When I first wanted to run this race, I wasn't sure whether to do the Half Marathon (21km) or the Full Marathon (42.2km). The reason being is that I have been running the half marathon distance for quite some time but my finish times usually range from 2:45 to 2:55 and in most of these races, I'm tired and spent when I finish them.
This being Hong Kong, the organizers implemented a very strict cut off time of 3 hours for the half marathon and 6 hours for the full marathon. Given the hard time I finish a regular 21km race and how hilly this course is known for, I was scared to even do the 21km distance as there was just a 5 -15 minute leeway from my normal finish time, and that's for races that didn't have a lot of hills!
So I sent a text message to Alvin to see if he could train me again. To note, the last time he trained me, which was way back in 2009, I was able to get fast and lower my first marathon time of 6:30++ to a time of 4:52++ for my second marathon! But I was thinner and faster back then. Now, I'm just all fats! Haha!
Alvin was all for it and asked me my goal. I simply replied, "to go home with a finisher medal". Then, I asked Alvin whether I should just do the half marathon distance and he to train me for a 2:30 finish time. He said no and that I should go all out for the full marathon. I was skeptic and kept insisting that it would be hard as the cut-off time was just my 21km race pace (and a burnt out one) and this was double that distance AND on a hilly course.
But since he already committed himself to train me, I signed up for the 42km distance and hoped to be strong enough to finish it within 6 hours.
That was back in late August 2010, and our few runs together had me just running at my normal pace and Alvin observing me. He basically saw me burn out (again) in a 21km distance by walking at 15km mark and walking every time we would climb a hill. I would take a lot of liquids and just feel exhausted. Alvin reduced my long run mileages and we would run that faster. We would also run in Ultra's Oval Track and do some 200 meters and 400 meters loops around it. On Thursdays, we would do a tempo runs and just keep increasing the distance. Weekends were reserved for long runs or sometimes, a fast 10km (vomit mode).
But along the way, I got sick (and got hit by shingles on a separate time). I got tired of running too. And I was hitting the wall again. So he re-assessed me and I did some changes in my eating habits (ate more!) and did some core work (push ups, sit ups, kettle bells, etc.). And I got better and faster..
After a few months time, it was finally the Hong Kong trip! As I left for the airport with Per, Alvin's last text message to me was "You are ready!"
With all that training, I can confidently say, "Yes, I am!"
Our nice budget hotel was just 200 meters from the starting line so it was quite easy for us to get to the starting line. As the elite runners would have their race first 15 minutes before we had ours, I, along with other runners, were in the waiting zone of Nathan Road.
This was a point to point race with the finish line being on the other side of Hong Kong at Causeway Bay so Per had to travel later to head to the finish line.
Last minute stretching for this RUNNING FATBOY!
Let's Get Ready to RUMMMMBBLLE !
A final goodbye to my wife. I shall see you later at lunch time!
Race started promptly at 7:15am..
The race course was a very hilly one so for those people thinking of joining this event, you need to incorporate a lot of hill training to be prepared for it. From Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, runners would head out to West Kowloon Highway and to the very long and hilly (but very nice and grand as well) Stonecutter's Bridge after which, we headed inside Nam Wan tunnel, where there is no GPS signal. But the tunnel is short and soon after we exited it, the next steep bridge comes into view: Tsing Ma Bridge. Thankfully, we didn't have to run it the entire way and turned back at one point as we headed to the third bridge, Ting Kau bridge. It was on Tsing Ma Bridge that the first cut-off was imposed at 9:30am and where I first saw runners heading back.
As I crossed the first check point area, I mentally crossed it off my list... one check point done, four more to go! The next one was at 20km mark with a cut-off time of 2:55.
The big yellow double decker buses were a motivation tool for me to go faster. I DO NOT WANT TO RIDE THESE BUSES!!! These buses would pass us by along the route and I could see the runners inside, looking at us. Some were sad while others were eating and being comfortable that they can now rest.
Tsing Ma Bridge was quite long too and by the time I was done with it, I was feeling a little bit tired already. Luckily, there were enough water here and they also had a local energy drink given out to runners. I also took my second GU gel at this point and headed out to Cheung Tsing Tunnel, which was very long (I think more than 1 kilometer). During that time, I was running blind as I didn't know the pace I was running as my Garmin didn't work inside tunnels. I checked off the second check point as I got out of the tunnel.
Halfway done (and I was still feeling good)! Temperature ranged from 17 -20 degrees Celsius, good enough for me!
At 28km (I think), we got mixed with the half marathoners and it became especially difficult for me as roads became more congested and I had to do more weaving. It was also affecting me as I saw a lot of people walking and I wanted to walk with them! But I kept going and kept running and saw some Pinoys running too.
The final tunnel was the longest one there is (I think at 2km maybe?) and this tunnel was the one connecting Kowloon Island and Hong Kong Island. Again, the Garmin didn't work inside so I had to run based on feeling. It was hard to run inside too as there was no air. By this point, there were a lot of runners cramping and stopping at the side to massage their legs. A lot of walkers too. It was difficult and tiring and where were the bananas and chocolates that were indicated in the runner's guide but I still failed to see?
I took another GU at this point, losing track of the pieces I have taken already but comforted with the fact that I still have at least 1 more in my belt.
As I (finally) finished running inside Western Harbour Tunnel and got outside again, I saw that we had to run upward on a flyover!
It was disheartening to see another uphill battle and I felt my legs tensing and tired already. It was at this point that I decided to walk a bit to loosen my tight legs. I was exhausted and felt I was far from the finish line. This was around 35 -37km. I took my last GU gel and ran again. Still no bananas in sight and I was running on empty!
I ran on Central, on Admiralty, along Wan Chai as I slowly but surely neared Causeway Bay. I can't wait to finish! I can't wait to see Per!
Inside Causeway Bay, I ran towards Victoria Park. My Garmin watch moved slowly toward the 5-hour mark and I knew I would not make it. I saw Per at the sidelines cheering for me and excited that I am well. I was glad to see her too and ran slowly towards the finish line.
I kept looking at my Garmin and saw that it had reached 42.2km and I was at 4:59:10 but the finish line wasn't there yet! Darn! I had second thoughts of stopping the Garmin watch there and just walking the remaining distance but felt that that wasn't fair! I can't honestly say I did a sub-5 marathon when I haven't crossed the finish line yet!
I reached the 5 hour mark and the finish line was still far off. Oh well!
I finally crossed the finish line at a time of 5:02:17 (gun time 5:04:17) with a distance of 42.6km. I have achieved my target pace of 7:06 for a sub-5 hour finish time but I hadn't anticipate the longer distance here. It must have been all the weaving I had done.
Still, I'm very happy with my finish time for this very hilly course and even with that, it was my 2nd fastest marathon (out of 6) and that's saying a lot! I did not beat my 4:52 time but at that time (as already mentioned), I was thinner and faster and it was on a very flat course.
I wouldn't have been able to finish this race without proper training and without Alvin to coach me. By myself, I would most likely be one of the people inside the yellow bus, or I wouldn't even have considered running this long distance.
Again, I'm grateful for two people for being able to finish this race - Alvin for his patience and skills in training me and for putting up with all my whining (and there were a lot of them!) and for his very hands on coaching style (texting every day too in terms of how I felt, what I ate, etc.). He was able to make me cut down my 21km time from 2:45 to a time of 2:25 and do a sub 1 hour 10km (TWICE!).
I'm also grateful for my wife Per for her understanding and giving me all the time I need to be ready for this race! She was my back up coach for those days I'm too lazy to do some core work or when Alvin wasn't available to train me on a running day.
They ran this race with me on this day and were equally proud of my achievements!
Of course, none of this would have been possible without God by my side. He took away my injury and my pain. He took away my anxiety and self-doubt and showed me the way... to the finish line.
To God Be the Glory!
Now for the pictures from the race...
As I was running my race, Per had a different race of her own - weaving through the thousands of spectators to get a good spot of me near the finish line... and carrying my heavy duty red bag (which had my extra clothes) the entire time!
Some unique costumes during the race:
Strong in the Force they are!
Where I saw Per at Causeway Bay for the final part (yes, forefoot running!).
XTEP is now the sponsor for this event (they made the race shirts). Whatever happened to New Balance? Still, good quality shirts XTEP!
HK Marathon Finisher!
I loved running on this green mat! So soft for my tired feet!
The following day - where the race all began! Surreal feeling that I had just finished this race (and doing two marathons in two weeks!)
ABSOLUTE RUNNER! And proud of it!
Gun Time: 5:04:17
Chip Time: 5:02:17
10km Time: 1:14:15
21.1km Time: 2:32:35
30km Time: 3:35:17
Overall Position: 2,093/ 4,501 (for my race category only)