SCKLM 2017. A Perspective.

I am living the marathon dream.

Yes, however you look at it, and despite the 'failures' and melodramatic accounts of my struggles, there is an up side to this. As a friend, Yann Kai tried to show me a while ago, it is always a matter of perspective. I believe, if a runner cannot see this, there is much growing up to do. No matter what caliber he thinks he is. 

KL Marathon has always held a special significance. It was there, way back in 2003 where I did my maiden marathon with a 4:18. Not too shabby for a first attempt. But since that first love affair, the interest waned and it was simply brushed off as a "Been-There-Done-That". 

Then, the interest was renewed with a much needed impetus: my first sub 4 (2009 SCSM). Beyond that, another surprise finish in Beijing, 2010 (3:17) had me hopelessly hooked. More than a PB, it incidentally also qualified me for Boston. Little did I know, it was to become an obsession. 

What followed was years of reaching for the stars. Yet, somehow the elusive goal was always out of reach. Until finally, just when a 'plateau' seemed imminent, in Feb this year, the impossible happened: 2:59:45 in Himeji. With a revived vigor, it ushered in another chapter of my running life.   

So it is true, I am living the marathon dream. 

I think a healthy dose of retrospection is crucial in our marathon endeavor. It counterbalances the negative and potentially destructive effects of failures and disappointments laden along the way.

To be fair, I have had a 'good run'. It is really more than one could ever dream of. Yet, to be content has never been my strong suit. Where does one draw the line? ...It is really not an easy thing to answer. 

After my blunder in Boston, I seriously wavered with the decision about SCKLM. The contributing factors were identified: jet lag and OTS (Over Training Syndrome). Yet despite it, with just 2 weeks to go before the event, against better judgement, I eventually decided to go for it.

Back track. Weeks preceding SCKLM, I had been increasing my weekly mileage from 105 to 130km, though much of it (90%) was just long slow runs. I was just trying to get the 'mojo' back into my running. And since it was such a last minute decision, I had only started tapering a week before the run. Come to think of it now, it was simply stupid. No excuses. Good ole fashion stupidity.

One should be disciplined enough to know. And even then, rationale usually gives way to the issues of the heart because ultimately, it is the heart that decides. Not the mind. So, deducted, it is safe to say that my heart wasn't in the right place.

Logistically, it was a perfect plan from the get-go. I stayed just about 1.6km from the start. And all things were 'good to go' come race day. Slept well. Ate well. Arrived and checked in baggage with just 10 minutes from gun off. Got into Pen 2. And greeted friends along the way... Seemed like a perfect way to start the day.....

Upon gun off, I was just cruising along at 4:30 pace until I spotted some contemporaries like Choy, Calvin and Moey. It was de'javu all over again. But this time, I witheld from any attempt to catch up. Instead, kept a safe ~100 meters from them. After all, I knew I was in no shape to maintain their kind of pace. 

And the decision was a right one. 

That decision may be spot on. Yet it doesn't mean that the delivery system was in any way up to the job. It was obviously found wanting. By the time I reached 21km, the steam had run out. 

Again. Just like Boston. 

This is when you dread. How on earth am I going to finish this? And you start beating yourself up. Why O Why did I not DNS?! Now I am paying for it. O the humiliation! 

One by one, runners passed me by. First it was Boon, then Jensen, Ryan, William, Song Huat, and the list went on. The dejection grew as I staggered and desperately clung to some semblance of a pace. Every remaining mile was not just a physical torture but mentally, a torment. The ego had really been sucker punched, thrashed and spattered all over the unyielding course.

O how has the 'mighty' fallen! What once was is now but a shadow of his former self....all these nonsense just kept coming like waves of unrelenting scorn. Withering away any trace of self respect. 

It took me almost two hours to complete the second half. Although I had anticipated a somewhat slower marathon time, this still came as a blow. I could remember the recurring thought of quitting marathon running altogether. Whether it was CNS fatigue or glycogen depletion or whatever it was, it made squeedily squat of a difference. 

Finally, after an eternity of dragging on....I finally finished. Or rather, by the mercy of God, the agony was not prolonged beyond 3:34....

So, let's retrace our steps. Think happy thoughts. 

I have had a 'good run' in my marathon life. 

And I have lived the marathon dream. 

Against that backdrop, let's see what this horrible experience with SCKLM 2017 has to teach me. 

1. Mountain top moments are there to prepare us for the valley death experiences. 

2. Keep a lowly and meek attitude always. Because there will be days like these.

3. Maturity comes when one learns to see that his time will come and go. No one can escape that. It is not in knowing success but all in handling failures.

4. Overcome failures by overcoming the fear of it. Not an option. Because fear will eat you alive.

5. Develop mental fortitude. Come prepared. Don't dilly dally. No wavering. Either do or don't. No try try.

6. Set realistic goals and by God, STICK TO IT. Don't fool around and court with indecision: It is a friend you cannot afford to have.

7. Be serious. Because marathon is serious business. Have to respect the distance. But at the same time, Don't take it TOO seriously. There are more important things in life.

This is a reminder to self and also to those who may have also gone through the same predicament and 'failure' as me. After a few days of sulking and pondering, I have realized that what I really needed badly is to grow up

Maturity doesn't always come with age. And even for seasoned marathon veterans, despite many races under our belt, one can still be rather immature when it comes to handling disappointments. I have seen that all too often. In me. 

But I am glad that I have some friends whom I can look up to. They exhibit tremendous resilience despite obvious disappointments. I never quite understood that. Not until I came to know one who truly possesses it. Only by contrast to how poorly I handled my own disappointment, I could see such a stark difference. These things can't be taught. It had to be caught. And the prerequisite is always the baptism of failure. In an encounter with him, I realized that I have come face to face with meekness. This, is maturity. In it lies true strength and humility. That, to me is a perfect marathoner.  

I would only hope to strive for that and attain it one day. 

Meanwhile, I have gotten over my disappointment. Isn't that a relief?!

Having the right perspective is really a very powerful thing. Harness it and overcome. Neglect it? And all you have left is a miserable fool who is incapable of growing up. Why would anyone want that?

With Ryan Fei, A superb up and coming Ironman/marathoner with a PB of 3:22 to match

Afters...with Kok Fei

A reminder 


  1. As the great Bill Rodgers said, "The Marathon can humble you." The utmost respect, it deserves. 38 days to GCAM!

    1. To be humbled is harder. Better be a willing party. :) As always, it does deserve the respect. No doubt about that.

  2. I like no. serious about marathon but don't take it too seriously. There are more important things in life. And yes, I think I'm still a crying baby in marathon (may be taking it too seriously).. and like you said, I need to grow up in maturity. Thank you for the perspective. Appreciate it. All the best to your GC marathon. Who knows? It will be the other side of the coin of SCKLM! Do have fun too along the journey ... (something I keep reminding myself too).

    1. Yes, Vincent. All 7 points were like a stab to my heart but it is a necessarily humbling experience. The heart needs to finally acknowledge it. GC, will be another learning curve. Cannot take for granted. But judging from the current form, it will take more than a miracle to attempt sub 3. No matter, I am ok with that. I promise I won't sulk.

  3. Though I'm nowhere near your calibre, I can totally relate to this which is why I made the decision to do what I did. I need a rest, a reboot, before I can even attempt one again, and I know I will. Like Jamie said above, the marathon can humble you, god knows I've been humbled by it enough. Your guidance thus far has been tremendous for me. That said, I know you'll bounce back soon enough!

    1. Had you in mind Nick when I wrote this. I think we all go through this at one stage or another. A kind of rite to passage for marathoners. But it also makes us more resilient. And in time mature. I am sure you will overcome. Keep at it.

  4. Another awesome sharing, doc.

    Nice to have met you during dinner & the little chit chat.
    Unfortunately couldn't find you again at the start & during the race - no wonder you were starting from PEN2.

    Do take heart, that's not a bad marathon result by any means.
    The full distance is really a different beast from other shorter distances.

    I've have failed countless times too to better my pb which was recorded in my virgin fm. However, the harder I tried, the further I've got away fr my best time. Lol.
    Maybe I should just try to race the distance & take whatever comes like I did in my 1st race & not to worry about the time & result. No pressure, no worry & just enjoy being in the event. 😃😃😃

    Wish you all the best in Gold Coast Marathon & have a good race.

    1. I admire your perseverance Calvin. It was truly a pleasure and honor knowing you. Not sure when we will meet again but perhaps someday in GC or Melbourne, Keep working on it. I am very sure you have the target in sight. Sometimes, it will catch you by surprise when you least expect it. The only thing that remains is: Keep reaching for it. It will come.

  5. Hi Francis, congrats for having another finishing race under your belt. It's never easy to run in a race, no matter how many times we've done it. Between that starting and finishing line, are where all the steps count. That makes it so much stressful than training run. I feel each race completed is the equivalent extraordinary effort, regardless the outcome. I believe it all worthwhile, when we look back. At least running is one of few things that I didn't regret in my life, so far. :)
    But then we subject to our own expectation each time we set out the course. We say we try something different from last time, let's see how it goes. Then it didn't fruitful, we fall into the cycle again.
    But I somehow feel this ongoing strive for improvement is something that keep me going each day. It somehow resonate with the spiritual needs that sought for betterment, for survival. May be that's why most people in this sports speaks somehow common language.
    Good days, bad days. Is it the natural rhythm that bad days always more than good days? Or is it to make a good days more valuable.
    Even elite as consistence as Meb chose to finish recent Rio and Boston at time far from his PB. "I always say run to win, but that doesn’t always mean first place…as long as we give the best that we can as a positive contributor to society, that’s a win.” that is, his perspective.
    Of course Francis, you have given so much inspiration to me and many other people to keep on going~ and all this are meaningful too~

    1. It is sometimes presumptive of us to think that we can always reproduce results. But every race is different and there are just too many confounding variables. But that is also the enigma. The unpredictability makes it all the more interesting and challenging. I am humbled by it everytime. Let us endeavor to discover more and inspire others to do the same!

  6. I love your write up, all 7 points which you have written seriously hit too close to home! Well done on your run though! I hope to achieve a sub 4 myself one day :)

    1. Thanks Elvira. And thanks for dropping in. Hope you will clinch that sub4 soon! Gambateh!


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