The race was scheduled on 26 May, Saturday and flag-off for 21km and 42km runners was at 00.30 past midnight. For the first time, the venue has changed to Nicoll Highway site with some part of the route covering the city area and into the East Coast Park before ending at Nicoll Highway.
Some of my running kakis, Kate, Hee Ling, Dora, CK, Long Chua and Kent (who took over Winnie's 21km tag) will be participating in 21km and 42km and we arranged to meet at Nicoll Highway Station, exit B at 11.30 pm. We took some pictures (as expected, Hee Ling brought along her camera which is typical of her), did some warm-up and gave each other encouragement and at about 12 midnight, we made our way to the start line.
As we were making our way to the start line, Chua told me he will go on own and by the time, we reached the start line which was already very crowded, only Hee Ling and Kate were still with me and the rest was nowhere to be seen. We inched our way to the front as much as possible, led by Hee Ling. By my reckoning (I didn't bring my watch), we should have less than half an hour to the flag-off and I could hardly hear the announcement made by the MC. The sound system was too soft. I did hear, rather softly that more than 17,000 runners had registered for this event. Personally, I do not think packing all 21km and 42km runners in one flag-off is a good idea as some part of the route could be choke-a-block.
At 0030 hrs past midnight, we were finally flagged-off and almost immediately I lost sight of Hee Ling and a short while later, Kate too. We were running the entire stretch of Nicoll Highway before turning back to the city. The weather was fine though there was rain earlier in the day. We were running to the direction of MBS, heading to Marina Barrage. I kept to my normal pace, slightly above 6 mins per km. When we reached somewhere near MBS, we had to make a U-turn into a narrow path. There was a slight jam and I was wondering already, how could they suggest such a narrow path (fit for two persons to walk through) for more than 10,000 runners squeezing through.
It was a long run to Marina Barrage from MBS, cutting through those construction sites and it was about at the 10km mark, I managed to catch up with the 4 hours 30 mins pacer team. I knew if I finish side by side with them, I should come under 4 hours 30 mins as they were lined up way infront of me at the start line. When we reached Marina Barrage, it was almost 15km and that is where 21km and 42km runners will split. We had to run through the forested path which is normally not opened to public, save for this run to get to East Coast Park. The 4 hrs 30 mins pacers were still near me but I was not too sure how long I could maintain the pace as at some point, I will hit the wall. I did not feel fatigue or cramps and I kept to the 6mins plus per km pace.
When I reached the start of East Coast Park, I have a sudden feel of relief as this is my usual training route prior to this run. I know the landmarks well and therefore I was able to time my pace. At every water point, I would chance upon a cup or two of 100 plus. I was still feeling good at 21km mark and I was pleased that the 4hrs 30 mins pacers were still near me. After the U-turn near Sunset Bar (already more than 21km, halfway mark) and a short later, I heard Dora and CK from the opposite side shouting for me. I waved back at them. They were doing good time too, reckoned they were probably 2km behind me only at halfway mark. It was a good run but it started to rain. It followed later with some rumbling sound and flashes too. No choice, we had to carry on.
When I reached the end of East Coast Park, we had already covered 31km and I was even more surprised that I could carry on without stopping. Normally, I could have hit the wall and by then, I will have to fight hard to manage the cramps and the fatigue. I was still feeling good, save for the slight pain on the right hip and numbness on the right shoulder (the latter could be the way I swing my right arm while running, definitely need to work on the run technique). The pacers too, they were not to be seen either. I had left them all behind.
With only 11 km left, I must keep going I told myself. It is the same path that connects to East Coast Park and this time, it is the opposite direction heading to Nicoll Highway for the finish. One step at a time, slow & steady and I just kept going and going. The ground was wet and it was still drizzling. On whole, it is still better than Stanchart run which will get hotter once first day breaks.
By the time, I reached the final stretch on Nicoll Highway, I had only 2km left. I increased my pace a little and before I ran past the finishing line, I took a quick glance on the gun time and it showed 4 hours 28 mins plus. I knew I have come under 4 hours 30 mins and barring no further surprises, I should clock a net time of 4 hours 20 mins or about. It is my personal best and I am likely to end my full marathon campaign on the high. I credit the multiple of events, the Kuantan 160km cycling event and the Mt Kinabalu climb, among others that I have participated in this year for a great finish, a fantastic run. Hip, hip, hip...hooray (3x) to all my friends who did the 21km and 42km!