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Race Review: Sundown Marathon 2019 (Half-Marathon)

Remember the day when I was notified that I got my hands on the winning ticket to Sundown Marathon? I attended the launch and fast forward 7 months later, I was starting the half-marathon race right beside Soh Rui Yong. For a non-professional (or I should put it — amateur) runner, it was a dream come true to start ahead together with the seasoned runners.

LEAD UP TO THE RACE

Before I start talking about what happened during race day, I shall share a bit about the lead up to the event. I took part in 2 of their lead-up runs on Saturdays with the pacers from Running Department. From the two runs, I had actually kind of guessed how I would finish my run. The first run, where we supposed to do 15km, was a terrible one. I would hardly complete 8KM without feeling the urge to give up. I eventually decide to end my run after crossing the 12KM mark because I was completely exhausted. I thought to myself, with the race coming in about 2 months time, that should not be the stamina that I should possess.

A few weeks later came the second run I wasn’t sure how much I could do that day so I just told myself to take it easy and follow the 7:07 pacers, staying at a consistent speed instead of going for a fast start. Surprisingly, I managed to go 18KM without really stopping. I took a look on my watch and realised I was going at 7:00 flat – my fastest constant speed ever.

GETTING WARMED UP FOR THE BIG DAY: We gathered together at the 3rd Train with Pacer and the first evening session for a 18KM/21KM run. (Photo: Running Dept)

The good thing about having the training session in the evening is that I can roughly gauge how I will perform on the actual night itself. For some reason, our body is programmed to work differently in the different time of the day. For a night owl like me, I tend to perform slightly better when running at night than running before daybreak.

RACE PACK COLLECTION

The Race Pack Collection and Expo was held on 24-26 May at Sands Expo & Convention Centre. I went down to help Justin and myself collect our race pack on the afternoon of the 26th. Because I had a few errands to run that day, I was hoping that the collection would be swift. To my surprise, there was hardly anyone at the queue so the entire process took pretty fast. Maybe it was already the last day and everyone else probably had collected theirs on Friday and Saturday.

Of course the race pack was not the only thing I brought home. At the expo, I was looking out for two items: restocking my energy gel stash and a small portable speaker. Thank God I was about to get those in discounted price at the expo.

And hey, guess who I saw in the Sundown Marathon edition of the RUN Magazine! It’s Eugene and Sofie — the creators of adidasRunnersSG.

RACE DAY

Race day finally came on 1 June. And guess what else fell on the same day? CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL! And who is in the final? LIVERPOOL FC! It is not every time when you run your marathon on the same day as your team playing in a continental cup final.

In preparation for this memorable night, I decided to race in the 2019/20 Liverpool Goalkeeper Home Kit. The black and gold kit is one of the best jersey New Balance has came out with since signing as the club’s shirt sponsor some 4 seasons ago.

Had a good 6 hours of sleep in the afternoon before heading out at around 8pm. It is important to have adequate rest before a race at night because you don’t want to crash halfway along the route. I am always a fan of night runs but the problem of night runs is that it will somehow mess up my sleeping schedule. But obviously, I am fine with it.

I reached the race village at around 9pm, meeting up with Eugene, Terrence and the rest of the adidias Runners/The High Panters runners at their meeting point. Justin came to meet up with me slightly afterwards. He was taking part in the full marathon event with one of his Sirs from his department. He was telling me how he was not as prepared for the race as compared to Singapore Marathon last year. Yet, I remember telling him that he got the full marathon experience and he definitely trained more frequently than me so he will perform well.

BEFORE THE RACE: Justin and I before we parted ways to enter our respective starting pit.
THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS UP: Everyone was very excited lingering around the race village while wanting for the race to begin.
FUELLING BEFORE THE RUN: Food stores were set up for those who wanted some proper fuelling before and after the run. It proved to be the go-to place for many who stayed back to watch the Champions League final match and Muslim who needs to have the suhoor meal before daybreak.
HYDRATION: Hydration points set up by the Official Hydration Partner Pocari Sweat at the race village.

Making my way towards the starting pen, I witness the excitement that was in every participant prior to the flag off. Everyone was eager to start. While some were busy updating their social accounts (uh-hum I was one of the guilty party), some were focusing on doing their warm-ups. Okay, to be fair to me, I did my warm up when I was outside.

It is not a common scene to see me thrown right at the front of the starting pen so there was some excitement building up within me. Yes, I was eager to start as well but I was more mesmerised by the feeling of being pitched at the starting line alongside Soh Rui Yong and Matthew Smith. That’s some once in a lifetime moment that I couldn’t forget. Ok, maybe if I trained hard enough, I would also be able to compete at this level in 10 years time.

There was some delay to the flag off because the organisers were still trying to get the routes cleared of any obstacles. While those who started from the first pen did not actually feel the effect of the delays, those who were starting from the subsequent pen did — as reflected from the negative feedbacks gathered during and after the race on social media. There were reported delay of 30 minutes which definitely affected those who had signed up for the shuttle service at 0300 and 0430.

To be very honest, having the shuttle service at 0300 when the scheduled flag off time was at 2330. Take note that participants are being pushed out in waves, so by the time the last wave started the race, it could have been 0000. And given those who started last could only finish the half-marathon race in another 2hrs 45mins and beyond, having the shuttle service at 0300 means that they will be rushing from the finishing point to the pick up point, praying that there was no bottleneck and enough time was given for them to take a ‘I’ve-completed-this-race’ photoshoot.

You might argue that they could have chosen the 0430 service. Some people would rather rush than to wait another hour and a half idling and doing nothing — especially if you ain’t a football fan. The shuttle bus could have been scheduled at a half-an-hour interval. I believe that would be a more convenient way for most of the runners.

STARTING POINT: Not every time I could pose right behind the starting point.

After a good 15-20 minutes of delay and the wonderful host trying to keep everyone’s spirit going, the routes were cleared for flag-off. Once we were flagged off, I looked at Rui Yong who spirited off within that nano-second. I tried to pace him for the first 10 seconds before I realised that I’ve depleted most of my energy going at my fastest pace. It was a speed that I was not comfortable and familiar with. That was mistake number 1. I slowed down but still going on at my faster than usual pace. Mistake number 2.

FLAG OFF!: Everyone sprinted the moment the horn was blasted and I went dangerously fast as well. (Photo: Sundown Marathon)

I eventually passed the finishing line 2hrs 38mins later. The good thing about this race was that I didn’t stop for toilet break because I wanted to test how fast I could go without stopping. I did stop and walk because of the inconsistent pace from the beginning. It was evident at the 15th and 19th KM that my pace slowed to a walking pace. I was dead exhausted and my right toe was feeling some cramps. This was obviously not my best race and my search for a sub-2h30mins continues.

While I did stop for water points, I suspected I had spent a little more time trying to swallow my drinks before I carried on running. Anyway, speaking about hydration, there was complaints from most runners (especially those full marathon runners) that some of the hydration points ran out of water before the end of the race. Hence, many of them had to carry on with the race with minimal hydration.

For a race that has been on the local running calendar for years, it is unacceptable for hydration points to even run out of water. I mean, look, hydration is the most basic and important aspect of an organised run. You wouldn’t want someone to pass out due to dehydration during the course of the race. Participants need a wall paced out hydration regime along the way to keep their body going and running out of water is the most ridiculous of all.

Hopefully in the next edition of Sundown, we would see better handling of logistics from the organiser. For example, they could have send for replenishment of refreshments when they realised that stocks are low instead of waiting for things to run out before everyone starts to panic.

Back to some positive points for this race. I need to admit that I loved the creativity behind the design of the finisher medal this year. Can turn one, not bad. At least I could take it out of my medal cabinet and start spinning the medal if I am bored at home.

I took a rest by the road side before limping my way to the main stage for the second event of the night — the live telecast of the Champions League Final. Brought to us by bein Sports, it was technically the highlight of the night apart from the main race events. Kudos for the organisers to bring the telecast live at the race village!

To be honest, I was excited but scared as well. After bottling our chance in Kiev against the mighty Real Madrid last season, I was afraid we might lose this one again. As much as I love Klopp, his track record in cup finals was worrisome. But in Klopp we trust. Also, I do see us having a better chance against Spurs after the stunning performance that saw us coming back against Barcelona from 3-0 down to win the second leg and in aggregate. We could believe again.

Within the first minute, Salah scored through a penalty won after Mane’s cross was blocked by Sissoko’s arm in the 6-yard box. 1-0. And that prompted an electrifying cheer from the Liverpool fans around me. Game on!

It was a nervous 86 mins before Origi’s strike sealed the victory. Origi has been phenomenal for Liverpool this season although he had only made 20 appearances all season. The 96th minute goal that won us the points against Everton. The 2 goals that sunk the unstoppable Barcelona in the second leg of Champions League semi-finals at Anfield. And now, he had just scored the goal that confirmed Liverpool’s 6th European trophy.

By the time the final whistle was blown, I was nearly in tears. I have never witness Liverpool winning a major trophy since supporting the team in 2006 (Yes, I don’t watch football when I was young until FIFA World Cup 2006 happened). The jubilation was unmatched by any sporting victory I have ever witness. I was so touched to witness this significant moment of a club I loved so dearly and for supporters like me who went through one of the most difficult times the club has ever endure during the turn of the decade (cue Roy Hodgson and the era of Tom Hicks and George Gillet), such moment at the pinnacle of European football was very much of a bittersweet moment for all of us.

Well, Liverpool’s run for their 6th European title taught me one very important lesson, as long as you believe in yourself and work hard, even the impossible can become possible.

Now, it’s time for me to get ready for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2019. I will be working towards a PB for my second ever full marathon race.

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