Running

My first half marathon – RHB Half Marathon

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Posted By Zyen Hoo

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Fresh on the heels of our long distance run at the Newton Challenge, Farah and I made a resolution to focus on longer distances for the year 2015. So we made a pact to aim for at least one half-marathon (21km) a month whenever possible.

The month of January didn’t have any half-marathons that we could join… and we missed the registration for Nike We Run KL which was on 1 Feb. Nike We Run had only a half-marathon category, and the registration quota was filled on the opening day itself (which was sometime last year).

At the end of 2014, there was a hint of another half-marathon in February – some of the online race calendars listed RHB Half Marathon on 8 Feb, but no other details were given, not even on RHB’s own website.

As the weeks passed and the date was inching closer, Farah and I were already going to give up on being able to join a half-marathon in February… until finally information was released and registration was open!

Race pack collection was a breeze – I was there early on Sunday morning 1 Feb, and there were only a few others there that morning, including Nike We Run participants who had also signed up for this event. RHB had taken up a large section of the outdoor courtyard of Paradigm Mall where they also had performances and activities organised to keep the public entertained, but I didn’t stay to watch.

2015 started as a really busy year for me though… I found my schedule packed with classes right from the start of the semester, including tuition and dance classes. While that was a good thing for me financially, it also meant that I had very little time for myself (specifically, going to gym or running).

Racek pack collection booth at Paradigm Mall
Racek pack collection booth at Paradigm Mall
The race pack collection area was very nicely set up with a CNY theme (since Chinese New Year was so close)
The race pack collection area was very nicely set up with a CNY theme (since Chinese New Year was so close)

By the time 8 Feb rolled around, I had not trained for my run at all. The most recent time I ran was at the MPIB Run 4 weeks ago (and no other practice run since then), and I had not run any distance greater than 15km which was at the Newton Challenge 6 weeks ago.

Well… the only goal I could give myself was to FINISH the race, as this would be my longest run to date!

I was initially worried I would not be able to finish within the cut-off time of 3 hours (I am quite a slow finisher), but fortunately someone must have talked sense into the organisers who changed the time to 4 hours.

This would be my first ever half-marathon. Farah on the other hand had already participated in half-marathons before; she even did 25km at the Newton Challenge.

Before the start of the event. I am pretty nervous!
Before the start of the event. I am pretty nervous!

RUN DAY 8 FEB 2015

We gathered at the Bukit Jalil carpark, which was the starting point. I had just been to the very same stadium a couple of weeks ago for the Michael Buble concert, so I found my way easily. We flagged off at 5:30am.

Selfie with Start Line!
Selfie with Start Line!

Farah wanted to improve her run time, so she nudged her way to the front as far as possible. I was such a chicken that I stayed in the middle, so I wouldn’t get in the fast runners’ way, but not too far back that I would come in last.

Farah and I before the event
Farah and I before the event

The week leading up to the race hadn’t been great for me physically; the old injuries in both my ankles were rearing up, and I did my best to strap them with kinesiology tape. I was also trying out a new pair of socks – this was a special pair which came with inbuilt infrared technology that were supposed to “massage” the feet as the socks were in use, and were meant to be worn during activities including sports and athletics. I finished up with ankle guards.

By now you can probably see where this is heading.

The tape, the socks and the guards were all too much. The ankle guards were the first to give me trouble. I barely started the race when the base of my feet begin to hurt where the ankle guard gripped them. Perhaps I was wearing the wrong sort of guards, but I began limping barely 300m into the run. And there was 21km ahead of me!

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So I limped to the side, sat on a bench and took off my shoes to remove the guards. Then I had to hang the guards onto my race pouch so that I didn’t have to hold them. Truth be told, I am someone who is easily bothered by physical disturbances (it comes from being a kinesthetic learner) and I need minimal objects disturbing me, including objects hanging from my race pouch. But I had no choice, so I tied them up and tried to place them at a position that would cause my little distraction.

Then I quickly tied my shoes back on and went back to the road, where I found to my horror… no one else was on the road. I was dead last.

Needless to say, I did my best to jog (not run – needed to conserve energy) forward to catch up with the next last batch of runners.

(Note: I wasn’t actually dead last though, because as I jogged, there were other runners overtaking me. I think that they were latecomers who missed the flag-off time, but were still within the allowed time to start.)

Having had no training, I was not able to maintain a jogging pace. I had to alternate between walking and jogging. And as I progressed, my feet felt hotter and hotter. And it wasn’t from the heat on the road or the friction of the shoes with the road. It was because the KT tape I used generated infrared AND the socks I was wearing generated infrared. And anyone who knows Physics (especially Ms Physics Teacher who was struggling in the half-marathon) knows that infrared rays are accompanied with heat.

At about the halfway point, I had to stop because the heat was too much. Again I had to sit down and pull off my shoes, and this time I removed all the tape that I had strapped to protect my ankles.

This time, even though I didn’t have the tape or guards to protect my ankles, I was able to run better. I just made sure that I landed lightly when I jogged, and put my feet down correctly when I walked to reduce possible injuries to my ankles.

It felt like the longest run of my life, but finish I did!

I managed to finish at 3h16m, distance 21.4km. I know it’s not fast, but it’s an achievement for me!

We were given medals right at the finish line, as well as bananas and water.

I had to spend the rest of the day at home, soaking my tired feet in salt water and slathering on cool peppermint foot lotion to appease my sore muscles.

Oh my poor tired feet
Oh my poor tired feet

Overall, it was a good first half-marathon, and the organisation of the run was quite good even though it was the first run organised by RHB. The distribution of the medals were good (it’s always best at the finish line itself), the water stations were organised, the tents were well placed, and the crowd control was excellent. The run itself had its uphill moments (literally – there was a killer steep section right after the 17km marker! Yes I remember it specifically because I looked at the road and I went, “OMFG!!!!!!!!!”), so it had its own sets of challenges.

If I had a complaint – which I do – it was with the finisher medal. It didn’t state the category. The label “RHB Half Marathon” was the name of the event, not the name of the distance category. I felt that the medal didn’t allow me bragging rights. If I tried to show this off to anyone, they could easily ask me, “How do we know you ran 21km? This could be a 10km or 3km run medal in the same event.” I suppose I could show them my race bib too (which does state the distance category) but that would be just petty (as if showing off my medal isn’t. Haha! Yes sorry I’m laughing at my own lame humour).

Me with the RHB Half Marathon finisher medal
Me with the RHB Half Marathon finisher medal
The goodie bag. I didn't use up the drink or ice-cream voucher as I went straight home after I finished.
The goodie bag. I didn’t use up the drink or ice-cream voucher as I went straight home after I finished.

So, overall, quite a good event. I enjoyed the run and the route was nice in spite of the steep slopes. I also learnt an invaluable lesson – never do something you’ve never tried during an actual run event (the tape / guard / socks). You’d think an experienced competitive dancer would know this (cardinal rule of ALL competitions), but sometimes we leave our senses at the door.

Here’s to more half-marathons!

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