26 March 2010

2010 Seoul International Marathon

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)
Halfway: 89:07

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!!!


Epi said...

Good race Sling.

I don't think I can add anything to the analysis you've made on yourself. The pace group going too fast early is a tough issue when paces need to be just right to sneak under the 3hr barrier.

Mahesh Natarajan said...

This is in my opinion a fantastic performance! I think a sub 3 is just a question of time now. Great job at Seoul. And congratulations on your kid turning 1!!

trailblazer777 said...

Well done!! Congratulations on the PB!
Sub 3 is oh so close, if you can sustain the momentum it has to go soon.

The rumour I heard is that Monaghetti is pacing the GCM 3 hr pace group and Biscuitman will be amongst it. So I'd get on board that one if I were you. No reason why you cant do Melbourne as well or instead of Gold coast. IMO its an either/or situation. Do both or do one. From a time to prepare and overall atmosphere point of view, Melbourne might be better, but Gold coast could be a faster course, and with Monaghetti and Biscuitman there, could be just the extra help to see you well under the 3 hours. I'd like to try Gold coast some day, but unlikely I will be able to get there this year.

In Melbourne Clown may be there which could assist as well, I plan on being there too, although not sure if I'd be much help as I am currently too slow other than maybe the first 3-4km. But I am trying to get faster and fitter as always.

Good race report. Should have got a photo of yourself running right on the back of the group of Kenyans. For sure respect better runners, but if you want to improve you have to challenge the better runners, not be intimidated by them.

Thats pretty cool how Seoul is rated right up there with Boston, New York, London Berlin etc. I reckon I'd like to try Berlin one day maybe. sounds very cold!!

Sounds like your training and racing has gone up a level, and your marathoning experience is starting to get a lot more mature, plus you are developing the strength to do several marathon PB attempts per year.

Big Kev over here did Perth, CitytoSurf, Melbourne and Rottnest all in the space of 4 months last year. He PBed in the first 3, with I think about 3.03 in Perth in July, a 2.57 in City to Surf in August and a 2.56 in Melbourne in October. Think he ran out of steam by Rottnest (only a week or so after Melbourne) with about 3.14 or something from memory. I also did Perth, City to Surf and Melbourne, but I did city to surf with a training run mindset, with the plan all along to attack Melbourne as the main goal race, will try to do the same again this year. (attack melbourne)

Congratulations on Sling Juniors first birthday. challenging but very special times ahead...

I agree that some improvement on your half time, and 10k time could help make the next sub 3 attempt a bit easier.
Fantastic result on a short prep. Well done.
All the best in the quest to keep the personal bests coming.

Ewen said...

You raced well Sling. To tell you the truth, off a limited prep I was expecting more of a fade, with 3:06ish at the finish.

I agree with your assessment that getting the half (and 5k/10k) time down will make a difference. Not much point going for 3:01/2, but with a faster (84/5?) half PB 3hr marathon pace will feel much easier.

Maybe run by Sean something like the Marius Bakken style of prep where you start with 5k training then switch to half training then marathon training?

Clown said...

Great effort Sling, not far away now. See how you feel over the next couple of weeks before deciding on whether to try in a couple of months or leave it for Oct.

by7 said...


the Sub-3 will come soon...
it is a bit difficult to make quality runs in Singapore, but you are int he right direction

Ken said...

Great job Sling & u got a PB with just 8 weeks of training! I too feel that it is only a matter of time before you can go sub3 hr.

As I can see your vast improvements over the past few years, I really wonder how did u do it with self-training as I always feel that one will benefits more from group training?

Hmm wonder what's your opinion on... Self-training vs group-training?

Sling Runner said...


Thanks. Group training is better than solo training becoz it's more fun and you can push each other when the going gets tough (for xample during long runs or intervals).

I do solo training simply due to my circumstance. I don't have a car so it's a bit hard to travel to group training venues such as ECP, MR, track etc. Also, I have a one year old bub, which limits my flexibility. In light of these, I train solo at my own time and normally in my neighbourhood.

Anonymous said...

Great report and I'm sure you'll achieve your sub-3 in Melbourne. Am thinking of running Seoul in 2011.