10 Real Lessons Learned from My First-Ever Half-Marathon!
How much can you learn from another person’s experience? Plenty, if you’re a runner who believes that taking advice is a great way to avoid injury and achieve success at the finish line.
The CSC Run by the Bay was my first half marathon but it won’t be my last. I believe that trying new and challenging tests is a great way to improve myself inside and out, so to test my mettle, I set my sights on a 21km competitive race. Why chronicle my story? Because I’m a big believer in sharing experiences, whether they’re good or bad!
What motivated me most?
I wanted to get both a finisher tee and finisher medal, but I also wanted to see if I could accomplish my mission within the four hours mandated by CSC Run by the Bay organisers. But my goals surpassed just finishing on time and leaving the run site with memorabilia: I wanted to feel the sense of achievement every athlete craves—the sort of euphoria that gives every runner a boost of confidence born of realising that their bodies can go the distance if one works hard enough and prepares properly.
Every kilometer mark pushed me forward. And as I ran, I realised that everything I’ve done in the past has prepared me for “this moment.” I thought about my involvement in the Lifesaver Club as my CCA for more than a year. Talk about a daunting process! Those rigorous courses and tough training improved my fitness levels tremendously. I barely recognised myself as the “non-swimmer” who first joined the CCA.
What did I do to prepare for the CSC Run by the Bay?
A better question would be, “What didn’t I do?” Among the challenges I undertook to ready my mind and body for the event included:
- Running every Thursday after I had finished each day’s training course.
- Improving my overall strength by adding pull-ups to my routine after running.
- Committing to a 6km pre-competition increase in my conditioning at the gym each week.
- Replacing my regular “walking” pace with a more aggressive stride as often as possible.
- Paying attention to my timing so could feel confident about finishing within that 4-hour deadline.
- Acknowledging my limitations so I wouldn't force myself to keep going should I feel unwell during the 21km.
The big day arrived at last!
Was it hard to sleep the night before my first CSC Run by the Bay? A little. It was pitch dark when I got out of bed and by the time a friend and I arrived at the race village, it was drizzling. The flag-off was set for 5:15 a.m., but we powered up with breakfast an hour earlier.
Despite the fact that the weather continued to disappoint (the rain got heavier), my mate and I didn't want to miss out on visiting the race village booths, especially since we wanted to put our entries into the lucky draw. And of course, we warmed up properly despite the downpour.
If there’s one thing a runner can count on when competing in Singapore during certain seasons, it’s the rain! And that rain continued to fall as we queued at the start line. That's when the MC announced the news all of us nervous runners dreaded: The flag off time would be delayed 15 minutes.
Eventually, the rain stopped and both the 21km Eikden and 21km Individual events flagged off together between 5:24 a.m. and 5:27 a.m. In the grand scheme of things, that slightly-delayed start time did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm.
10 great lessons I learned from running my first 21km
- I found the hydration stations to be sufficient and evenly distributed along the race route.
- Crews responsible for guiding runners were so encouraging; everyone wore a big smile!
- Despite developing a stomachache around the 2km mark, a Kallang Riverside Park washroom saved me.
- Feeling better, I was comfortable speeding up as I attempted to catch up with mates and other runners.
- I reached East Coast Park with another stomachache; this time, there was no washroom facility so I had to soldier on.
- I had to admit that my mates were quite a few kilometres ahead of me and it was unlikely that I would catch up.
- I acknowledged my biggest mistake: not sticking to a consistent pace. I got too tired too soon.
- Having ignored sage advice about bringing an extra pair of socks and shoes, I was relegated to running in wet shoes.
- I had to admit to myself that my endurance, stamina and preparation were not good enough to finish my 21km.
- My experience left me feeling wiser and smarter—but not discouraged!
I’ll be training differently next time around, adding additional anaerobic moves to build stronger muscles and improve my stamina. And you can be sure I’ll be bringing along an extra pair of socks and shoes—even if the sun is shining!
What lessons did you learn when running your first marathon? Are you as excited as I was? Did your experience scare you away from future competitions or did you resolve to apply lessons learned to your next challenge just like me?