A belated race report. Just came back from a week long holiday in Seoul and the picturesque Jeju Island celebrating Sling Jr's 1st birthday.
My first attempt at sub-3 and honestly I wasn't good enough on the day. Started a tad too fast and got punctured after km 30.
My reaction is mixed…a little bit disappointed, but at the same time felt reasonably pleased too (if you know what I mean). I'd say in the scale of happiness, I would rate it a 7.
Here we go:
We landed in Seoul on Wednesday and it was snowing !!! It was freezing and wet coupled with blustery wind. What a welcome! On the next day, I went out for a 40min run and it was still freezing even with gloves and beanie. My body was shaking and I could hardly get the words out of my mouth when I ordered a coffee after the run. During the run, I also bumped into 3 Kenyan runners as our hotel (Westin) was just across the road from the elite athletes' hotel (Seoul Plaza). I ran behind them and was surprised to see that their 'shake out' run was very, very slow. I was jogging at 5:00 pace and had to intentionally slow down in order not to pass them. It is just too rude to pass runners who can run marathons 1 hour faster than you !!!
I then started my carbo load. Didn't run on Friday as we went for sightseeing to the snow capped Mt Seorak. Had 7k run on Saturday morning and slept early.
Come Sunday, it was around 0c at the start. I was grouped in the 'A' corral for runners with faster timing than 3h:20m. We started about 5 minutes behind the elites. As Seoul is an IAAF Gold Label race (same level as Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, NY etc), the race attracted a deep elite field. In the Mens, it included a 2:05 runner and about 10 sub-2:10 athletes. In the Womens, it included a Chinese lady who got 3rd placed in the Olympics and a few African and European runners. The conditions were a tad too cold to my liking and my body was shaking.
I started with the sub-3 pacemakers and the pace was fast from the start. Despite the fast start, I found the effort to be very easy due to the temperature differential between Seoul and Singapore. We passed the 10k mark in 41:47 (about 4:10-11 pace) and the pacemakers continued running at 4:10 pace. I decided to let them go and ran on my own. I carried four gels but dropped one packet at km15 (not sure whether it made a difference to the end result given I ran out of steam then). I passed the HM mark in 89:07 with the pace group was nowhere to be seen (probably they passed halfway in 87-88 minutes). I was still feeling good at this point and continue to chug along.
Due to the large crowd (23,000 runners), I missed the initial km markers and decided to split every 5km where they have the official markers (chip recording)
5k - 20:56
10k - 20:51 (41:47)
15k - 21:29
20k - 21:14 (42:43)
In the second half, we went towards the south east and encountered pretty strong headwind. As runners began to thin out, I couldn't get sufficient shielding from the elements as we ran on very open, wide roads. My pace slowed slightly but I was still on sub-3 pace at km 30 (2h:07m).
25k - 21:29
30k - 21:38 (43:07)
Afterwards, the wheels began to come off. My legs seemed to run out of gas and the windy conditions made it even tougher. I just couldn't move my legs fast and my strides got shorter and shorter. My pace slowed to 4:30 pace between km 30-35 and passed km 35 in 2h:30m. At this point, I was about 1m:40s behind the sub-3 pace and realized that it wasn't gonna happen today. It now become a test of perseverance. I was tired, low on fuel, 1m:40s behind my goal pace and it was still over 7k to go.
We climbed a bridge over the wide Han River towards the Jamsil area and my pace continued to deteriorate to around 4:40. I passed km 40 in 2:53:40, about 3mins + behind the 2h:50m required for sub 3. I picked up the pace slightly as we went into the 1992 Olympics Stadium and finished in 3:03:49 - a 1 minute PB from last year's GCM.
35k - 22:45
40k - 23:18 (46:03)
2.2k - 10:09
Second half: 94:42
Surprisingly, the first thing that crossed my mind when I passed the finishing mat is when will be my next marathon? I just can't hardly wait...
Anyway, there were negatives and positives from the race and both serve as valuable lessons for my next marathon, such as
- I started too fast (especially the first 10k). Perhaps holding back a bit would give me a better results.
- Maybe I am still 'too marginal' to attempt a sub-3. My coach suggested me to run at 3:01 pace and picked it up in the 2nd half if I had the chance to go for gold. Perhaps if I follow the coach's order, I can finish in 3:01 or 3:02. But I don't know whether that's what I really want
- I think I need to lower my HM time to around 85 (from 87 currently), otherwise there is not much room for error (must rely on perfect pacing, calm conditions etc)
- I feel that I need to consider doing more marathon than 1 per year as it is currently (2006 DNF, 2007 DNF, one marathon each in 2008, 2009, and 2010). I reckon I can better navigate the situation after km 30 if I have more marathoning experience.
+ Happy with the PB considering that this race was unplanned and I only decided to run 8 weeks ago after taking almost the whole of December off. Not a bad return for such as short prep.
+ Despite still stuck with the same 10k and 21k PBs (39 & 87) in the last 3 years, I managed to lower my marathon time by 15mins from 3.18 to 3.11 to 3:05 and now to 3.03
+ Hitting the wall at km 30 officially makes me a classic sub-3 wannabe. However, I have seen some people crashed and burned and ran 10-15 minutes slower in the second half. Because I was able to keep the damage to about 5mins positive split (despite the fast start and windy conditions), I think I am not too far away from sub-3.
+ Another good sign is that I didn't feel wasted at all after the run. In previous years, I could hardly walk for days after the marathon, but this time I felt good even right after finishing the run.
After the race, I managed to get my shirt signed by Lee Bong Ju, the 2001 Boston marathon champ and 1996 Olympic silver medalist. Hopefully, the autograph wouldn't wear away after the wash!
Now, the dilemma is whether I should do another marathon in 2-3 months time or should I just train for 4-6 months to prepare for Melbourne in October. Once you flirt, you just don't wanna stop!!!