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The 2003 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon
By K. P. Tan

It was Sunday, December 7th. More than nine thousand participants took part in the various events of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2003. It was a day all of us have waited for a full year, since the last marathon held a year ago. Many of us had little or no sleep the night before the race through sheer excitement. Many of us woke up at 2:00 a.m. to have our last meal. Most of us marathoners had to leave the house by about 4:00 a.m. The full marathon began at 6:00 a.m. sharp. 2,490 runners, each with a computer chip tied to one shoe, ran off from the starting line from the parking lot of our National Stadium. The champion, John Kelas of Kenya, only took 2:19:02 to complete the race. The rest of the elite runners also returned with lightning speed. Most of us had a harder time finding our way back to the finishing line at the Padang.

I crossed the finish line at the Padang in front of City Hall with a last minute sprint from Victoria Memorial Hall. I put my on my best smiles for my son who was waiting for me with his camera at the finish line. I appreciated very much the encouragement of the cheer teams, kind souls who handed out fruits along with the spectators all along the route from start to the finish line. I was out of breath as I crossed the line but recovered very quickly. The overhead digital clock showed that my time was 4:03:25. Later the computer chip confirmed a slightly better timing of 4:01:42. It brought a clear message in my mind that for the first time in eight finishes, my time had exceeded four hours. It was also confirmed on the timer of my wristwatch. My best time was 3:30:50 achieved in 1987. Last year my timing was 3:53:16. The irony of it was that many people would be delighted with the result of the run; in my case however, I would not be telling the truth if I said that I did not feel disappointed.

In fact I already knew at the 39-kilometer mark somewhere at Marina South that I was unlikely to complete the race in less than four hours. At that point my watch timer on my wristwatch showed that I had 18 minutes to complete 3.2 kilometers. On a normal day I would have no problem but at that point and time, I knew I was unlikely to make it. I was actually running quite slowly at more than six minutes per kilometer. My legs refused to move any faster regardless of how much I tried to coax them. Some might argue that I had hit the wall that normally happens at the 32-kilometer mark. At that point the body runs out of carbohydrate in the form of glycogen. Without glycogen the body is unable to metabolize the body fat and convert it into fuel. Our body is supposed to be able to store between 1600 to 2600 calories of glycogen. During a marathon our body burns about 100 calories for every 1.6 kilometers run. It follows that the body would be depleted of glycogen by the 32-kilometer mark. That's when a runner hits the wall.

There was no euphoric feeling despite the flow of endorphin. There was a feeling of relief that the time was not too bad. It could have been worse. There was an overriding feeling of pain on my two feet. I picked up three blisters on the left foot and two blisters on the right. My shoes probably did not fit properly. I would not mention the brand but suffice to say that it was one of the branded stuff that I bought two months ago for half-price at the discount sports shop located right in the center of Ang Moi Kio Town.

My throat was dry like a desert despite my having drunk at the countless water stops along the route. I was really thirsty as well as hungry. I grabbed two cans of isotonic drinks and two bottles of water to quench my thirst. I first drank a bottle of isotonic drink that contained some carbohydrates and then drank a bottle of water. There was nothing I could do about the hunger. No food was available at the finishing line. I wish I could get hold of a banana or a big sandwich. All I could see was the offer of free massages in the great big tent. Someone hung one useless medal on my neck as I passed the finishing line.

The completion of a marathon for an ordinary Singaporean should be seen as a victorious achievement. Targets if any whether achieved or not should be seen as secondary. In this way every finisher will be a winner and every winner should be happy with his/her achievement. I should be happy too. Long live Singapore Marathon. Bless the sponsors for making it possible.

Thanks K. P. for sharing your marathon story.

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