Monday, 17 June 2013

Spring Live Active Run 2013

Fourth race of 2013

Back where it all began...

Spring Live Active Run

What distance to run?

Yours truly was so looking forward to this run, especially since last year, this same event marked my debut as a competitive runner.  There were a lot of improvements that went into the second edition of the Spring Live Active Run.  The most obvious of which was that runners could register online.  The second most noticeable difference was that the 10km and 21km finishers would all get medals.  These weren't your run of the mill medals, but the real deal.  A lot of effort must have gone into designing them.  The fact that The Spring Facebook website put out the pic of the medals early on meant that they were confident it would stir runners' interest.  It was a no brainer that I was going to run 21km.  The cut-off time for 21km was 3 hours.  Me being the 42km runner was not sure how fast I could go if I pushed myself in the half marathon.  Having experienced problems running at this year's Brooks Half Marathon, some doubts did linger in my mind.

Who can resist this?

The only difference between the 10km and 21km medals was that for the 21km medal the sponsor's name was printed on it and for the 10km medal 'The Spring' replaced it.  Apart from that and the kms, the medals were essentially the same.  The cut of time for 10km was a very generous 2 hours.  There was also a 5km fun run, but no medals would be given to the finishers.  For the young ones there was a kids dash.  However like last year all the runs were of the open category.  So this fat old man running had to compete against teenagers yet again.  It's one thing to see them blazing past me at 5km, and another thing not to see them at all over 21km, as they are just too far ahead of me.  It was also announced that there would be 1km markers for the entire distance and six water stations.  I was told there was an extra water station for the 10km runners at Padungan Road. This time around the water was given to us in 500ml bottles! Being a guy who only takes a few sips of water at each water station I at times nearly didn't want to take one since I was running with my own drinking formula of four 200ml bottles.  The same ones I use for my 42km runs.

5km, 10km and 21km route

After deciding that I wanted to run 21km I just had to train for it.  Since  the race was in my hometown I was able to run the route twice at a very slow pace.  It was my way of familiarizing myself with the route so that I knew what I had to do.  The route for me was split into 7km intervals.  My plan was to take an energy gel at 7km and at 14km.  Being big and heavy and a slow poke I would need them.  Drinking water was never a big issue for me as I prefer my own mix of Gatorade and hydration salts.  They help a lot with my legs.  In fact if it weren't for that I think I would be cramping if I ever pushed myself too hard.  That said I did a lot of treadmill work.  Ran on inclines and at speed whenever I could.  My long run was always on Sunday.  Having done a lot of kms I wasn't worried about that aspect.  My only worry was my speed over the distance.  

Good to go...

The race would start at 5.30am.  Being used to waking up early is always a good thing.  My body's clock was accustomed to it.  In fact both times I trained for the half marathon I ran at that time.  Not one for big meals I snacked on three small oatmeal cookies, took my vitamins and a big mug of strong coffee.  The coffee really helps wake me up.  The only problem was I was late getting to The Spring.  It was minutes away from gun time and I was in the underground parking lot rubbing heating ointment generously on my legs.  So late was I that I forgot to take an energy gel 15 minutes before my run! There was no need for me to warm up as my mad dash for the starting queue was enough to heat my body up.  To think I had three minutes to spare...  Strangely I felt really calm.  This were the moments I lived for.  When the horn sounded I knew I would be ready...

The pacers getting ready with their balloons
21km runners good to go

A blur of runners
(All photos with The Spring watermark are courtesy of

The biggest joy for me was that there would be pacers! I knew I must never let the 2:45 pacers pass me.  When I ran up to the 2:30 pacers I realised that I knew both of them from my runs: Willie Liew and Kenny Kho.  They were happy to see me and asked me to go on, which I promptly did.  Did tell Kenny that he would be seeing me again as I was sure I would not finish better than 2:30.  So off I went into the darkness.  What surprised me again, like at Brooks Half Marathon, was that many runners weren't really prepared for the distance.  Before even the turn-off to Foochow Road (for the 5km and 10km runners) there  were already runners who were walking.  This is a no-no for anyone attempting a sub-3 hour half marathon.  Unless of course there had a turbocharger hidden somewhere.  I didn't, so I needed to run hard.  The going was really good.  I liked my pace.  There was no need to look at my watch.  I knew I was going well.  

When I hit the toll bridge I still felt strong.  The 7km marker came and went and my watch told me I had reached it in 47 minutes.  That was way better than I had hoped.  Gleefully gulped down my first energy gel.  When I reached 10km it was only 1 hour 3 minutes! My legs were working fine.  Even along the long Astana Road stretch there were no problems.  So I knew I had no worries.  The roads were relatively flat.  All my incline work on the treadmill helped tremendously. The big test was yet to come.  At km14 took my second gel.  Had never used so much caffeine! My time was 1 hour 36 minutes minutes and I only had 7km to go! That meant even if I walked the entire distance there was no way that I would take 84 minutes. No one ever accused me of being a slow walker! With the job nearly done, I made a conscious decision to take it easy.  After all in two weeks time I would be running another race, and I knew it would be much tougher than this, so I needed to save my legs for it.

At McDougall Road, towards the end, near to the entrance of St. Thomas school, as predicted by me, I met Willie and Kenny again!  They encouraged me to go on as the finish line was very near.  That was when my friend Reuben Su came up from behind.  He looked like a spent force, but was gamely running on.  One thing Reuben has is a big heart and a lot of leg speed.  Unfortunately he lacked experience in running long races, and this 21km was his first official run.  However with only a final long stretch to The Spring I was confident that both of us could finish in a good time.  The balloons told us so! My final mad dash was down Tabuan Road.  Then I took things easy as the balloons were behind me, but fast catching up when the road leveled up.  Reuben was catching up too! With the finishing line in sight I decided to run.  Meters from the finish I caught sight of Reuben sprinting.  That's when I gamely decided to sprint too! We went all out till we hit the line and then some.

To infinity and beyond.... 


Fat Old Man Running

 Reuben and me at the finish. Note the irony of the banner at back

Rashid Daljit and me with that sign again

 More posing for the camera

Here I am flanked by experienced 21km runners
(Photo courtesy of George Chapman)
 Friends from Sabah. L-R: Kay, Fabian Daimon (5th in 21km)
and Dayangku Miranda

It was a finish of dreams! Two friends finishing side by side.  I won by a whisker but it was of no consequence.  We both posted identical unofficial times.  My 2:30 was a shocker! I had never in my wildest dreams expected to run so fast.  Some of my friends will say that a half marathon is not a problem for me, but I just don't have speed.  In fact I run always with 42km in mind.  So for me to be able to run at such a fast time really blew my mind.  If I hadn't slowed down who knows what I might have been capable of.  Now a part of me knows that 2:15 is a distinct possibility.  It would help tremendously in my future longer runs.  Admittedly I still had a lot left in my gas tank but that was expected as I had trained well for this race.  My first thought was to thank my pacers.  Willie and Kenny did the Sarawak Marathon Association proud! Here's me hoping that next year we will be running a full marathon in Kuching.

After any race I hate to queue for drinks but I needed that can of 100 Plus badly.  There were queues for other goodies.  I did manage a cereal with milk, but that was it.  Always nice after every race is seeing my gang of gym buddies and all my friends with their medals and rewards.  We took pictures and chatted up a storm.  My friend Rashid Daljit was there.  He had run the 5km after just completing the Laguna Phuket International Marathon 21km.  Am happy that his legs are slowly recovering from two knee operations.  Hopefully we will run a full marathon together one day soon.  This is one determined individual.  I see him at the gym training very hard and he will slowly reap the rewards for his efforts.  On the down side I was saddened that one of my good friends wasn't able to make it for the 5km.  I will never give up on him and hope to run with him in another race.  The sight of many a first timer receiving their medal was a beautiful indeed.

 The top three 21km runners were from Kenya

The Kenyan 21km winners
Women 21km winners 
Men 10km winners

Women 10km winners

Men 5km winners
Women 5km winners

It was great to see Kenyans actually participate in our very own Kuching half marathon.  There was no doubt in my mind that they would win, and that's what they did, taking all three top spots in the men's 21km.  The Golden Jubilee Edition of SLAR saw participants from 16 countries.  This was in celebration of  Sarawak’s 50th Anniversary and Kuching City’s 25th Anniversary.  What's more there were RM20,000 in cash and prizes.  The men's and women's winner each received RM3,000.  One of my friends, Frances Ngu, took second spot in the 5km category.  What's more my friends Su Shi Cheah and Wendy Ng were 5th and 6th respectively.  We all go to the same gym.  So there's something to be said for constantly working out, especially amongst the women.

A big shout out go to The Spring people for managing such a fine event.  They have improved tremendously on last year.  In fact 3,114 runners participated in the second edition of SLAR.  That's an improvement of nearly 100%.  If the right sponsors can be found, and quoting SMA VP Philip Chua, Kuching will have a 42km next year.  Then we runners won't have to rush out of Sarawak to run our full marathons.  Of course some of us will still do, but it won't be a dire need anymore.  I will always support my home races first.  However the logistics involved to organise such a marathon would be enormous.  There needs to be expert medical personnel to begin with.  The longer route would entail more road closures and an even earlier gun time.  Am hoping the cut-off time will be a generous 6:30.  I might not need it, but there will be others who would be scared away if it were anything faster.  Hopefully we will see sponge and ice pack stations and isotonic, energy gel and fruit stations too.

We cannot please everybody and neither can The Spring and the Sarawak Marathon Association.  They did a wonderful job and any mistakes made are mere learning experiences.  I can foresee this being a marquee racing event in the national calendar.  I know I have many ideas on how to improve the running experience and I am sure others have too.  So people should start talking to the SMA.  Then when the time comes I am positive we will have even more great runs in Kuching.  For such a beautiful city our people are starved for good runs.  This can be seen on how our runners are responding to any running events.  Even walking events are participated by experienced runners! I know because I join them too.  Yours truly always enjoys running for charity.  The wonderful thing about the Spring Live Active Run is that they helped two of my favourite charities - Sarawak Children's Cancer Society and Dyslexia Association of Sarawak.  The third charity being Kuching Austistic Association. Am so looking forward to the third edition of SLAR.

Thanks for the memories