How Hobart, Eldon, Justin and I met and ran our first 21km in 2012?

A half marathon. 21km of madness bliss. Who knew that this distance would be a start of something so amazing?

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The year was 2012 – oh, the sweet age of mid twenties. Quarter life crisis was in full force. Justin and I were just a hi-bye church acquaintance. Hobart was in the same youth ministry as I was. I was putting on weight after Chinese New Year (damn those pineapple tarts!) and something need to be done.

Spring Mall announced that they will be doing a run, and re-introduced the half marathon in Kuching. This must be the solution, I thought.

I was contemplating whether to sign up for a 10km or the half marathon. I run 10km back in uni as circuit training. But uni was 3 years ago then.

It wasn’t until I ran into Justin at a church camp. We were talking about running and turned out, he was also quite excited about this race as well.

“Eh, we signed up 21km then we train together lah.”

I can still remember standing by the information counter at Spring Mall. My hand was quivering, not knowing which category to mark. I even called Justin up, “Oi you sure ah? 21 ah?”

I figured, f this shit, let’s just sign this thing up and see how it goes. So I did it. And went into full blown panic. 21km!! That is running around Kuching! Who does that?!

Justin and I agreed that we should do our own individual runs in the weekday, then meet up on Sunday to attempt a 10km run. Come Sunday, Justin told me “Eh my best friend is joining us. He just came back from KL, and he will be running from his house. He very fit one.”

I was thinking, wah this guy damn terror! We both started from Spring around 630am. And it was only a brief moment before this thin and good looking guy came up behind us.

“Hi, I’m Eldon.” *extend hand*
“Hey, Jonathan here. *extend hand too* Heard you just came back from KL?”
“Yeah, I left my job as an air steward, so planning to back for good.”
“That’s nice”
“You leh”
“Oh, I want to resign from my job also”

And that was how I met Eldon. Such a polite and proper beginning.

Justin and I barely managed to cover 10km on that day, but Eldon did it like a breeze. All three of us were so happy. It was as if both Justin and I tasted bak kua for the first time. We took artistic pics of our shoes, posted our time (it was probably around 1hr30mins) on Facebook and it felt like the biggest achievement to date.

Later in the week, Hobart asked if the 3 of us were running again, and he wants to join us, if it was alright with us.

The next Sunday, Hobart appeared in a green cotton tanktop, knee length pants and a pair of black wushu shoes (I think la). He told us that it was his first 10km, and both Justin and I looked at each other nervously. We knew how 10km felt like and it wasnt an easy feat.

Who knew,  Hobart was much better than the both of us. He was the 2nd to finish after Eldon, and we were like whoa, where did this kid came from?

Each Sunday, we would repeat the same thing. It wasn’t until a month later when Eldon introduced us to Ah Wong, Yong Suk, Philip Chua and the rest. I remembered feeling so intimidated when we first met.

These are the real runners. Them rubbing vaseline on their soles, with their singlet and short pants. Full marathon finishers. And man, were they fast.

We didn’t have a proper training regime. We didn’t even know what are the do’s and don’ts. One Sunday, we ran from Giant to Unimas and I had the smart idea of running around the new campus. Hobart was away then, and there were only the 3 of us.

By the time we were done, the sun was up, and we didn’t bring any money with us (so smart of us eh). We scoured the whole uni for water cooler in a state of mild panic. It was to no avail.

By some stroke of miracle, Justin met his friend in the carpark. She was coming into to do some research and basically the conversation went like this,

“Eh hey! Long time no see!”
“Yeah, eh what u guys doing here?”
“Oh we were running from Giant, and we are running back now. U leh?”
“I’m here to meet my supervisor. Wah, steady man u guys.”
“Haha nolah. Eh, can we borrow 5 bucks to buy drinks? ”
“Ha?! here is 10.”

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

However, no matter how much we tried to hydrate with 10 bucks, it wasn’t enough. It was close to 10am! Eldon managed to make it back to Giant first, and when I arrived, he was pushing a trolley around.

“Eh, later we use this to go and fetch Justin yeah. Hahahaha”

5 minutes later, Justin called and say he couldn’t take it anymore. Shit just got real.

When we picked Justin up, he was on his knees. Lips were pale, and his fingers were cramped into pincher-like grip. We didn’t realize the severity of the situation, we even made a joke out of it then,

“Eh Justin! U OK or not?!”
*mumbles mumbles mumbles*
“Look at his hands. Like ketam like that! Hahahaha”
“Oi Mr Crab! U OK or not? Hahahah”
*mumbles mumbles mumbles*

We sped towards the nearest coffeeshop, and I was directed to get some drinks. I was not sure whether it was the sun, or the fatigue, but I just got some drinks, sat at the table and waited for them. Eldon finally came out 5 minutes later and grabbed the drinks and go.

I could not imagine what must have went through his mind when he saw me waiting there. Must be a combination of vulgarity.

Justin appeared about 10 minutes later, and he appeared alright. He probably had a mini sun stroke. It seemed funny then, but if the same thing would happen now, it will be a different reaction altogether.

And one would thought we have learnt to not attempt crazy shit.

A big fat nawp.

Come Gawai 2012, the four of us decided to run up from Choice Daily at Semariang up to Damai. The distance was about 24km. Waay above the half marathon distance.

But we figured we should do it anyway. At least, we know that we can finish 21km, and we can get over the mental hump.

Or so we thought.

So it was 3am, June 1st. We even had a system. Fetch Hobart from Damai where he will put his car so that we can have a way down, drop our water bottles at different spots along the route.

Sounds like a reasonable plan. Until we put so many water stations that I got confused.

I ended up running 18km without any water, and we are talking about the rolling hills of Damai. There were no stalls opened then. Justin, Eldon and Hobart were way ahead.

I had to resort to drink from a dripping pipe outside one of the houses. It wasn’t until at 19km where I saw an uncle who just opened his stall. Angels were singing when I finally grabbed that 500ml of clean drinking water.

I thought my troubles were over, until the storm hits. Literally. It was at the 20km mark and rain was pouring in sheets. Cars were zooming past and it was a miracle that I survived the ordeal.

I did try to take shelter at sheds, but I was afraid I would get hypothermia if I had just stayed there. I ran for another 3km before I saw the sign which indicated that it was 1km more to Damai.

I also saw Hobart, Eldon and Justin heading towards me in a car.

They asked me to get in, but I hesitated. Only 1km more! It wasn’t until I got screwed by 3 of them simultaneously before I resigned to the fate of getting into the vehicle.

Talking about having your priorities checked.

2 weeks later, it was the long awaited half marathon. We were ready to take on this!

And they did. Hobart, Eldon and Justin broke their half marathon cherries well.

I, on the other hand, had a sharp pain on my right kneecap at the 10km mark. I had a few options then.

1. Asked my friend James Lai who was biking alongside me to alert the marshalls, and I will be sent back in an ambulance.

2. Walked slowly and get roasted by the morning sun.

3. Toughen the shit up and finished the last 11km as soon as I could.

I opted for option 3, and it was a very painful 11km.

I finally completed my first hm in 2hrs44mins.

Only the next day when I met with Esther, my long time friend and physio, was when I realized my patella was inflamed and I could have incurred long term damage to my legs.

Not only I had to undergo 6 weeks of treatment, endure the constant pain when I go down the stairs, but I had to change my shoes (which brings to the discovery of vibrams) which took another 8 weeks of readjustment before I could run 10km without any pain.

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If you are still reading this, congratulations! You have managed to withstand my long winded post, and this proves you don’t have the attention span of a 4 year old child.

2 Sundays ago, the four of us did the Spring Half Marathon, for the fourth time. Each of us had gone down different paths ever since that fateful day.

Hobart no longer wears his green cotton tanktop to run. He is now a Brooks sponsored athlete. His fastest (and latest) marathon was completed in 3h5mins.

Eldon is also no longer the polite young man anymore. He recently became a father, completes full Marathons easily under 4 hours, and finished a 100km ultra-trail marathon last year in 17h46mins. He will be doing another 100km ultra-trail again, and this will be in the rainforest of Sabah come August.

Justin, unfortunately was diagnosed with some medical condition, and had to take a break for a while. He did, however, bounced back hard. He finally did 3 full marathons last year, and he will be attempting a 50km road ultra at the end of the year.

Myself? I have not learnt my lesson, and still as stubborn as before, though I prefer the word resilient now.

I ran my first full marathon in tonsillitis and fever in 2013. Recovered, and ran 3 full marathons in August, September and October with Eldon and Hobart in the same year.

I ran my Spring Half Marathon last year when I had diarrhoea. Completed it in 2hrs26mins despite a trip to the public toilet in the middle of the race. Went to the toilet for 16 times after the race on the same day.

And my greatest running achievement?  Finishing TNF100 2014 ultra-trail marathon in 16h5mins, with the cherry of being no.27 in the 100km category.

As for Spring this year, I finished it in 1h52mins and earning the long awaited finisher tee.

I guess, what I am trying to say, is that all 4 of us were the least people you would expect to see on the road. We were beginners once. We had our shares of mishaps, injuries, and we went through all the silliness.

The only thing that sets us apart is that, we stuck to what we did. We refused to give up when things got hard. Even heatstroke didn’t stand in the way.

And it all began with a half marathon. 21km of madness bliss.

Who knew that this distance would be a start of something so amazing?

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