The Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon in December 2018 was a good run. I had my “cheat shoes” (those 4% faster shoes) and I was training well. I had probably covered over a thousand km with my running friend, Jing Song. Jing Song is relentless and intelligent. He decided to run his maiden marathon in Singapore after he ran a good half marathon in the USA. He was all set! I enjoyed running with him because he is smart and I always learned something useful from him. He is probably among the most intelligent persons I know, a joy to chat with and bounce ideas off on. At slightly over half of my age, his wisdom is ahead of his (& my) chronological age.
The Race Day was met with surprises. I had to get off my GRAB transport almost 1.5km from the start line and jog to the starting area. A few of my running friends started off together at 430am. By 12km, I found myself alone and was going up the flyover over the west side of Singapore. At that point, a petite lady ran alongside and asked me, “3 hours?” in a Japanese accent. I gestured, “yes” and she said, “Let’s go!”. I was working hard going up the slope and she was hardly panting. Her fitness was ahead of me by a lot! This power lady was running close by and I was just hoping that I could keep up with her. I also noticed that she was not wearing any “çheat shoes.” By 35km we were still ‘in touch,’ meaning I could see her shadow from afar even though she was a disappearing sight. When I was struggling to climb the last slope at about 38km, I could see her clearly ahead of me sprinting to the finish before the last U turn. She crossed the finish line about a minute ahead of me and I think both of us were in the 3’01-3’02 range under the hot Singapore morning sun. I believe only 8 local boys were ahead of her (yes, she was VERY good) and I had 9 local runners ahead of me (dumb luck). Only 8 local males managed to go under 3 hours (Sub3) this time. Wait a minute, I was the only quinquagenarian among the local top 10! Guess what? I am now looking forward to be a sexagenarian (nothing to do with sex but I am working on it).
It is common to have a lot of photos taken by photographers along the way in a marathon. It would be a little ‘interesting’ if and when my boss, Moon, sees that I was shoulder to shoulder with a lady in small, tight outfit most of the way in the dark as we were racing way before sunrise… so being a good husband, I did all my talking/explanation before any photos showed up!!!
Anyway, later I learnt that Ms Rie Sugaya (菅谷 里惠) and I have a few common runner friends (social media era!) and she ran her first marathon not too long ago at Gold Coast, Australia which she completed it in style – with a timing of 2 hours 55 minutes! Achieving that in a maiden marathon meant that her athletic capability was ahead of most amateur runners (and far ahead of me)!! I was lucky to be able to stay with her for a little while during our run. I cramped to a stop for a few times as usual, as I was just not fit enough for this… Remember, I was on my cheat shoes and she was using the honest, old school racing flats! She is a powerhouse!!
That afternoon, my family and I headed off to Hong Kong as I had been invited to be an external examiner with the Hong Kong dental specialty board the day after. It was such painful experience in Hong Kong – 8 bruised and swollen toes from running (and the tight cheat shoes)! Back to the drawing board, as I still had no sub3 in the Singapore marathon. The next stop was the Hong Kong marathon on February 17, 2019 after the Chinese new year. Between the Singapore and Hong Kong marathons, I had almost 11 weeks to rest, relax, recover, re-peak to repeat. Not a long time but I did the usual stuff and ran.
Fast forward to 2019 – my wife and daughters got ready to head off to the airport on Feb 14, a Friday afternoon. We were all packed up and waiting around for our transport pick up to the airport. I received a phone call from an unfamiliar voice – he identified himself as coach Steven Quek with Singapore Athletics. I had known of Steven but we had never met before. He said the New Taipei City had a marathon on March 17 and they had invited Singapore to send a representative to run there. I wasn’t sure if it was for real though. I said that I had only come in 10th in the December race (Singapore’s National Marathon Championship), so why me? I also informed him that I would get back to him after my Hong Kong marathon to see if I was physically up to it. One month was a very short time for two marathons!!!
Steven Quek informed me that he needed to have my answer at the earliest possible time because he had to revert to the organisers as soon as possible for logistical reasons. After the call, I updated my family about the conversation. Guess what? My wife and my daughters told me that I would be out of my mind if I declined it! When was the last (or would be the next) time I ran with a national flag on my jersey? With their encouragement, I accepted the offer while I was at the airport in Singapore. I still had a month between Hong Kong and Taiwan. Well, February was a short month – I had exactly 28 days in between the two!!
Deep down, at that moment, I just wanted to focus on surviving the Hong Kong marathon on February 17 as I had been training ‘together’ with two of my high school alumnus in Hong Kong through cyberspace. David and Jeremy got along well with me as we
- were from the same high school,
- had the same common language – running,
- had met since the time that they were runners in the school team,
- they both achieved running marathons at around 3.00 hours,
- we are the same age — their ages added up together would be my age 🙂
What can be more rewarding than running alongside with two younger and fearless runners? (to be continued)
[You can read Jeremy’s story here.]