My second half marathon event – and a new personal record.
The Brooks Half Marathon held on Sunday, 3rd March, was my first race event for 2013 – and also my second half marathon. I was looking forward to it as it has been nearly 5 months since my maiden 21km. This was also my second time participating in the Bukit Jalil Running Club event; I ran the 10k last year.
The day started early, I woke up at 3am, only to find myself grinning from ear to ear when I received a mention on FB from running guru slash goddess and Women’s Running magazine editor Jenny Hadfield! She had asked what we were planning to do that weekend so I responded with info on my upcoming race. What a truly great start to the day!
The Game Plan
I had very modest targets on completing this race. I wanted to:
- finish the race with no injuries
- finish 21.1km under 3 hours, specifically within 2h 40m, plus minus – with an average pace of less than 8min/km
- most importantly, enjoy the run! Hills, loose stones (the route is notorious for having stones littered) and all!
I also did three things differently in this race:
- Ran with my new fuel belt (with only two bottles filled with my electrolyte lemon tablet mixture) and two energy gels (I lost one while running, shoot). Save for that one time I ran in SCKLM 2011 with my pink Reebok water bottle (novice!), I have never raced with water on me because I usually rely on the water stations but I am glad I did this time because the water stops were absolutely mad. The organizers didn’t provide any food for refueling during the half marathon either (imagine that) so my 1 power gel and some chocolate-covered dates came in handy.
Made and wore a pace band to help me keep to my target pace. I personally found this little trick useful and would highly recommend it to anyone who needs help with keeping to her time and is diligent enough to actually print out one. Make sure you waterproof it with clear cellophane tape. 🙂
Because I couldn’t find a pace band maker that did a “very negative split” timing (most focused on even paces, which -while ideal- is not very realistic for me), I made my own by combining two website resources to come up with the perfect pace band timing for me. I referred to Running for Fitness race split calculator to find out my desired “negative splits” and then used the Excel sheet template from Katy Fit to manually populate the KMs and split times. This took a little bit more work, and until I find a way to automate this myself, this workaround will have to do.
- Brought my iPod shuffle with me – but left it in my fuel belt pocket out of preference to just listen to my breathing and my surroundings. Since I started training over longer distances on public roads end of last year, listening to music has become a no-no in favor of safety. In the process, I have weaned off the music! Not that music’s a bad thing, it’s just that I no longer require it to keep myself motivated.
This year’s starting line was not inside the Bukit Jalil National Stadium like last year – instead it took place in the parking lot, much to the disappointment of runners who were joining the Brooks event for the first time. Because of this I am glad I participated in last year’s race – at least I got to taste running inside the stadium track towards the finishing line.
Of 12,000 participants total, 5,200+ signed up for the Half Marathon (the others were for 10k). As I’m standing in the crowd I suddenly notice the crowd surging forward – which could only mean one thing: the race had started! However I didn’t hear any countdown from the emcee, which is usually the fun part of the starting. Perhaps I was way too far in the back. But at any rate, we were starting!
The half marathon was flagged off at 5:30am so it was still pretty dark outside. It took me 4 minutes to reach the timing mat, which was the official start time of my personal race.
Since I had run the 10km route last year, I knew Bukit Jalil is not a flat course. In fact its notoriety as a hilly course has put off some runners I know from even wanting to sign up for the race! I studied and pored over the course and its elevation gains just so I would be mentally prepared for it.
The first 2km was pretty much on the highway, then just before km3 we veered left into a neighbourhood called Taman Bukit Indah, all the way around the area until we hit km7 – and I thought wow, if a runner actually lived around there it’d be easy for them to sneak off home to use the bathroom or even get a cool drink out of their fridge! 😀
We then turned left and into a smaller road that runs parallel with the Putrajaya-Kuala Lumpur highway. As we’re running there buses and trucks thunder and zoom by us on the neighboring highway with such ferocity and speed that I was so thankful we were running on a lonelier path.
About 8.5km into the race we had to U-turn and then make our way back to Bukit Jalil territory till km12, after which we turned right and had to run all the way around the vicinity of the Bukit Jalil golf course. Around km10 when I hit the 3rd (I think) water station I tore open my power gel and wolfed it down. However because I had kept it tucked under my fuel belt near my tummy the gel was all warm, so swallowing it was almost nauseating. I managed to wash it down with 2 cups of water. While I was at it, I munched on a chocolate-date and then off I went.
Just before that water station, there were two cars just screeching madly down the road. I jumped out of my skin and literally jumped on instinct to the side of the pavement because I was scared to get mangled by these mad drivers. I tell you, Bukit Jalil has some really irate drivers. At almost every other junction I came across where cars had to stop, there would be one or two impatient drivers honking angrily – to which the male runners would boo in unison! It was pretty hilarious.
The Final 5km
Up until km13-14, I was pretty much checking the progress of my timing based on my pace band and my Garmin watch. However as I reached the last 5km, I decided to wing it and just went by feeling. The last hill was from km16-17, so I just took it in stride and assumed it was another Bukit Cinta (a hilly running spot where I normally train every Wednesday night). I remembered the words of a senior runner going, “ingat ankling!”, remembering to flick my ankles with every step. Oh the arms, don’t forget the arm swings! When I’m tired that helps me loads, especially going up hills.
The last km always seems to feel like forever, but eventually I got there with hundreds of other runners. We didn’t run glamorously into the stadium like we did last year, but rather into a finish line arch that was set simply in the parking lot area again. I stopped my watch and looked at my self net timing of 2:48:53. It wasn’t 2:40:00, but it sure was under 3 hours and within a 2:40-something! Was I happy? You bet! The official results would later come in at 2:49:18. That’s a pretty huge margin there. A friend even complained that her self-timing was off from the official finishing time by as much as 5 minutes!
After picking up my finisher’s t-shirt and medal, I noticed a girl who had run a 5km also getting in line for a t-shirt. Strange I thought. She was then asked to leave without picking up a t-shirt of course, since they were only for the half marathoners.
Before I queued up for my recovery Milo drinks (like a maniac, I took four cups!), I caught up Karen Siah who is always so gracious and friendly – and even congratulated me on my improved timing. I also met other friends eventually and we took photos together, as we runners always do at these meets.
It was a happy ending for most. But not for all.
The Sobering Incident
While heading back home I received some text messages from a doctor friend who informed us she had abandoned her half marathon at km13 (she was going at a great pace too – it was 85 minutes into her run) to get into an ambulance with a male runner in his early 50s who had collapsed and stopped breathing. Alas, while CPR has been performed profusely on the man, he was long gone, the heart attack did it. I admire my doctor friend for jumping into action to heed the noble calling of her profession. When she finally returned from the hospital the organizers had asked her to step onto the finishing mat to end the race. She refused.
To the families and friends who lost a loved one that day, my deep condolences on your loss.
While the race did not end happily for a certain few, most of us relished the day. Most broke personal records, a few achieved what they loving termed their “personal worsts.” Here are my takeaways from Brooks HM:
- The route. It was challenging and varied terrain.
- The quick giveaway of finisher’s tee and cup. The trophy cup was a cute memento.
- That I improved my half marathon timing by 12 minutes, give or take. True to my goal, my average pace was 7:55min/km.
- Traffic mannerism from fellow Malaysians.
- More isotonic drinks and options for refueling – although this did not affect me personally since I carried my own electrolytes and energy restock, I’ve heard complaints from other runners about the organizers only having 1 table of isotonic drinks for the half marathoners. No bananas, no power gels even for refueling. Bottom line: trust only yourself when it comes to these preparations, don’t leave it to chance.
- The start and finish lines – the fact that they had it in the stadium last year was awesome! Now it’s just a memory.
- Some areas on the route were dark and poorly lit (if at all), making running almost hazardous, especially when downhills are involved. Again heard some runners ran into potholes and such, ouch.
- The finisher t-shirt design. I mean the orange is fine, but some have commented that the words 5km, 10km, 21km were all printed on there. So what is the t-shirt a finisher indicator of? All three events? 😀
- The food stalls were – in my opinion – placed so far apart in the huge parking lot (the watermelons, the tau foo far, and who knows what other goodies I missed out) that I didn’t even bother. I liked how they were placed around the immediate perimeter of the stadium last year, under the shade!
- My anti-chafing management. I had neglected to apply Vaseline on my body’s hot spots and came back looking and feeling like I had just gotten out of a fight with 3 clawing cats. The shower post-run was torturous!
So did I reach all three goals which I set myself for this race? I achieved them all – except if you consider chafing as an injury!
So that was my day at Brooks Half Marathon 2013. Every race and run for me is a lesson, a reflection and a reminder to appreciate and relish life, and the simple truth that what you put in is exactly what you get out of.
I will keep to my resolution to make 2013 my half marathon year. So next halfie, bring it on!