Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Marathon Surprises

Two days ago my friend who is a veteran marathoner told me by way of tip: have a strong mind on race day, besides training and eating well.

I am glad I remember especially the first phrase. I had done my training, eaten my fare share of ‘’recommended’’ food, rested well, and had even hydrated and taken my gels like clockwork.

Despite being allocated the last pen at the start point, I managed to catch up, and also kept to a consistent pacing. In fact, I was on target, only slightly ahead, and was nursing the thought of ending the race slightly ahead of goal. I felt so good at the 9km, and I was so touched when I saw a man running with one good leg and one prosthesis. If he can run at my pace in a full marathon, I can too.

At 18 km, it still felt effortless. I remember thinking, I’d passed 18 km already? True enough, I finished my 21 km slightly ahead of goal time, even though I’d been trying hard to reign in the speed, to conserve my energy for the next half of the race. Trouble struck at the 24th km. It seems God is trying to tell me, ‘’you can prepare all you want, but thou shall have severe cramps! It is not your will, but mine!’’ The cramps were nothing of the sort I’d felt before. They crippled me, sent me bent double, and made me a contortionist. Running a marathon is a humbling experience.

Yet I was so calm. Strong mind indeed. In the past I would have panicked, or cursed under my breathe. Or both. This time, I focused on getting well. I rested, walked, and stretched. Nothing worked for a good 5 km. I never once felt like giving up. Maybe it’s because I was happy that I’d already completed more than half the distance strongly, and could easily walk the rest, and still finish the race.

By the 29th km, I started to trot again and the cramps were under control. But the minute I picked up speed, they returned. By the 33rd km I was wondering why my new-ish shoes had holes for the sand to seep in, and removed and adjusted my left shoe many times. It soon became clear it was not sand, but that I’d developed a huge blister on the ball of my left foot. Soon a blister developed on the little toe on the left foot too. By the 39th km, when I had alternated between walking and jogging, my right little toe developed blisters too.

Strangely the cramps left – more or less. By then I’d learnt to chant non stop, ‘’relax left calf, relax right thigh, relax!!’’ to keep going and whenever cramps threatened to invade. Jogging on blistered feet seemed less painful than a slow walk – I guess slowly pressing on a huge bubble and not being able to squish them can be worse. I almost heard the ‘’water bag’’ swishing around on my left foot as I limped!!

Maybe the cramps left because I finally ignored aesthetics and started using the Tiger Balm lotion they were palming out. As I spread them on my sweaty, filthy legs that have been splashed with mud, rain water and sand, the heat on my legs provided a much welcome relief. Subsequently at every Tiger Balm station I made sure I slathered cream on my already slimy and smelly (the cream stank!) legs.

Many people near me were too tired or unfit to run and walked like me. The tragedy of it all for me was, I was not tired (was very spritely indeed), did not hit the proverbial marathon wall, and my cardio was in tip top condition – I was not panting at all, not even in the first 24 km. But I was struggling – thanks to my crampy legs and blistered feet. I was determined to at least jog towards the finishing line. It’s a marathon after all, not a walkathon!

So jog I did, and finished the race one hour behind my goal.

So, as I’ve always feared, anything can go wrong on a race day. It started with my GPS/ pace keeper system on my iPhone. When I started, I was wondering why the audio cue did not work – it was supposed to update me of my pace every 10 minutes. At the end of the race I found out why – it malfunctioned at the 4th minute, and I’d been too preoccupied to check/ re-activate it!

And oh, something else unexpected happened. Not DURING, but soon after the race though. On my way home, as I was walking – very slowly - towards my block of flats from the bus stop, a British guy asked, ‘’did you just finish a marathon?’’ He must have noticed my limp and gear. We chatted a bit about the run and parted midway - me towards my block, he towards another. Then he came hurrying towards me and asked, ‘’are you a single lady? Could we train together or have a coffee sometime?’’

I was dumbfounded. I never knew a smelly, drained and limping woman in pain with matted hair (from all that sweat) could look attractive. Or maybe he just had poor taste… or…

Long and short – I told him, ‘’sorry, I prefer to train alone’’. ‘’What about coffee then,’’ he persisted. I was really at a loss for words. ‘’Er, ok,’’ and walked off. ‘’Wait, what is your number and name?’’ he just won’t let go, would he?

I mumbled some number that came to my bewildered mind and left…

Now I just hope he doesn’t stalk me…


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