Turning up at races always holds some sense of excitement or anticipation. You don’t know who exactly is going to turn up nor if your best self is going to show up during the race.
Going into the 21km race at Run 350, I knew, with Gen Lin and Chee Yong entered as well, it was going to be a tough battle for podium positions. And seeing Ashley while on my warm up, I realised there were more podium-quality runners than there were podium places. And who knows who else was going to show up in the 6am darkness of Marina Bay?
As the race started, I felt my breathing obstructed by a little phlegm in my throat. Not too good I thought. But no point focusing on it as I settled behind Gen Lin, with Chee Yong and Alex together with us in what was our chase pack of four. Ashley had taken the lead and put a gap on us with a second lone runner, Ivan Low, giving chase.
Gen Lin has been performing consistently well in races this year (finishing in the top three in almost every race, if not all) and I made up my mind to take a risk and attempt to keep up with him for as long as possible if the pace was not too much faster than what I was comfortable with.
Gen Lin and I soon found ourselves giving chase to Ashley and Ivan as Chee Yong and Alex fell a little behind after about 5km. Feeling the pace was slightly hotter than I would have liked, I just tucked behind Gen Lin as we rolled past the 10km mark in about 36 minutes 30 seconds.
On the way back towards Nicoll Highway (after about 12km), Gen Lin started to gap me. With still about 9km to go, I thought I might still have a chance to catch Ivan to move into the top three if the early pace takes an effect on him and if I do not blow up myself. And with Chee Yong and Alex behind me, I thought I had to preserve some juice in my legs to hold them off even if I manage to move into the top three later.
So I let Gen Lin go and saw him slowly catch up to Ivan over the next couple of kilometres. I was observing keenly how Ivan was responding to Gen Lin’s catching up to him. As we went by about 14km and with a substantial gap (of about 100-200m) still between the pair and me, I was beginning to doubt whether I could finish in the top three.
But, remembering Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir’s example of enduring difficulty during a race by singing a religious ditty, I reminded myself to cast away the above-mentioned doubt. I was not going to start limiting what I could do or, more accurately, what God could do through me.
Soon, I began to notice Ivan was falling behind Gen Lin and the gap between him and me was slowly but surely closing as well. Making sure not to get too excited and attempt to close that gap too quickly and, in the process, unnecessarily accumulating too much lactic acid in my already-fatiguing legs, I bided my time while working to keep my pace up.
I finally caught him (between Crawford Street and Kallang Road I think) at about the 15km or 16km mark. And, while I still had Gen Lin in sight, I was more concerned about getting caught. Taking glances behind, I realised Chee Yong had also moved past Ivan into fourth place. Knowing the fierce competitor that he is, I was going to have a challenge keeping my third position.
Passing the 19km mark, with two kilometres to go, I took a glance at my watch and it showed 1 hour 9 minutes. Making a quick calculation in my mind based on my average pace of about 3:35-3:40min/km, I set myself up psychologically for finishing in about 1:16. Just another seven minutes or so of enduring the discomfort, I thought.
I was beginning to run low on fuel and feeling my muscles and movement tightening up. Wondering when the finish line was going to show up, I checked my watch again and it showed I was into my 76th minute of running. The finish line should have showed up by now but where is it? I told myself I couldn’t give up at this point now and give up third position after having worked for almost 15km to move into it.
When it finally appeared in my sights, I felt some sense of relief. Something to aim for now. Just need to reach it and my efforts would pay off.
Reaching the finish line successfully holding on to my third position, I was pleased with my performance.
A race is always exciting for the different potential propositions it throws up as it unfolds. And a racer has to meet these propositions with plans and strategies. At Run 350, I think I met these propositions well. I aimed to hang on to Gen Lin as long as I could and, when I couldn’t, I held back and refocused my energies to, later, catching Ivan for third position. Then, finally, I defended third position successfully with all of my remaining energy as Chee Yong threatened to close down.
Body and mind worked in harmony for what was one of my most satisfying performances.