The end of the challenge

I finally completed 42.195km. The challenge I laid out to myself to complete it once. Not for the medal or for the Finisher shirt, although I took pictures of them proudly, but because I can. Because I completed 22km during my ASLC as a trainee to become a 3rd Sgt. Nowadays it’s called Specialist Cadet. Fanciful name but the pride is still there.

I told myself I would complete 42.195km this year. If not, when? That’s what I asked myself. Next year when work begins and I don’t have the luxury of having time to train? Or when I get married and have kids? Or when I finally have more time for myself – when I retire? So I had to do it because I was running out of time. Pun intended.

The run was immensely satisfying although there were some down moments. Upon reaching there I discovered the baggage deposit area was confusing and crowded. Where was the start line for the queue? Why did it suddenly branch into multiple streams? And where were the toilets when you needed them? By the time I found the toilet, the flag off had begun. I missed the opportunity of starting at 5pm with all the people aiming for sub-6 timings.

I didn’t know where the point of entry was for the sub-6, and in the confusion I just went through a gap in the railings and joined the crowd. And we moved to the starting line for our staggered “flag off” and I began to run.

The experience was something you had to experience for yourself to be able to truly understand what I mean. The rush and the excitement of having 20,000 (I took this number from the papers today) people running with you is something you cannot buy anywhere else with 45 dollars. Although it meant the starting was congested and I couldn’t run at my usual speed, it was a very nice feeling to be running a marathon. The adrenalin probably ensured I felt none of my usual knee pain after running 10km.

Passing by orchard road while running on the road was a whole new experience. The road was blocked and for the first time, we pedestrians were the priority! Going through a small stretch of tunnel made me sweat for the first time and then we ran through Chinatown, past the familiar places I have always been to. The speed was still slow due to many people having enough stamina at the start.

We ran past the Singapore Flyer, the nice place where I spent a nice 30 minutes with Pei Lin. Then past the F1 pit stop where you see all the famous names at their respective “cabins”. Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton, and a whole lot of other people. Past the Helix bridge. I originally thought (silly me) that I would return and run on the Helix bridge, but it was just past. Run past only.

Across Nicole Highway where people start to separate due to the more lanes and hence space. Was nice to run at a nice speed, past the cheering volunteers who never failed to smile and ask us to continue running. They also clapped on the way. Into Ford road and then ECP, by then I saw some people taking the Deep Heat equivalent and smearing them on their thighs. “Not me”, I told myself. I ran 22 km before as a young corporal, and I will run 22km before I even think about taking the cream.

Into ECP where the people took bananas and ate them. I didn’t naturally. I loved the 100 plus that occured every 2 water stations. Ice Mountain is for some form of hydration, and I never drink an entire cup. But 100 plus, well that is like a magic potion for my thirsty tongue. I can always run more after hydrating on either liquids. Past 15 and beyond, still happily running. “I can do it”, I tell myself. The feeling was great.

Past 20 and I saw the 22km marker on the other side of the road. Soon, I told myself. Before the end there is a scanner to scan our chips. Won’t people go to the other side and cut corners? “Integrity”, I told myself. And there’s a scanner right at the turning point. Shrewd. Were the organizers trying to catch cheaters who cut 200m off the 42.195km route?

22km. Yes I did it in about 2hours 30 minutes. Not as fit as when I was a corporal but it is good enough. Wondered how far Pei Lin ran already in her 21km. 23, 24, 25, 26. Sick of the ECP route. Is it going to end soon? 27km, my legs are tired. My feet are sore. My thighs and calves are hard. My abs are tight too. 3km more of running, and then you can walk. But I couldn’t take it, I started walking at 28km. And started my affair with running and walking, running and walking again.

The route past 30km and out of ECP was horrendous. The sun was hot, and it made my head feel hot. I desperately needed water, but where was the water? Every 3km away seemed not enough when the sun is this hot. And the view is of construction sites. Desperately needing a morale booster, it certainly felt like the organizers cheated me of a fantastic view.

Nearing Marina Barrage, I saw people walking just 200-300m away, in the opposite direction. Damn. In the hot sun I have to walk and u turn before reaching the Barrage?

I happily accepted water and drank a whole cup of it when I got to water points. 2 cups of 100 plus when there was 100 plus. With that much water, it felt wrong to run. Walking across the bridge at the barrage, I stopped by the railing to stretch. What a beautiful place Singapore is. Walked into the building. Finally there is shelter. Sat down and did a groin stretch. It felt wonderful.

Out of Barrage and I wondered, where is the route going to. I forgot whatever was on the map already. Past foreign workers dorms and again you feel like the view sucks. Walking seemed like a good option and running started to make my heart feel a slight pain. I had to stop. Life is more precious. So I walked more.

Onto ECP and the lanes for the 21km and the 10km merged. Where’s Pei Lin? Would I see her, I wondered. Saw an ambulance coming. Someone must have collapsed. Walked till the end of the ECP stretch and realize we would walk past the baggage collection area. Another u-turn where you feel sad to see people this ahead of you.

Past baggage collection and past Esplanade. 2km more, shouts the marking. I have run and walked a total of 40km. You can do it! I ran until my heart said STOP. I walked. Turning to the side of the Padang, people started to run. Was the finishing line there? No. The people ahead cheated my feelings.

I walked. I ran. A little more. I walked again. The ang moh at the corner showed us his medal and told us to run. People ran when they saw the camera ambushing us before we even can see the finishing line. I continued running. This is it. The final stretch. Big signs showing 100m more, 75m, 50m, 25m and so on. I overtook many people. I can still do it! I overtook as many people as I could to step across the board with the timer showing 6:00. Since I began late, I ran a nice timing of 5:44:43. Still sub-6! I got what I aimed for and I walked quite a fair bit.

My legs were already cruelly tortured and begging for mercy. No rest, I told them. Walk to collect the finisher tee and the medal. The 100 plus that I couldn’t finish because I had enough water inside my stomach. And the cruel walk back to baggage collection. Remember I mentioned baggage collection then the 2km more marking? Still the distance is lesser than 2km since I’m not walking by the running route. But still probably 1km+ away. It was insane. My legs were dying.

My right calf had a cramp on the downwards escalator at Esplanade. The person to the left saw and ignored me. Reached the bottom and the cramp hasn’t subsided. I limped out and grab the side of the staircase until the cramp lessened. Slowly I walked in the hot sun to the baggage area. Curse the weather.

Baggage collection was fast and swift. Within 5 seconds they found my back. It was on top of the pile which my bag belonged to. Nice work sorting out the piles into smaller piles. Called Pei Lin to find out where she was. She didn’t pick up cause the line didn’t connect to her phone. But I saw her upon putting down the phone. Met her friend Joanna but was too tired to talk much. Pei Lin has nice friends.

We talked about our experiences and complained about our tired legs. Although I never met Pei Lin before I signed up for the marathon, I am glad we had something in common. We walked to Marina square. I was limping. 42.195km is more than 21km! I had abrasions too.

I’m glad I finished my marathon. I’m happy I did it. I’m thrilled that I attempted to challenge my body and I succeeded. It’s about the distance, not whether I can run the entire stretch or not. Having only clocked 15km max since 2005, I think I did great. But I don’t want to do it again because I already prove, to myself, that I can do it. I might take part in 21km in the future with Pei Lin. It’s do-able, and probably nice to challenge my timing.

I love the Singapore Marathon and I am glad I paid 45 dollars to attend this special event with fellow Singaporeans and marathoners. This is 45 dollars you cannot spend anywhere to get the same experience unless it is at another marathon. It is 45 dollars worth spending, every single cent of it.

The front of the medal.

The back of the medal. It says 42.195km.

The front of the finisher tee.

The back of the finisher tee.

I finished 42.195km. Have you?

4 thoughts on “The end of the challenge

  1. Bro, great to hear you had an awesome SCMS 2010.

    Your timing for a first timer is really really good! Being a second time runner, i aim to hit your timing next year. Haha. Obviously my weight is a disadvantage ATM. haha

    Anyway not sure if you know there is a graphical analysis of your timing :

    Dun give up and continue next year! I’m determined to hit 5hr30mins next year and i will train even harder to achieve that timing. 🙂

    Running the marathon always reminds me of our ASLC days and if i could do it then, i sure as hell can do it again, eventhough its 5 years on…


    Guards – Leads the way!

  2. @Alan: Keep on running and training and one day you’ll be able to achieve your dreams! There’s nothing to limit you from achieving a timing of 5 hours 30minutes. As long as you can run consistently more than half a marathon, I’m sure you can walk and still hit that timing. =)

    @jh & px: Thanks 🙂

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