The Sundown Marathon has been around for a fairly long time. Starting out as the Adidas Sundown Marathon (as the official co-sponsor) from 2008 to 2010, it has since been co-sponsored by New Balance since 2011.
I consider myself unlucky not to have started out running when the first Sundown Marathon. Back in 2008, I just started serving my National Service and didn’t have much interest in running till late 2009. Being the 5th Anniversary for the Sundown Event, I participated in this one no differently that I would any road race I’ve done in the past.
However, I would be attending the run with two of my good friends; Anwar, who was running his 2nd Sundown Half-Marathon (after much coaxing) and Andy, my training buddy who was running his first Full-Marathon. Andy had already ran the Nathan City Run and the Sabah Adventure Challenge prior to this, but has probably never ran the Full-Marathon distance non-stop.
To add to the company, I was at the start line with Ian, a fellow runner whom I got to know a year or so ago during my internship at the Athletes Clinic. We met again at the Salomon X-Trail, thereafter, becoming friends and eventually fellow athlete for Nuke Optics. Ian of course was well know for his charity work by running the Marathon des Sables, alongside another Nuke Athlete, Wei Chong. More information about that can be found here.
The route this year was fairly similar as with previous years. Some differences however, include a fairly early entry into East Coast Park at 10km, as well as the absence of running across the Marina Barrage on the last few km’s (instead, running the ECP back into Sheares Avenue)
Race gear wise, much of it remains similar to what I have been using for marathons. Salomon makes great gear that can be used not just for trail running, but also for road running. I opted for the twin-skin shorts as it had 3 back pockets to stash my safety light and gels, and a front pocket to hold a soft flask. I also oped to race with the New Balance RC1400V2‘s, given that I have been training with it for 2 weeks. But that didn’t turn out so well (see race strategy below on why).
In terms of race strategy, there were some tweaks made. I repeated my nutrition strategy of eating only GU Chomps and avoiding gels the best I could for the first half of the race. Carrying a soft flask meant that I could swig some water after munching on the chomps without having to stop at a water station (however, I realized after a few kilometers that the soft flask was leaking pretty badly). I also depended less on isotonic drinks on the first 10km, and only took swigs when needed. I took time to eat the bananas given at the later water stations, carrying them as I was running and taking small bites along the way.
I was running an average of under 6 min/km for the first 21km, something I didn’t notice too much early on as I felt that my run was good. So I kept going, even leading a bunch of runners till the half way mark of the course. En-route to the 23-24km after the u-turn, Andy shouted out to me. After running 4 Sundown events without ‘proper competition’, my first thought was to run faster!
Despite the good start, things eventually started to turn bad. At the 30km mark, my right toe started to hurt pretty bad. I was hoping that the RC1400V2’s would hold on for the entire race, but that wasn’t the case. After stopping and letting the pain subside for a while, I hobbled back to the course. By then I had already lost momentum and I knew that a sub-4 hour marathon was not to be. I did consider DNF’ing, but I know I’d rather slug it out than stop.
I fought on. And from this point on, I made the most of running/stopping/hobbling to the check points, taking swigs of water here and there and generally rebuilding my thoughts. I was relieved when I saw the road leading out of East Coast Park. As I made the run out, I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Anwar, walking on the half-marathon course. I shouted to him and walked with him for a while before I continued on my way.
I was a good 8 km from the finish when another problem then developed. I had a really painful side stitch on the right hand side on my abdomen as I started running. As I tried to start running, the pain would come on, and despite my efforts to run in them, I would stop ever so often to let it subside before trying again. And so my attempts to run up the ECP slopes failed and it was back to run/stop/hobble for the last stretch.
But good runners are always there to give you a hand. During my struggle, a pat on the back came from a runner who enthusiastically told me to keep going. He was NUS alumni, clad in a NUS SCMS Marathon singlet from 2009. Like myself, he too was struggling on the course. When he ran I stopped and when I ran he stopped. Eventually, we gave each other enough motivation to cross the finish line strong.
Despite not being able to achieve my dream sub-4 hour marathon, I did set a personal race record (by 10 minutes) and a personal best of the marathon at 04:23:24, coming in at 210th place. A remarkable achievement for me given the amount of mishaps that happened during the course of the race. My buddy Andy did very well on his first Full-Marathon attempt, coming in at 04:44:00. It was a hard race for most runners, perhaps because of the humidity.
And that culminates in my 8th marathon. Many lessons learnt, not just about racing strategy, but sometimes about what you are really capable off. While I’ am slowly moving away from road racing (I still enjoy running of course), Sundown would definitely be one those races I’ll look forward to taking part ever year.
I’ll be taking a short break from running now as I just completed my Lasik operation, but I hope to get back to running soon. Cheers and thanks for stopping by!