Island Ocean Marathon 2013
Against my better judgement, I made a last minute call and decided to hop on the last ferry from Kuala Kedah and headed towards Langkawi on 20 April.
My wife loves me for who I am, but I am pretty sure this 'impulsive spontaneity' isn't one of her favourite traits. Nevertheless, she displayed unwavering devotion when she and my two kids decided to tag along despite what proved to be an ultra short 'touch and go' trip.
All this in the name of Island Ocean Marathon (first part of the marathon series organized by The Marathon Shop.)
But there's an ulterior motive.
Some would say that a run is just a run. You can practically do any marathon (or ultra) LSD distance wherever you fancy. Why all the fuss about rushing there just to prove a point?
For me, this one's different. That's because along with nearly a thousand marathoners, we have come together to dedicate the run to the victims of the recent Boston bombings. We were determined to send a clear message that as part of a world wide running community, we stand as one. We stand tall and proud. We are defiant and we shall prevail.
|photo courtesy of AShe Ek|
Fresh from memories of Boston just six days earlier, this aged body has yet to fully recover. The calves were still tangibly fatigued. Yet the overwhelming drive to do the IOM defied both physical limitations and logical reasoning. I would run even if it meant trotting along at snail pace.
I have never done a back to back. And yes, I am well aware of the need for proper recovery before taking on another 42km. And no, 42km is not a recovery run. Neither is it technically LSD. I knew it's not going to be pretty no matter how well I sugar-coat it. But if you've gotta run, you've gotta run!
So the crowd gathered at Resorts World, Tanjung Malai at 4am. Despite such ungodly hour, most were clearly undeterred. In fact they were characteristically jovial and high spirited. Glad to be reacquainted with many runner friends whom I have not met for a while. But what amazed me was the sight of a big turn up for a boutique marathon as such. It just proves a point that running isn't all about winning. It's about the camaraderie of runners; people sharing the passion for running while enjoying each other's company. No prize, no problem!
Flag off 4:30am. I was somewhere in the midzone chit chatting with friends. The jog eventually broke into a more rhythmic run as I passed some familiar faces and friends. For once, it was relaxing to not compete with yourself. And IOM provided just the right setting for it.
Eventually, I met up with Lim Huat, a fellow Boston marathoner @ 5km and we had a good time pacing one another. I was not wearing my GPS watch, so the run was largely effort based. Later, Andrew joined in at around 8km and paced along with us. I think it must have been one of those rare moments in running where I was totally free to not think about the time nor pace. We were just cruising along and having a good chat.
But as we move beyond 15km, I gradually increased my pace and broke away from the pack. It was not intentional as I thought they would follow. But I guess they had a more 'relaxed' run in mind. So, from then onwards, I was on my own.
I had no idea what pace I was going at. I just 'let loose' and allowed the effort of breathing to alter my cadence and pace. But I knew I was nowhere near marathon pace. It was never the intention anyway.
Did I mention that the first 15km was just child's play in comparison to what was unveiled in the subsequent journey? As you can see from the elevation chart, the real 'fun' started after that. And beyond that point, there were just too many up and down hills to recount. And with each passing mile, I was starting to regret my decision to break from the pack. It's not about the pace any more. It's not even about the ability to endure it. At that point I remember thinking that it was just a tat lonely to take on those hills on your own. It would have been better to pace each other through this latter part of the course.
For someone who is used to racing through a course, I have some serious learning (or unlearning) to do when it comes to this kind of run. But I will bear that in mind in future. It's about running alongside a friend instead of racing ahead even if your pace is faster than his/hers. It's about taking the time to encourage and build each other up rather than overtaking them, leaving them behind to run alone. It's not a race. It's an opportunity to encourage, to foster friendship. And who knows, you may be blessed in return.
Well, the rest of the journey was not easy. But along the way, there were plenty of food, GUgel, water, Gatorade, Revive and even coconut drink to cater to our every whim. And the supporting staff were fantastic too! No silly remarks like "Just a little bit more" when you are only half way through. They were cheering us on like we were running buddies. It helps when most of them are marathoners too.
After 35km, it was mostly down hill. I gradually increased my pace but started to feel some twitching in the calves. That's my cue to slow down in case the twitch devolve into a full blown cramp. Clearly, the hills didn't go very well with my fatigued calves.
|photo courtesy of Mei Lan|
Nevertheless, I finished in a reasonable time. Ranked 6th @ 3:50. But hey, who cares?! The main thing is, I had a meaningful run. It was a tough hilly course. I am sure the intention of the course director wasn't to "torture" us. It merely gave us the opportunity to learn to pace one another. To be our better self.
As for the theme of running for Boston, I believe that in our own way, the fact that we proudly wore the Boston 15.4.13 bib as we braved the course already spoke volumes. As for me, I kept an image of the victims in my mind as I toughed out the hills. The thought of them infused me with the strength I needed to endure the hilly slopes. I know it sounds sentimental. But being so 'personally' involved with Boston had given me much to think about. One of them would be the Grace and Mercy of God in my own life and experience. Something which I hope I'd learn to never take for granted.