Newton Challenge 25km. A new hope....

With the calf muscles still a little tight, reminiscence of yesterday's Newton 25km run, I clicked through shots after shots of photos uploaded in FB, seeking for the inspiration to write this blog...

Newton Challenge is a notoriety in it's own right because of killer elevations and slopes that could make most runners swear and curse. The Ammah. I recalled with some queasiness the event in 2010. It was perhaps one of the toughest races for me. Now, I am back for more. Well, for masochistic reasons, of course.

On New Year's eve, I drove down from Penang to put up a night with TC Lau in Seremban. For old time's sake, the Seremban 2 runners held a steamboat dinner at Lim's place commemorating our "reunion", and also to usher in 2012. Had a wonderful time. It was good to be back in Seremban, to be among friends... and especially my runner friends.

From bottom left: Steve, Foo, Mr. Yee (our Ah Tao), TC Lau, Lim, Chua (Lim's wife), Heng, Teng, Uu Ban, and me.

We were up early on New Year's day. In fact one hour earlier than we had to because of the scheduled starting time of 5:30am: An hour earlier than last year. A wise decision. Though for us, it meant less sleep. Nonetheless, it was a welcomed improvement knowing that if we were to start at 6:30am like last year, there would be hell to pay when the sun comes out to, it was a worthwhile compromise.

Drove up in 2 cars. With relatively zero traffic, we arrived at Bandar Kinrara in good time. You know you are early when there's still time to engage in chit chat besides warming up before the race.

Saw many familiar faces from the runners community. In fact, this year, fellow runners from Penang had organized a bus load of runners to take part in this event. Among the Penangnites, there were some serious contenders the likes of Boon, Khir, Sarah Ch'ng, Calvin Boon, Chuah (Tiger), etc just to name a few. And their presence would eventually tilt the balance of top positions in the race.....

I mingled a bit with friends that I would otherwise only see in FB. Enjoyed the re-acquaintance albeit only the "touch and go" kind. I don't mind. It is good enough for me. 

My game plan was simple: Do better than my last year's 2:05. Bonus if it is sub 2. Sounds easy? Perhaps...IF you are running on a flat terrain. But in Newton, you are up against the Ammah hills. It's tough. Period. Make no mistake about it. So, conservative as it seemed, I just couldn't afford to over-indulge my ego. Simply because I really haven't trained much on hills. Though I don't fear it, I don't particularly like it either.

Gun off at 5:30am. I stuck religiously to my plan. Pace was sub 5min/km but average at 4:30min/km. Dipping occasionally to 4:15min/km with the downhill slope.

It was fairly comfortable up until the 10km mark. Suddenly, for no reason, I just felt very lethargic. Couldn't be hitting the wall!? At 10km?? That's impossible!! It couldn't be an issue of glycogen depletion at this kind of distance. No way!

....I had to refocused. Forget about the feeling. With a total disregard of a raging bull, I just charged through the elevations anyway. Maintained my pace as constant as possible. Told myself over and over again: This is only a phase! This is only a phase! It will pass.....

And the strange thing was, it did pass!

Beyond 12km, I found a renewed surge of energy. (And I haven't even taken my powergel yet). I just felt great. Felt as though I have just woken up. As if I have just tapped into a new source of energy from God knows where. Very weird yet wonderful! At about 18km, it felt as though I was capable of going the full marathon distance at that pace. (Well at least it "felt" that way for me!)

I just kept to my pace of 4:25-4:30min/km. I was actually enjoying this, despite my prior thoughts and concerns about the hills. As I inched towards the finish with steady strides, I confess that I didn't want it to end. I felt that I still had some juice left in the tank.

Well, I finished with the time of 1:52:14 on my GPS, with the total distance of 24.4km. Underdistance. But the most bizzare thing was, IT FELT GREAT! Compared to last year's experience, there was a world of difference. I actually enjoyed it this time.

Thinking back, the crucial point for me was the decision I made at 10km. And it was more mental rather than purely physical challenge. Yes, the hills were very intimidating. But, I believe, with the proper mindset, it can be overcome. I remember focusing on clearing one hill at a time. With each elevation, I looked forward to the reward of a downhill "glide" where I let loose and just ease off, granting the opportunity to replenish my O2 starvation. In a way, it was not as insurmountable as I initially thought.

Well, as a close, Sarah Ch'ng (she was crowned champion for the women's open catergory) said in FB that she was going to conquer Ammah hills. I think now I understand what she meant. It was conquering yourself. Ammah just provided the platform for it.

And I can say that I have conquered Ammah too!


  1. Superb, as always! Well done! I think, the Ammah Hills seem conquerable this year than it was in 2010. Probably people have started running there more.

  2. yes! Deo. Totally agree! The only way to conquer any distance or terrain is to run, run and run!

  3. Whoa Francis, even in my dreams I could never come anywhere near your timing!

    Well, after my disappointing performance this time round, I vow to tackle the rout better next year.

    But congrats to you!

    Happy feet

  4. Hi Happy Feet!
    Don't fret! Running races like this is a constant journey of discovery. We get better and better. I am pretty sure u will come to that! Have faith in yourself! :)

  5. A great start of Year 2012!
    Happy New Year!

  6. Thanks Neoh! Happy New Year to u too!

  7. Congrat...and really respect!

  8. Thanks YS! Seems like a good way to usher in the new year!


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