If you still remember, at the beginning of the year, I wrote down 4 main goals that I would like to achieve in running in 2016. One of them was to run a 10K race under 42 minutes. Since it was merely a secondary goal, I planned to have a go at it after breaking 3:30 marathon.
However, for an unknown reason, I registered myself for a 10K race at TM Fan Run in the build up to run my second marathon in 2016 at Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon. Running a half-marathon as a tune up race three weeks prior to the marathon made a lot more sense than running a 10K. As soon as I registered, I regretted my decision.
With majority of my runs were slow runs and very few speed workouts, I clearly was not prepared for a 42-minutes of lung-bursting run. I did not know where to measure myself as the last time I ran a 10K race was probably two years ago. I probably had run faster since, but and as far as I remember, my personal best was somewhere around 48 minutes.
After registering, I seemed to forget about the race. I did not know when exactly was the race, I knew it would be in Putrajaya, but I did not know exactly where it started. Luckily, I was reminded by Kyserun Krew’s Whatsapp group.
The race was on Sunday and I held Hari Raya open house on Saturday. Last guest left well past midnight. I hit the sack at 2AM. I was exhausted and could not sleep. I contemplated not going to Putrajaya for the race. I forced myself to wake up at 4AM, and felt even more tired. The race would not be flagged off until 7:00 AM but I had to go early to collect my bib from Adib, who was running half-marathon at 6:00 AM.
Despite arriving at the starting line early, due to toilet mishap, I was running late. After warming up, I entered the starting pen, and found myself at the back of vast sea of people. This race was quite popular due to its nicely-designed Malaysia-themed running tee. I clearly underestimated the number of participants. I managed to squeeze through and ended somewhere in the middle behind participants with backpacks. I could not squeeze through further to the front.
Before entering the starting pen, I bumped into few other Kyserun Krew members. They asked what my target was, I did not have the answer to that. I wanted to break 42 minutes but I knew I was not in a prime condition to do so.
I still wanted to push myself to see where I stood though. Sub-42 was still at the back of my mind. To run 10 kilometres in 42 minutes is to run an average pace of 4’12 min/km for 10 kilometres. That was exactly my strategy. I’d try to hold 4’12 min/km for as long as I could, and see how it went from there.
First, I needed to navigate my way through the crowd. The horn was sounded and the race was on. It took me some 200-300 metres before I had a clear path. The early pace was furious. I got caught up with the blistering pace. I glanced at my watch and the pace was 3’30 min/km at one point. I knew this was not sustainable and eased off a little bit. Still, the pace was below 4’00 min/km and there were people passing me. I refrained myself from following the suicidal pace and ran my own race.
Among the fast runners, there was one runner who caught my eyes. I saw him warming up before the race. He was wearing a RunGasm tee. He must be good since only selected people were in RunGasm. My plan was to stick to him and see what he was made of. His pace was somewhere around my goal pace so I followed him until KM2 mark, where the course went through slight inclination. I pressed a little bit harder to overcome the short inclination and found myself passing some of the front runners.
I was already hurting due to the relentless pace. My muscles were not built up to run this pace. People say the ideal cadence is 180 steps per minute (spm), but I was hurting to maintain the ideal cadence. I decreased my cadence and somehow my legs were eased from the burdensome work. My cadence hovered between 170-174 spm, lower than my usual cadence of 176 spm. Ironic, but it worked.
I was isolated but at least I could run my own race, not others. Just before KM4 mark, I heard heavy but fast footsteps closing down behind me. Soon, he got past me. He was fast and he looked like a good value. I tried to maintain the gap between him and myself but the gap just grew bigger. He was a real deal.
Somewhere around KM4 mark, 10K runners merged with half-marathon runners who were flagged off an hour earlier. I lost track of the front runners, apart from the guy who just got past me. I ran past many runners but I could not differentiate between the half-marathoners and the 10k runners. The guy who got past me was my only reference. Later, I learnt that his name was Usman. I was probably 50 metres behind him and the gap became stagnant.
I did not quicken my pace, in fact I was slowing down a little bit. It seemed that he was slowing down to my pace. This served as a motivation for myself.
“Never let the gap grow”.
On more than one occasion, I caught glimpses of him holding his right side. He must be in some kind of distress, most probably side stitch. I was suffering too. My pace was dwindling and I realised that I was running slower than 4’12 min/km. I was close to giving up since I was behind my goal. KM6 to KM7 was the slowest stretch of the race.
Despite passing many runners, most probably the half-marathoners, I realised that sub-42 was outside my reach already. I tried to extract whatever left from every sinew of my body, but there was nothing left. My legs were as heavy as lead, and my lungs were burning as hot as hell. I knew that there was only willpower left. Somehow, the gap between myself and Usman seemed to become closer.
There was one last obstacle just before KM9 mark. We had to bridge over a bridge. That only meant there was another short ramp that we had to overcome.
Less than a kilometre left, but there were two finish lines.
Just before I went to bed, I checked last year’s race on Strava. I figured out that the course was under-distanced. Many runners recorded a distance a little short of 10 kilometres. Probably, 200 metres less. To be safe though, I saw the race as a 9.6 kilometres race.
I was in a dilemma.
To race the race or to race the distance?
I was now only few metres behind Usman. Inching closer, and closer. I was tempted to empty the tank NOW, but I told myself to be patient. We had about 900 metres left, and if I made a move now, Usman might be able to react. I wanted to catch him off guard.
The race would now took a final right turn before the finish line. I glanced at my watch one last time and saw 9.3 KM. This was it. Whatever it was, I had to make a move. At the home straight, I sprinted as fast as I could, passed Usman and crossed the finish line. The time was not of any interest since my watch was displaying 9.91 KM. I told a volunteer whose hands were ready to hand me the medal that I wanted to jog for a bit.
10 kilometres of sheer pain. Redlining from the get go. It was a suffer fest but it felt so good, so pleasurable. I was high from the lack of oxygen. I turned around and collected my medal from the volunteer. Immediately, I went for a 5-kilometres warm down.
I was not aware of my official time, but I knew it was not fast enough to be among the top runners. Plus, I only passed Usman and nobody else, I thought.
After completing my warm down, they told me they heard my name mentioned through the PA system. I went to check my timing with the official timekeeper and to my surprise, I crossed the line 4th, 41:24. The timekeeper told me prizes were for the Top 5, but 4th and 5th places would only receive cash prizes.
I thought to myself, “RM50 is not bad. It will at least cover my return expenses to Putrajaya”.
They checked my bib against the results, asked for my identification card, and only then, they realised that Top 5 were for the half-marathoners. For 10K, the prizes were only given to the Top 3.
With 3 kilometres to go, I thought sub-42 was out of my grasp. Thanks to the late surge in the final kilometre, despite the jog after the finish line, I ran the last kilometre in 3 minutes and 50 seconds, and barely achieved my goal.
41’46. New PB for 10 kilometres.