But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Preparation to run the full marathon has occupied a good part of my life this year; mentally and physically. First question, why in heaven’s name did I want to do this? The last major achievement for me was my 10km in 2010. This was the journey from no exercise to actually running. Fast forward a few years and I felt I needed a push or booster in all of my other goals and this was the BIG, HAIRY, AUDACIOUS one that just needed to be conquered.
There were many hurts and pains in 2014 and somehow this seemed like a cleansing exercise, a “mandi bunga” (bathing in flowers to rid oneself of bad luck) of sorts. I did all the cliche things like declaring this to friends and over social media. Fortunately or stupidly of me, I declared this over radio too! Talk now, worry later! At least I’m not NATO (No Action Talk Only)!
For a period of 5 months or so, almost every weekend was spent running with days starting at 4.30am most days. There’s no one around to cheer you on. Fortunately, I had a friend who also signed up for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon for the full marathon. There’s nothing like someone who can suffer alongside with you. I have to say it was a case of fear & trepidation leading up to the race. I failed to see the joy in what I have decided to do. Why oh why did I open my big mouth?!
The journey towards The Day was filled with aches and pains. Osteopaths became firm friends from the Chinese sort to the Western types. Why do people say it’s mind over matter? My swollen ankle and Achilles’ Heel tell me it’s my body and not my mind.
Along the way, there were many well-wishers and advisors who encouraged me. Every sort of advice was given to me and all of it was used on that fateful day. I arrived at the venue an hour before the event. My friend and I met and we both prayed prior to starting. The sunrise picture was my view as we prayed. I don’t know if I was overwhelmed or grateful for the opportunity to use my legs and to afford a trip to Australia or just plain scared and so I started crying. Maybe a bit of both.
During the race, the strategy of counting the refreshment stops backwards worked. There were 17 and when I passed that, I was on the eager lookout for No 16 and so forth. I do not wear any gadgets so my mind was fully occupied with plenty of matters.
The night before the race, I had Rock Tape all over my body, knees, feet and ankle. I had just arrived in Australia on Saturday on an overnight flight and fought sleep before I knocked off at 8.30pm. So I was well-rested. On the day itself, I poured sunblock and Vaseline all over the body to prevent the chaffing. I had anti-inflammation pills, hydration salts (including McD’s salt) and power gels and was conscious about consuming them regularly. Ready or not, here I come!
As I was running, there were many thoughts of quitting but I thought of all the people who encouraged me. I dedicated the run to my Lord and Saviour. At the same time, I really couldn’t imagine doing this again after weeks of training.
My pain started in the 7th kilometre and wondered how I was going to 35 more. As I was running, there were many thoughts of quitting but I thought of all the people who encouraged me. The anti-inflammation pill was the first to come out. There were plenty of jokes prior to the race of one particular friend who would always tease me about not having completed a marathon. I thought about “Uncle John” and I had to laugh.
What I really liked about the race were the well-wishers who cheered the runners all across the 42km route. At about the 30km mark, one lady actually came out from the crowd and and ran (she walked) with me. The Aussies are great that way!
The other thing that worried me was that there were markers right up to the 40km mark and if I didn’t make it, I would be swept away in a car. That became my motivator. I kept at a consistent pace of 7kms an hour. I was going to run at that pace and let God handle the rest. If I did slow down, then so be it.
Although people were running past me, I chose to ignore them and stayed focused on my goals and pace. As the distance increased, the gap became wider at the markers which means I had more time. I was so relieved and my confidence increased. I caught up with some people who sped past me earlier which meant my strategy to stay the course at my pace worked out.
That’s a lesson in life, isn’t it? Most of the time we’re looking around us and making comparisons with people when most of the time, the race is with ourselves. That’s why I love running, it’s always your Personal Best or PB.
During the run, I saw the Africans zooming past, a lovely gentleman who obviously had a physical disability (he told me his father used to work at Malaysia Airlines and yes I still managed to chat), a blind woman with a guide, wheelchair participants and parents pushing their kids in wheelchairs. There were also a couple of Japanese girls in their mini kimonos. An overall colourful day!
Over 6000 people took part in the marathon and at the end, only over 5000 finished, Maybe they didn’t finish or maybe they didn’t show up. And that’s the thing right? Half the journey is at least starting.
At the end of the race, I could feel the salt all over my body. Thank goodness there wasn’t much humidity and so sweat quickly evaporated. Practicing in humid Malaysia really helped. Thank goodness the route was very flat. Never mind my legs suffered 3 days after. It was worth the journey. Thank you everyone who was there for me. So was it mind over matter? It wouldn’t have happened without practice that’s for sure but more importantly, it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t decided. The spirit was willing and so the flesh followed suit.