Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Kuching Marathon - Deo's Experience

The registration for Kuching Marathon 2016 has just opened on Sunday. The 3rd edition will be held on 14th August 2016 and based on the reviews from its first two editions, we are sure that all the slots will be taken up in no time. It is one of the youngest marathon in the country but has proven to be well-managed, and it is not surprising that Kuching Marathon has came to par (or maybe even better) with the 'big brothers' of local marathons. And the host city, Kuching, is also a lovely city to visit with various interesting activities for either a short weekend, marathon trip or an extended stay.

Our team athlete, Deo, was lucky to be able to experience Kuching Marathon this year and the way he put it, we are sure that he will make a return next year (and come back with a big box of ikan terubuk masin and kek lapis for us, too!). Read Deo's experience below and hopefully it will help you to decide to sign up for the marathon.


Kuching Marathon, or the one I dubbed as KUMAR (for its shortform), has never been in my planned marathons for this year. In fact, I don't have much marathons outlined for this year. So far, I've only done two full marathons, Tokyo and 3R Putrajaya, this year and only one more to go, which is the SCKLM. However, it changed when a friend invited me to have a short trip to Kuching to run KUMAR. After reading good reviews from last year's inaugural KUMAR, I thought it would be great to give it a shot and KUMAR should be a good LSD training as preparation for the TMBT100, two weekends after that. All arrangements done sometimes in June and it was just waiting game for the KUMAR weekend to arrive.

Thursday and Friday approaching KUMAR, my facebook timeline was filled with updates by running friends who were already flying off to Kuching. It was quite a shock to me as if all familiar runners in peninsular flocked Kuching during the weekend. And it was not surprising when it was easy to spot running faces at every corner of the area surrounding the Padang Merdeka, Kuching after I arrived in the city. So, Saturday morning was my turn to be at the airport en route to Kuching for the marathon. ManBaik was my travel buddy this time around so both of us like cats whose whiskers have been cut, making our ways around the City like lost cats. Actually I had been in Kuching some ten years ago accompanying PROTON FC team playing Sarawak FA in the FA Cup football match but none seems familiar to me except for the waterfront walkpath and the Padang Merdeka. Luckily we were accompanied by Marlin, who ran KUMAR last year, who turned out to be our guide even for a while.

First stop after we arrived at the airport was Plaza Merdeka, that is located next to Padang Merdeka where the race venue is, for the race pack collection. Eventhough I saw some complaining about the long queues at the RPC earlier, it was all smooth by the time I picked up mine and it was all done in a jiffy. But I have to agree that the venue is rather small for a big marathon like KUMAR. RPC done, followed by late lunch at the nearby Brooke's Bistro at the waterfront for the sumptuous laksa sarawak. Then, we walkde to the nearby Borneo Hotel, our home for the night, for a short rest before making our ways for a seafood dinner at the famous Topspot Food Court, which is also within walking distance from where we were staying.

At the race pack collection venue in Plaza Merdeka.

It was early lights off for both of us as we had to wake up around 1.30am to get ready for the 3am flagoff. I have mixed feeling about this odd hours flagoff time as on one hand, you want to finish off your race before the sun comes off and saves you from being roasted but on the other hand, it is quite hard to go to bed really early, around 9pm and normally I would wake up still feeling sleepy. In the end, I only managed to get some 3 hours of sleep that night but luckily I didn't feel too sleepy (just a little groggy) that morning. But having a room mate to talk to in that wee hours before the race helped a bit.

We walked to the start line like many others did. With just 30 minutes to go before the flagoff, I quickly dumped my luggage at the dropbag center with a fee of RM5. I trust with the fee, my belongings will be in safe hands. More familiar faces spotted so, it was all pre-marathon routines with exchange of well wishes, photo takings, not much stretching and the countdown to the flagoff. I had not put any expectation for this marathon especially realizing that the last time I ran a marathon was in April and I had a tough time finishing it (and with a mediocre timing, too!). And I am in the middle of an ultramarathon training so I wasn't sure if I still have the marathon speed. So, not putting too much of hope, the plan was just about finishing it under 4 hours and injury-free.

Since this is an international marathon and the prize money was quite lucrative, it wasn't surprising to see host of African runners toeing the front of the start line. It was quite cold that morning as it rained on the night before. I stayed within maybe some 30 meters from the front line and as the race was flagged off at 3am, it was a walking start to cross the start line. Once start line was crossed, I have to zigzag around those runners who started at the front and not long after that, I found my comfortable pace. But a glance at my watch after the KM1 showed that my pace was 4:39-minute which wasn't as what I expected. It was too fast than the 5:00-minute pace I had in mind, to sail me though this marathon safely under four hours.

But, I told myself that since it was a comfortable pace, I would continue with the pace as long as I could in order to have ample time buffer for a much slower pace later. So, I continued with sub 5:00-minute pace until at KM10.5 when I had an urge to pee. Normally I would just pee by the roadside but this time around, I detoured to a petrol station and did what I had to do there. It was a quick stop though but I felt lighter after that. I ran my first 5km in 24:05-minute and the first 10km in 48:46-minute. The generally flat route and generally cold weather were actually helping me with the run and maintaining the pace I was doing for quite a long time. Actually to be frank, the route wasn't all flat, like many runners told me earlier. There were some climbing for elevated roads or bridges (crossing those rivers) and the nastiest one was in the city with 5km to go but those four or five climbing were not too bad to run up.

After 10km, I still feel like I could maintain the sub 5:00-minute pace forever and there were no signs of cramps coming or any muscles tightness. At times, I feel like I would be able to run a sub 3:30-hour marathon, or even bettering my PB of 3:29:15 done in Tokyo this year. That thought was playing in my mind and although I wasn't pressured to do such timing, it still motivated me to continue running at that pace. The pace was good, my body condition was good, I didn't stop to walk except for brisk stops at each water station (they were abundance of water stations, maybe some 15 altogether along the full marathon route). And eventhough I was running at quite a fast pace to the local average standard, I could still see runners in front of me and those behind me trying to catch up with me and that had kept me 'alive' during the run.

Soon enough and it was still dark, KM15 arrived in 1:13-hour and KM20 covered in 1:39-hour. By that time, I knew that another sub 4:00-hour marathon is well within reach. Only that PB is slightly hard to achieve. So, I was left with the battle to run a sub 3:40-hour to mark a new best timing for a local marathon (marathons done in Malaysia). I started to feel a little tired after KM25, not sure if I hit the wall or what? The body legs were just refusing to run swiftly like before but there were no cramping signs and muscles tightness, which I thought was great. 25km was completed in 2:05-hour which was ok but earlier on I had hoped that I could cover the distance under 2:00-hour. So, it was all mind over body from there onwards.

My mind was talking about under 3:40-hour finish but the body told the mind that I can walk for a long time and still finish off the race under 4:00-hour. So, it was a tussle between the mind and the body which they had to come to a compromised position where I would take longer walk breaks at water stations and halfway up any elevated road or bridge and when it was time to run, I need to run at least at 5:15-minute pace. And it worked for me although at times, from my mental calculations, I could miss the 3:40-hour mark by a whisker using that strategy. 30km was completed in 2:31-hours and I had to run the last 13km (in my calculation, I would always anticipate the route would go up to 43km in distance) under 68 minutes, which means that I would miss my target even if I run at an average pace of 5:30-minute from KM30 onwards. Even to be able to run the last 13km at 5:30-minute pace was not guaranteed (that I would be able to do it) as my muscles have started to feel some soreness. It was quite frustrated thinking about it.

But I trudged on. The only hope I had was for the route to be accurately measured to 42.195km in distance (I got 42.28km on my Garmin) and I would still be able to finish under 3:40-hour. This motivated me a bit and I didn't drop my pace much, still able to run between 5:15- to 5:25-minute pace except for one stretch when I walked for quite some time. 35km was done in 2:58-hour and I was glad to finally get back to the city, knowing the finish line was getting nearer. The distance marker along the roadside showed that the race will not be overdistance but I still had doubt in me so, I continued to run. And with some four kilometers from the finish line, a marshal on a bicycle cycled alongside me. I thought it was going to be for a short while but he cycled alongside me until the finish line.

At the last water station. On my left is the marshal on the bicycle who paced me in the last four kilometers of the race.

It was hard to keep up with the marshal. I was in my last 3km and I had to run at 5:00-minute pace. I thought it was good to have a pacer and it was just few more kilometers to go to give everything that I still had left in me but at the same time, my heart was screaming! I slowed down for a while thinking that he might speed off and leave me behind but he didn't. When I slowed down, he slowed down too while encouraging me to keep up with only few kilometers to go. I obliged, and pacing with the marshal on the bicycle, I did the fastest pace in the entire race during my last 1km, how is that?! So, I crossed the finish line in 3:35:44, making it a personal best timing of all 20 marathons I've done locally. Previous best was 3:49:16. It was also my 32nd full marathon race and continuing a streak of 14 sub 4-00-hour marathon finish dating back to August 2013. The timing got me in the 26th position in the Men's Open category and 40th overall which entitled me for the 'Top 200 finishers' special edition finisher t-shirt.

With some familiar faces after the marathon.

Personally, everything was great with KUMAR, my race was less-problematic and I didn't suffer from DOMS for too long post-marathon. I only had a few hours of sweating, dizzyness and feeling like throwing up after the race but recovered well after an hour of sleep. On the organisation of the marathon, I think the reviews I read from last year spoke the truth and the organizer had maintained (or maybe improved) the standard of the marathon. Water stations were abundance and some were accompanied with medic stations, route was super nice especially for a first timer like me, weather was awesome and I will not be surprised if KUMAR would now become a favorite local marathon, overtaking the disastrous and never-improved Penang Bridge Marathon as well as the boring and overhyped KL Marathon.

No comments:

Post a Comment