a running blogger from Malaysia who I had been following for a couple of years, called out to me. (He said he spotted my bright pink Newtons, which not many Malaysians weear either. Not yet, at least.) After a few photos together, we got to chat about running in his country. He said that running is slowly picking up in Malaysia with races scheduled every weekend.
– It was a pleasure meeting you, Lim (runwitme)! –
Soon, we heard the gun start and we were off. The weather was cool and damp from the slight drizzle. Roads were still wet. Hubby and I had no idea what to expect from this race. Our mindset: training race mode.
The first thing that greeted us was a steep climb up. Wonderful. If this was a sign of things to come, then I planned on taking it easy all the way. Our initial pace for the first 2k was a slow 7:00 min/km both due to the ascent and the heavy traffic among runners. The road was not that wide, so traffic was a problem.
Hubby and I ran side by side with our pace relaxed at around 6:00 to 6:30. I even stopped to wait for him when he went on bathroom break. At around 7k, he advised me to go ahead as he wanted to maintain 6:30 pace all the way.
It was then that I went a wee bit faster running at 5:30 to 6. As the course was unveiled to me, I thought with a pang of regret: Man oh man, this is a PR course! I should’ve gone fast from the start. (And I should’ve trained for it harder, too!)
The route was composed of gentle rolling hills, a slightly easier version of Ayala Alabang, my training ground. There were twists and turns through the streets of KL with nature and architecture (we passed mosques and Petronas Twin Towers) in our surroundings. Except for the first climb at the start, all ascents were easy on the legs while the downhills were a treat.
This was my third Standard Chartered Marathon. I’ve run Singapore Half in 2008 and full in 2009 and I completed Hong Kong full last February. Among all three, KL Marathon is my favored course.
There was considerably less fanfare in this race compared with other international races I’ve joined. Just a few cheerers, one of which was a group of shirtless, teenage Malaysian boys and girls in bra tops with drums enthusiastically singing and dancing their hearts out. Honestly, I’d rather have one of that then a bunch of entertainers acting like drones who chant memorized cheer lines.
I noticed that Malaysian runners aren’t as talkative as Filipinos. Locally, we’ll have groups running together and chatting throughout the entire race. In KL, there was a peaceful kind of silence for most part of the race. Occasionally, you’ll have a partner chatting, but not a rowdy or noisy group in the crowd.
I spent much of my time targeting male runners ahead of me. Most of them caucasian, for reasons unbeknownst to me! I would overtake one then search for another one to target. This was a good strategy for me as I felt like racing (and winning) smaller events within the 21k.
SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA
I felt strong and invincible in the latter half of the race. It was at this time that regret started to seep into my mind: A PR course! Why didn’t I run it like a race from the start?! What a waste!
But, as with all things in life, you can’t dwell on regret for too long as it’ll eat you up. So, I focused on enjoying what was left of the course and running as fast as I could to make up for such a slow race start.
I enjoyed this race so much that it went by so quickly. Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line. I finished 21.4km at 2:09 with a pace of 6:02 min/km. According to official results, I rank 90th (most likely among women but it’s not written anywhere on the website). I didn’t see anyone I knew at the finish, so inside I was screaming: I loved the route! What an amazing course! Woohooo!
I claimed my fantastic medal. Got a free banana. I was on Cloud 9.
From Cloud 9, I was immediately dragged back down to earth when I spent the next 30 minutes (yes, I timed it), waiting in line for my bag. I watched the festivities from that baggage redemption line, devoured the banana without a drop of liquid (I don’t take 100Plus so Gatorade, my sports drink of choice, was imprisoned in the bag I was claiming!), and then I got my bag right before my sweat dried up in my running clothes. Awful.
Hubby and I found each other and we waited for Mary Grace to congratulate her for her 2nd Place win in the Half Marathon Women’s category.
Hubby and I then boarded a taxi back to our hotel and feasted on a wonderful buffet lunch.
KL, perhaps we’ll see each other again next year if I attempt to PR on such wonderful roads!
Thank you again to Toby Claudio, Renze Banawa, and the entire staff of Newton and CW-X for the trip!