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My first marathon. (Bangkok)
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Before starting my first marathon, I had completed about 5 half marathon races and one 32K race (two weeks previously). So I was quite ready for my first marathon in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday Nov 26.
Since my latest 32k race time was 3.25 hours, I expected that I could comfortably finish my first marathon within 5 hours. However, fate would play havoc with human's plan.
I went to bed around 10 p.m. on Saturday, tossed and turned and could not really sleep well which was common for most first marathon runners. I woke up at 2 a.m. which was half an hour before my alarm clock, got a shower, dressed and ate cereal and a few bananas.
Then at 3 a.m. I drove my motorcycle (Honda Dream, a four stroker) to Sararom Palace where I picked up the race kit earlier on Saturday afternoon. Arriving there around 3.45 a.m., checked in and deposited my bag.
Then it began to drizzle when I and fellow runners began to troop off to the starting line at 4.15 a.m. The kong sounded the start of the 13th edition of Bangkok marathon exactly on time at 4.30 a.m.
There was about 2000 marathon runners while about 6000 runners took part in 10k fun run which started at 5.30 a.m.
It took me only about 10 seconds to cross the start line and after a few minutes, we began the small climb onto the elevated road (Borom-ratchon-nee) which is some kind of expressway leading to outskirt of Bangkok. We would run on this expressway for a total of about 30k.
The first 10K progressed as planned, ie, my time was 1.10 hours. I stopped at every water station to drink. And after 5k I began to tear open Powergel to start eating about 1/3 portion. Water was served every 2k, while Gatorade was supposed to be served every 6k but it was not to be, every 8k was more likely the fact. I packed 3 Powergels and 2 small bags of dry electrolyte.
After the first 10K, the lights on the elevated road was out even though it was not daylight yet. The rain continued to drizzle, made it hard for me to see as I wore glasses. By 15K, we went off the expressway and made a u-turn to run on the other side of the expressway.
By 21K, there were quite a few who began to walk and stretched as the camber surface (sloping to the left to drain off the rain) made it hard for runners whose left legs had to shoulder most of the running weight. There was no cure for this sloping surface, you just could not run on the other side because each side of the expressway was separated. So for all the 30K on the expressway, you had to bear more weight on the left foot.
I had not known about this fact and thus chose the wrong shoes for this occasion. Instead of using heavier stability (motion control) shoes, I chose lighter, neutral shoes which did not give much support for severe pronation accentuated by the camber (sloping) road surface.
Even though, I tried to stretch every 10K and walked to get water every water station, the accumulated effect of running on sloping surface for 30K was too much that the nerve (connecting tissue near the ankle at the top) began to feel pain. The sharp pain was so excruciating that when I reached the top the Krungthon Bridge at exactly about 30K, I uttered out in pain and could not run down the bridge and began my first real walk (limping was more the descriptive term) slowly trying not to put weight on my left foot.
The organiser of the Bangkok Marathon stationed ambulance with male and female nurses practically every 5K after 21K, so at the foot of Krungthon Bridge which crossed over the Chao Phya River, there was an ambulance there and I availed myself of their services by having my ankle rubbed with therapeutic gel for about 1-2 minute. It seemed to ease the pain.
From then on, I alternated between walking and running limping (running by favouring my right foot while dragging my left foot) equally by distance. I should say that by 30K, my time was about 3.30 hours which was exactly my goal, but the last 12.2K which was supposed to take not more than 1.30 hours so that I could finish within 5 hours could not realistically be achieved. Since the cut-off time was 6 hours, I was not too worried as long as my pain did not get worse.
At every ambulance stop, I bared my left foot for massage to ease the pain and practically every 1K, I had to stop to gently stretch my left foot. The time passed by. At first, I thought, very few would be as bad as I was, but I was wrong, I got a lot of companies of fellow sufferers, practically all of them suffered one form or another, most of which concerned cramps. Some were so bad that they could not go on and had to abandon the race.
I should tell, my running club (www.thairunning.com) had 2 support teams who were runners in 10K and finished earlier. They stationed at around 32K and 37K. At these additional stations, I got help massaging and refreshments as well. Other running clubs also have other stations along the way and these unofficials support team gave help to any runners whether they belong to their clubs or not. The same was my club as well.
At 37K, the president of my running club, who ran 10K, ran with me to support me to the finish line. I was very grateful. The last kilometer was run on even surface on the sidewalk, so I did not feel so bad about my pain. I began to increase my running speed. At the last 200 metres, I was determined to finish strong, ignoring the running limping style and began to run straight, putting equal weight on both feet, passing about 6-7 runners who were fellow suffers. Looking up the finishing clock, it was 5.32 hours.
After receiving my first marathon finishing medal, my fellow runner club handed my a cup of water, I drank and asked for ice to cool my aching left feet, a fellow runner also put some ice in rubber glove to ice my right foot as well. I did this for about 10 minutes which eased the pain considerably that I coud walk without limping.
One of my running club colleage who finished in 5.11 hours was so badly cramped that he could hardly turn his head for awhile. But he was still jovial while being carried to a med tent to lie down.
After taking group photos, we began to scatter, promising to meet again for the next marathon in the middle of January. Most of our running colleagues who run marathons do run about twice a year. I plan to make up for my disappointed first marathon time in 8 weeks' time.
I drove back home, took a shower, ate lunch, and took a nap for 3 hours as most of us did not sleep well last night. At about 5 p.m. that Sunday, one of my marathon running mate came to return my bike. After walking him to the bus stop, I biked for half an hour, easy cycling for active recovery.
Now, it is Saturday, 6 days after my first marathon. Since that fateful Sunday, my nerve was no longer painful, but if I pressed at the point, it was still a little bit tender and sore. I biked for half to one hour every day since then. Tomorrow I will go on a bike tour for 5 days to the Northern tip of Thailand (Chiang Rai), cycling along the Mekong River, passing through the famouse (infamous?) Golden Triangle which is the point where Burma, Laos and Thai borders meet and is reputedly to be the haven for illicit drugs trade.
My friend (5.15 hours marathon time) and I will board the tour bus, packing our bikes under the belly of the bus, at 7 p.m. and will arrive at Chiang hong, a sleepy town in Chiang Rai on Monday morning.
In highsight, the wall is not really to be feared if you are prepared well with food, electrolyte etc. What I have seen which confirm the saying that "there is hell on earth on the last 10K" are the injuries and cramping which are the nemesis of most first-time marathoners and even some veterans. I thought my 5.32 hours' time was really bad, but steadily I saw more than 30 runners came after me to get their finishing medals within 6 hours and a few did come after 6 hours. So there is really hell on earth on the last 10K of the marathon!
- 02/12/2000 23:38