Sunday, April 2, 2006

Looking Back - Xiamen Int'l Marathon 2006

25 Mar 2006 was the Xiamen International Marathon. I woke up early at around 5am to have my breakfast. I had 3 slices of the Gardenia Raisin bread, 1 bottle of Gatorade, plus another bottle of mixture (Gatorade Endurance Mix). I then went backto sleep again. At around 6.10am, I woke up and change into my running gear. I wore a Nike sleeveless dri-fit tee, covered by a long sleeved New Balance dri-fit tee. After putting on my Oakley sunglasses, I took a cab to the Convention Centre. It was a fast 15mins drive and when I reached, there were hundreds and thousands of people arriving!

20mins prior to the start, I squeezed myself into the area for marathon runners. Boy, there were really many runners and we were squeezed like sardines! Lucky for me, I already did my stretching and warm-up. 10mins before the start, there was a TV program on the Xiamen marathon. Soon, we could see the helicopter flying above us, capturing the live activity in the Convention area up from the sky! It became more noisy as everyone started waving frantically at the helicopter, as though they would get a 2secs publicity of themselves. I felt good. However, the sky looked a bit gloomy.

The organiser flagged off the event at exactly 8am. The marathoners were the first to start, followed by the half-marathoners and then the 10km runners. (It was after the event that I read that approximately 20,000 people had taken part in the various events! It was like last year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon!)

1st hour: I started slowly, as usual, trying to get my engine warmed up. But soon, I noticed that the weather was not cool as I had expected. I estimated that the humidity in Xiamen was just about slightly lower then in Singapore as compared to USA, where I had to down some water every 30mins (even for normal days I spent sight-seeing!) I begining to feel hot as I wasn't able to perspire. 2km from the start, I decided enough is enough and I took off my long sleeved dri-fit tee and tied it around my waist. (Lucky I wore a long sleeved! Had I wore a short sleeved, I probably had to throw away the tee.) I enjoyed the route as it was rather scenic although more could be seen had it been a clear sky. When I reached the 1st water point, I noticed they served "Yin Shui" (water), so I took a sip and continue. All these while, I also stopped for a 20 steps walk breaks in between every km I covered. When I reached the 2nd water point, they served "Yin Liao". So I thought I could help myself to some nice, cool sports drink. To my dismay, they served iced cold green tea! I began to worry, wondering if they served sports drink. They did not and it began to have an impact later in my run. I managed to complete 9.5km in the 1st hour.

2nd hour: There was no sports drink along the route after running for an hour. I reminded myself to pace properly since I would expect to suffer from the lack of salt. We ran pass the very beautiful part of the Huan Dao Lu (see above), which was a bridge just after the Xiamen University (from 12km - 13km mark). At the 14km mark, at around 9am 38mins, (1hr 38mins after start) I saw the lead vehicle showing the time. Slightly behind them, I saw a group of runners! They were the men leading the marathon event and they just ran past the 31km marker! Among the group of about 6 to 8 men, was a Chinese (see below right, Deng Hai Yang wearing Bib 90). I clapped my hands as they ran past in the opposite direction. For the 2nd hour, I managed to cover around 18km.

3rd hour: By the start of the 3rd hour, I began to look around for any 7-Elevan or Convenient Store as I ran. There were a lot of people cheering "Jia You". At every water point, I stopped, hopping that I would reach one that served sports drink. But there was none. By the time I ran past the turning towards the 21km finishing point, I noticed a few drops of the rain. I looked up and realised that the sky had turned slightly grey and looking as though it might rain anytime. I prayed and hoped for the best. My prayers for sports drink came. Just after the 21km marker, I saw some supporters handling out breads. I decided to stop and ask for a piece. I also pointed to the sports drink that one of them was holding and asked him where I could get a bottle. The young man offered the whole bottle! I was touched. In normal circumstances, I would have politely declined. But I was too desperate and I accepted his offer and thanked him before I sprinted off! The bread and the drink was great! However, after the 22km marker, it started to rain. Luckily, I had finished the bread by then. Somehow, I found myself energised and managed to find my second wind. It did not last long though as the rain became heavier! I had to constantly remove my spectacles and wiped off the water. My shoes were also soaking wet and heavy too! Along the way to the 24km marker, one kind volunteer gave up her red cap for me. Not only the cap helped to shield off the water, it also helped to keep my head warm. I completed almost 24km after the end of the 3rd hour.

4th hour: The 4th hour was by far the hardest. By then, I had slowed down considerably due to the heavy rain. I also had to expand more energy to run as my shoes were full of water. Just past the 28km marker, another kind supporter (those who wore normal clothes should be supporter as volunteers were given red cap to wear) handed out 2 tablets for those who ran past her and advised us to suck them slowly. I was not sure what they were but I took it anyway. At the 29km marker, which was almost 3hr 50mins after the start, I gave myself one last push as I had to clear the 30km marker by the 4th hour or risked being dropped. I did not managed to do that in actual fact, missing the mark by 1min. There was already a "Closed" sign put next to the 30km marker but no one was stationed there. So all the runners managed to run past that point. (I reckoned that it could be due to the officials, trying to cope with the "unexpected" rain and dropouts since the 22km marker).

5th hour: We were running back to the area that there were more supporters. They were braving the heavy rain to cheer for us. I also took more bread and water (no more sports drink though) from them as my stomach growled! It was the first time I could hear my stomach growling during a marathon! I told myself that by the end of the 5th hour, I must complete at least 38km. This was a tall order as I only managed to cover 6km in the 4th hour. Nevertheless, I had to press on. The rain by then had become slightly lighter but my shoes still weighed as heavy. Lucky for me, I did not feel any blister yet. At the end of the 5th hour, I only ran almost 36.5km. I knew I had 1 hour to cover the remaining 5km.

6th hour: This last part of the marathon was not as hard. I told myself that I had to complete 40km by 5hr 30mins. I overshot my target by 5mins. But I was still sure I could complete within the official timing of 6hrs. The statues along the side of the road did not really inspire me to run faster though. They did keep my mind off the pain on my right hip and my left foot and they were an encouragement to keep me company before I reach the last stretch turning into the road leading up to the Convention Centre. That was the 41km marker and eventually, I crossed the finishing line in 5hrs 56mins 41secs. Not a great timing but given the fact that there was no sports drink to hydrate myself and that I had been running in the rain for 3hrs 10mins, I thought it was a good effort anyway! :)

This was certainly not the nicest marathons that I ran due to the rain. But I treasured the experience and especially the wonderful supporters and volunteers. I also liked the medal and especially the big towel given to all runners at the end of the finishing! I was shivering and the towel was just what I need to keep myself warm. I waited for another hour, to collect my finisher certificate and the deposit for the championchip, before I left the stadium and returned to the hotel by public bus. For the record, a Kenyan runner won the Men's event and Deng Hai Yang (the first chinese) completed in 2hr 10mins 50secs, just 4secs behind him and 1sec behind the 2nd-placed runner. The Women's winner was Shun Wei Wei who completed in 2hrs 26mins 32secs and the top 3 winners (who were all chinese runners).

I would certainly recommend Xiamen International Marathon to those who intend to achieve a PB. But they have to prepare sufficiently, like taking along their fuel belt with the necessary drinks, powergel. I was pleased with the successful completion of my 12th marathon. And the 1st in 2006. The event was as big as SCSM though it could have been perfect had they provide sports drink. The weather was something no one can control and sometimes, it's just the luck on the actual day of run. Thank you Xiamen, China!

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