SCKLM 2011...a personal review

Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2011 was a success with a record 22,000 registrants out of which more than 2400 were full marathon participants.

I have participated in all three of the SCKLM since 2009. Based on my observation and assessment from fellow runners, I am glad to say that the overall organization and running of the event has improved a lot since then. Many of the issues were addressed indicating that they really listened to the runners' feedback. I sincerely hope that they keep it up to ensure continual success in subsequent years.

On a personal note, as I have mentioned in my previous blog Pressure? Nay!, I have felt unprepared and under trained for this event. Consequently, not wanting to set myself up for disappointment, I decided to lower my expectation for this race.

The target is to finish below my Sundown Marathon time of 3:33. But during the month of June, my training had not been very consistent due to work and a couple of "spoilt" weekend LSD (due to gut problems). So, I was severely under-mileaged, logging only a mere 40km week. I know, this is a shocker even to me!

However under trained I was, I figured that since this is going to be a tapering month, I should not try to push myself too much lest I end up with injuries that will further complicate matters. So, it was an easy going month. The longest proper LSD I did was 20km. The rest were sessions of tempo and interval during the weekdays.

So, armed with that mentality, I approached the race with a very clear objective: No PB. No sweat. I was still going to run the best I could. After all, the whole point of this is to work towards an ultimate goal of someday fulfilling a dream of sub3. (Attention to the word DREAM). Aren't we all allowed to dream?...

Race day: 26/6/11 @ 5 a.m.. KL, as usual, was hot. And the weather was NOT as fore casted. It was supposed to be thundershower. But hey, that's OK with me. The event started off on time. And because there were only 2400+ full marathon runners, there was no issue of congestion like in Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo. (Crowd of 20-30K! Imagine that!) At gun off, I reached the Start arch within seconds. Then it was all clear to go....

My calculated pace was to run consistently below 5min/km to achieve my goal for this race (But preferably 4:45min/km if I wanted a more decent time). But I felt good that morning. So, instead of sticking to plan, I up my pace to 4:30min/km. (On hindsight, that was a bit reckless). But I felt I was in good form. So, reckless or not, I ran at a pace that I did in Beijing Oct 2010. I was surprised that I was able to keep the pace without feeling much strain.

This went on for about 25km. Then, somehow, the feel good effect dissipated. I was left to struggle with maintaining my pace at 4:45-5min/km."This is it: The make or break"....So I thought. But I was wrong. That was yet to come. But I was getting a bit tired. The breathing was getting heavier.

The route was undulating. But there was not too much real elevation to call it tough. Felt as though there were more troughs. But that was before the end. We are all fully aware that the challenge was yet to come. And the full impact certainly came in the form of a hill at 35-37km. For me, that was the most trying moment. It almost broke me. You cannot imagine the kind of thoughts that assailed my mind. Thoughts of walking. Thoughts of stopping. Thoughts that THIS is my last marathon...I will never do this again. Thoughts of fainting to top it of. All sorts of weird stuff that you can think of...I thought of it. A fierce battle raged on in the mind beneath that worn out exterior. Steve was suppose to be waiting there at the 35-37km point. I was looking for some "Gambateh!" from him. But I found out later that he was late because he had to detour due to road closure. So, disappointingly, it was a quiet and painful up hill struggle.

It is when faced with something like that you sober up to the reality that you are not special nor are you invincible. And mentally, you are not any tougher than you initially thought. Focus as you may, but when the real trial comes, you are just as fallible. That's how I felt. My pace was slowing to 5:50min/km. I was pressing on only by sheer brute stubbornness.

The thing about running is: the pain is only for a moment. It will pass. Hold on for just that bit longer. It will pass. Amidst my hallucinations, I thought that every step is a step closer to finish. Doesn't matter anymore about the pace. Who cares about PB anymore. Just want to finish.

Held on to it as long as I could until the top of the hill. Then, just let go of them worn out legs and let the momentum do the rest of the work. There was a sweetness to it. Like God was carrying you on His wings.

I peeped at my GPS, knowing that it was beyond hope to clock any decent time, I just kept pace at 5:15 to 5:30min/km. Did what was left of me. And when I reached the convergence point where all the rest of the 21km and 10km met, it didn't matter so much to sprint or not, I just went with the flow.

I finished with a 3:24. Not a fantastic time. But taking into account what I just went through, it was a minor victory. I did not let those negative thoughts drown me. And I fought a good fight. I was just glad that I held on a little longer when it mattered.

Final thoughts on the race. Every marathon is unique and different just as in any battle field. Never underestimate it, no matter how experience one may think he is. To do that is a sure invitation for folly and disaster. I learned something of myself on that day. Something sobering. Something extremely valuable. And not to mention very humbling too. I think for that, marathon really brings out the best in us.


  1. A very good timing Francis despite the lack of training. Well done! Your last para is precisely why I'm filled with trepidation *insert fingernail biting*.

  2. have been follow yr blog for some time!!really hope can run like u!!!hopefully one day and soon the day will come!!!
    well done for yr running!!!and keep blogging yr blog really motivate me!!!same as jamie pang blog!!

  3. Francis, i wish i was there to cheer you to gambateh for you. but the road block at Segambut roundabout, and big turn. I was running from my car to the meeting point, but I know by them you have gone.

    what u said is right, marathon is just like our life. sometime is smooth, sometime is tough, and humble us.

  4. @Jamie, Thanks! And a big GAMBATEH for your GCAM. Looking forward to read about your run!
    @Ivan, thanks Ivan, marathon running will surely change you. Rise up to it and you will be a better man!
    @Steve, it's ok. Your effort as it is, was admirable! Most people wouldn't be bothered if they are not the ones running! Thanks, pal!

  5. Hi Francis... you are very inspiring as an amateur! Sub-3.5 marathon again and again and again... unbelieveable! Hat-off... salute... bow...!
    I like the part when you said "I finished with a 3:24. Not a fantastic time." This really humble all the rest of us...:o

  6. Hi YS, Your achievement is something totally beyond my capability! Salute kau kau! As I told Foo, I was a bit disappointed with my performance because I was aiming for a better time. But the experience was priceless. At the end of the day, that is what really matters!

  7. Dear Francis,
    I like this:"the pain is only for a moment. It will pass. Hold on for just that bit longer. It will pass."
    I never believe as an elite runner like you,those "negative thoughts" would ever appear in your mind.
    Well done, I like your blog. It really inspire me a lot.

  8. Hi Kok Keon,
    I am no elite runner la, just that I have been at it a little longer than you. Keep on persevering! The break through is at hand. Cheers!


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