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Monday, June 29, 2009

My First Marathon

[Warning: This is a super long entry. So, unless your boss is not around, please ask a friend to watch over your back to make sure your “line is clear”]

I have lots of things to share that I don’t know from where to start. I have been collecting all those key points on what to blog about in my head (mind blogging) since Saturday, but I believe most of them have been lost somewhere while I was running the 42km marathon.

OK, let’s just start with a little bit of how I prepared for my maiden marathon.

First, I just had the intention to do a 21km or 30km run after seeing some friends crossing the finishing line at the GE run in January this year. I never thought of doing a marathon yet at that time. Running for 42km for me at that time would be a suicidal move. Plus, for an Olympic distance triathlon which the running distance is only 10km, I did not do much of running other then the once in a while 40~50 minutes run.

Having the intention to perhaps one day join a long distance run, and while training for Kenyir triathlon (April), I added my running mileage bit by bit in the interest to know whether I can run further. I started off with 1hr 20minutes run, then increased to 2hours run, and then 24km run, 30km, and peaked at 35km. The excitement of being able to beat yourself (as in adding more mileage) is great.

At the end, I registered myself for a marathon. And now I’m blogging about how my first marathon went.

Race Bib Collection, Saturday
The afternoon of last Saturday, I went to Dataran Merdeka to collect the race bib. Please don’t laugh but that’s the first time I stepped my foot at Dataran Merdeka. So, on that Saturday, I felt like a tourist. Snap photos here, snap photos there.

I then made my way to the many tents and glad to clearly see where I should be heading with the aid of signs in front of each tents.

At first, I was surprised to see that there were actually not so many runners at the registration tent at that time. Not only later at night that I read from blogs that many have turned up on Friday for the collection, and it was not a smooth sailing one. As for me, I grabbed my race package in a blink of an eye (please blink slowly ok) and I then toured around to observe what else were going on over there.

There were a few sponsors’ tents nearby, but none of them really caught my attention. I was keener to see if there is anyone who I know. Nope, nobody recognizable was in sight. So, I walked back towards Masjid Jamek LRT station and made myself looked like a tourist again, snapping photos here and there.

Once at home, I had a late lunch and dozed off for couple of hours.

Night Before The Race
I did not dare taking huge amount of food for dinner, as I was afraid it will cause me problem the next morning. Once settled with dinner, I prepared the stuffs needed for race day. The race number on race belt, Powerbar Gels, ORS, tri top, long tights, cap, shades, shoes, etcetera. Other than the goodie bag itself, the contents of it was not up to my expectations. There was the race vest, a face towel, runners guide book and the race number. Other contents are worthless to be mentioned here. No Powerbar gels, no nothing.

Goodie bags (the bag itself) for triathlon events should be as good quality as this one. No more paper bags please.

Oh yeah, a bit of free advertising here. Since I’ve decided to use my sleeveless tri-top, I bought a Body Glide anti-chafing stick from The Bike Boutique. It really does the job. I get zero chafing at the marathon.

The Sleepless Sleep
At 11pm, I tried my best to get some eyes shut. Knowing that my brain will be active and causing me to be unable to sleep, I opted to plunge my ears with songs from my handphone. After three songs from the play list, I get bored (instead of sleepy) and switched on to the radio instead. Even worse! Listening to the DJ’s voices did not help much, so I switched back to my play list.

Suddenly, a loud sound of ‘incoming message’ tune blew into my ears (I was using headphones).

”Good luck marathongers!”, the sms said.

Nope, I did not do any typo error here. I just copied it down 100% as how I received it. And I got the sms at 12:05am from a good friend of mine, when I was semi-sleep and semi-awake.

12:05 MID NIGHT!!!

I wonder whether the sms was sent really to wish me luck, or to sabotage my sleep. Knowing that a single reply to that single sms will spread into a chat with multiple sms-es, I chose to reply it with other means, some other time (just kidding, hehehehe). I continued trying to sleep.

I don’t know whether I really fell asleep or not, but it was good enough that I was able to wake up at 2.45am.

Race Morning
After a quick shower and a breakfast of bread and cheese, I hopped on a ride with Kash and Rais to event location. As we arrived at Lake Garden to park the car, we met Day-O and her two friends. We then walked to the Dataran.

At this point, I had to leave the camera and other belongings in the car, so no more pictures from my camera from now onwards.

It started to drizzle as we arrived at dataran. I’m so not ready to run with wet shoes. Anyway, we did some warming up run together with some Kenyan runners. I can tell you one thing. If I can run with their warming up run pace all the way (those Kenyans’), I could have clocked a sub 4 hours marathon very easily. That’s how fast they ran during the warming up.

All runners were called to gather at the starting line at 4:45am albeit the drizzle. I just kept myself close to Kash and Day-O as I wanted to pace with them. I was looking around in the crowd to see if there’s anyone else that I know, just to give a final word of encouragement. I did not feel so nervous standing at the starting line in spite of this being my first time doing a marathon.

”I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this” was all I have in my mind at that time.

The gun went off at 5am and about 20 or 30 seconds later I started to run with the crowd, slowly. It was truly amazing to be in that atmosphere, not knowing many of the people around, and yet, we were all aiming one thing for sure – to cross the finish line.

The Run
To help make things clearer, I put here the map of the 42km route we had to go through.

The tricky bit during the first kilos of the run was to keep on at your own pace. You better not go too fast of a pace following the runners in front of you, as you will end up suffering later on. You have to tell yourself that it’s ok to be running slower than other people. At one point I too had increased my pace unintentionally, but once I noticed it, I slowed back and re-joined the group.

The drizzle had somehow stopped, but the road was pretty wet. I accidentally ran over a water spot and wet the toes of my shoes. Arggghhh. I was so not prepared to run with wet shoes and socks, but in that condition I got no other choice. I did not bring any spare socks. Thus, my shoes and socks remained wet throughout the entire run.

During the first 5 or 8 km or so, I observed something very interesting (not sure if the word interesting is the best to describe it though). At every few hundred meters between here and there for the first 5 to 8km, lots of male runners made a quick stop for pee by the bushes, or lamp posts, or billboard pillar posts, or big ditch, or wherever they felt appropriate in the given situation (dark, no one will care, no dogs, no police, no cameraman). It was like a “pee fiesta” to me. I even heard a dialogue between two guys who were running besides me;

”Eh, why only men peeing while running hah? The ladies no need to pee meh?”

“Maybe the ladies pee in their pants lor”, said the other guy.

I choose not to give any comments here.

I’m not so familiar with KL so I did not really recognize where I was running. I could only recognize KL Sentral. Other than that, they were all buildings and roads to me. I did not stop at the first and second water stations as I am already used to running 10km without drinking in the middle. Coming to the third water station, I heard Day-O and Kash said they wanted to stop for drink and toilet stop. Still feeling good, I decided to continue my run – solo this time.

I remembered clocking 1hr 08min for the first 10km of the run. By this time, I can’t see Kash and Day-O at the back anymore. Still feeling strong, I proceeded with my run, keeping at a very comfortable pace. How did I tell I was comfortable – my breathing said it all. I was feeling good that my breathing was constant all the way, so does the heartbeat. I was not pushing it at all (which explains why I am yet unable to target super duper fast timing).

At about the 12km mark, there was a small mosque just by the road side where I went in to perform Subuh prayer and then make my toilet visit. As I got in, one runner was about to finish his prayer and as I was about to finish, another runner just arrived. Whether this is a coincident or not, I would like to thank the organizer who have chosen or designed this route. The timing to get to this location was just nice, still ample of time to perform the prayer even if you run quite slowly.

I spent about 5 minutes at the mosque. Bladder was emptied, so I’m happy that I can now run without any further urge to pee. Not long after resuming the run, I felt hungry and fortunately a few kilos ahead there was the water station with bananas. Gulped two cups of drinks and grabbed one banana. I was surprised that the effort to swallow the banana was like, effortless. I tried chewing and swallowing a Milo bar in one of my long run training, but I could barely get that done successfully. So, banana is my new choice of running food for now.

Then, we get into the very long stretch of Jalan Tun Razak. I could now recognize the IJN, the national library, the Hospital Pusrawi and Istana Buadya alongside it. Traffic was already building up at some intersections where the traffic officers closed them. It’s true with what other runners said in their blogs, that Malaysia citizens are yet to have higher civilization in the sense of doing something or giving something for free, as in cheering for marathon runners. But they would go crazy to get things for free.

18km into the run, I started to feel the pain at my toes. Ouch! This pain is rather quick arrival as compared to those I had during my training sessions. I downed a Powerbar gel, somehow with the hope that it would stop the surfacing pain. The clouds on top of me had started to get dark, literally speaking.

From then on, I stopped at every water station, not much of wanting to drink and drink and drink, but also as a quick break for my run. The pain was still bearable at this time, but not later towards the end.

Passing the 20km mark, I still couldn’t see any glimpse of Kash and Day-O. I’m sure they were already in front when I stopped for my prayer at 12km. I’ve been running almost another one hour and still can’t see any shadows of them. They must have been running pretty steadily.

A few kilos later, I started to see them far in front. And with that, I was glad to know that somehow I was running slightly faster than them, as I can catch up with them. I can’t really tell my pace, and I don’t have any other means to gauge my pace other than knowing that if I can catch up with the guys in front, that means I’m running a bit faster than them.

I caught up with them exactly in front of KL Convention Center. We stopped for a quick photo snap with Kash’s handphone, and then I continued my run with the hurting legs.

Me, Day-O and Kash in front of KLCC – photo courtesy of Kash.

From then onwards, I can’t really tell what was going on and I can’t remember much of anything things else other than the feeling of pain creeping in from my toes, to the calves, to the thighs. It started to transform from a bearable one, to, obviously, unbearable. More than meets the eye?

I forgot where it was actually, but I first started to include a walk break into my run as I was running up one slope. I so much wanted to continue running, but I guess I may have lost it to my brain who was telling me to walk it up and save some energy for the remaining of the run.

”Nevermind, just walk if I have to. I’m not aiming for a podium finish by the way”, a sweet talk to myself (lots’ more of this will come later on).

Every kilos after the 30km mark was like a never ending journeys. Checking my time, it has already been near to 4hours as I passed the 30km mark, much slower that what I did during my long distance training (which was done in 3hrs40minutes if I’m not mistaken).

”Nevermind, it’s ok to slow down. I’m already having this pain in the legs. Just keep on going”, another sweet self talk.

There were a few water stations that already went out of water supply. Gosh, what a bad situation that was for us the marathon runners. I was already running low on my fuel belt bottles I carried and without proper and continuous dehydration, things can turn ugly as we still have around 10km to run.

At 35km mark, which is equal to the longest distance I’ve ran in my life, I was so determined to keep on running and just get to the 42km mark, i.e. the finishing line. The pain in the legs were already unbearable but I gathered as much mental strength as I could to ignore the pain. I know if I could continue the run without much walk breaks, I can do a sub 5 hours marathon.

I’m having difficulty now (as I blog) to recall what went on and what I saw, because all I could remember was the pain in my legs. I was just hoping that the pain just remain as pain, and not turn into a cramp. Cramp is far more painful than pain.

I know the organizer may have put some initiative to locate some supporters by the roadside to cheer the runners. But, why only starting from 35km mark onwards? Was the supporters located there mainly to cheer for full marathon runners, or was it mainly just for 10km runner who shared the same route? Plus, at each locations of those supporters, they were only three of them cheering in a blue ‘volunteer’ t-shirts and caps!

Shame, shame, shame.

I would applause more to those individuals who were standing alone in the middle of no where just to cheer and clap for marathon runners. I saw a few, mainly foreigners. Every time I passed them and each of them cheered on me, I would say “thanks’ to them, without a miss. I’m trying to show some appreciation to their effort, something that I wish to see more runners doing so. It’s too bad to see even some runners just pretended like there was nobody there cheering them. Yes, we are all in pain for the long run, but it does not cost anything just to say thanks, right?

I would say the 35 to 39km was the most painful period of the run, which made the distance travelled felt like the longest ones. At one point, I started to feel a glitch of a cramp on my left calf, and with not much water left to dilute one ORS sachet that I carried, I just simply strip off the ORS sachet and put all the contents into my mouth, and forcing it down my throat then only sipped a little bit of water. Ugly, very ugly. Don’t try this even when you are at home.

Getting to 39km, I get this funny thing that whenever I started to walk, I will start to feel cramp in my legs. When I run, the cramp disappeared and the pain in the legs took over. And when I started to walk again, I started to feel that the cramp is coming. So, which one to choose? Run and bare the pain, or walk and get the cramps?

On the left is the 39km mark, and on the right is already Dataran Merdeka and I could already see the finishing chute. And why on earth did they make us see the finishing line and still we have to run another 3km? They wanted us to start sprinting, was it?

I wish I can go back and re-measure the 39km to 40km distance with a meter or something to make sure it was really 1km. Because it did look as it was 1km at all. It was like 2km, or maybe 1.5km.

Too close, yet still too far.

Upon seeing and passing through the 41km distance marker, I started to push myself in the sense of wanting to run to the finish line without any more walk breaks. I wanted to finish strong. But, just few minutes after that, I really got attached with cramp in my legs – the real one. The one where I could see the muscle in the calves getting squeezed inwards, on my both legs. Luckily I did not fell down like a timber. I know I need to stretch out the legs or else the cramps will stay there. The only thing I could think of was to grab the tree besides the road, and do what I can do to stretch my legs. I did not want to sit myself down as I was afraid I could never stand up.

As I was grabbing this tree and stretching both my legs out, I noticed people at the surrounding were already looking at me with a question marks on their forehead. I guess they may be thinking what on earth was this guy doing, trying to push down the tree.

When the cramp subsided, I continued a bit of walking before finally running my way through towards the finishing line. I could not really smile as I was holding to the great pain of another cramp attack in my legs. Some runners were really sprinting to the finish line. I wanted to do the same, but I just don’t want to get embarrassed by falling down just meters from the finishing line with all the crowds looking at me crying for the cramps I have in my legs.

By running slowly doesn't mean I can't finish the race strong, right?

I finally crossed the 42.195km distance with an official time from my stopwatch of 5 hours and 16 minutes.

”Yes, I did it. I did it!!! I’ve done a marathon, yeay!!!”, I was smiling in my heart.

After The Run
It was not as I would have anticipated as I crossed the finishing line. The finishing medal or icy cold face towel were not given as soon as we crossed the finishing line, unlike in triathlon events. And water stations or fruit stations were no where to be found. I thought re-hydration is the first thing to do after finishing a marathon, but where on earth is the water station?

I did not see any familiar faces as I crossed the finishing line, and not knowing what exactly to do I walked to the massage tent. I told the nurses that I got cramps at both legs, at the calves. They ran ice and cold water on my calves as I lay on the portable bed (like those used by the army). What a sensational feeling. At the same time, I was being interviewed for a quick questionnaire by another nurse to which some of the questions I answered her with, “So sorry but I’m so tired now and my brain is not working well. Just tick any of the answers on the questionnaire for me please, I don’t mind at all.”

Soon later, I saw Kash running cross the finishing line with a time of roughly 5 hours 25 minutes. Day-O was not with her, so I thought she might got dropped somewhere, or Kash must have sprinted since 39km distance marker.

After that, we walked to the tent to claim our medal and finishers' t-shirt. Another big dissapoinment as there were no more M size t-shirts. They've taken our data (of what size of t-shirt we wanted), but yet they said M size have finished? I could still see loads of L and XL sizes on the table and don't tell me they were much more big size marathon runners than smaller size runners. Not that I'm disrespecting the capabilities of big size runners, but it was just weird of what the organizers were doing. Very dissapointing indeed.

I then took the opportunity to meet and make new friends. Among others were Juliana (missjewelz), Abu-tersangat-power together with his family members, Shah, Nik Arif, Dicky, Fairul, Syukri, Zulhassan and Haza the famous runningmom. There maybe others that I met, but please accept my apology for not being able to remember every one's names now.

At the finishing line – photo courtesy of Kash again

The Conclusion
As a whole, I was glad that I signed up for it and trained as much as I could before attempting it. At least, I started the run with enough confidence that I can finish the run, although I know it was going to be painful.

The experience to have done a marathon was simply – priceless.

Whether I’ll do another marathon?

Well, ask me this question again after Hari Raya ok.

Well done to others who have ran the full marathon, or half marathon, or 10km. You surely did a great job. Keep it up okay! Till we meet again at another events, triathlon or marathon.


p/s: I took roughly the same amount of time to write this blog entry as I took to finish my marathon. More than 3750 words altogether (count if you wish). This is the longest entry in my blog, so far. I’ve told you it is a super long entry, haven’t I? Well, hope you enjoy it.


KOOKY KASH said...

Let me be the first to congratulate you here. Well done! You'll keep doing this again and again. I'm sure the next one will be in Singapore. Its a rite of passage for all marathoners to run there.

Syabas, sekali lagi.

deejay said...

Syabas bro.. syabas...

amsyah said...

to read you doing your first with that time is beyond me. Great run, Inspector Shahab... Singapore Marathon '09?

..::EnAikAY::.. said...

Terima kasih daun keladi.
No no, next coming up is 'marathon tengok wayang Transformers berkali-kali sampai muntah'... hehehe

Tenkiu. When will it be your turn? Penang bridge run jadi kan?

I thought you want to say you get tired reading my blog... hehe.
Anyway, thanks and you did very well too.

Saya bukan inspektor Shahab laa, saya askar2 kelas bawahan aje.

Singapore Marathon '09? Errm.. hummm... wait eh, i think first.

The Corporate Athlete said...

Nik, great job !!!
plus a very very interesting read as well .... time spent on this entry is worth it!

p/s - I pee right at the divider in the heart of BB ... couldn't stand it anymore!

zulhassan said...

congrat bro.. sorry tak larat nak borak2 on that day sebab aku dah separuh koma masa tu dan mood memang tak best....

jangan serik... perjuangan kita teruskan.

kev said...

Congratulations, Nik. I'm sure you had the undescribable feeling of euphoria when you crossed the finish line, completing your first marathon. The first, of many more to come I bet ;)

Anonymous said...

Good run lah! And do ladies pee in their pants while running? Hehehe...I reserve my comment on that too. But hari tu banyak portaloo apa.

All the best in PD.

plee said...

Congrats Nik! Well done and Nice report too... This was my 1st 42km too. Were you wearing the ORCA tri top?

..::EnAikAY::.. said...

Thanks bro. Your marathon timing was even better than mine.. jeles betul.

takpe bro, aku paham perasaan kau yg mcm berlari kat gurun sahara takde air minuman tu.. lain kali kita lari dalam tasik lagi best, bekalan air takkan putus. hahaha.

Thanks Kev. I'm not sure about euphoria coz everything after the race were spelled as P.A.I.N.. haha.

Many more to come? i hope so too...

Haza de akak power,
Thanks, and i bet you did great too. i mean, the running.. not the pee-ing thing.. hahaha (sungguh tak senonoh komen ku harini)

Bila nak try buat triathlon pulak?

..::EnAikAY::.. said...

Paul Lee,
Yup, i was the one in Orca tri top (black/white).

Congrats and well done on your first attempt of marathon too! Going for more marathons after this?

plee said...


I want to say thanks, bro, I was losing focus at Jln Tun Razak; then you passed me and I used u as a pacer.(Sori)

Definitely will be interested in future marathons (not Octagon ones), but looking forward to PD Tri now. Kenyir was my 1st Tri.

..::EnAikAY::.. said...

Wow, i never thought i would ever be anyone's pacer. I was also trying to survive the distance myself.

Glad to know that i've 'helped' u in that sense, though i think i didn't do anything much.

By the way, you are most welcome.

And, let's rock at PD!!

adzimi said...

Wow..amazing.. :o.

adzimi said...

Eh jap, one question, you guys actually pee in your pants along the marathon? Lepas tu boleh siap peluk2, shake hands semua? Err..

..::EnAikAY::.. said...

No lah, not like that. Have you heard about the complaints there there was not enough water from 20 or 30km something? Haaa, that's because the runners in front took the water to shower, cuci tangan, cuci kaki apa semua, so then when they cross the finishing line, semuanya dah jadi bersih and ready for hugs and shake hands...

Hahaha, just kidding.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Bro,
Very detail report. I wish to do that one day but 21K only that I can afford at SCKLIM.

..::EnAikAY::.. said...

Thanks. If you've done 21km, i'm sure you can do 42km without any big deal. Just multiply your effort of training for 21km with TWO! And i'm sure one day you will do a marathon too.

bola2api said...

penat la baca report kau.. aku rasa mcm aku yg abis buat marathong hahahahahahahahahahhaahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha