Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2010 - Post Mortem

Most marathoners would agree with me that every marathon race is a different experience. None are ever identical. I have run in SCMS for 3 consecutive years. Each one was a unique experience. What has really changed over the years is my interpretation of marathon and what it means to me.

My first SCMS in 2008 was a disaster. I was over confident. Thinking that I could reproduce a 4:20 on any given day. I didn't train much; and girded with a whole lot of 'Gungho', I set out to run a race that I understood very little about. And ended up blowing out (hitting the wall) at 25km and finishing a miserable 4:52.

2009 was better. I was a lot less naive. I learned to train hard for it and prepared myself well enough to clock my first sub-4. (3:58). I made a lot of 'new' discoveries about marathon training methods; And certainly training with a group of runners helped. I was thrilled by this 'achievement' and this naturally sparked an interest to outdo myself in the subsequent year (2010).....The trouble is, I became rather obsessed with setting PBs. And that can sometimes spell 'trouble' if one is not careful.

During the course of 2010, I signed up for many races. SCMS 2010 was my 6th full marathon for this year alone. Because of my zeal to improve, I have pushed myself hard during training. And I have paid the price. I had bilateral Plantar Fasciitis. And had to have injections in order to walk normally. Even after my second injection, until now, my left plantar fasciitis is still giving me problem. After Beijing, I have started experiencing ITB syndrome which is an inflammatory process resulting in severe shooting pain along my thigh and knee. That surfaced during my run in PBIM (2 weeks ago) and worsened during my SCMS yesterday.

(I am intentionally leaving out all the nitty gritty detail about the race. I am sure most blogger will cover it in more colourful and detailed manner. I will just dwell on the issues that I have learned from this and hopefully it will someday benefit some zealous runners out there.)

Beijing was an enormous boost of confidence for me. To achieve 3:17 for me was like the 'top of the world' experience and that sensation stayed on weeks after the race. In keeping with my nature, I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe...Sub-3 was within my reach. I knew that achieving that in PBIM or SCMS will be near impossible because there was not enough time to train for this. But I was sure that even if I don't manage a sub-3, I can at least reproduce a 3:17 or better in either PBIM or SCMS.

In the mean time, I was struggling with injuries. Something that can really take the joy out of running if any of you know what I am talking about. I can barely walk as I step out of bed every morning. I did all I could to deal with the injury but it lingered on. In fact, through out 2010, the pain was constantly there. Then, the ITB problem surfaced after PBIM. And in SCMS, it became full blown.....

I was into my 6-7km when I suddenly felt my knee cringing. That followed by a sporadic sharp shooting pain. At that point, I knew that PB was not going to be within reach. My only hope was that I didn't have to walk the rest of the way. I pressed on, running at a slower pace in order not to aggravate the pain. I only managed a 12km at the end of my first hour. My pace was getting slower and slower as I saw many passing me by. It was the most lousy feeling. Very disheartening. At about 22km, some point after the way back along East Coast Park, the pain grew worse. I was barely managing a 24km at 2 hours. This, is when a runner is tested. It's either you endure it or give up. At every point, believe me, I felt like giving up . The thought of not being able to do my PB raced through my mind, "What's the point of trying anymore?!" "Might as well give up and walk."

The pain was getting worse. But my "kiasu" mentality pushed me onwards. I reached the 35km mark at 3 hours. And the rest was sheer mind over body. I REALLY REALLY wanted to stop running and just walk. Even for a moment. It would be a tremendous luxury. But if I'd walked, I knew I was not going to run again. The body would refuse to listen. The last few km felt like forever.... I covered one by one of them almost shuffling most of the way.There was no fun in that....

I finished a disappointing 3:43. I didn't even bother to stop my watch. I felt that I have cheated myself of the opportunity to run my best. I knew then, that I have been too reckless in pursuit of my PBs. I should have listened to my body and not run the PBIM. I should have taken better care of my legs rather than pushing the boundaries with no concern about the consequences.

What have I learned from this? Now, I realize that it is more prudent to run less races and be more focused in future. So, I have set my target of no more than 3 marathon next year. In fact, I have decided to cancel my Hong Kong Marathon 2011 trip and just focus on Tokyo Marathon 2011 alone. They are 1 week apart. (I know, I know, I must be crazy to think that I could do 2 marathons a week apart! I am not Dean Karnazes!)

I will also learn to take better care of my body. Not subjecting it to more injuries. I will rest for as long as it takes until the end of the year and start training when the body is ready. I will look through my running schedules for a more structured approach.

But above all, I realize that PB is only meant to be a guide to one's stages of improvement. But to become obsessed with it is not a very wise thing. Running should be a lifestyle. It's to promote health. If it produces the counter effect, then it's ideal is lost along the way. We as runners should re-acquaint ourselves with the joy and passion of running. It doesn't have to come with a certificate or medal. If you have lost the joy or passion, then perhaps it's time to rediscover it. I may have failed myself in SCMS but I have also gained some insight from this painful experience. Better late than never.....


  1. Hi Francis, the last paragraph is superb! Still amazed with your sub-4 performance despite the many injuries... as a amateur, you are already a class of your own! Thanks for the sharing and advices, and meanwhile, wish you a speedy recovery!

  2. Yeah, Thanks! A stubborn class of my own, I think. As for injuries, I hope to recover soon too....but from research on ITB and Plantar Fasciitis, both are usually difficult to go away once you get it....flare ups are common....*sigh*


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