For someone who has never enjoyed running as a kid and always had trouble passing NAPFA 2.4km in school, I probably was not thinking straight when I signed up for a full marathon – that’s a whopping 42.195km, 17 times the 2.4km run! To up the stakes, the race was not to be done in Singapore, but in the land down under.
On 26 August 2012, I completed my first ever full marathon at the Perth’s City to Surf Race. And whaddya know? It must have been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
Training for a marathon is hard, hard work. After experiencing it myself, I have a newfound respect for those who do endurance sports. As a novice runner, I had no expectations for my race except to complete it without any injury. In all, I had about four months to train and the lead up to the final race was not just physically challenging, but also a mental struggle.
There are good days – days where you actually look forward to clocking in the miles and every step forward seems to have a little happy bounce to it. Then there are the bad days where you excuse it by saying, “you know, it’s one of those days…” – your heart is not in it and your legs just feel like stone.
Prior to the full marathon, the furthest distance I have ever done was 21km. As much as possible, I tried to follow a training schedule that was realistic for me, in terms of distance and frequency. For this race, I trained up to 28km along East Coast Park and could not continue on because the sun was just too scorching and I constantly feel dehydrated.
That run really made me doubt my ability to complete 42km, but there was no turning back. I soon found myself in Perth two days before the race to acclimatise to the weather and to collect our race packs.
The best thing about running? You get to carbo load. We stuffed ourselves silly with pasta and Australia’s famous fish and chips, walked a part of the race route in the city, and braced ourselves for the big day.
My Big Race Day
On race day morning, whatever doubts I had about the run was quickly replaced by the excitement of running along a scenic coastal route in the cool weather – a far cry from the race conditions in Singapore. We were well prepared in terms of gear – long compression tights, an inner layer of the usual running vest and an outer layer of a long sleeved running top.
Nonetheless, it was still teeth chattering cold in the wee hours of the morning, and for once, I was actually eager to start running. My running partner and I made a pact to keep pace together as much as possible. We ran without music and were able to take in the sights in all their glory as the sun came out. The view along the Swan River route was breathtaking. There was no way we could replicate this experience back home.
The first half of the marathon was a breeze. We were in good pace, according to our standards, but found ourselves mostly at the tail end of the pack, occasionally overtaking an old lady in green (and vice versa). As we crossed the 30km mark, we were greeted with many hills, and one particular one was affectionately named “Hill Breaker” on a signboard.
This hill was wicked. We ended up walking the entire stretch with our glutes protesting in pain. The last few kilometers of the run was discouraging especially when we saw other runners zipping past us with barely any full marathoners in sight.
The occasional cheers and encouragements from the pedestrian on the road definitely helped, but mostly, the last part of the race went by in a blur. When I finally crossed that finish line at 5:32, the emotions were overwhelming. Realisation hit me only when I sat down to eat the yogurt they provided – for the first time in my life, I actually completed a full marathon! That feeling was indescribable.
My First Full Marathon Aftermath
The entire experience of my first full marathon would forever be etched in my mind. It is that memorable and that gratifying. But am I a die-hard marathoner now? Definitely not. Training takes up way too much time and it can be physically painful.
Would I sign up for a full marathon again? Well, in the words of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.