It was the eve of Deepavali-The Festival of lights and my hubby a.k.a “sole”-mate and I decided to signed up for the SCORE 21KM HALF MARATHON AIA VITALITY. Yearly, the eve of Deepavali we would be busy preparing to celebrate the festival of lights, house cleaning, preparing variety of dishes, new clothes etc. Well of course, check list-DONE! But to us, Deepavali means “FAMILY”, as long as we have each other, everyday is celebration day!
And 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.
It was nuts. At the Score Run Series races there are so many people. Not surprisingly it was super organized and the elite runners ran like a well oiled machine! You can expect that with SCORE RUN. The half marathon started at 4.15am. We had to be there at 3:30am so we left the house at around 2:30am and got up at 1.30am. I couldn’t sleep that night anyways, it was my best friend’s mum’s 80th birthday and I was boogie-ing and Bhangra-ing all night long on the dance floor- cardio warm exercise before race day, “VENI, VIDI, VINCI”- I came, I saw and I conquered the dance floor….only to realised I had only 2 hours of sleep before race day!
We parked at the designated parking area for runners, walked about 10 minutes from the starting point and were greeted with literally hundreds/thousands of people.
You know the drill…wait in line for port-a-potty, do your thing, get in corral and wait. That’s exactly what we did.
The 1st KM or so starts off flat, passing along the iconic Putrajaya bridge, it was a lovely sight and an excellent opportunity to take off at a brisk pace, taking advantage of the terrain to get in your groove and get the body to long distance ‘operating temperature’. If you’re no Speed-Racer, then settle in and find your happy place, taking time to look over to your right and appreciate the cornerstone of the amazing architecture of Putrajaya.
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.
5 km – Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Bring it on!
10 km – speed seems right, people around me are nice, the weather is nice – all is right in the world. Heart rate is a bit high, but I can’t drop the pace just yet
14 km – water station. Picked up a banana, took me a whole kilometer to swallow it fully. ‘Dropped’ the pace a bit just to stay on the safe side
17 km – oops, seems like a long hill ahead. “The old guy” in orange shirt went ahead. I guess it’s age before beauty this time
18 km – oh god, still climbing
But then, the terror was just about to begin….the hills and overall course elevation were really unlike anything I’ve run before in a half-marathon.
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.
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.
Traffic control was excellent. Just a slight disappointment was the markers and arrows and signages were not very clear and confusing to us to know where we were, whether on the right track or the distance however the marshals guided runners in the right direction while directing traffic and a few key intersections.
The last 5km was a struggle. Anyhow, the route was altered slightly after that. So many U-turns and the hills are alive……The hills, how do I put this, stairway to hell! I could actually feel runners around me going, “ohhhhhh Noooooooooo!” as we climbed out, but we soldiered on On a positive note, I was so touched by 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 16 to 21km and to the finish. No matter how you slice and dice it (quite lumpy, but not in a torturous way). I hit the 18km, 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.
At the 18KM or so, nonetheless, mentally this is the hardest part of the race and where the half-marathon really begins.
At this point some runners are ‘hitting the wall’ or even cramping and are forced to a walk. It’s very demotivating to see and if you’re hurting yourself it’s even worse. So, there’s no better thing to do than face your demons and have a very long conversation with yourself.
Half-Marathon is just a lot of kilometers one after the other. I told myself to just focus on the next bit ahead of you – what you have now. Put one step in front of the other and that finish line will get closer.
The finish line soon became clear and one final push of any last remaining bits of energy we were home at last. Fabulous!
As you would expect the organisation once over the finish line was just as slick as on the course. We were presented with a gorgeous (very heavy) medal to show off, a finisher T-Shirt and finally the all important hydration of isotonic sports drink and a bottle of water. The really touching part also was the volunteers all giving us a clap as we walked through the finish area – after 21KM it was all very emotional!
At the finish line, we were safely moved along towards the exit, collecting our finisher’s T-shirt and medal as we did so. The entire event was a welcome break from the pandemic – a small slice of normality we treasured after months of training alone. From the organisers to the volunteers and race marshals, the event felt wonderfully safe and a fine example of how races can return in Malaysia.
All in all, this SCORE HALF MARATHON race is one I would recommend to others, and run again myself. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the hills!