Kuching Marathon 2016 Race Report: Miracles Do Happen! First b2b full marathon, first podium finish (#10 men veteran) and personal best time

August 14, 2016 was my second time participating in Kuching Marathon. Last year was my first and I enjoyed the local feel of the boutique race so much so that I wrote a race report to recommend people to come. You can read my Kuching Marathon 2015 race report here.

However this year was a bit different. Coincidentally Kuching Marathon 2016 was held 1 week right after Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2016 (SCKLM 2016). Having registered for both, I ended up running my first ever back to back full marathon.  Haha!

At times I wonder what I have got myself into. Back to back full marathon? Sure? My legs aren't made of iron or steel you know. A DNS or early withdrawal is a no no since I have paid for the race, air ticket and hotel accommodation. And I also wanted to truly experience how it is like to run a b2b full marathon and look forward to have another wonderful running experience at Kuching Marathon 2016 after last year's unforgettable experience. So I decided to give myself full rest with no run at all the whole week right after SCKLM 2016 leading to Kuching Marathon 2016.

Race Day
With an early 2am start time, I managed to sleep for about 2 hours only. Not much. But it was definitely better than the sleepless night before SCKLM 2016 the week before. :) Additionally, the hotel was just 5-minute walking distance to the race venue Plaza Merdeka. Very convenient indeed.

Did I feel stressed, tensed and as gan chong as SCKLM2016? Not at all. I felt more relaxed due to the fact that I already achieved finish time I wanted at SCKLM 2016. And with a holiday mood,  any positive outcome of Kuching Marathon 2016 would be a bonus. :)

I decided to wear the dark blue SCKLM 2016 Adidas running vest for the first time for this race. In case my mental strength was weakened during the race, I could then relive SCKLM 2016's experience  in my memory to give me the mental boost.

I also decided to wear my orange Saucony Kinvara 6 to race for the first time. This whole year I have been wearing my white Saucony Kinvara 6 to race (3 full marathons and one 30 km race). But I decided to use Kuching Marathon 2016 as a test ground with my newly bought 2nd pair of Saucony Kinvara 6. Bright orange color! Wow!

Oh not to forget that I also decided to wear 2 watches: Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch which I expected the battery to die on me around 36km and Timex Ironman Triathlon digital watch for contingency purpose.

Start Line
It was a small crowd of 1,561 FM participants at Kuching Marathon 2016 compared to a very large crowd at SCKLM 2016.

I like the small crowd as it gave me the kampung boutique feel of the race. 

I said hi to few friends at start line and we encouraged each other to achieve one's own personal goals.

A few friends strived to achieve their first sub 4 FM and one friend wanted to achieve her first sub 5. Another friend wanted to make up for his disappointment for not being able to complete last week's SCKLM 2016 due to heat stroke at 41 km

In fact few of us were doing back to back full marathons.  :) crazy bunch? Right? Well, blame it on SCKLM2016 for organising it one week before SCKLM 2016. lol!

As for me, the sub 4 pressure was off since SCKLM 2016. And I wanted to try to see if I could improve my time and hold on to 5:25 min / km pace as long as possible. Above all that, I wanted to enjoy the beautiful kampung running which I miss greatly. 

1-10 km
Took me 10 km to have an average pace of 5.30 min / km
As usual, I started slow. It took me 58 sec to cross the start line as I didn't stand in front. 

It was going to be a long journey ahead so I thought of slowly warming up to my targeted constant pace of 5:25 min per km.

For the first 1-10 km, my speed was rather inconsistent. I ran slightly faster at 5-8 km to catch up with my target average speed. By the time I reached 10 km, only then I managed to have an average speed of 5:30 min / km.

At around 10 km, I managed to catch up with few friends who were trying to achieve their first sub 4 in local races. I was very happy to see both of them pacing each other at speed which would bring them to sub 4. 

I then saw my dear weekly running friend who had a heat stroke during SCKLM 2016 and was hospitalized. I was very thrilled to bump into him at the water station and seeing him drinking water. He was also doing at a slower pace. Health came first!! And I admired his "self control" from running faster. You see - he is a sub 4 runner. :) It's quite hard for someone like him to run 1 hour slower than his usual pace. :) Salute him!

By the way, I had been stopping at every water station for my refill. I found the volunteers to be very friendly and supportive despite the wee hours. And I said thank you to them as much as I could. 

The only thing I felt that could have improved was to provide more trash cans to throw the used paper cups. I was having challenges in finding trash cans to throw my paper cups after drinking. And I do see many used paper cups on the floor.

11-20 km

I still felt good after 10 km. And I told myself I wanted to try increasing my average speed to around 5.25 min per km. As I continued to run, I saw another friend in front. He has been one of my great encouragers in my running and triathlon journey. I paced behind him for a while, and then I ran side by side with him to have some catch up talk.

When we reached about 20 km, he asked me to go ahead first. So I slowly moved on in my quest for another sub 4.

21-30 km

Speed started to slow down and more inconsistent. Oh no - the "30 km" wall is ahead....

I was happy to have reached half way at the desired speed. But I knew for the remaining half, it would be a challenge to maintain at such average speed. Anyway, I told myself I would try my best as I was using Kuching Marathon to test out my different running strategy.

To my surprise, I saw few more familiar faces. I felt sad to see another friend walking. He was doing his 100th marathon but troubled by his injured legs. 

Another friend was running topless (yes! topless! :)) because it was too hot. He was attempting his first sub 4 too. I had a couple words with them and we encouraged each other.

As I continued on the journey, I saw the regular podium finisher in women veteran category who had run an FM in around 3:30. I have been great follower of her on Facebook but never had a chance to meet her. She is from Penang. I was quite surprise to see her. 

I guess that's the wonderful thing about running a boutique race. Not congested. And we still could see friends along the way. :)

As I continued, I bumped into another unexpected friend whom I usually couldn't even see along the 42 km journey until at finish line. He runs too fast for me. And his best time was around 3:20 or so. Wow!! simply amazing. He also helped me to achieve my sub 4 at Twin city Marathon early this year as he was the sub 4 pacer. I was running side by side with him from the start to the finish line. He was my human GPS watch. :) And I'm very grateful for his encouragement help and support for my sub 4 then when I was lacking training and encountering family matters. Truly the sub 4 gave me a big boost. Great thanks to him!

When I saw him walking at around 25 km, I was really shocked! I thought his legs cramped as he intermittently encounters such issue in races. I asked if he was ok. He nodded his head and asked me to go ahead.

One thing I would like to highlight was that at 27 km, a volunteer soaked 3-4 sponges in icy cold water and then squeezed the water over my head

Boy oh boy - the water was so so icy cold. Seriously!! The feeling was more of having ice cubes on my head! As the icy cold water was gushing down from my head, I shivered and suddenly I felt so awake!! haha! It really woke up my system!! 

The funny thing was... it also made me want to go to loo for pee pee!! :)

Therefore, at 28 km, I tak boleh tahan already and ended up standing under the shades at road side to do a standing quickie. haha! Rather funny instead as I could hear runners run pass me with their foot steps.

I actually quite enjoyed this 21-30 km stretch. Rather quiet. At times, I felt as if it was just me, the nature, the road, and the sky. Nothing else! I felt very liberated with a sense of freedom is such open space. Wonderful feeling!

I also found the volunteers at water stations to be as supportive as the first 20 km stretch. In fact, if I was not mistaken, there were also young energetic cheer leaders at the water stations. And in couple occasions, I gave them hi-five as I ran passed them. They were so happy to see my response to them with a hi-five!! 

On a separate note, I really really missed running Bali Marathon!! I could never forget the kampung feel, the school children cheering, and the villagers shouting "semangat" and me giving hi fives to them...  Such an awesome experience!! 

And I was trying to relive my experience here in Kuching!! 

Not quite - but I was happy that I could give hi fives to the cheering volunteers!!

31-42 km

Oh no - the wall! the wall! the wall! True enough, I hit the wall starting at 32 km!! I was going too fast earlier and my strategy failed!! 

My pace started to drop as I was struggling to keep the 5:25 min / km pace. 

My legs started to feel heavy. 

What more, I started to feel like giving up on trying sub 4. 

I told myself, "Hey! You already had your PB last week at SCKLM. Take it easy this round, man!"

Additionally, I knew my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch is going to die on my anytime. And I didn't have anyone I knew in sight for me to pace along (like SCKLM's pacing Sharon). 

And suddenly I felt so lonely in this dark, long, quiet stretch of road as i could only see 3-4 runners or so in sight. 

My mental strength was weakened for no obvious reason!

And when my Garmin Forerunner 10's battery died on me at 36 km as expected, I was like a punctured tyre - depleting all the air (drive and motivation) out of me!

I also felt lost

See - I have been 100% dependent on checking my average running pace on Garmin GPS watch for all my full marathons. Suddenly when there was no GPS watch telling me my pace, I felt so lost.

I said to myself once again, " Oh no! I am not going to give up now!!"

If you have read my previous sharing on races, I have always drawn my mental strength from God and most recently my mom (particularly in all 4 races this year). And I refer to my mom as a beautiful angel as how she has appeared to me in visions during races.  

I'm the type of person who doesn't like to give things up easily without giving my best shot. And if I'm determined to do something, I would want to do my best. On the other hand, if I don't want to do something, no one can easily convince me. Haha! Not sure if it is a bad thing or not. I guess it is the stubbornness or in a positive note single-mindedness that has been one of my strengths and weaknesses.

I felt very desperate as my legs weren't moving as fast as I wanted. And mentally I was about to give up. And this time, I decided to continue to cling on my hope.

Then I remember what brother Francis Yeng (3:15 elite runner at SCKLM2016) commented on one of my Facebook posts,
 "Never say never! Keep surprising yourself"
 That motivated me. 

Then I had a vision of my beautiful angel in the setting of Langkawi, our home town. I guess the Kuching's kampung feel reminded me so much of Langkawi. My beautiful angel was waiting for me at our lovely home. I could see her from afar..still shouting and cheering for me. Then I saw her sitting on the tree near our home which I built a little place for myself when small. That was where I used to hide my comic books and snacks and sweets. (Yes! I was quite naughty when small!)

I then cried out to my beautiful angel to help me. And without hesitation, suddenly she appeared right next to me running with me together in her beautiful beige color dress. At that time, I broke down. I didn't want my mom to suffer from running with me. The last time she did a fast walk with me during KL car free day, her legs felt the pain.  And I didn't want it to happen to her. So I tried to run a bit faster  giving all I could. Not so much for the sub 4 target but more for lessening the pain in my moms legs.  I thought that perhaps I could shorten the time she needed to run with me, hence lessening her leg pain.

That extra motivation drove me to press on. 

But after a few km until around 36 km when my GARMIN Forerunner 10's battery died on me (again - 2nd time since SCKLM 2016), even my mom's running next to me couldn't hold me much longer at the speed I wanted. 

Then I cried out to God for His strength

Out of a sudden, I was reminded of 'footprints in the sand'.

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
And I envisioned God carrying me to run and I saw only God's footprints and my mom running side by side. Suddenly I felt lighter as if my legs were floating (in actual fact I was still running). 

That visions and 'encounters' gave me the much needed mental boost

Without GPS watch, I relied on my Timex Ironman digital watch for timing. And I didn't know what my pace was but I decided to try my best to push forward.. using my 洪荒之力。

Towards the last 1 km, I only saw 1 runner in sight in front of me. And the sky was still dark. I didn't know how I fair but I was trying to see if I could better my SCKLM time the week before.  

Oh - I almost forgot to mention something. I remember I picked up a coconut drink at 1 station provided by a local running group; coca-cola and honey water at another station.  I was so thirsty and tired. For a moment I was worried about potentially having stomach problem. But I wanted to take anything I could to energize myself.  Therefore, I drank them all. Ans I tell you... the drinks were simply awesome! Great thanks to local running Groups.

Finish Line

I looked at the big digital watch as I rushed towards finish line trying to beat my SCKLM 2016 time as much as I could. 

I ended up crossing the finish line at gun time 3:51:57 sec (net time 3:50:58). Phew! A personal best bettering SCKLM 2016 time by a min or so.... I felt so ecstatic at that particular moment. 

To me it was truly a miracle as it was my first time running back to back full marathons and also unexpectedly bettering my time at Kuching Marathon 2016. 

Another miracle happened... something I would never ever imagine!

When I crossed the finish line, I heard the announcer announcing "#10". Then a volunteer hung a tag over my head that stated, "Potential winner... no. 10. Men veteran category".

I looked at the tag in disbelief.  I kept asking her, "Am I #10? Are you sure? Am I #10? Are you sure?...."

If I remember correctly, I asked a minimum of 10 times "are you sure?" to the volunteer who also guided me to a special place for podium finisher behind the McDonald's after picking up my Kuching Marathon 2016 finisher tee and finisher medal. She was just smiling at me confirming, "yes!"
Wow.. first time for me to be in the special area for podium finishers. I felt so privilege and so honoured. They served fruits, breads and isotonic drinks with chairs for finishers to sit. 

I felt shy at the same time. As in fact, I hid the podium tag underneath my running vest. So worried to show to people and not knowing how to react when asked.  Lol! 

I was asked to come back before 7 am to get my prize with proof of identification. And you know what? I didn't bring any identification to run. :) 

What in a world could I ever imagine I would end up to be #10 in Men Veteran Category? 

My time was lousy compared to many elite runners.  And with such time, I could only rank perhaps top 100 in men veteran category at SCKLM 2016. 

And if Mr Tan Wah Sing didn't take a break after his 100th marathon last week; and if bro Lim Huat was here... I would have not had this chance of a lifetime to be in the podium finish. Haha! 

Truly a blessing - giving a chance of a lifetime to experience how it was like to be in top 10 since I started running end 2010.

But here... in the land of milk and honey (or shall I say land of oil and gas...haha), somehow luck truck me. It was truly God's and my mom's blessings.

I didn't bring any of my identification along with me. So I ended up having to walk back to the hotel close by to take my IC, drivers license. But since it was my first time, I also took along my gym membership card and credit card just in case organiser needed extra proof of identification.  Haha! I was so kampung, right? Lol!

I looked at the smiling friendly volunteers at the desk there and I started to chat with them. I told them how excited I was because it was my first time. They have never seen such an excited elated finisher before. But they also got excited with me and allowed me to take some selfies photos with them. Such a friendly group of volunteers. 

After signing the acknowledgement letter, they handed me an envelope with RM150 cash inside. Wow!!! No. 10! Wow! Cash prize!! Wow! Me? Me? Is it real? I was still in disbelief. This sweet memory is going to last for a long long time as I might not have such opportunity again.

After collecting the unexpected voucher, I went back to finish line to welcome back some other friends. 1 had achieved her sub 5 for the first time.  1 managed to complete in 6 hours depicted shortage of waters at 4-5 water station by using slow run strategy.  What was comforting to know was that the friend who had a heat stroke the week before managed to cross the finish line safely in slightly less than 5 hours. A far cry from his usual sub 4 time. But to him and me it was a great celebration.at least he earned the medal the honest way and finished his "unfinished business" at SCKLM 2016.

I was supposed to jump into Kuching River for 2 friends who were aiming to achieve their sub 4 for first time. Unfortunately it didn't materialise. I guess they were worried that I might be caught by police. haha! A great shout out to my friends who didn't manage to make it to sub 4, "Never mind...tambah minyak... never give up... there is always the next time. Keep trying! Never say never!"

Some photos taken with friends during Kuching Marathon 2016:

About the Event Overall 

Own experience 
For my personal experience, I still loved this route as much as how I loved it last year. I loved the village small town boutique feel

What made this year's Kuching Marathon even more special was the cheering crowd along the way especially at the water stations. And I gave them a high five to at least 4 different cheering crowd along the way.  It was fun! 

Oh yeah.. the coconut drink, coca-cola and honey water... so so thirst crunching. 

Not to forget the icy cold sponges put on my head by a volunteer sending chills into my whole nervous system waking me up! 

Oh - this is the only race that I couldn't find my running photo!! lol!

Lastly the special moment to open the envelope for the RM 150 prize money. Simply unforgettable!

Feedback from others

Water! water! water!
The organiser has forgotten the most important thing of all - to ensure enough water at every single water stations. Unfortunately I heard that water ran out at few water stations. And some drank from the big bottle and they had to share due to shortage of cups. There were so long queue at petrol station as runners were queuing up to buy water. Very horrible indeed.  A colleague friend of mine had to DNF due to no water at around 15 km. Pity him!

Refresher Pack at finish area
The fruit pack given to all was given name like "rotten fruits". And the water station was further away. By right as soon as runners finish they should have been given water drinks immediately after the finisher medal and tee. 

RM 5 charge for baggage 
The most ridiculous thing I ever heard. But I was told that the money proceeds are for charity. Still... no organiser deserves the rights to charge for baggage. It is part of service. 

5km race over distanced and no road closure
This is what I heard as well. Organiser has forgotten about the safety of runners. 

I think if you search the Internet you will find more comments about how poorly Kuching Marathon 2016 was organised compared to previous years.

Many runners have decided to boycott Kuching Marathon 2017 until they have improved. 

In conclusion
Kuching Marathon 2016 was one of the most unforgettable race for me as it was my first time to achieve podium finish and PB due to lack of participation of elite runners.

Even though I have not experienced what others have experienced on the shortage of water at few water stations, I would like to stand in line with many other runners to demand the organiser to improve on their service and quality of future races. 

Written on 2016.08.24


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