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December 2, 2019

One moment you’re all pumped up in anticipation for doing the extraordinary and perhaps improving the Comrades seeding, the next moment you’re exhausted, drenched and heading home (almost) empty handed. That’s the brief summary of the Singapore Marathon experience for me, but as usual it’s how we arrive at the conclusion that requires further investigation.

Truth be told I probably was so afraid of not preparing well on raceday that I struggled prior to boarding the MRT to the race precinct. I may have been so fearful of eating so close to the race start or drinking something that I wasn’t meant to that I ended up not consuming anything at all until purchasing an Ovalteenies drink and some Skittles at a nearby 7-Eleven. The fact that I couldn’t find a Gatorade or Powerade type drink (more on the electrolytes used in the race later) added to the fear, especially when I was still uncertain of the bottled water I received upon arrival on the Wednesday night at my motel. The fact that the last semi proper meal that I ate was some Singaporean KFC (cheesy bolognaise on french fries was too great to resist) at Friday lunchtime didn’t help either. Not that I felt sick or anything like that, but the fact that almost all the nearby establishments were seafood outlets (I don’t consume Seafood) and the fact I was a little scared to go to the Canadian Pizza shop across the road must have had some impact.

The previous night may not have helped either, although I probably wouldn’t have changed what I did for a second. Desperate to get in some sights I was determined to have a look at Gardens by the Bay at Sunset for spectacular effect. The flipside to that was instead of either resting up or having a nice meal somewhere, the night before the big race was spent cruising around nature and even doing a spot of Christmas shopping (one sibling complete for S$23). Soul food to relax the mind could be seen as a key preparation element for some runners, so doing this and wandering through the gardens and the domes would be something I’d do again (tourists note: if doing the flower dome it’s the SMELL rather than the LOOK that is the attraction), although I may have been better off doing this on Thursday Night to free up the Friday.

In any case, the MRT trip was smooth enough but for the first time in a while I didn’t wear my race shoes until I got off the train, having to store thongs (OK, flip-flops) in the transparent gear bag. I was switched on enough to do this whilst indoors near the MRT stop, knowing that doing this outside in the warmth would be undoubtedly tougher for the feet to handle. With all the gear including blue zinc applied, some happy snaps taken and a shorter less intense warm up undertaken in light of the failings post warm ups in Melbourne and to a lesser extent Hobart, it was time to wander through the pit garage of fate and onto the track for a date with destiny.

The date with destiny had a slight delay before it became reality. I’m used to waiting on the start line before crossing it, three trips to Comrades will do that to you, but this was the first time since the City2Surf in 2017 that I took part in a wave start. For marathons they probably are in bigger events a necessary evil, but I’m not a massive fan of them, particularly in the warmer climate of Singapore. Waiting around in the start precinct may have been taxing enough, but to wait for over 15 minutes and 3 waves (plus the wheelchair athletes who started 5 minutes prior to the elites) in oppressive heat without access to fluids unless you were self sufficient and crammed in to a relatively tiny space was ordinary. What made this worse was that the Half Marathon starters were also mixed in with their start being at the same time. Given the Singapore Marathon is ambitious in wanting to be the 7th Major, perhaps they need to look at the timing of the half marathon in order to avoid two separate races mixed in together for 17 kilometres, unless the elites want to use a half marathon runner as a pacemaker for the early stages which I would imagine is slightly against the norm.

Eventually the horn was sounded to release the D wave, and it was practically a slow burner for the first mile or so. With everyone so bunched and half marathoners either getting in the way or trying to get out of the way of marathoners, the pace would well and truly be off, not that I minded that much. Then the troubles really started. Usually in marathons I’m not looking to do any type of walking until the second or third drink station (climate dictated that I would be planning to be stopping at every station for water only), but the heat and humidity was such that I was walking through station one, and walking for longer than anticipated. Still things were running relatively smoothly for the first 7km or so up to the first changeover point for racers in the Ekiden (for want of a better term, that was a 6 person relay). The legs started to feel sore and heavy and the body was feeling warmer than usual. Not wanting to panic I decided to revert to a Comrades cooling strategy that seemed to work reasonably well, splashing water down the shirt front and back and on my cap. It didn’t really help save for a short ‘sugar hit’ before I started running again.

It started coming to a head just prior to the halfway mark. The legs were very heavy particularly in the quads, it wasn’t a cramp but the weariness rendered me useless. I was praying that the forecast storms (which never came) would at least cool the residual heat off the road to make it bearable for me, but I was really struggling. My head was also starting to throb and the sight of a medical tent was welcomed. I remember asking someone if I was still “with it”, as in was I still functioning well to them as I was unsure myself? They decided to take measures of heartbeat and blood pressure, then proceded to lay me down and douse me with half a dozen bottles of water before providing me with the electrolyte drink I was keen to avoid due to not testing it before (they do say never try anything new on race day). They had also seemingly put some of this in another bottle of water which tasted like absolute crap. I basically lay on the ground hoping the headache would clear, although at times the lights of a nearby tower seemed fuzzier than normal.

After about 30 minutes they repeated the dousing of my body with water, which my body reacted to with a little shock, it had been some time since the body felt that cold. Conversation was made with a couple of the volunteers, although even if I was in reasonable condition I’m not sure if they would have fully understood me, such was the language barrier even though I was speaking English. It took over an hour before I felt in reasonable condition to keep going, even if I was given the option of either waiting for transport to take me back to the start precinct or to walk there of my own accord. Given the wait time for the bus, I decided to walk, but if I was going to walk it would be continuing on the course.

For the next 7km I was able to walk relatively briskly and I also managed to pass other walkers with ease and regularity. Still I felt as though walking was the only thing I was able to do, although I did tell myself that if I saw any semblance of a downhill section I would attempt to jog it. Everything seemed reasonable until I just passed the 27km marker, when the eyes started going weary as though I needed to fall asleep. I’m not sure if I was staggering across the road or not (nobody could confirm this) but I knew if I saw a medical tent I would at least seek some advice to see if anything could be done. Instead of this though, I just asked for a chair, leant my head against a lamp post, and started dozing off. I don’t think those manning the tent had seen anything like this, but for me the exhaustion was such that I couldn’t help seeing if a power nap would assist. It turned into a full on snooze until the last of the competitors wandered through the area and a bus came to collect a number of those unable to continue. I simply found a seat by a window, and went back to sleep such was the weariness that I was feeling. This was something I’m not sure if anyone has done whilst exercising, so I hope I’m not alone. The reality though was if I was struggling to stay awake on the course, I knew I would be a danger to those still on the course.

Post race was a little shambolic, starting with my mother (who had flown herself over a day after I flew in) not sure why I was on the other side of the barrier. Finding a way back to baggage drop at the F1 pit building meant a walk over a bridge, but by the time that happened I had to find a taxi or other mode of transport back to the motel knowing I had to be back at the airport in a matter of hours. The lesson for tourists is to download the ComfortDelGro Booking App, where a taxi would be confirmed at a set price in a matter of minutes, rather than downloading the Grab App whose vehicle “booking” was still pending over an hour after the request was made. At least I made it back to Changi with plenty of time to finally refuel thanks to Lounge Access.

So what did I learn for any potential return appearance in Singapore?

  • Well perhaps not wearing so much upper leg clothing may have helped. I was wearing 4 layers incorporating shorts, skin coloured tights, half dark coloured tights and standard underwear.
  • For night racing, eat properly and have some sort of lunch before the start.
  • Perhaps arrive at the start precinct later to keep the body temperature as normal as possible, arrive just over an hour before, warm up as you head to bag drop and go from there.
  • Listen to the body, perhaps this was one race too many given I had never done so many kilometres in a year
  • If it gets desperate, lure 5 other mates to do the Ekiden so we could share the glory!

In the next week I’ll be able to confirm next year’s schedule. With the 4th attempt at Comrades being the centrepiece the planning for that starts now in a logistical sense. Physically, I’m just looking forward to having a full month off running, the legs I know need it and the mind will be occupied with other things.


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