My Gold Rush…Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2012

They call it the Sunshine City.  After spending 6 days there, the perpetual sunshine was enough to make a believer out of me. Not a drop of rain. From 6:30am until 5pm, the Sun was working full time. It’s winter season in Gold Coast, yet the temperature was a cool and comfortable 10-200 Celsius.  It was perfect.

They said that the course was flat and fast. Sounded as though it was as flat as a pancake with zero elevation. And the name Gold Coast Airport Marathon was more of a ‘misnomer’ which sort of hinted an Airport-track-kind of flat. But it wasn’t. There were some elevations though none posed any serious threat. And No, the route didn’t involve running in or anywhere near the airport. As for ‘fast’, it is, after all AIMS certified, so, it can’t be anything shorter than 42.195km….Therefore, ‘fast’ was perhaps a relative term applicable only to the elite runners...

We touched down on 29th June. This time, the family members tagged along. It was my kids' school holiday. Rented a 7-seater Pajero and an apartment for fuss free logistic reasons. On hindsight, best decision ever made.  Along the way to the apartment, we stopped by the EXPO for bib collection. It was a smallish EXPO. Apart from receiving a single piece of bib with attached time chip, there was nothing else. There was not much freebies either from any of the other booths lined outside the bib counters. A bit disappointing but well, we were only there to race. And we had the bare essentials. That was good enough for me.

The following 2 days were spent mainly on roaming around Surfer’s Paradise amidst dutifully carbo loading/stuffing ourselves. And of course, the all important climatization, which was not too difficult a task. TC Lau and I went for a short 5km run on 30th June.  The morning was pleasantly cool and dry. I hardly broke a sweat throughout the run. That put a smile on my face: I could get used to this….

Race day was as predicted, dry and sunny with a temperature of 10-120 Celsius.  There were shuttle buses lined up along the Gold Coast Highway providing free transportation for all runners to the Starting point at Southport. It was just 4.5 km from my apartment.

With TC, who did a PB  

With Jamie Pang, After the race

Met up with TC and deposited our bags. Wandered around but couldn’t see any Malaysian runners that I know. I was told that there were at least 150 Malaysian participants. Anyway, saw Yuki Kawauchi warming up. Felt so inclined to go up to him, shake his hands and take a photo with him. But in the end, I resisted the temptation. He seemed très focused. And I didn’t want to be the guy responsible for breaking his concentration. On hindsight, I think I should have done it anyway…..

Starting time: 7.20am. I was assigned to corral A. As I walked up to the point right behind the elite runners, lo and behold, there he was: The one and only 3 hour pacer, Steve Monaghetti. A sub 2:10 Olympian Marathoner. As soon as I saw his pale blue balloon, all strategic plans were chucked out of the window, I was drawn to it like a fly to the blue light. I knew I had to follow him.

Immediately at gun off, you see the elite runners literally sprinting away. At 3:00 minutes/km pace, it was beyond fast. Along with them, Steve dashed off, and soon enough, I lost sight of him. My heart sank. Seemed like I wouldn’t be tailing that light blue balloon after all...  

I looked at my GPS and was quite surprised that I was already at 4:15 min/km pace right from the start. So much for starting slow! I was a little concerned about going out too fast, having had similar issues time and again on previous marathons. Argh! Will I ever learn? But I had another thought: So be it, I was feeling great. The pace was comfortable and unhurried. My breathing was smooth and relaxed. Let see how far this takes me….

Soon, I caught a glimpse of Steve’s balloon after a few km. And by 5km, I had caught up with the huge group tagging along behind him. You know it when you move into that zone. Everyone’s so serious.  But it was so exhilarating pacing along with Steve. How should I put it? It was like: “Look Ma, No hands!”

I was a little surprised by my pace. By the fact that it didn’t bother me. I was comfortable. But I cautioned myself to be ready to detach from the group at any sign of fatigue. Or at least, at any point that I think the pace was no longer sustainable. This went on and on. At 13km, I saw the elite group returning in the opposite direction, they were already 5km ahead of us. In the group were the Kenyans, and the only one standing out like a sore thumb was Yuki Kawauchi with his signature grimace. Excited as I was, I remained focused. My pace didn’t quicken on account of that. After all, I was gonna stick with Steve. For better or for worse....

At 15.6km, the 1st U-turn marked the beginning of our journey back towards the finish. I held on to the same pace. By the time I reached the half way point, 1 hour 28 minutes had elapsed. My average pace was 4:13min/km. It was my fastest half in a full marathon. Promising, but let’s see if this would bring you home. I quietly prayed that it would….

At 28km, time elapsed: 1:58. But I was beginning to feel the strain. I was getting a bit worried. I wasn't sure if it was wise to remain with the group (Plan A) and risk crashing out or worse: cramp; Or should I break off and run at a slower pace (Plan B). It was a tremendous mental struggle. Now is the absolute moment of decision. I was getting a little tired but still felt that I could cling on to the group until at least after the second U-turn at 36.8km. But at 30km (2:07), I decided: Plan B. Just finish strong and try sub 3 on another day. I knew my pace was slowing. The struggle was between 32km and the 36.8km turning point. After that, I saw Steve as he headed back. He called out to us, “You can still push for sub 3, quicken your pace, you still have a chance…” At least, that was what I heard from the opposite side of the road. His words were like an infusion of adrenaline. He was at least 600-700m ahead of me then. I thought, if I could only push a little more. 

Time to dig in. Deep. I decisively pushed forward with quicken pace. From 4:45, I dropped to 4:25-4:35 and held on as long as I could. Only 5 more km to go. (My average pace for the second half was 4:33min/km). I closed the gap by chasing the runners in front of me. One by one. But of course, there were also a few faster ones that overtook me. Everyone’s chasing after that sub 3. But at 40km, I knew it was not to be. Nonetheless, it was a valiant attempt, just not today. I plodded on the remaining 2 km and finished with a 3:05:24 (gun), 3:05:17 (net).  

I felt OK after the run. Not too tired. And the legs were fine. Not sore. On retrospect, I think I lost my focus beyond 30km. Perhaps I should have pushed harder and kept on with Steve. On the other hand, it was not inconceivable that it could have ended disastrously. Nevertheless, no denying that I have gained a fantastic experience. I had caught a glimpse of it and felt it: The Exhilaration of Sub 3. And what it takes to achieve it. And what's more: I think I am on the right track.

Perhaps one day I will. God willing, of course.


  1. Hi Francis,
    Cool running!
    It is always exhilarating to read about your race. What more it is approximately Sub 3 this time!
    The beautiful part of running a race is we never run a exactly same race two times, consider body condition and weather. It always make us think of "what if?"
    and we want to try it again on the next.
    Congrats for you dramatic improvement!

    p.s. Were you in the airport that day? I saw a guy but not confident if it's you. Red Asics, with children, but without a cap. Sorry I dare not greet if it's you, it's just like when you saw Yuki Kawauchi...

    1. Thanks Kent. I enjoyed my Gold Coast trip. Aside from the Marathon experience, I had a wonderful time with my family and friends too.

      BTW, Yes. It was me wearing the red Asics Hyperspeed. You should have said hi. But never mind, we'll meet again next time. :)

  2. Congrats Francis! I'm in awe of you! Must save up and run here one day.

    1. Yes, Nick. I think all runners should. At least try it out once. The weather's mild. Quite good route. Well organized. And it doesn't burn a big hole in your wallet, thanks to AA.

      BTW, I am not paid to say this. :)

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    1. Hi Francis,
      Congratulations for another well deserved PB. I believe training hard, determination and strong self-belief are among the keys to success.

      I always enjoyed reading your blog very much. Not because of how fast you can run, but how motivating you are to us the slow runners.

      I like these very much:" I had caught a glimpse of it and felt it: The Exhilaration of Sub 3. And what it takes to achieve it. And what's more: I think I am on the right track." Sure you will, Francis.

    2. Thanks Kok Keon, In giving, we receive. I write blogs not just because I enjoy writing, but it also helps me gain insight into my own development as well as serving as a tool to encourage others.
      All runners have a story to tell. It's a story about the triumph of the human spirit.

  4. Wow! To get paced by an Olympian is only a dream for me. Great effort for the sub-3! and hoepfully you'll be able to do it in next race. Congrats Doc!

    1. yes. Deo. U shd plan for GCAM next year. Great experience! I know u will love it.


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