Under the cloak of darkness, Syed (my Running Buddy) & I headed to nearby Bandar Kinrara. At 5:00AM, we arrived at the starting/finishing point located in between a small row of shop-lots and a modest-sized mosque. The scene is filled with running participants parking their cars; pinning on race bib numbers unto their running vests; warming-up; and exchanging New Year greetings.
What is amazing is the fact that there are some seasoned runners present like Sarong Man, Yim, and Frank of Running Lab who have already completed 16-15 KM just before this official NEWTON CHALLNGE 2012 – the second year that it is being held at this same venue.
As customary, I took my position directly behind the front row which is normally “reserved” for the elite runners who are expected to run fast right throughout the 25 KM distance. As usual, the event emcee reminded the participants not to rush at the start as it’s a long race, and to take on board lots of water at the drink stations which are located every 3 KM. The emcee also strangely told us that there are many petrol stations along the route in case runners need to use the toilet.
Bang on 5:30AM, despite the hooter malfunction, the runners rushed forward and the race officially begun. My race “strategy” was to start running as fast as I could for at least the first 5 KM, before faster runners like Syed will overtake me. Sure enough, just like clockwork, 100 metres from the 6 KM drink station, Syed overtakes me. Watching the two race leaders looped past us on the opposite side of the road, I was amazed at how fast they were running: I felt like I was crawling compared to these light-footed frontrunners.
To compensate for my slow pace uphill, I opened my stride when going downhill. During races, I always entertain myself by taking note of those runners with unusual footwear such as web-feet footwear, futsal and badminton shoes, and not forgetting the brave and slightly nutty, bare-foot runners. Unfortunately, most of them have overtaken me during one part or other of the race.
Half of the race was run in darkness. It was not until the New Year sunrise, the temperature became less humid and more comforting. I had planned to take my salts at the 5th drink station or by the 15 KM mark but due to the high humidity, I took my salts at the 3rd drink station to avoid cramps.
Sadly, by the 15 KM mark, the lactic acid build-up under my armpits was slowing me down and the pain and its management pre-occupied me for the rest of the race. On a positive note, on Yim’s advice, I did overtake a few runners during the last few kilometres to the finishing line as I took smaller steps with quicker cadence.
Right on cue, my running spirit drove me to sprint the last 100 metres despite the muscle fatigue and cramps. In that few minutes, I forgot the pain as I lifted both arms when the finishing line was crossed. With the adrenalin rush, I remember a race volunteer placing a medal over my head. Then, I greedily grabbed a mineral bottle to quench my killer thirst. After that, I queued at the Milo stand to get my sugar hit.
Amidst the party atmosphere behind the finishing line, I was in no mood to party because the pain in my armpits were excruciating. I rushed over to the medic hut, and immediately described to the Red Cross volunteers the nature of my agony. I was told to squeeze my armpits by pressing my arms beside my body, and place a plastic bag of ice where it hurts. To their credit, my pain eased almost immediately.