One item off my bucket list and it has been my dream since last year, finally I finished my first full marathon in Standard Chartered Hongkong Marathon on 16 February 2014. I’m lucky to have my best friend, Yustin, to run together with me from the start to the finish line. It was our first time running the full distance together and indeed one memorable moment. I’ll share with you the road that we have to take until we crossed that finish line..
It was back sometimes in September 2013 that I threw in the idea to my best friend runner, Yustin, that we should take the plunge and go for the Full Marathon distance together, at Hongkong Marathon in Feb 2014. After discussing it for a few times, and the registration opens, Yustin signed up first as it opens to the staffs before it opens to the public. At that time, I was just about to finish my 2nd Half Marathon race in KL and I felt that I would need a new challenge soon. My 3rd Half Marathon race is coming soon in Dec, and Yustin will be there also. But I want to take another Half Marathon race in between so I signed up for Great Eastern Women’s Marathon in November, even though all my friends took the 10k race instead. I managed to persuade Fairy to join me in the race, and was so happy that she took the challenge and actually had a good time running the race, breaking her PB, in fact.
So, since Yustin had already signed up for a spot, my turn is next when the registration is open to public. I started to think about the training program and how I would fit in the races I’m going to do as part of the training plan. It would be a challenge for us to fit in the training program into our already busy schedule. We knew it from the beginning, that’s why it was very hard for us to commit to the marathon race, but we thought we’ll figure it out later. Let’s just do this!!
On 15th October, the online registration for public is open and I woke up since morning to log on and registered as soon as it opens. Hongkong Marathon has been known as a popular race and the slots are usually gone within few hours. So I need to make sure that I got in, because Yustin has already secured her spot. It took me only a few minutes and I was in!
Now.. which training program should I use?
I spoke to my friends who are already marathon runners to share with me their marathon plan. Only at that time that I realized, Hongkong Marathon route is a bit brutal in term of elevation course. It’s very hilly. So I need to make sure that I incorporate hill trainings in my training plan. On top of that, the Cut Off Time (COT) is very short at 6 hours, and they have 4 check-points along the course that we strictly need to adhere, otherwise the bus is waiting for us.
I decided to use a modified Runners World’s marathon plan. It’s a bit advanced but I modified it to meet my own schedule. And since I have already signed up for half marathon distance in the races I’m joining in Nov and Dec, I should be way ahead of the plan. I just need to increase the mileage on weekdays and more interval and hill trainings.
At this point, we have not shared this news to our friends. We still think that this is kind of a suicide mission for us and we’re still not confident whether we can make it or not. So until we are confident on our training plan, we tried to keep it to ourselves first.
We finally broke the news to our friends in mid Nov. At this time, we are already building our mileage, so our long run is already at half marathon distance almost every week. So, obviously our friends are questioning the sudden ambitious distance we’re doing on Sundays.
Of course, MamaRunners group are very supportive. They are so excited for us as much as we are. So lucky to have such a nice support group like them. Love them to bits!
Since this will be our first full marathon distance, we made a pact that we should stay together from start to finish. We would need someone as our support during the course that will help us break the wall that most marathon runners face. Finishing together will be a memorable moment for both of us, on our first marathon experience.
However, Yustin and I don’t stay in the same country. So we had to train in a different course and different training plans. Yustin runs faster than I am, so I need to make sure that I can catch up with her and doesn’t slow her down during the race. And that means, I have to really catch up with my speed.
When I run with Yustin, actually I can keep up with her, but I hardly push myself when I run. I’m always afraid that if I do, I would injure myself or would have longer recovery time. As a mom of 2 small children (Yustin also a mom of 2 children, but her kids are already bigger at 8 and 10 years old), I can’t afford to take longer recovery time after my run. So, playing it safe is always my concern.
Nonetheless, we keep this pact and both of us will take our part to ensure that this will happen. Hence, we’re being called “Kembardempet” (means conjoined twins in Indonesian) because we will stay together from start to finish.
In between our schedule as full-time working moms, doing office work, taking care of the kids, household and everything else, we are very concerned on how we can fit in our training plan. Lucky me, I live right across the reservoir, so I can build my training by running more and almost every day, even during weekdays. If I can’t make it in the morning, I clocked in the mileage after work. If I only have a short period of time, I chose for speed work or hill repeats, while I use Sundays as my long run.
Saturdays are family time because I need to take my eldest to her courses.
In Dec, I decided that Neishia, my youngest, should be weaned completely from breastfeeding. So I can feel at peace of doing my training, trying the gels for the refuels with no limited options (some gels are not allowed for breastfeeding moms), as well as I can make sure that I can leave her for 3 nights while I’m away during the race.
We decided that we won’t take the family on the race, because we needed the rest prior to the race and after. Taking the family means I will need extra stamina to take care of them during the trip.
Yustin, however, took a different approach on training. Since it’s quite hard to run by herself on weekdays in Jakarta, she focused more on long run. She took 2 runs on weekdays by running short distance. But by mid Dec, she joined a running club which actually helps to prepare her better as the club trains her with speed training and hills repeats, under supervisory. So she had a structure training, with coach!
I don’t have the luxury to join a running club or had a coach, so I trained by myself. My approach is to run 4-5 times a week, building up mileage on weekdays, combination of easy runs, interval and hill repeats. One long run on Sundays and cross trained with yoga, swim and strength training. As many other trainings, we really need to be diligent with our training program for best result. As I said earlier, the challenge is how to fit those in, among all other things I have to do. Sometimes when things got busy at work, I couldn’t even get out early to do my run and I’ll be too tired to wake up early in the morning to clock in the mileage I need to. But I must, and sometimes it takes out the fun in running.. but I need to trust my training if I want to succeed and cross that finish line in Hongkong. I kept at it.
Even when I went for a trip, I made sure I kept my training and did my run and workout. In Dec, I went back to Jakarta for a short trip and managed to run with Yustin for our 25k distance. That would be our last run together before Hongkong.
At the end of Dec, after building up mileage on my training, I felt an uncomfortable feeling on the outer part of my left foot. I have been clocking in 50k of runs within 3 days. At the end of that 3 days, I ended up with a limp. After 2 days of rest, I planned for a shorter long run, but can only managed to run 5k and I ended up with another limp and was in pain to walk.
I was so worried about this, thinking that I may fractured my foot. At the same time, I went away with my family for a short getaway to Penang. I decided to take a rest until I see a doctor. I tried running on the beach in Penang, it was barefoot and it kinda helped. But I’m still afraid of running on the street because I still had a hard time to walk properly. I didn’t want to injure it more and lose my chance of running my first marathon.
A week after I was back from Penang, I managed to see a Sports doctor. Actually by that time, my foot was already better. I was already able to wear heels to work, but I still refrained myself from running. I want to get an OK from the doctor first.
The doc sent me for an X-Ray, in which the result says that everything was okay. No fractures, no tear, and actually no pain. So the diagnosed was that my foot must be fatigue from building too much mileage. Another reason also because I used a different shoes right before I started limping. So maybe it’s not a good idea to switch shoes.
I wear Brooks Pureflow for my runs and have been wearing them for the past year. I retired one pair of shoes so far and currently on my 2nd shoes and breaking my Pureflow2 too. They are perfect for me and I love wearing them. However, I tried to wear Asics Gel Nimbus 14, somehow the shoes don’t do well on my feet, hence the pain. So I decided, no more trying to fit in to the Gel Nimbus, let’s just try Pureflow instead.
After that, I made a switch on my training plan since I only have 5 more weeks to the race day. I used the 4 weeks plan in which none of the long runs even hit 30k. The weekday runs also just consists of 2-3 easy runs, in which I modified into a fartlek and hill repeats.
However, I’m still quite ambitious in my long run that I managed to hit 30k of run on week 3, although the doc was actually not suggesting me to hit 30k. But the 30k run was really enjoyable and I felt good that I can hit that distance with no pain afterwards. The recovery after the run was also fast. I felt good. I can do this!! Totally boost my confidence.
THE GIRLS-ONLY GETAWAY WEEKEND
It’s girls-only getaway weekend! I met up with Yustin at Changi Airport on Friday afternoon, which also happened to be on Valentine’s Day. Mia, who is also running half marathon despite of her plantar injury, is joining us in Hongkong. We are sharing a room together and basically so excited for girls-only weekend. Despite the nervousness before the race, we tried to relax, hangout and make the best of it.
The weather in HK has been quite cold, so we decided to do a test run a day before the race. Just to know whether we need more layer of clothes, and whether the clothes that what we have planned is enough to sustain the cold weather.
Yustin & I bought the same jacket from Lululemon, in different colors. The jacket is for running so we think it should be perfect for the weather. We would only wear a tanktop underneath (in case we need to take off the jacket when the weather gets hot) and a compression legging for the bottom. The jacket has a hoodie and built-in glove so we don’t need to bring extra gloves. Just a headband/buff to cover our ears in the beginning of the run.
It was perfect!
After the test run, we went to take our race pack, had our lunch, met up with an old friend, walked around to look for stuffs in Causeway Bay then just went back to our hotel for rest. By 7PM we were already in bed and prepared ourselves for the next day. Of course, it’s not easy to be asleep that fast but we managed to snooze off by 9PM.
I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm went off at 3AM. The start is scheduled to flag off at 6.10AM so we had plenty of time. The start pen is only 5 minutes away from our hotel, so after the alarm went off, we still kinda snoozed off a little. By 5AM, we’re ready and finally left the hotel by 5.15AM. We jogged to the start pen and saw a long lines of people at the start pen. Oh crap, we can’t get to the front of the pack! Then we realized that it was the Half Marathon Challenge category.. pfiuuh! So we went to the empty waiting zone and warm ourselves up by jumping around and do a little warm up jumps.
By close to 6.10, when the countdown is about to start, a strong wind blew at our direction.. and guess what! The start balloon fell down. So they had to raise it back and the start was delayed by 5 minutes. At this time, I was just about to cry cuz I can’t believe that I’m going to do 42km.. What have I put myself into? Damn!
We jogged easily as soon as the run starts. It gets warm fast and had a mixed feelings whether we should consider to take off our jackets. But after 1k and on a way to 2k, we are going up the highway and the wind blew strongly, and it’s cold!! I nudged to Yustin and told her that I’m so glad we’re wearing jackets. We run side-by-side with Annif (another runner from Indonesia) until maybe around 7km. We went into the tunnel at 10km. Honestly I love the tunnels, because that’s the only flat course we had. No wind and it’s warmer but not as hot as we thought. So everytime I go to the tunnels, I ended up running quite fast. We still maintained a 6’40″ pace per km, though.
After the tunnel, I can see that the elevation is nothing but UP as the legendary Tsing Ma bridge is in front of us. The bridge is uphill, the view is gorgeous from the top. We had a turning point on top of that bridge and go into another bridge, which of course another uphill and downhill course. The route then brings us to a down-slope to the second tunnel of the route. I just had my refuel of energy gel right before we entered the tunnel, I ended up racing inside the tunnel Upon exiting the tunnel, we have run more than 25km. I can feel my legs are getting tired but they’re still fine and I can still run within the 6’40″ pace/km. I signed to Yustin that maybe we should take a break after we reach 30km. Do a light stretch. And she gave her thumb up.
At this point, we are running at our own space. Yustin would run in front of me, and I’m only 3-5m behind her. Sometimes I caught up with her and run side by side for a few minutes, sometimes I just stayed in the back. We were enjoying our run.
After the second tunnel, we’re back on the highway, of course with uphills and downhills greeting us at every sight. We can feel strong winds brushing past us and I put up my hoodie and zipped up my jacket. By 30km, the route was merged with the half-marathon runners. I saw Yustin tried to get off course because we wanted to do a light stretch at 30km, as agreed. I told her that I’m okay to keep on running, and she also said the same, so we kept on running.
The sudden merge of runners joining us kinda made me panic a little as I lost sight of Yustin who’s always running in front of me. So, I pushed myself to run faster and caught up with her at km 31. I can’t believe that I’m running at pace 5’35″ at almost 32km, trying to catch up with her. At 34km, we enter the last tunnel on-route. This tunnel is unique because we can hear runners shouting inside the tunnel. You get the energy going from all the screams. I took out my iPhone and took some pictures and videos. We started to run in a relax mode, because the last check point is at the end of the tunnel and we’re pretty much waaayy ahead of time. So we took pictures (while running), took a small break by walking & running alternatively. We felt good cuz the finish line is only less than 7km as soon as we exited the tunnel.
Then, we saw series of uphill and downhill courses yet again. Damn, still an uphill course at km 39?? Though our feet are already tired, we still find the energy to run, though slowly but at steady pace. At this point, we’re not really pushing ourselves anymore. We’re tired, but we know we still have the energy left, but we’re taking our time. The uphill course at 200m elevation going to left or right turn is not helping, but we determined to get past it. Walking only slows us down and my feet hurt even more when I walk, so I chose to run .. slowly.
Then we saw that the last highway is going to take us to Causeway Bay, the end is near! Then at 41km, it goes up to the highway again, followed closely with going downhill. We start seeing a lot of supporters lining up on the side of the streets, cheering for us. Some even offer us with fruits, cakes, chocolates, anything. I took grapes from one of the supporters and it felt good chewing it down.
Yustin and I, at this point, kept our running steady at 6’50″ pace/km. As we get to a more familiar area, around the fashion shopping district that would lead us to the finish line, we started to pick up our pace. As soon as we turned to the green platform where we finally see the finish line at 200 meters away, we gathered all our strengths and energy and ran as fast as we could.
We saw the clock at 5 hours 10 minutes 50+ seconds, so I shouted to Yustin, let’s finish this before it turns 5 hours 12 minutes. So we ran as fast as we could.. and just about we crossed the finish line, Yustin took her hand out and I took it, we ran crossing the finish line together, hand-in-hand!! Our watch says that we were running with 5’05″ pace/km when we charged to the finish line, and we finished it at 5 hours 11 minutes 50+ seconds. The official result is actually 5 hours 11 minutes 7 seconds.
We hugged at the finish line and gathered with other runners to take our finisher medal. What a great race and a memorable moment!
ABOUT THE RACE
Despite of the hilly course, the view was really great. We both enjoyed running the course. Do we want to go back again? Maybe not. At least not so soon. The hills still haunt us LOL
The water station was really great!! We made a point to stop by at every water station to gulp some water, and kept ourselves hydrated, despite that both of us felt the need to pee from the start. I think it’s more because of the nervousness, because we ended up not taking any toilet break for the whole course.
The water station was abundance. When we saw the route map, we thought we may need to bring our water bottles because the web says that they only provide water at every 5km. Turns out, they have plenty of it and no queue was in sight. The water station was placed for a long stretch so we did not need to queue or even walk to grab a cup. Can just grab it while still running slowly. I love the sports drink the most, it’s actually Watson’s sport drink. What I love about it is that it comes in tetra pack. So I usually grabbed one and carry it with me. The drink is non carbonated and has a refreshing taste, like there’s mint it in, so it really helps to refresh us. I tried to look for the drink after the race but couldn’t find it. Would love to bring them back to Singapore, since I never see them at the Watson’s store before.
After the medal, we also received a bag with a pear, a banana, a bottle of water and another pack of sports drink. It also has a towel and other goodies.
The baggage deposit also quite fast to retrieve. We didn’t put our baggage deposit at marathon area, instead we asked Mia to drop it using her tag. Cuz her race didn’t start until 8AM so she has plenty of time to drop the bag. At first we didn’t want to have a bag deposit, but considering that our clothes would be wet with sweat and the weather would still be cold, we thought warmer dry clothes would definitely needed. Glad we did have them ready.
We were glad that we didn’t have any pain after the run. We managed to just relax at the hotel and grabbed our dinner with other runners, nearby our hotel. Walking was a workout on its own, but we’re not in pain.
We left Hongkong the next day and we almost recovered from the race. We can still feel the muscle pain, but not so much that we cannot walk.
Yustin came by and stayed at my place for one more night before taking a flight back home to Jakarta, while Mia took the plane ride straight to Jakarta. Yustin and I managed to had a recovery run the next day, an easy jog around the reservoir and we felt great afterwards.
Definitely a memorable first marathon experience! Thanks for everyone who supports us in the journey. My husband who would willingly cover for me while I’m gone out for my long runs on Sundays or on the race day itself. My kids who are used to waking up without me on their side, sacrificing our weekend baking sessions cuz I would not be back from my run or too tired to do it. My parents who took the time to come to Singapore, so the kids won’t be feeling so lost without me around, and at least it gives me a peaceful mind while I took on the race. Thanks to all MamaRunners who always give us support from beginning to the end. Thanks to other runners we met on the streets during the race, the old guy who was running carrying a bag, or the visually-impaired runner who would run with a smile, following his guide runner. They are all our inspiration and kept us going to finish line, including Annif who stayed with us the first 7km, and finished with a PB. Mia, our roommate and amazing person, who managed to finished her half-marathon with great timing despite of her plantar injury. So proud of you!!
We are all winners!! Congrats!