“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” (Martha Washington)
I knew today would be a bad day to run the 2015 Kuching Marathon.
I pulled off an impossible task at work this week. The preparation and the job itself not only took a huge chunk of my time, but also my mental focus along as well. Meals were not proper and untimely. I did not had the chance to do a proper carboload. Or, even hydrate myself. Sleepless nights became all too common.
And if this wasn’t enough, I was still recovering from a fall which had caused my kneecap to bruise eventhough it was already 2 weeks.
With all these piling up, I have a bad feeling about how this race would turn out.
On the bright side, my ultra training was on par. I have been logging in sufficient mileage the weeks before. I have replaced my off days this week with a few basic strength training routine.
That was the thread that I was holding on to.
FIRST PART OF THE RACE
Still I was hopeful despite the circumstances. I keep telling myself that these are mere hurdles.
The perfect race exists in the mind.
I was cruising along with a great pace for the first half. I pictured I was running alongside my favourite athletes. Kilian Journet was leading in front. Anton Krupicka in his buff and arm warmers was right behind him. Beside me was Anna Frost with a big smile, while Sally McRae was right behind with her plaited hair in a trucker hat.
I told my legs to keep up with their pace, and it worked . The cool morning breeze resembled the Alpine air. Asphalt road transformed into lovely trails with boulders and a herd of deers lazing on the plains.
Alas, fatigue caught up with me. I remembered I was just so tired that I had to close my eyes to run. I was dozing off during my mid run and I can feel my energy slowly seeping through the holes in my vibram.
When I opened my eyes, my mental imagery was gone. Kilian became some heavy breathing asian dude with loud steps. Anna Frost became a guy. The herd of deers turned into a herd of noisy runners conversing about pace in Cantonese.
My back started to hurt. I became nauseous. Stomach was bloated from all the sugary isotonic drinks. And for the first in a long time in marathon racing, I had to succumb.
I began to walk.
I felt I had used up almost 40% of my fuel.
It was there and then I had to make a choice.
SECOND PART OF THE RACE
I was considering the value of achieving a PB. Granted, since I started running marathons, my timing was better than the previous ones. By 29 minutes. By 2 minutes. It has always been better.
It seems this race would be a break to this record. And it was a tough pill to swallow. But I know if I had pushed on and gave it all I got, I might be able to do so by the skin of a teeth.
I began to question the value of a PB. Was it something that was 100% internal – a battle against Jonathan Soon in 2014, or was it fueled by an intention of getting Facebook Likes? To prove to others, not only myself, that I was a better runner than the 2014 Jonathan Soon.
I made the decision of finishing a race strong, rather than to feel like shit and hating the experience altogether.
Once that decision was made, everything became better. I switched mode. Racing was no longer on the agenda. I walked when I felt like walking. I ran when I felt like running. I was free from the chains of PB because I know would have left me in pieces.
It was this freedom that I started running from the first place.
When I rolled into the 36km aid station, I saw Tony, Grace, Charle and Yong Chuan – and then my emotions went haywire. I was so relieved and happy to see them. It felt like I have been running alone for days, and to see them was like seeing ur family in the wilderness.
With a renewed zest (and their excellent beverages), I tackled the last 6km with a freedom that I have not experienced in a marathon for a while.
I crossed the Kuching Marathon finishing line. The clock showed 04:13. My PB was 4hrs9mins.
When I chose freedom over PB, I started seeing things in a new light.
To see friends toeing the finish line was an amazing feeling. And those who have trained so hard and beat their own personal best. There is no jealousy, but only admiration and an overwhelming sense of pride for them.
But the virgins, oh the virgins. Their postures were totally out, they were dragging their feet over the finish line. Despite of this, they held their heads high. Their tired smiles and the twinkle in their eyes reminded me that this was why I ran marathons.
It is about conquering your own fears, to push despite the pain, and finishing the distance on your own.
It is what marathoners are made of. Resilience and an iron will.
And because of them, I am proud to be a Full Marathoner.