Wednesday, December 08, 2010

running a marathon

I completed my first marathon (Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore) in VFF (Vibram FiveFingers), that is like running barefoot with just a thin 3mm rubber sole. The route was great! Starting at 5am in the dark along Orchard Road outside Ion and Wisma Atria, running past Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands (MBS), Nicoll Highway, with a torturous 15K along East Coast Park (ECP), baking in the sun along the Marina reclaimed land where we used to visit for beach vegetation field trips (now the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage). crawling up Sheares Bridge at 37K was a killer (Tommy can attest to that!), and morale sapping when you can see the dome of City Hall behind MBS which meant the finishing point at the Padang. I could only walk up the slope muttering curses at the evil route planners.

I saw plenty of casualties along the marathon route. The first aid station along ECP had plenty of business as young ones "sprinted" for the first 21K and were cramping up or injured by then. Several stretcher occupants were seen at the casualty collection point at the Marina Barrage, including one Ang Moh on drip, must be the heat and dehydration. Plenty of people fall out during 2nd half of the marathon, especially after the sun came up with a fury after 11am; it was quite pleasant and cloudy prior to that. Found a young man who was in obvious distress at a bus stop along Marina Boulevard. He was in tears, probably affected by the heat and pain of the distances. I asked him for his name to check that he was not disorientated from heat exhaustion and asked the medical volunteers to monitor him. But the young man recovered enough to insist on continuing. I hope he managed to finish the run.

Finishing at a granny pace, meant that I spent the last part of the run with both ends of the age spectrum, with folks either twice or half my age. There were many seniors citizens including contingents from Korea, Japan, Thailand, one old man from Sarawak and a couple of Filipinos. Hats off to them! I will be glad if I can still do the marathon at their age. There were many young kids of Poly and University age and quite a few dragon-boaters. Managed to overhear snatches of disgruntled conversations from the young boys and girls, many of whom had not trained for the marathon. Some of them tried to encourage each other to forge on, since they could not get the finisher T-shirt and medals if they did not reach the finish line. It was a small consolation that I was not the only one suffering!

Only managed to spot two barefoot runners (one young NS age boy and one uncle in his fifties), and no other VFF spotted (maybe they were way ahead of me?). Spotted a barefoot running team from Terra Plana, judging from the shoes. They were running in a group tied up together in ropes, running and walking in intervals. Must be some strange ritual or masochistic training method?

Just in front of finishing line, spotted a Malay couple that I noticed at the beginning of the race at Maxwell Road; the wife was wearing tudong and longs. Kudoes to her since I was already melting in the heat. I helped them take a photo before the finishing arch and then ran painfully the last 50m! After the end point, spotted a single amputee who ran in a "Blade Runner" prosthetic (respect!). I remember watching the South African double amputee, Oscar Pistorius run in the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, and he was faster than many athletes running on two legs!

Managed to hobble from the Padang end point to Raffles City where I guzzled down a cup of coffee to cure my withdrawal symptoms. I missed my usual morning cup after waking up late for the race (big mistake!). two days after the race, my muscle aches were largely gone, with only slightly swollen ankles. Ever since converting to VFF, my knee pain is gone! I used to be reminded by a stab of pain from my knees whenever I reach 5K mark, more accurate than a pedometer! So the ultimate test for my VFF was this marathon, thankfully I felt no pain in my knees during this marathon or the earlier Army Half in September.

This year happens to be the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, between the Athenian Greeks and Persians; and the reason behind Pheidippides running from Athens to Sparta, and later from Marathon to Athens. it's as good a reason for me to bake in the sun and run a marathon...

Alvin's spiel

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