There was no gunshot at the stroke of midnight, but we, OSIM Sundown half marathoners singing to the tunes of our host started our journey. This was my first race at night and my first half marathon. I am an average runner with a decent will power. But this time it was different.
A week ago, I had over exercised and my knees were a bit shaky. The pain from my ankle injury had returned and to top it up Achilles was back too. I had rested and massaged painful spots, but I knew it was not going to be easy this time. I bandaged my ankles, my heels and my knees. I had compression pants on and finally the singlet. “Sleep Can Wait” the catchline of this race made me believe that I can sacrifice my sleep for a day.
I was one of them, one of the OSIM Sundown half marathoners. I knew if I can do it today, shatter that mental barrier, I will be ready for the big leagues. And so cheering each other and giving space to the fastest runners we all picked our pace and pacers. I managed a non stop first hour and was determined to go this way for another one. I stopped for a while to use the toilet, the first one in the left lane.
Although, the pain in my ankle was starting to show signs, I gave myself another boost of encouragement and picked up my pace for the second hour. I was thinking about my colleague who must be getting ready for his marathon at this hour. I was excited about his race, and prayed he could give his best too. Maybe somewhere our paths might cross in this race.
It was dark, but far ahead I could see the sign read “Marina Barrage”. This was DXC Runners Club favorite spot. I started reminiscing about our weekend runs to this very spot. It’s beautiful in the wee hours of the day but at night you could barely see anything. I join the runners often over the weekend, but sometimes embarrassed to slow them down. Some of them would even sprint back or wait for me at the turning points. We would relish Vietnamese breakfast after our weekend run and it would be nice to have it today. My watch told me it’s 2:00am and perhaps I needed something else to distract myself.
I was lucky that a pacer just came along. I managed my 17 kilometer mark with him and decided to take a short break. “Listen to your body”, the sound of the MC was echoing in my brain. I saw a lady, a few feet away, wobbling side to side and I wondered if she missed the last hydration point. I was afraid, I might be dehydrated myself. It was extremely hot and humid. And there was no sun.
I was desperately trying to distract myself from sleep, body aches, nausea, you name it. Even quitting the race after reaching the 20th kilometer mark came to my mind. Every step was like lifting lead shoes. The best part was I could see the finishing line. The nausea was hitting me over and over, but I knew I had to bear it for just few more minutes.
I could see the photographers lined up, loved ones cheering up, couples holding hands to take the last step together, friends taking selfies and volunteers lined up to offer assistance. Then there was a gentleman who saw me struggling and came a bit closer so I could hear him say just 50 meters ahead dear, you can do it. He gave me a big smile and I went off my last steps.
The pain miraculously vanished as I touched the finishing line.
It was just seconds later everyone rushed towards me and I was taken aback. What was going on? There he was, the first marathoner who was behind me, crossed the finishing line. Of course he started an hour later and had finished a full marathon. But I was elated to witness an epic event.
I slowly walked to collect my energy drink, water, banana and medal. I managed to find a spot stretched a bit, removed my shoes and slept on the street.
It was almost about 2 hours later I realized that something was moving near my face. It was some specie of caterpillar trying to wiggle its way into my ear. I quickly woke up and shove it away. It was still early and there was no train back home yet. So, I decided to find another spot. This time just beside the big screen playing “Wonder Woman”
Another hour down and I had a baby caterpillar crawling over my arm. Even though I was deprived of sleep, my reflexes were good. I shoved it away too. I didn’t want to sleep on the street anymore, but there was no other place to go. The benches were packed and the grass had its own ecosystem of insects. I waited for the clock to strike 6:15 and I headed to the train station to ride back home.
I learnt about RICE recently. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. To recover quickly from today’s exertion, I must rest, apply ice to my sore ankle, wear compression bands and finally elevate my feet.
After all, I have another race to go in just about six months.