The Newton Challenge running race took place at East Coast Park this morning. Comprising of two categories, the 18km and 32km ones, this run is commonly used by many runners to prepare for the year-end StanChart Marathon.
This is because 32km is often recommended as the longest Long Slow Distance (LSD) training run leading up to the 42.195km marathon and 18km works out to be a good LSD to gauge one’s readiness for the Half Marathon (21.1km).
I took part in the 32km race.
Did not have the best preparations
Leading up to this 32km run, I must admit that I did not have the best preparation though – no thanks to the haze which has been plaguing Singapore for the past few weeks.
So it was with mixed feeling when I woke up and checked the PSI this morning before the 32km race. My phone screen showed that the range was in the 60s and 70s – well under 100. Part of me had been hoping that the PSI would be higher – so that the race distance could have been reduced.
This has been the trend for many races over the last month, when the PSI had breached 100. Some notable recent examples have included the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run and the Garfield Run in September.
Rugby World Cup was too addictive
I admit that the ongoing Rugby World Cup also hadn’t helped my running, either. In fact, this morning, the Quarter Final match between the All Blacks and France was being shown at 3.00am.
And so I was almost late for the race flag-off, no thanks to the fact that I could barely tear myself away from the live telecast, where the Kiwis had been literally mauling France. (New Zealand won that game by a lopsided 62-13 scoreline in the end).
But as I had already registered for my slot, it would not have been worth it to register a Did Not Start (DNS) status purely due to the rugby game, so I exerted all the discipline that I could manage – to practically tear myself away from the screen at the last minute and rush down.
Fortunately the race venue happened to be relatively near to where I stay though, so getting there had not been too much of a problem.
The Race Begins
When I reached the race site for the 32km race, I had probably about 10 minutes to spare, so I quickly deposited my bag and dashed into the start pen, where I met a few of my friends, purely by chance. We then took a few selfies before the starting horn blew at about 5.00am – and it was then time to start running.
As the 32km route normally comprises of two laps of East Coast Park, I can’t say that it was the most interesting running route around. In fact, it was mentally very challenging to be able to stay motivated to complete the distance.
The first few kilometres went by relatively okay. Thanks to the haze, I had not been running at East Coast Park for a while, so the cool sea breeze and the greenery proved to be quite enjoyable at this stage. There were also plenty of hydration stations too, serving ice-cold water and isotonic drinks, so this was pretty good and so I did not have to think about getting enough fluids for the run.
Route was monotonous
However, by the time I reached the first U-turn point at the National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC), about 9km into the race, I admit that I began to feel slightly bored with the monotonous running at East Coast Park. It was around the 10km mark when I stopped to take a gel, which I think I took probably more out of boredom rather than because I had truly needed the energy from it. I wondered too, what had possessed me to sign up for this run again.
Nevertheless though, having the gel had energised me just enough to keep trudging on – and head back towards the Big Splash area, which marked the end of the first loop. (The end of the first loop was about 2km away from Big Splash). As I was running though, it was pretty depressing to see the 32km race leaders sprinting past us to the finish – it meant that while I still had another loop to go, they were about to complete their race and could take a well-deserved rest.
Second loop became much more painful
The second loop was much more painful, possibly due to my haze-induced lack of training – and my legs kept on telling that they needed to stop running. So to try and give them a rest, I took short breaks at the water stations, where I would catch my breath and sip on either water or isotonic depending on my mood.
At the same time, I also used these breaks to reload on salt tablets or energy gels so that my body could keep on going. At the same time, I also constantly stretched my legs, whenever I suspected that a cramp could be forming. I think that this, together with the salt tablets, had helped to keep the pesky leg cramps at bay.
And as I passed each kilometre marker – which were spaced about 1km apart, they gave me the motivation that I needed to keep on going. This was because every 1km completed had meant progress towards the finishing line.
After what felt like forever, I reached the NSRCC U-turn point again. This time though, getting here spurred me into action because it meant that all I needed to do, was to run all the way back and then I would be completely done with this race. I would then be able to chill out and have the delicious food available at the post-race village. At this point, there was about nine more kilometres left to do.
So I mustered up all the energy that I had left, and tried to push on. I told myself that the faster I completed the nine kilometres, the faster I could rest my weary, tired and complaining legs and tuck into all the delicious ice cream that I had wanted. And I must say that this strategy, together with the stops at the hydration stations to catch my breath – definitely helped to propel me to the finishing line. It also felt pretty motivating to be running – and passing all those other poor walkers who had hit the wall.
Bumping into Singapore’s oldest marathon runner
On the way back too, I also bumped into a friend of mine, 85-year-old Uncle Chan Meng Hui – who is Singapore’s oldest marathon runner as well as one of the most inspirational figures in the local running circles. He had been doing the 18km route.
Seeing him pounding away strongly despite his age, had helped to spur me on even more – to complete this 32km run that I had signed myself up for. And by now, there was about four kilometres left to go – so I ran with all the energy that I could muster.
Using Uncle Chan as a form of motivation, I simply pushed myself and ran for the last four kilometres – to complete the Newton Challenge 32km race. But it felt like forever though, to reach the finishing line. My legs were complaining more and more, with every step that I took.
But finally, I had crossed the finishing line – at long last. At that very point, I felt more relief than anything else.
Looking forward to the ice cream at the post-race village
As I lined up for my race finisher tee and medal, I thought of the delicious ice cream at the end point, which I could now finally indulge in. Yes, I had definitely deserved this treat.