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Monday, November 23, 2009

Run Beta Run # 4

Many a weeks of practice and a few injury-induced drop-outs later, I found myself running at Penang Bridge myself and seventeen thousand other strangers. I reluctantly decided against a road-trip and barely made it to the Saturday morning flight 32 minutes before the departure (my personal best). Predictably, I forgot to pack running gel, earphones, cap and socks among other non-essentials. Spent the major part of the morning in procuring the afore-mentioned. Also collected the running kit (Had forgotten the registration slip as well but my iPhone came in handy as I flashed the email confirmation on the screen). The queue to the half-marathon consisted of just me. Clearly, folks were either committed or having fun. There were not many serious amateurs (Lionel - Thanks for inspiring me into coining this term) around.

Then the realization. I WAS IN MALAYSIA. No even better. I WAS AT GEORGETOWN. One of my favorite destinations. So I did the usual. Went upto the monkey beach, took a dip, threw pebbles at a couple baby monkeys (Somebody had to straighten them up), ate at Nando's and spent the major part of the afternoon and the evening sleeping. You see, my run was to start at 3:30AM in the morning and I had little time in trying to hit an entirely different timezone.

The hotel group coach was due to leave at 2:00AM. A gastrointestinal urgency made sure that I could make it only by 2:16AM. A Hongkong dude pointedly showed his watch to me as the words escaped him. Or he thought I was incapable of understanding English. I found it insulting but apologized nonetheless. The van started moving. An overly friendly French dude engaged everybody in a conversation. I followed suit and asked around for target timings. It turned out that the HK dude was targeting a 1:20 something. I thought he looked down upon the rest of us as he said that. When I was asked, I said that I normally didnt run a half-marathon but I did clock a 3:04 when I ran the full at Richmond, Virginia a few days ago (This incidentally is my superboss's timing). He found new respect for me and exchanged running tips with me for the rest of the journey. I must have added a few minutes to his target timing.

I had my first gel about 15 minutes before the start. Started the race from the back to gain psychological advantage of overtaking (Dont I love such tactical masturbation). Soon I realized that it was more than offset by having to manoeuvre around, especially, some of the kids who were alternately sprinting or standing still. Some had decided to unzip themselves of performance anxiety on the side (I was glad I took that trip to the loo beforehand). I was feeling good and hadnt allowed anybody to overtake me so far except two Kenyan women (Their race actually started 15 minutes after ours. Who says women arent better than men?). Covered the first 10kms easily in 49 minutes despite the bridge incline (I would guess it at around 15 degrees) before having my second gel. By now, breaking the 2hour barrier looked within reach. Overtook an old uncle. Now, I had a lot of space as the better runners were far ahead and I had left all others behind. I told myself - herein lies mediocrity. Another 5kms rolled under as I did the mental math of the remaining distance and the time left.

At around the 16km mark, I started struggling. The incline was steeper, the wind against and the breathing hard to come by. I slowed down to stabilize the breathing. People were overtaking me now but I was helpless in doing anything about it. Tried to busy myself by looking around at the blackness of the ocean and the partial moon upstairs. To boost my ego, I conjured up a new record in being one of the few who have crossed this bridge on foot, by car and by plane. The old uncle had just overtaken me.

Tried to have my third gel of the morning but it wouldnt go down my throat, not without promise of serious retching after. By now, I was crawling. The 20km mark flashed by. I took my speed up a notch but was pretty much stopped in my tracks by another flyover and this one was even steeper. I must have made a miserable picture as I crossed the finishing line. I kicked myself as the clock showed 2:14.

My target time was 2:15 and I made it within that. But I could have paced myself better. Or may be not. As Vincent says in Gattaca - I guess I didnt leave anything for the way back.