Saturday, July 27, 2013

Blasts from the past

So I thought I'd treat you to some old photos...

My best marathon, Tokyo 2011 

Unfortunately there's no actual action shot from Tokyo, or if there is I can't remember where I put it. 

I run exactly one marathon per year, which explains the enormous time lag in between these things. My first marathon was in December 2009; my second (which I don't even count as a marathon because it was an enormous mess) was in December 2010; my third was in February 2011. Between 2011 and 2012 I decided to enter the fun-and-pain-filled world of triathlons, so my last marathon was in December 2012. 

For Tokyo, my goals were
- finish
- finish without injury
- finish under 6 hours

From 0-4km: We were very early, so we stood around in our respective holding pens freezing our butts off. But the weather was absolutely perfect for running - 10 degrees C and sunny and warming up. 
At precisely 9.10am the horn went off; so did was mildly confusing for a few minutes. We started walking forward and it took me about 15 minutes to reach the start line. After 4km, my rain jacket came off and went around my waist.

In a long and honourable tradition of wearing completely the wrong thing for races, I wore: thin running gloves, a sports bra, a long-sleeved polypro shirt, a rain jacket, thermal tights because I did not own any full-length running tights and do not now, shorts, running socks, and sneakers. I bet you're REALLY sad there are no photos. 

From 4km-25km: i had planned to take little walk breaks every 5km, but just felt so good I kept right on running. If I had kept up this very, very even pace, I would have made it in under 5 hours. 
A lot of people run Tokyo in costume, and it's around here I was passed by Darth Vader ('may the force be with you'), Michael Jackson, a guy running with a webcam on his head, Stitch from Lilo and Stitch, Keroppi, a Pokemon or two, and oddly enough, the 5:30 pacers. This stretch was pleasant and uneventful, but beginning to slow down a bit from 21km onwards. My nose got sunburnt. 

From about 9km onwards i would think 'Trudy, Trudy, Trudy' to myself and imagined my favourite coach  at the back of the pack on her bike, bearing down on me and yelling nasty things - but this always made me laugh and kept me going. In real life Trudy is a fun and pleasant person COMPLETELY unlikely to yell nasty things at anyone, ever. Which made me laugh harder when I thought about it. Which means those race photos probably feature a ridiculous grin on my face. Bet you're REALLY, REALLY sad there are none. 

21km - at this point I was still on track to finish under 5 hours, which to me was kind of amazing. Tokyoites were lining the streets and cheering everyone on. There was ample water and food from organisers even though we were in the middle/ back of the pack, but even if there hadn't been, people were just handing out chocolate, candy, fried chicken (!), etc. 

30km-36km: leg cramps struck, despite several salt capsules and sports drinks. I started walking a bit ('run until you cramp, walk until you uncramp, rinse and repeat'). at some point I ran out of water and there were no more water points for another km or 2, so I broke my rule about accepting candy from strangers. The Sour Lemon bomb i got from a little old lady was only the best thing I've ever tasted, but other people were handing out things like miso soup, if that's more your...cup of tea. 

Things begin to go downhill from 27+km onward...or more literally, uphill and downhill and uphill... 

36-42km: I did the 'run until you cramp, walk until you uncramp, repeat' thing. While checking splits on my watch, I realised I would go under 5:18 (my previous PB was 6:18) if I could finish the last 6 km in an hour and 15 minutes. I miraculously uncramped 2km from the finish line, and ran for my life ('I want my PB, I want my PB dammit'). got to the finish line, checked my time, broke previous PB by more than an hour (don't think I'll ever do THAT again), cried tears of joy. 

After the marathon I remember waddling back to my hostel and falling asleep for four hours, then going out for dinner (okonomiyaki!) with a couple of friends. I very distinctly remember the restaurant had no elevator. 

My first marathon, December 2009

"What Not To Wear For A Marathon": nylon shorts that became soggy and immediately chafed. No cap on a very hot day. My nose got sunburnt. (See a trend?) Yes, that's the same Nathan handheld bottle strap I used till last year, when I mysteriously lost it after last year's Standard Chartered marathon. 

I'm flying here, but (as usual) cramped and walked along the way. I don't know if that means I could've pushed harder! 

My first half-marathon, December 2008

I look extraordinarily serene, probably because I am running about two km per hour, but still having a much better time of it than the guy behind me. 

What Not To Wear: Do not, under any circumstances, steal your little sister's Nike shorts while she is away at university and wear them for the first time during your very first half-marathon. (If I recall correctly this was due to spectacularly poor laundry planning, and all my non-ratty shorts were in the wash. This was when I was still using the same shorts I'd used in high school.) Because while you are theoretically the same size, you two are also completely different shapes and your thighs will not be happy. 

This was before I discovered the existence of Bodyglide. 

Also before I ever kept a training journal, so I'm afraid I have no idea what to tell those of you who are training for a half-marathon how I did it. I finished in 2:43:31. It's funnier now that I'm trying to bust 2:10. 


This morning's 'long' run was terrible and literally a wash. I don't know what I ate last night that did me in, but I had a stomachache when I woke up, felt like throwing up for the first 10K of the run, and when I finally stopped feeling nauseous the skies opened up on me. For the last ten minutes before the downpour it was very breezy though, which was terrific. 

On the bright side, it's only just occurred to me why I like margarita Clif Shot Bloks -- they taste nothing like margaritas and everything like sour plum candy. I bet they're more of a hit in Asia than anywhere else. 


  1. I know absolutely nothing about running but I have a curious question... what is the best way to breathe?

    1. PS that guy behind you is hilarious!

    2. Open your mouth.

      No, seriously. Anything anyone ever told you about "how to breathe" is BS. Just open your mouth and get the air in. When you finish taking it in, exhale.

      If you absolutely DO need a rule, try breathing in for 2 footfalls, then out for 2 footfalls. Repeat to yourself: In, In, Out, Out - over and over again. This basically does what I first described, but works for people who like rules. :)

    3. I'd pay attention to Holly because she's actually a running coach! My advice would have been...'regularly? Yeah, that sounds about right. I like breathing regularly. Can't live without it.' :)

    4. Hahahah thanks guys... Rules are good! I'm a toe-the-line kind of person myself. Even rules like... "regularly". I ask because I wonder if chest tightness has anything to do with breathing and I should be breathing more deeply or something.

  2. Hm. I have a package of margarita shot blocks for you, then. They are generally disliked among American runners (so it seems), but I have a sample pack from...somewhere. And I definitely don't like sour plum. So, the shot bloks are yours. I'll stick them with your Stingers. :)

    1. It certainly sounds like everyone hates them. Everyone but me, that is. Not going to complain. Many thanks! What are you doing on Tuesday afternoon?

  3. I used to be one pro-margarita shot bloks (why can't they just spell it normally?!) and used them exclusively while training for a (n ultimately unsuccessful) marathon, but then I tried them again earlier this year and couldn't stomach them. In fact, I've still got a few unopened packs I'll probably just throw away. You probably know this, but I'd advise against eating them before you've started running. So salty. I did it once because I was hungry before even starting my run and it was revolting.

    Holly's giving out free Stingers? Sign me up!

    Thanks for this blast from the past! Also, random question: is it still super hazy in Singapore? I remember you said you were covering it for your paper. I can't even imagine.

    1. Why can't they spell shot bloks normally? To distinguish them from all the other shot blocks out there obviously. Who knows. Ha ha. I don't know whose bright idea it was to make them huge unwieldy cubes, either. I'd say send me those packs but shipping would probably cost more than the shot bloks.

      Holly has very kindly been a mule for my Amazon order of stingers and then very kindly allowed them to live rent-free at her house!

      And no, no more haze (for the time being. Fingers crossed)

  4. Chafing - the nemesis of all long distance runners. I always try to wear tights when I race to stop one of my chafe-prone zones from assault but some days it's just too hot and the only sensible thing to wear is shorts. Sometimes Bodyglide isn't enough to stop the inevitable and I end up in the shower alternating between whimpering and screaming. I blame it on my mother who told me that ladies should keep their knees together - inner thigh rubbing will always result if you run like this.

    1. Mothers say many wise things, but that advice is terrible. How would you run at all if you always kept your knees together? :)

      When it gets too hot, the only sensible thing to wear in a race is booty shorts and an I-don't-care-that-the-world-is-seeing-my-jiggly-bits grin!

  5. Not all long runs are great! I have to try and keep that in mind a lot when I'm training. Good post full of tips.