(Read Sub3 part 1 here)
There was a heavy haze from a neighbouring country starting from the middle of 2015. Even though I told myself it was only carbon dioxide and soot, running outdoors was not advisable. Events also were cancelled due to the haze. I did not think much about my first marathon – I simply lived, exercised, ate, slept, and worked as usual. It was only by mid -September 2015 when I realised that my maiden full marathon was fast coming up in early December! With under 10 weeks to prepare, I frenetically tried to get help and for the first time, I realised that I needed to do some 30-35km+ runs as part of the preparation!!!
Erich is a trusted running friend and he just did another sub3 marathon in his home country, Germany, earlier in 2015. We were born in the same year. He was very supportive and vowed to help me along the way. The first item was a 35km run over at the east coast of Singapore. To cut the story short, I could barely stand on my own feet for 2 days after!! Too late to regret and cry then.
A few weeks later, I developed a strained calf and a condition I called a “pain in the butt” (literally). My wife, Moon, gave me the best massage she knew (who wants to massage a pain in the butt??). She has never failed to be there for me and my family.
Together with our ever supportive and encouraging teammates, Erich and I toed the start line alongside our other running friends. The gun went off at 4:30am. Erich, trained as an engineer, was surgically precise. We ran our first 21.1km exactly in 1.5hours. By 22km, Erich gestured me to move on faster but little did we know that it was the beginning of the end of my run that morning!
The second half of the marathon (I know by now that many experienced runners/readers would be laughing their heads off) was much much much much longer and harder!! All my muscles (I mean ALL!!) from waist down took turns to develop cramps every few hundred meters. Quitting was never an option as I had no money on me and I was far away (>15km) from the start/finish area. I had to get back!!! After slightly longer than forever, I reached the Sheares bridge at about 4km from the finish line. It looked much taller than it measured, and the grand finale was muscle cramps in my chest (pectoralis majors) and arms (biceps)…
My finish time probably qualified me for the Boston marathon (known as a BQ) but it was a far cry from a sub3. Honestly, I also did not know what was a BQ at that point. I learned about 6 months later that some runners even cheated to get a BQ to run the Boston marathon!! Being a slow learner, it took me another 2 years to learn that annually only approximately 10 local runners manage to achieve a sub3 in the Singapore marathon! Speaking of aiming high…
Well, lightning never strikes twice, right? Stupidity does! When my wife signed me up for my maiden marathon in Singapore, I also signed up for the Hong Kong marathon which happened to be 2 months after. I violated another rule – the two marathons were too close to each other! But how often do you have a second chance in such a short time to redeem yourself? It also happened to be in a cooler city which I am familiar with.
I had better luck in the 2016 Hong Kong marathon, befriending a fellow St Louis alumnus, Dr Chow HC, and a few other Hong Kong runners. However, there was still no sub3. Despite this, I was grateful because I knew my gals were waiting for me near the finish line with a big custom banner!
I also learned later that in Hong Kong, every Hong Kong born runner who goes under 3 hours would be awarded a HK$1000 cash prize. About 100 to 200 runners received this cash prize annually. To me, who cared? I was awarded with the privilege of shivering in the hot shower for almost half an hour after the cold and rainy morning race. That was my reward for the run. I also noticed that my GPS watch registered an altitude gain of 999m over the Hong Kong course. That was a lot of uphill runs/climbs on a rainy and cold morning.
The only rational response was that I vowed I would never run another marathon!!!
(Read Sub3 part 3 here)