A friend once gave me this advice:
Your first marathon is usually your best because you run with your heart and spirit. Your second marathon maybe worse because you usually expect to do better than the first. And lastly, your third marathon will determine who you are as a marathoner because you will apply all the lessons learned from previous marathons.
The Standard Chartered Singapore marathon was my second marathon. Coming from a relaxed and pleasant QC International Marathon pace, I set a serious goal time for my second marathon, which I meant to race.
My first marathon time: 4:55
My second marathon goal time: 4:30
My second marathon secret goal time: 4:15
Whoever said the words above hit the nail on the head, at least for my first couple of marathons. Put simply, my second marathon experience sucked. Lots of unfulfilled expectations, more walking than planned, heavy and humid air that took the life out of me plus a water-bloating kind of torture that I ironically put myself under. Read on…
I GOTTA FEELING…
5:25 a.m., Race start
Kim, Ivy, Tina, Francine and I—five full marathon women—stood calmly among a sea of eager, jittery, and energized runners along Esplanade Drive. We were far behind from the starting line, but the excitement was palpable and the music blasting from the front lines could still be heard: “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night…”
– Francine, Michelle, Kim, myself, and Ivy (our photographer!) –
– Full marathoners await gun start –
It was deja vu for me; all the race elements were a replay of last year’s race—the dynamic hosts and loud music, the venue, the glaring lights amidst the dark Singapore sky—only my goal was different; I was gunning for the full this time. I no longer felt the sense of awe and wonder, like last year, over the immensity of this grandiose event (50,000 individuals running at one time!) but it felt more like a personal journey, almost like enrolling in a new course or going on sabbatical.
RIGHT ON TRACK
The gun was fired way up in front and slowly all of us runners in the back plodded forward to cross the starting line. I bid Kim good luck and lost the other girls in the crowd. I switched my ipod on knowing it would be my best buddy for the next several hours and began to run the first few steps of my second marathon.
For the first 21km, my plan was to run 6:30 min/km. For the first 15k, I ran at a comfortable 6:20 min/km pace, confident that I would even have buffer by the time I hit half. I felt strong and I thoroughly enjoyed the incident-free run; it allowed me to enjoy the city and its sights or to read some runners’ scribblings on their backs: one was sentimental “For Mommy,” another had illustrations of his son, and another just said “Meet me in Harry’s Bar at 3 p.m.” If I had done the same, it would’ve said: “42k for Dad and an angel baby”
NICE PARK, BAD EXPERIENCE
At 13k, among 50,000 runners, Women’s Health editor Lara Parpan and I managed to bump into each other and wished each other good luck. Shortly after, the course took us into East Coast Park, a portion that only full marathoners get to run on. The park setting—man-made lake at the center, fresh, green grass, and a narrow trail for pedestrians all by the sea—was a welcome sight. Plus, the party atmosphere—a band playing “You Gotta Have Faith… Thaa.. Faith… Thaa… FAITHAAAAH”, loud music blaring, and tons of water stations in the area—energized me even more. I felt great in here!
– Inside East Coast Park. One of the few times we ran under shaded trees. It was hot and humid all throughout –
That strong feeling didn’t last long though. The run through the park felt long and dreary; my strength gradually began to wane due to the humidity. At certain times, my throat felt dry and I felt suffocated, so I would hydrate often with Gatorade. Thankfully, I had run fast enough to make me hit my target for the first 21km: 2:18. I thought I was doing fine!
I continued to run at 6:30 pace and would occasionally walk and drink at water stations. Unfortunately, I ingested so much fluids that, at one point, my stomach felt heavy and bloated. I felt like a tadpole! By Km28, I felt like my HRM strap was choking me so I stopped to remove my chest strap and loosen my hydration belt. What a relief! My pace had considerably slowed at that point though.
DOWNHILL FROM HEREON (AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE COURSE!)
By Km30, evil thoughts started entering my mind: What’s taking so long? Can I endure 12kms more of this? Will I get cramps like everyone else around? If I’m struggling now, what’s the last 5 kms going to feel like?
Then, I forced myself to recall how pleasant QC International Marathon was. How, at Km 30, I didn’t even know I was going for the full 42km! And, for some moments, I got a break from the weariness and tried my best to plod on.
– The cool zone provided mist for runners. Unfortunately, it felt like a warm zone for me –
THE LONGEST 5K OF MY LIFE
At QC International Marathon, my pacer Neville said “the last 5km will be the longest 5km of your life.” At that time, I quietly laughed about that line as I was on Cloud 9 running the last few kilometers towards QC Circle.
This time, however, his words didn’t only ring true, they were banging on my ear drums! My last 5 kms were reduced to this simple question: Can you make it to the next water station?
I made a deal with myself: Walk briefly only at every OTHER water station. At every other station, I would then grab two cups: one to drink, another to pour over my overheating head. Then, I would walk briefly and compel myself to run again. It was slow and tough, but it was the only thing that kept me from sticking my thumb out to hitch a ride back to the hotel. By that time, I didn’t even bother looking at my watch anymore. Goal times were thrown out the window.
– Km 40: Singapore Flyer. More people were walking than running here –
– 2 more kms to go! I held on –
The harder you work for your goal, the more fulfilling it is when accomplished. And so, despite my weariness, I felt like the strongest woman alive when I crossed that finish line. (It also helped that there was a young Italian guy who made small talk with me right after!)
I was (and still am) disappointed with not reaching my target time. See the frustration in this face?…
…It definitely could’ve been better. But, at the same time, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I plodded on despite the difficulties. I was blessed with the opportunity to join the race and test my endurance and will without any major glitches along the way (no cramps, no injury, not even a tiny blister!) For all that I am thankful.
Was it worse than the 1st marathon? Definitely. Will the 3rd marathon be the best? I certainly hope so.
Distance: 43.12 km
Average pace: 6:42 min/km
Official chip time: 4:49:18
* Thank you to Ivy for the race photos!