Running a marathon isn’t about being fast or having raw talent, it’s about putting in hard work and having the grit to get through it.
I wish I could tell you that I had the most wonderful half marathon and that it was exactly the cathartic physical experience I needed, and I had the runner’s high I’ve only ever fantasized about, but I can’t. I have to be honest. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to. In fact, I failed in almost every way. But I finished, and that was enough to make me proud. Finishing the race was an incredible accomplishment, especially after what I went through to get there.
I don’t have any excuses. I was completely unprepared. I had been overly confident. Even after the race, I had trouble accepting exactly how difficult it really is to run 21km. I hadn’t trained well enough, not to mention, I let race-day adrenaline get the best of me.
My favourite part about racing is shockingly, not the running part but the habits form before and after the races that makes me feel like I am part of a tribe of sorts. A tribe of crazy people who wake up at 2am to run as fast as I can for a certain distance, all to receive a medal. To me race day is a funny thing. It can be the source of your greatest triumph or the cause of your deepest sorrows. It can make you love yourself and hate yourself at the same time.
“Run the race because you love to run, not because you want to achieve something!”
Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2019, a bitter sweet half marathon that will last a life time. Days and weeks into the biggest, boldest KL Marathon, our country Malaysia was hit with the haze crisis. Runners were uncertain if the race was on or cancelled. Most runners, including me were lacked of training and motivation level was surely not at our very best!
Hubby and I reached Dataran Merdeka at 5am. It was like a big carnival. All the runners were rushing in towards the start point from every possible direction. A bird’s eye view of that would have looked like gazillion of blue smurfs streams (of runners) flowing and merging into the sea. (The start point).
At the starting line, after the countdown, I ducked down to checked and to retie my laces the way you tug the seatbelt before the roller coaster jerks to life! And there was a horn blast and the crowd of 38K surged. Ten minutes later, I crossed the line under a blare of music, confetti and cheering gave way to the steady rhythm of footfalls and breathing.
At 5km I had found a steady pace that felt good- a little faster that I had planned but not ridiculously so. I didn’t think about what lay ahead, only each step in front of me.
Someone once told me, she knew running wasn’t fun because you never see smiling runners. Though I was surrounded by a serious-faced mob, I thought I had probably never been in the midst of such uniform happiness. Our faces were serious, our minds focused but our bodies, every one of them, were smiling. If you are wondering just how it is exactly that a body can smile, you will have to run a half marathon to find out.
The race route had brought runners through KL, passing through many of the city’s iconic landmarks along the way too. So it was a nice, scenic tour of KL on foot. The roads were fully closed and the organisers truly prioritise runners’ safety. For the first 5km the group I was running in stayed more or less together. A few people passed me. I passed a few people. We were all finding our own pace to run.
I was particularly impressed with the amount of manpower/traffic police invested to make sure there was help when needed. It was enjoyable to run on the road that we drive on everyday. The route led us to KL City Centre, KL Tower, National Museum and of course Merdeka Square. This 21km route also covers hills and highway giving runners a very good variety of views and city elevations to enjoy!
Many runners stopped and performed their obligation. It was a nice touch, where many Muslim friends prayed by the road side. The water stations were well organised and the set up was really well this time around. Water at every stops and Isotonic every alternate. Medical assistance and help were present with sponging stations as well. Many bins were placed for runners to dispose the paper cup and all. But the mentality of runners are still not matured enough to understand that the bins are for them to disposed their rubbish.
Another highlight that I truly enjoyed about SCKLM was that there had been musicians positioned at a few locations along the route – to encourage runners to keep on pressing on. Hearing their musical instruments playing, really was motivating and gave me energy to continue when I was tired.
I cruised along the flat ground, keeping my breathing in check. Traffic control was excellent. Arrows and signages lets us know we were always on the right track and marshals guided runners in the right direction while directing traffic and a few key intersections.
The last 3km was a struggle. On a positive note, I was so touched by all the cheers from passing runners. It made me feel awesome even though I was struggling! I appreciate each and everyone of them and I apologised I did not cheer back, I did in spirit! This is a huge tease to ALL- the hills that you have to run to get back at the 18 to 20km and to the finish. No matter how you slice and dice it (quite lumpy, but not in a torturous way). I hit the 19km, from here I played a run walk game, Run at a fastest pace, walk a bit, run a little, walk a bit. Legs throbbing a little, ankles hurting a little and head aching a little. Though my immediate concern was hunger..LOL
One thing that I have learned though racing in the past is that counting down to the finish is bad way to race, especially, in a long race. With that in mind, I set my body on cruise control and settle in for a long flight.
Uh oh…..just one more km to go, I feel my legs start to cramp, I’m worried because I can already hear the music and emcee and I don’t want to be the girl with “chicken noodle soup” legs at the end that can’t make it to the finish line. Plus, Kudos and a big shout out and thank you to all the official and non-official/volunteer Photographers! Without you, there won’t be any memories to keep and treasure! THANK YOU! It’s time to hedge, I started to walk, I decided that finishing with style is much more important than 5 extra minutes (LOL). I could hear the finish. It was a cruel sensation-my mind buzzing with the sights of Merdeka Square and the crowd cheering, singing and clapping, the experience, the pain and what I’d achieved.
At the finishing line, we were given our medals, there were food trucks, free drinks, lots of goodies. It was a good run and fantastic event. But then, unforeseen things and circumstances happens much like life, there’s always something that you cannot plan or expect. A few car windows were smashed and broken into, cash and valuables were stolen. We were also shocked by the news that a car ploughed into the cones and rammed into a few runners near (MMR2). When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you. Let it destroy you or you can let it strengthen you. I hope and pray that our fellow runners recover soon and I hope and pray that someday, security for the public will be more efficient during the running events.
The strangest thing happened at the race. While I was running, I focused less on the finish line. I started appreciating the run itself. Many of life’s regrets come when we look back and realised we were so focused on reaching the destination that we forget to appreciate the journey. Don’t get me wrong, at every stage in life, we should be growing and moving towards a goal! But unless you stop to appreciate where you are, you’ll wind up missing the whole experience! Life’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon!
(p/s: If you are wondering, why no photographs? For the first time ever, I did everything which I have never done in any half marathons before such as no HP, stopped at all water stations, stopped at the porta-portie, ate bananas, played with water..)