Penang Bridge International Marathon 2013 Race Report

PBIM 2013 was my first Full Marathon. It was also my only chance left to become a full marathon finisher before the end of the year. When in Penang, the temptation of hawker food is always strong.

Spot the BWC gluttons

Spot the BWC gluttons

We ate but were wary not to indulge in too much spicy food for fear of tummy trouble during the race. With the marathon flag off at 2am, the most difficult thing was getting enough sleep before the race. It was lights out for us at 6pm but nobody really managed to get proper sleep.

We got up at 12am and each of us in the room – Dennis, Gabriel, Sean, myself – started to clean up and gear up. Jonathan, who was running his first half marathon was happiest because he now had the beds we vacated to sleep in for another hour or so. Gab reckons the bomoh PBIM uses is quite potent as the heavy rain stopped in time for us to walk from B-Suite Hotel to the starting line. We got there with about 25 minutes to spare before flag off and met up with a few other fellow runners. Before the race began, we all huddled to pray for a safe and victorious race. Lim Guan Eng then addressed the crowd. At exactly 2am, I was running in my first full marathon event!

PBIM 2013 Finisher’s Medal

pbim 2013 bwc runners

Dennis shot off early on while Gab, Sean and myself stuck to a 7:00 pace. I told them before the race that I’d go with a 7:00 pace and if I felt great when I hit the 30km mark, I might then decide to quicken the pace. Looking back, it was a strategy wrapped in a dose of naivete. You see, I’d never done an LSD run longer than 30km. Anything beyond the 30km mark was an unknown to me. I’ve also not been training anywhere near as hard as I should before the race. No one to blame but myself. Yet, I harboured hopes that I would have the legs to finish the distance without any real complications.

The first 10km was fine. We were spot on with our 7:00 pace. We arrived at the bridge and I just focused on reaching the two red beacon lights at the central spires. The uphill was gradual but not difficult at the pace we were going. We soldiered on beyond the u-turn point for the half marathon category, wandering into unfamiliar territory. Towards the end of the bridge, the road cambering was pretty pronounced. None of us were fond of this stretch. As we made the loop under the bridge to come out on the other side and head back to the island, there was a station offering bread and water. I was pretty hungry by then and decided that it was a good idea to eat the bread. It was really tough eating with a dry mouth. I had to chew off a piece of the bread and down it with a gulp of water. I only managed to eat half the bread.

As we completed the length of the bridge, it dawned on me that this would be the last time I would run this bridge as next year’s race should be held on the new bridge. It was an honour to be able to run the length of our famous Penang Bridge. I checked my trusty watch for pace and was delighted to see that I’ve kept religiously to the 7:00 pace strategy. All was going well…

Until I hit the 30km mark. The sole of my feet were hurting and I could feel the energy just drain from me. I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never trained beyond this distance before. The last 12km of the race had become a struggle. Oh, the naivety – thinking I could even muster the ability to speed up in the final quarter of the marathon. I was humbled. I was struggling. Each step felt heavier and more difficult. My form was beginning to slip.

By the 33km at the u-turn point, I had to employ a run-walk strategy. At some point, walking seemed more painful than running. And I’d feel the reverse once I started running again. I could only manage an 8:00-8:40 pace now. When I looked at my watch, I couldn’t believe that my enormous effort had only gained me 200m! I was incredibly hungry again at this point but I have no idea why I only took one banana at the food station. It never occurred to me that it was okay to take more than one.

At some point along the 35-40km mark, I was singing songs to keep myself occupied. If you encountered a runner that was singing off-key and wearing the red BWC shirt, I apologise for my singing but I hope it shed a sliver of entertainment at least. The most humbling experience was when we joined the 10k route. So many runners from the 10k category were just zooming past me as I ran slowly. I felt so helpless but I trudged on.

PBIM 2013 full marathon route

The moment of certainty that I would complete the race and be a full marathon finisher came at the 40th km. From that moment, I ran non-stop, but slow, to the finish line. The first thing I did when I crossed the line was to give thanks to God. I was now in the <1% of the world’s population to have completed a full marathon. The clock at the arch showed 5:22. Not a great time – and off my target by 22 minutes – but hey, I’ll take this victory any day. I had crossed the finish line.

photo 1

photo 2

It’s now the next day and I can safely say that the aches I have a muscular sores – the good type of pain as I usually like to put it. I’ll be fine and I now really look forward to running another full marathon as I know I can definitely better my time with adequate training. I definitely need to clock more mileage in my training.

Gab, Betty and Sean all clocked personal bests. Betty has been shattering her own records in consecutive marathons! Now, she’s one person who has complete dedication when it comes to running. In the half marathon category, Teh ran a sub 2 while Jonathan completed his first ever half marathon. Jason shaved 15 minutes off his previous personal best and finished strong. Jon Lee  conquered his half marathon with no cramps. Selina shared her joy of completing the half marathon with her aunty who stood by her from 3am to provide support. Dennis clocked a 4:42 and went for a foot reflexology session before flying off to KL shortly after.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 5.11.49 PM

photo 2

Jason Lim’s Inspirational Journey to PBIM

BWC Runners at PBIM 2013 - always running with joy!

All in all, I had enjoyed the race. I am glad to have conquered the distance and I am proud to be in amongst those who have completed a full marathon. If anything, it has shown me that a race this distance is to be respected and adequate training is required. I am also now, more determined than ever, to do a lot better and not struggle in the last quarter of my next marathon. A sub5 beckons – I know I can.

Reminisce: BWC Runners PBIM 2012 Race Report

There's always enough energy left for the signature pose

There’s always enough energy left for the signature pose

From the looks of it, reflexology is more painful than running a marathon

From the looks of it, reflexology is more painful than running a marathon