Two things runners dread most are injury and illness. I emerged from a week of national service last Saturday and, two days later, had to deal with the latter after developing a fever whose onset I realised only after a morning run, which I went on in an attempt to kickstart my running again after the previous week’s missed training. While the fever subsided by Tuesday and allowed me to carry on with my (albeit sub-standard) training runs the rest of the week, there was the small matter of nursing a lingering cough, which I did with lozenges up till race-day. However, one thing I have learnt from my years of competition is that the ability to perform on race-day should not be discounted if one has put in consistent work during the many weeks before and even if preparation in the days leading up to the race-day has not been ideal.
For the first time since its inception, the Jurong Lake Run started in the evening and, at 6.30pm (the scheduled flag-off time for the 10km race), the heat was still stifling if less intense than the earlier part of the day. Competition was going to be hot too with a deep field of runners gathered at the start line off Science Centre Road.
I had joked with Gen Lin before the race about his trademark bursts of speed off the start line. With him stating again that the plan was to run together off the start (and not to bomb away right from the get-go), I was keen to see if another one of his trademark sprints would void the plan right from the start.
The plan was left intact this time. Numerous runners had started pretty quickly, and Gen and I ran alongside each other as we stalked a pack ahead of us. After the personal best 34:44 from the Sundown Marathon 10km three weeks ago, I decided to head out at an approximate pace of 3:30 per kilometre. The first couple of kilometres were passed in slightly quicker than the targeted pace but it was not overly concerning. Both of us soon merged with a pack that included National University of Singapore runners Jeevaneesh and Emmanuel Tapie, a couple of Gurkhas, and Stuart Haynes.
The pack kept together quite tightly through the halfway mark until about the sixth or seventh kilometre when I felt it was breaking up slightly. It was at about the seventh kilometre that Nanyang Polytechnic runner and Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) Championships 3,000m steeplechase and 10,000m champion Nabin Parajuli came running by for the first time in the race. I was then the second runner in the Men’s Open category that comprised Singaporeans and PRs but, with Jeevaneesh, Gen Lin, and Stuart Haynes on my back, I knew the final two or three kilometres were going to be a tough battle holding them off.
Entering the final half of a kilometre, I was still second and knew Jeevaneesh was still hanging with me. My plan was just to keep up the pace as long as I could and, with the stretch of road to the finish visibly longer than the length I thought I could sustain the pace, I was at this point trying to keep out any negative thoughts. With about 200m to go, however, Jeevaneesh strode past me and, then, Stuart Haynes followed as well, pushing me out of the top three. Coming through the finish line, 34:41 was my time on the clock. With the less than ideal physical condition and interrupted training routine the past couple of weeks, a three-second personal best was somewhat surprising and, no doubt, encouraging. It was a good reminder indeed that the body can still perform in less than ideal circumstances. The best scenario is, of course, to keep healthy!