Running for A Cause: SCS-TalkMed Relay for Life 2019

I’ve been participating in quite a few running events over the past few years, but never had I been part of a relay team. I didn’t expect running in a relay would be so much fun.

On the night 2 days before Christmas, I was strolling through my Facebook feed (what’s new), that I came across this post on Relay For Life. Organised by the Singapore Cancer Society since 2017, the event aims to raise awareness, change behaviours, and take actions and to raise fund for the fight for cancer. Something strikes me that I have to rally my Fitspo People kaki to take part in this relay.

It was around the same period when I experience how much of a devil cancer is. The heartless illness takes the dearest ones away from people. One of my aunts was a victim of cancer, she succumbed to the illness some decade and a half ago. Back then, I was still a little kid, all I knew was that the person who took care of me during my parents’ absence and the one who took me out to gaigai was no longer there in my life anymore. I remembered how much I couldn’t handle the news of her passing. It wasn’t easy for anyone to handle such news, let alone a 7-year-old kid. In the recent year, I have also seen how my close friends have to undergo the ordeal of losing their loved ones to cancer. It was so heartbreaking. I knew I need to do something for these people.

I took the chance to rally FPAC for this beneficial cause, and we managed to send in 9 participants to take up the 100km team challenge.

THE EXPERIENCE

On 2 March, we arrived at the National Stadium getting ready to start the relay. Farhan was our first runner. He just kept running until he was tired before our new member, Zongwei, took over. I was prepping myself to cover at least 20km during the ungodly hours so did not start until after midnight.

STARTING RIGHT: Farhan (right) covered a good >20 laps before he left us for his school project.
NEW FACE: Zongwei is the new member that joined us for this run and we hit off quite instantly!
KEEPING THE MOMENTUM GOING: Hui Shuen passing the baton to our co-captain Justin.
GOING STRONG: Viv, who’s our other co-captain, keeping the smile on her face despite how tiring the race was.
HERE YOU GO: Yapz (centre) taking over the baton from Viv as Hui Shuen (left) looks on.
SMILE ON: Our other new member, Kheng Yin, posing for photo while running past us.
NEVER SAY NEVER: Kish showing the victory sign as he speed past us!
CAPTURING THE MOMENT: My official unpaid & underrated (oops) PA helping me to capture all the moments from the race on tape.

Speaking about the vlog for this race, I wasn’t feeling well the past week so I didn’t have the chance to actually edit the vlog. But I assure that the vlog will be done up quite soon, so maybe by next weekend, we will be able to see the actual footage on what went on during the course of 12 hours.

TIME FOR SELFIE: I don’t usually take selfies like this but it’s a good occasion to do so!
TOGETHER-NESS: Really thankful for all of them for taking their time out to run for a good cause.

It could have been a gruelling 12 hours and it could have been impossible to complete the 250 laps around the track without the effort of every single one of our Fitspo People. It was them that made this race a fun one and pushes me to go on to complete my 50th round. It was the team effort that shouldn’t be undermine.

We eventually came in 161th by distance and 155th by the timing to complete 100km. Really really proud of our results.

COUPLES THAT RUNS TOGETHER, COMPLETE TOGETHER: Yapz and Kish showing off their finisher tee!
WE ARE 100KM FINISHERS: The FPAC fam posing with our finisher tees. We did it!

THE THOUGHTS

During the entire event, running wasn’t in my mind at all. I had a lot of thoughts, thoughts surrounding the endless cycle of life and death. Maybe it was because of what I kind of encounter over the past few months that I was especially emotional when I went to cover the sharing session and reading all the dedications that the participants penned on the luminaria bags.

It just hit me so hard that despite living things are made up of group of cells, yet an abnormal growth of the matter that build us ended up killing us slowly and cruelly. Images of patients last moments before the illness took the toll on them flashed across my minds, even as I was doing my laps.

I hasn’t been running long distance since my CNY run and I was feeling the ache in my tights as I increased my speed during the course of the relay. However, I told myself, what cancer victims are going/went through was much worse. I know I couldn’t do comparisons like that, but you know the point that I am trying to bring across right here. I admire their perseverance and their fighting spirit — the will to overcome their illness against all odds. Maybe Augustus Waters (of The Fault in Our Stars) was right, cancer (or any types of illness) could be that unlighted cigarette in the mouth, “cigarettes only kill when you light them… you put that killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” That was the kind of fighting spirit that somehow becomes a common trait across all the cancer patients.

In the words of Terry Fox, the renowned for his Marathon of Hope to raise money and awareness for cancer, once said, which I find it the most applicable to me at this point in time, “It took cancer to realise that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.” I always run races for the sake of bettering my records, but never had I realised that charity runs served a greater communal benefit. Personal glory seems so irrelevant when just a pair of legs and a little perseverance and rallying can change the lives of people, people whom may or may not be close to you but after all, human beings. I didn’t expect I would be running for something bigger.

This will not be the last time I am participating in a run for charitable causes. I am going to embark on more of such runs. I might really do a cross-country (like literally across the island) fundraiser, some sort of a scaled-down version of Marathon of Hope, to raise fund for cancer and maybe other illnesses like asthma (which I am a sufferer of), Alzheimer’s and geriatrics. I will leave to after my ORD to plan for these. I just hope that with that so little I could do in my capacity, I would be able to be of some help to these communities.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: A sign of respect and to remember those who’ve fought cancer.
MAY YOU SEE OUR MESSAGES: To those warriors who battled the demon with their lives, can you see our well wishes lighted up so brightly in the night skies?
PUTTING SOME THOUGHTS: Yapz, Kish and Khengs penning their thoughts and well-wishes.
BE STRONG, STAY STRONG: All the heartfelt messages by the participants.

THE GOOD

Putting all emotions aside, I guess it’s important that we give feedbacks on the planning and execution of any race. I find writing a short review for races as some form of appreciation to the organisers for their sweat, tears and sacrifices.

Overall, this race is very well organised so kudos to the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS). Growing from its inaugural relay back in 2017 at Bukit Gombak, the race grew in size and moved to the National Stadium for its second edition. 2019 saw RFL breaking the record for the longest distance (14, 849.2km) covered by a group of runners in 6hrs. Furthermore, SCS also managed to raise a total of S$1 million, a significant amount more than the S$380,000 raised last year. RFL indeed has went from strength to strength.

1. The Remember Segment

I know this is a custom throughout all the RFL across the world but I find it very meaningful that all of us could take a moment out to remember those who fought so bravely against the illness and to give support to their families. There is really very little thing we could do for those actually feeling the pain. Some people felt the pain in the wounds, others in the heart.

Furthermore, the sharing sessions by cancer patients and their family members gave many insights on how it is to fight to illness as an individual and as a family. I could have sat in front of the stage to listen to the stories but I guess there will be better time in the future when my emotions do not get in the way.

2. Side activities to keep participants motivated

There were zumba and I could remember Henry (radio DJ from 933) being forced to dance as well. That was some light hearted moment during that evening. I recall how I could still hear the music from the zumba or some fitness dance while I was during my laps. It does really keep the participants going especially when most of us are feeling the tiredness kicking in later that night.

THE BAD

Of course, despite all the positivities, there are the bad points I personally feel that it requires some highlight.

1. Open more lanes for running

The whole point for opening up the 3 lanes are for competitive runners (i.e. those who are taking part in the 100km Challenges) to have an ‘express’ route to complete their runs. I know this is just a charity relay but we have to consider that there are fast runners that are chiong-ing round the track like there were racing for glory in an Olympics final. I can’t blame them because that might be the speed they are comfortable in — especially when they are seasoned athletes. On the other hand, there are runners who runs at a slower pace on the track.

With only 3 lanes opened, 294 individuals (there were 294 teams/individuals taking part in the 100km Challenge) on the track with all travelling at different paces, it seems like a recipe for an accident waiting to happen. I remembered when I slowed down to some 7:30 pace, I met this guy who was running at high speed, brushed past me and many other participants. We were so close to crashing into one another, and I ain’t going to think of the domino effect that could have happen had both of us fell. The lanes were just too narrow given the number of expected participants on the track at any moment. 2 more lanes could have been added to better manage the crowd, and for safety reasons too.

2. Track Etiquette

This is less of the fault of the organisers but they could have did a little more to manage the runners and walkers. As much as we want to be inclusive, we need to cater to the safety of every participants. Like I pointed out in the point above, having speed demons rushing through the crowd and increase the probability of toppling over others is a safety concern. Slower runners like myself ought to keep right, leaving the left-most lane for faster runners. Respect the lanes and it will make things easier for everyone.

Furthermore, as one of my team mates pointed out, people with large costumes might poised a threat to the runners, given the props they might be carrying with them. Hence, we would like to suggest that walkers and people dressed up in large costumes ought to be directed to the other lanes that was initially designated for non-competitive runners and casual walkers. Just to be safe, really. ūüôā

Above all, it was a pleasing, fun and fulfilling night running with my fam for this good cause. It triggers a lot of thoughts and definitely changes the way I look at running and races as a whole. It added another mission to my life that is to be that good catalyst to people’s life, no matter how small the changes for the better might be.

We Ran A Marathon?! Race Review: Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018

8 months ago, I kept refreshing the official Facebook page of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, hoping to the first few to sign up for the race. It would mark only the second time I am participating in the Singapore Marathon and the 9th race I have taken part in overall. The previous time I took part in the Singapore’s flagship running event was back in 2016, when I challenged myself to a 10KM distance. Back then, I managed to clock a personal best at an official race at 01:10:39.

After 6 half-marathon, I got a bit ambitious. When the registration for this edition of SCSM opened, I went on to select the Full Marathon category and proceeded to complete the registration. The ‘high’ does not last long, to be frank. Moments after I received the race confirmation slip, I stared into the blank space.

“Just what the hell did I get myself into?” I questioned my sanity.

The Training

I knew instantly that this would not be a walk in the park — even if it is, it’s a freaking long walk with I can compare it against the 24KM route march the PES-fit soldiers have to endure, just that I am without the bulky and heavy field pack contributing to the weight. I knew I need to embark on some vigorous training regime.

I have to admit I didn’t follow the plan my Garmin watch set for me. Thank God for the progressive training I’ve forced upon myself, otherwise, I would probably not be able to complete the race at all. 

Of course, training was much more fun when you ain’t training alone. As much as I enjoy my time alone when I run because I tend to immerse in the surrounding and let my inner thoughts take over me, I still prefer group training at times. The reason is simple: whenever you felt like giving up, there’s always someone there who will motivate you on and you, somehow, find that motivate to keep yourself going. It’s a very psychological thing.

This time round, I am thankful for Justin and Jaslyn. Both were new to FPAC (our running club) but we got along well quite fast. We ended up running together quite a number of times. Justin and I even went a step further to join Running Department for their pacer runs because we do need some motivations to run those extra kilometres when we head into the most intensive period of the training phrase. It is impossible for us – without the necessary hydration points along our usual route – to take on distances such as 27, 30 and 33KM. In addition, it is rather painful to run without much motivation especially after you’ve hit the wall. 

MASSIVE RUNNING COMMUNITY: Running with Running Department exposes me to the large and vibrant running community we have in Singapore. (Photo: Running Dept’s Official Facebook)

I couldn’t count how many runs or how much distance I’ve clocked just for the build-up training alone, but I went into the race week feeling a little more confident. I told myself, no matter what happened, it’ll still be a historical moment.

Race Entry Pack Collection (REPC)

I get very excited heading down to any REPCs. This time round, I got slightly more excited. Viv had told me earlier that there’s a big board located in the REPC expo where the names of all the marathon runners are printed on.

I went on to collect my race entry pack on Friday evening – just one day before the first day of the running event. I don’t know what happened but it seems that most of the race organisers this year have kind of learnt their lesson from the madness of last year and the year before. I ain’t going to comment on how long the queue to everything (from race pack collections to bag depositing to using the washroom) was during the past two years. It was a fast collection, so smooth that the entire process took me slightly less than 10 minutes — despite having two separate booths for race bib and race singlet & goodies collections.

As soon as I am done with the collection, I followed the path into the race expo. I thought I ended up in a retail shop instead. There was so much merchandises on sale that my bank balance got slightly threatened. 

There was this finisher jacket that caught my attention. Oh dear, I love jackets. It is a finisher jacket for this edition. It seems like a very comfortable windbreaker to run in during drizzle or cold weather like we have at the time of writing. Too bad, I was broke from all the 11.11 shopping that I had to give this a miss. Plus, I have enough jackets/windbreaker to last me. But good job coming out with all these merchandises.

I window-ed shopped a while before making my way into the other sections of the expo. I finally get to see the ‘huge wall’ personally. Viv had told us previously that there’s a wall at the expo where the names of all the full marathon participants were being printed on. I don’t exactly know how many names were there but I swear the number could easily start from a thousand. It took me close to 5 minutes to locate my name. Bravo. 

It was a massive expo with all the partner brands setting up booths to try and market their product. Too bad, none of them sells my favourite energy gels from GU (understandable because Shotz was the official energy gel) so I’ve had to head down to Suntec’s Liv Activ to replenish my stocks.

I’ve also captured my REPC experience on my vlog. You can buffer to 9:40 to have a better feel of how this year’s REPC went!

SCSM DAY 1: As A Spectator

The day is here! Not for me but for those who participated in the Kids Dash, 5KM and 10KM categories. For the first time in the event’s history, the races are being held over 2 days. The half-marathon, full-marathon and Ekiden were held on the next day. I guess that’s one way not to overcrowd the entire runners’ village with participants across the 6 races. I ain’t going to imagine having to squeeze through around 40,000 sweaty people to get to wherever I want to go.

That being said, this meant that Michelle, Jaslyn and Hui Shuen would start and complete their run some 24 hours before Justin and I complete ours. Really have to thank Rebecca for the complimentary tickets. FPAC wouldn’t have been represented by this much people without those tickets! It has been a long due club-level participation at a local race. Despite we would be running the next day, Justin and I went down to show some support. Of course, I have other secondary motives as well: to shoot some race day photos. ūüėÄ With the help of some very helpful race day volunteers, I managed to identify the designated walkway for spectators and made my way to the entrance of the viewing gallery at the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

GET HYPED: The host at the finishing line gearing the crowds up before the 10KM champion crossed the finishing line.
HERE I COME: Hong Kong veteran runner Chan Ka Ho won the 10KM category with a timing of 34:26.

Not sure about the arrangement past years, because this marked the first year that I was there at the race as a spectator. There are definitely differences being there as a spectator and as a participant. As a spectator, I am treated to the anxiousness of looking out for the leading racer as well as the joy of watching each and every participant crossing the finishing line. The perks of having the ending point set at the Floating Platform includes being able to provide the best viewing positions for spectators to witness the race while admiring the spectacular Singapore skyline. More events should start ending their races there. Really.

1 hour or so went past and I finally heard from Justin — who stationed himself at the 9KM mark which his A3 motivational banner — that FPAC’s first finisher is within sight. I got my camera ready. I actually left everything on ‘off’ mode because I was running out of batteries. (Note to self before next shoot, charge every single battery, including those spare ones.)

Jaslyn crossed the finishing line 1hr 10mins after she started. To be honest, that was a very good result given that this is her debut race. She still dare say that she was very afraid when I ‘Grabbed’ her over to the starting point.

Next came Hui Shuen, who also made her race debut. The furthest she had ran before joining for the race was, I think, 5KM? Well done, girl!

Mish came in shortly behind Hui Shuen. You know, both Justin and I thought she had finished the race way ahead but in the end we both recognised the wrong person. HAHAHA Either Mish looks like everyone, or everyone looks like Mish. Good job in completing!

And ohya, this girl ran for a cause actually! She went on a non-sugar diet for the whole of November in a bid to raise awareness of heart conditions and the impacts on heart patients and their families.

So, if anyone has that spare cash during this season of giving, please help donate. More information can be found HERE.

COMPLETED: (From left: Hui Shuen, Jaslyn, Mish) The girls took a mandatory ‘finisher’ photo at the photo booth provided by Seiko.
AN ALMOST-COMPLETED TEAM PHOTO: We met Viv halfway and we took a group photo. Miss out on you, Mish! (From left: Hui Shuen, Jaslyn, Viv, me, Justin)

Check out the full vlog on the first day of the SCSM below:

SCSM DAY 2 – As A Participant

Alright, shit started to get real. The moment I woke up from the 6 hours of sleep, I knew the day I’ve been looking forward for the past few months is finally here. The alarm rang and I sat right up on my bed. “This is it.”

I’ve prepared all that I needed for the race the night before so that I need to be so rush with the final preparation. I just take some BCAA with 2 eggs and I was ready to head out. This is the first race that I donned a full Adidas kit – Hey Adidas, next time please sponsor me okay. I mean I feel more comfortable with a set of matching kit.

I managed to reach the ShareTransport shuttle bus pick up point at Ang Mo Kio MRT Station at 0200. I swear this was one of the rare times I managed to be in time for any shuttle bus. The partnership between SCSM and ShareTransport definitely made it easier for participants to travel to the starting point without having to manoeuvre through the chaotic traffic due to the road closures.

The 0200 shuttle buses from all over the island arrived around 0230, which meant those of us who registered for the earlier bus had a little too much time to spare at the race village. I spent about an hour sitting down on the floor gazing at my phone and visiting the toilet twice before I made my way into the starting pen. Either I was being too early or I was actually impressed by how there were not much queue for the toilet. I need to admit there were really a lot of portable toilets. The organisers placed toilets everywhere, out at the runners’ village and also over at the starting pens F & G. I never like to queue for toilet especially when anxiety increases my pee frequency. So, a thumbs up for the organisers!

At 0300, after I’ve done charging my phone, I went to deposit my bag. So this year, all the participants were given a transparent bag during the REPC. We were only allowed to deposit our items inside this transparent bag. From what I’ve heard from last year’s participants, this initiative was a response to the long queues and chaos happened during last year’s event. During SCSM 2017, participants were made to transfer their items to a similar transparent baggage on the spot. I supposed it’s due to some security purposes. Good thing that they’ve rectified the issue by coming with a new initiative. I am satisfied with the speed the things went for me — from the REPC to the bag depositing.

However, there was a small episode of disagreement. Or I should say, a drama. Prior to Pen G (where I was allocated) being flagged off, the organisers actually let waves of Pen C, D, E latecomers to enter together with Pen F. It was supposed to be not much of an issue until some Pen G participants were disgruntled that the move had, in fact, eaten into their time. We were supposed to flag off around 0500, but at 0510, the late comers were still coming in. Some of us got too frustrated and found it unfair because, to quote one of the participant, “You let all those late comers go first, do you think it’s fair for us who came at 3.”

I low-key agree.

I think after a series of protest, the security gave up and started opening up the barrier. All of us just gushed through the barriers towards the starting line, eager to be flagged off as soon as possible. I think everyone was just afraid that the delay might cause them to fail to complete the distances before the cut off time. I started to get slightly worried as well. Definitely not the start I want given all the positive experience I had encountered over the past 2 days.

Nevertheless, I started my first ever full marathon at 0520

It started off relatively well. I managed to complete a good 17KM with an easy pace, trying to keep at 07:30 pace. I know to most of you, this could be regarded as a rather slow speed but I didn’t want to use up all my energy. It’s 42KM, not 4.2KM. As much as I would like to go for speed and timing, I need to be realistic and recognise that I do not have that stamina to go at a half-marathon pace for a full marathon. I strategized along the way.

My plan was simple. To go all the way to 17KM before brisk walking for the next 3KM. At 19KM, I had my first energy gel to last me for the next 12KM. I would then take a 5KM walk before finishing the last 5KM.

But obviously, apart for the first two parts of the plan, the rest did not work out well. After I resumed my run at 20KM, I started having stitches at 23KM. I slowed down but I told myself I shouldn’t stop. The stitches subside by 24.5KM and I continued to 29KM before I started feeling a little dizzy. I knew I had to stop. I stopped, struggled for the next 5KM — even as I was walking. I got the full package in experiencing all the stages of running a marathon. I was hoping someone could come and end all my sufferings. 

Then, along the way, with the help of the mist tunnels and powerful fans installed along the route, I managed to slightly cool myself down. But then again, given Singapore’s humid weather, I don’t think I am the only one to find that the mist tunnels are less than effective. The availability of hydration points every 2-3KM and splash zones every 5km (?) does in fact eases my pain.

Stages of running a marathon
Stages of running a marathon

Despite having a new route, the route around Marina Bay shouldn’t poised much of a challenge for me. I remembered while planning for the race, I was rather confident I could pick up my pace along my ‘home ground’. The problem is, I may have run that route a thousand times, but I have’t tried running 35KM prior to my weekly run at Marina Bay. I ended up spending 70% of the time going at a rather pathetic pace. I am not going to further describe how the slope over at the infamous Shears Bridge made me died a little inside. 

I managed to pick up my pace after the last hydration point. I tried to go as fast as possible but my body seems not to be controllable by me anymore. It was a slightly faster pace nevertheless. I think the adrenaline level spiked once I saw the Singapore Flyer. By the time I reached the 42KM mark, I grabbed the national flag that I’ve left inside my phone pouch. I unwrapped it and started sprinting into the Floating Platform. I think I might have caused some hoo-haa when I came charging in with the red and white flag. 

A bit of drama again but I literally collapse to the ground after crossing the finishing line. I was not dead inside, but was crying internally. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve managed to complete my first ever marathon with a sub-6.

Although an average pace of 8:30 isn’t something to be proud of, but being able to finish the race faster than I thought I would go, gave me the confidence to go for another one next year. 

By the time I reached the finishing line, Farhan and Justin had already completed their race an hour or more ahead of me. Farhan completed in 05:06:34, while Justin did a sub-5 at 04:55:26. Sick. Justin even offered to engrave the medal for the both of us, so that we have a record of our respective first full marathon.

FIRST TIMER: We finally completed our first full marathon! (From left: Farhan, me, Justin)

I just lay on the ground for the next 1 hour after Farhan and Justin took their leaves. I didn’t feel like doing anything except for going into the extreme recovery phrase. Eventually, I dragged my lazy ass off the ground to go and meet Viv.

Thank you for all your hard work being part of the team fo making this race happen. Of course, a round of applause and appreciation to the organisers and the ever-so-friendly volunteers. Overall, this is one of the best race I’ve taken part in so far!

It’s time for all of us to rest and recover! 

Check out the vlog on the 2nd day of the SCSM 2018 here:

Review: Sundown Marathon 2018 (Half-Marathon)

One week ago, I was getting myself geared up for my second race this year. I didn’t have much expectation this year after the poor organisation last year. Despite that, I joined out of habit. I mean it’ll be weird if I don’t take part in the night race that I’ve been a part of since 2016. There ain’t many night race here in Singapore to begin with.

However, by the time I concluded the race, I knew that Sundown is so much better than the one last year.

Race Entry Pack Collection

Race Entry Pack Collection (REPC) might only be an occasion organised for participants to collect their bibs and tags, as well as to get their hands on to some goodies put together by the sponsors. However, to me, the REPC serves as an indication of how well the entire race would be organised. You know, the first impression counts.

Compared to the chaos of last year’s, this year the organiser has made some major adjustments. First, the collection point is no longer at an open area, they brought it indoors. I could still remember how we were forced to queue under the sun at F1 Pit last year while wondering how long more would it take before our turn. This year, they broke the collection into two parts. Participants collect their¬†bibs from outside Suntec City before going to the mall to grab the race singlet and the goodie bags.

It was surprisingly fast. The entire process took less than 15 minutes. The queue was cleared quickly before it became a long-winding snake. To make it more impressive, I was there on a Friday evening.

After I collected my goodie bag, I thought to myself: This year’s Sundown is going to be a whole new experience.

The Lead-Up & Trainings

The organisers put in place 3 lead-up runs to prepare the runners for the race. These include 12KM/22KM, 14KM/27KM and 19KM/30KM over three weekends. I wasn’t able to join for the first two runs because of personal commitments, but glad that I was able to set aside some time for the last lead-up. I must admit I was rather excited to go for my first official lead-up run despite having to run the race since 2016.

TOGETHER WE TRAIN: Running with pacers from Team FatBird provides me with a whole new experience. (Image: Team FatBird)

It was during the evening of 21st April, slightly after the afternoon drizzle. Every participant made their way to the OCBC Arena and everyone was feeling energised. I wasn’t that sure if I was ready for a 19km because I hasn’t been training that frequently compared to the race last year. But well… Since I was there, might as well give it my all. I mean, the race was due to flag off in another few weeks times. There was no better time than that.

I remembered I started well, even going on par with the pacer for the 30KM run (that’s for the Full Marathon runners). For a good 5km, I was ahead of everyone. Then slowly, I fell back and by the time I went for my toilet break at around 6km, I lost the sight of the running contingent. I eventually just OTOT all the way to East Coast Lagoon Food Centre before heading back to OCBC Arena.

It was a good run. The hydration points along the route served as an extra motivation for me to complete my training. The 19KM runners were entitled to a hydration point along the route somewhere around Parkland Green. It gave me an opportunity to hydrate myself and take a breather after trying to outpace a girl who appears to have an optimal running economy. I went on to try and outpace two fit uncles after the break. Well, I guess running with a group does have its perks.

Sleep Can Wait

The big night is here! Like I’ve said previously, I expected this year’s race to be a whole new experience. I am not far from the fact before I reached the race venue. For the first time in my three years of participation in Sundown, I was on the verge of running alone. It was not until when Charmaine told me that she was also running.

We met up at Promenade MRT at around 2230 before making our way to the 7-11 at Marina Square so that our little one can get her fuel. We slowly walked to the race village where the containers of last year were replaced by tentage, freeing up so much space for the large crowd to enter and even take group photos.

The organisers succumbed to the fact that fancy exhibition idea is not feasible under the constraint of spaces. They heard the complaints and made the amendments this year. Well done!

But there was one thing we suspected they might have screwed up. The pen allocation. Charmz and I had no idea why we were being allocated to Pen A, if the pen was supposedly for participants who were able to complete the course within 2 hours. Although I was running with my Adidas Sub-2, that doesn’t equate to the fact that I was able to run my race in 2 hours – especially not when I didn’t have enough proper trainings leading up to the big night.

Even if they screwed up our pen allocations, it was a beautiful one. We were entitled to a rather spacious starting pen and since we were being thrown to the front, ahead of the masses, we were given a clear view of the starting point and all the entertainment that was happening. For the first time, we were able to join in for a warm-up session – conducted by TripleFit. After we stretched some muscles, we were ready for the flag-off.

It was a race that I personally would not be proud of. I’ve let down such a well-organised race. On the night that, despite not as fit as I was during last year’s edition, I was expecting to beat my previous records, I succumbed to my intestinal health. I spent at least half of the race going around looking for the washroom. It’s definitely not fun having the urge to go to the washroom during your run. It’s worse when you had to go twice.

It still bugs me why my stomach worked up every time during a long-distance. Charmz told me that it might because of me and my spicy diet. I had to agree. I couldn’t live a day without taking something spicy, even until race day. Look like I have to review my diet for my next race.

Given that we were thrown into the first pen, there was no obstacle for us. No roadblock, no bottleneck, everything was just as smooth. If I had been last year, I guess I’ll be able to speed past the first 5km below 28mins.

Talking about timing, I need to commend Sundown for having this phone app this year. The Sundown App allows whoever who are interested to track the performance of the runners. I basically use it to track myself and Charmz. It would give notification whenever the person you are following past the different milestone. The only downside to this app was that it didn’t manage to tag the correct photos of me. Oops.

You can clearly see the amount I spent at my second toilet break before the 19km mark. Terrible. I was still telling Charmz that my aim was to not go for any toilet break while we were at the starting pen. Ah well. No point crying over poor pre-race strategy.

2 hours and 51mins after we set out for the race, I finally crossed the finishing line. There were regrets for me, the stage was set but I didn’t perform. Disappointing, but thank God that I was finally done with the race.

Charmz was already waiting for my at the race village. She was sitting down doing her post-run stretch when I found her near our bag collection area. We lepaked on the pavement, cooled ourselves down and did some catching up.

While this marked the last paid-run for her, it will be a while before I take part in my next race – yes, I will not be taking part in this year’s Army Half Marathon.

Review: 2XU Compression Run 2018 (Half-Marathon)

This marks the third time that I am taking part in 2XU Compression Run, although this would only my second time competing in the half-marathon category. Since last year onwards, I’ve given myself an annual challenge: to run in 4 half-marathon events each year. (Well, I kind of failed the challenge last year because I had to withdraw from Yolorun – which was supposed to be my final HM event for 2017.)

227 days since my last official race (Army Half-Marathon 2017), I was eager to get back on the roads again to further test my limits. If I were still at my fitness level last year, I would set my target at sub-2:15HR (a 16 minutes improvement from AHM17). My form dipped way too much over the months, to the point that I was very worried if I could even complete the distance in 3:00HR.

What’s worse is that I decided to turn up for the run despite suffering from an asthma attack two weeks ago. I could still remember how walking up a flight of stairs could get me gasping for air like a fish out of the water. I had to cancel any form of training. I felt damn lousy. For a moment, I thought of withdrawing from the race altogether.

Just one week¬†before the race, I told myself to slowly get back to training. I did a 4.5km run on Tuesday evening and that was the last run I had. Deep down inside, I knew I hadn’t been following all my training routine tightly – like how I did last year. I was doubting myself: whether I am in the right condition to partake in the run.

I eventually made up my mind.

Race Day

Woke up at 0230 to munch on a bar of Carman’s Oats Slice (Golden Oats & Coconut) and a cup of black coffee before heading to Ang Mo Kio MRT Station to board the 0320 shuttle bus. It didn’t take us long before we were being ferried to somewhere near the starting point.

As usual, I went to deposit my barang-barang at the designated area before proceeding to one corner for my warm-up. It might due to the fact that it was so long since I ran a race, I totally forgot that participants were usually be divided into waves in order to facilitate a smoother running route. I reached the pit late and ended up having to wait for roughly another 30 minutes before I could cross the starting line.

By the time the participant from my wave started running, most of us looked as if we were being deprived of the toilet. Within the first 1km, you could see the guys running towards the bushes and a row of grown-ups peeing was being formed. It reminded me of field camp somehow, just that you don’t see white lines being hoisted near the bushes.

As for me, I felt the need to shit so I joined the queue at the public toilet some 500m away from the starting line. Told you everyone was toilet-deprived.

The toilet break came at the correct time for me. I went on to complete my first 5km with a slightly lesser body mass in half an hour. That’s the first achievement I didn’t expect myself to achieve given my¬†poor form during all my training this year.

Initially, I wanted to continue running for another 3km before slowing down to a brisk walk but God knows where I got that absurdity¬†motivation to get myself to complete 11km before I took a ‘walking’ break.

I basically just tried to run at a pace of around 6:10/km at the first 11km and trying to overtake as many people as possible during this phrase. I knew I might not be able to retain my energy burst/adrenaline rush as time passed by so I always make it a point to run my best during the first half of the race.

During my first ‘break’, I took out my GU Energy Gel (Strawberry Banana flavour) to replenish my system. This, in fact, was my first time trying out an energy gel during a run. I usually will grab a cup of isotonic drink provided but this time I thought of fueling myself differently. Well, they said one should not try new things – especially your gears and nutrition – on the big day, but being someone who loves experimenting, it think it’s better for me to experience things first hand instead.

Surprisingly, I love the taste of the energy gel, despite it being too sweet. I felt like I was eating mashed banana right from a packaging. I knew my system was fueled the right way – I was lucky my experiment went right for me.

I went on to jog for another 5KM at my most comfortable pace – somewhere between 6:50/km – 7:50/km. It was still physically and mentally tiring despite I just need to jog for 5KM before taking another break.

My timer indicated 2:01hrs when I slowed down to walking speed after passing by the 18KM indicator near Marina Bay Sands. I took the time to recharge my earpiece since it died on me at such a coincidental timing.

I was dreading but still resumed my jogging – although this time at a much slower speed – after crossing the 19KM indicator. I told myself, “2.1km more to go. You are on the way to an unexpected finishing timing. Let’s go for sub-2:30.”

By the time I passed the finishing line, I knew I’ve exceeded my expectation.

I ended up with a 2:25HR timing, I couldn’t believe it. I stared right at my watch and wondered if I was dreaming. I knew I was a little light-headed while I walked to retrieve my medal and finisher tee. Everything felt unreal. My timing (according to my watch, my official timing will have a different reading) bettered what I got last year, despite how unfit I am now.

Maybe Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 rule makes sense after all.

Adam also ran the same event. So we met up after he finished his run for a photo!

Now I’ve put in more effort to get myself more prepared ahead of my next HM at Sundown Marathon 2018.