Introduction: If you are facing uncertainty, hard times & self-doubt, I can recommend you read Maryati’s inspiring story below. Her article was first published at the sports portal, Hooha Asia. Enjoy!!
A TALE OF TWO MARATHONS by Maryati Mohamed
PART ONE: BRIDGING THE HEALTH GAP
Event: Penang International Bridge Marathon 2014 (PBIM 2014)
Venue: Jabatan Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzham Shah (aka Penang Second Bridge)
Date: 16 November 2014
Highlight: First time PBIM to held on the new second bridge.
My First Running Event: It was a 10km run at Desa Park City in November 2011. I still remember how proud I was at the Finish Line as I collected my first medal. Looking back, I could say that the resulting euphoric feeling of self-satisfaction derived from completing this most physical challenge ignited something within me to run more often.
Keeping Fit & Healthy: Running is an effective way for me to exercise because I like to be outdoors & it gives me a good cardio workout. Most weekends, I will run in the park for one hour each time, and occasionally, I would participate in running events on Sundays. As my stamina improved, I would register for longer races with distances of 12km, 15km, 21km, and even up to 25km.
My goal for each race is to finish it, regardless how much time it will take me. I find that I enjoy my runs more when I don’t have to stress myself over time-keeping. After all, the main purpose of running is for the exercise value, and keeping it fun is important too.
Inspiring others: By noticing the online postings of my running achievements, some of my friends started asking me for running tips and how to participate in running events. In fact, I am proud to say that some friends have already started taking-up running to keep fit as a result of my encouragement. By sharing our success stories online, we motivate & support each other to exercise regularly more often. Without doubt, we have all benefited immensely in our personal lives from our running activities in terms of our improved health, fitness & happiness. You could say that running has become an integral part of our active lifestyle.
Ultimate Test: Two and half years after having taken-up running, I decided to challenge & find-out for myself what it would be like to run a Full Marathon, all 42.195km of it! So, when the registration for Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014 opened, my husband, Gus Ghani & I registered for it immediately. Why did I choose PBIM2014 as my first FM? My decision was influenced by the event venue because I always love to visit Penang Island, and because the unique opportunity of running on the new bridge for the first time was too good to pass over.
Preparation & Training: Knowing full well that the hardest part of running in PBIM is to secure a suitable accommodation, we booked our hotel six months ahead. My training did not start until after Hari Raya at the end of August. I took part in 5 running events & 2 cycling events in two and a half months prior to my first full marathon. My running mileage was limited because I did not want to over-stress my knee joints. This is why I find that cross-training by cycling is useful because it helps improve my stamina without excessive strain on my legs & joints.
My husband even persuaded me to cycle-up to the peak of Frasier’s Hill with him as part of my cross-training. Furthermore, I would spend every other day, doing stretching & floor exercises which were recommended for runners.
My eating regime was more or less normal except that I would reduce my rice & sugar intake, while diligently drinking a protein shake every morning.
Nervous Energy: I was feeling quite brave when I registered for PBIM many months prior to the race date. However, as the race day grew nearer, my earlier bravado was quickly replaced by anxiety, doubt, uncertainty and the primitive fear of failure. I had to keep myself calm to avoid ending-up a complete nervous wreck. Fortunately, being able to a spend time with my husband leisurely exploring the lovely heritage trails of Georgetown, and indulging in Penang’s wonderful food, helped me greatly to relax my mind and calm my nerves.
Race Day: Gus & I took the free shuttle bus from the Jetty at 11:00pm to the race venue at the industrial zone of Batu Kawan. The race venue was split into two zones which were 200m apart: One part was to cater for the pre-race activities such as luggage drop area, runners waiting area, sponsors booths & even a live music band. The other zone was to accommodate the post-race activities including the finishing lines, medal & finisher Tee booths, rest area for the marathoners, drink booths. In between these two zones is the Start Line which was on a road which leads directly to the bridge ramp. Sharp at 1:30am, the Men’s Open Category was flagged-off, and 15 minutes later, my category of Women’s Open Category began our full marathon journey. The start of the race was smooth, and Gus, having started 15 minutes after me in the Veteran’s Category, did not catch me up until the 12km mark. From there, we ran together at my pace towards the other end of the bridge. There was a nice breeze to keep us cool on the bridge. Although flat, the bridge zigged-zagged into the darkness, and at times, I thought I saw the end of the bridge in the distance but it was only an optical illusion of another turn. The U-turn after the toll booth felt endless, and by the time, Gus & I started heading back in the opposite direction, my legs were already feeling sore and heavy. We started to alternate between running and walking. At 25km point, Gus got his second wind, and he left me behind to fight my own demons. Then, I caught sight of my friend and fellow first-time full marathoner, Fatimah, and seeing her bravely battling on, had somehow spurred me on to keep moving forward.
At the 30km mark, I started to walk more because I could feel the initial signs of cramps in my thighs and knees. As if I was not in enough pain already, the sun decided to join in the fun at 7:30am, and the subsequent heat added further misery to my already torturous state! With 10km left to go, I could have stopped all the pain & wave-downed the sweeper bus. But. No! No! No! Giving-up now was not an option anymore, after having sacrificed so much. In my mind, I would rather be a tortured finisher than a painless quitter. At the 36km point, I was trying hard to catch-up with the runners directly ahead of me. Luckily, my friend, Zarina was around to cheer me up and urge me on. You could say that I was like that lone and stubborn party-goer who refused to go home when all the other guests have long gone home. At the last 1km, I picked up the pace, and I was ready to push into the sea, anyone who got in my way. When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt like I had just won a MILLION DOLLARS. At the same time, all of my muscle soreness, body aches and pains quickly melted-away, and they were replaced with a satisfying feeling of euphoria and contentment. Yes, I had conquered the biggest physical challenge of my life, and no words can accurately describe the personal feeling of self-achievement. From this unforgettable experience of my first full marathon, I will take-away the greatest gift of all – the gift of SELF-BELIEF.
What Next For Me? First, I need to rest and give my body time to recover. Meantime, I want to thank my running friends, Fatimah & Zarina, hubby Gus, and many others for their invaluable support and well-wishes. If it was not for the support of these wonderful people, I would not have been able to realise my dream of completing my maiden full marathon. On a personal note, I dedicate my 1st Full Marathon to my sister, Marina who is cancer survivor. Her strength & kindness is a huge inspiration in my life.
What Is My Next Challenge?
Believe or don’t, I will be running my next Full Marathon at the inaugural Cyberjaya Marathon with hubby on 21 Dec 2014 because we want to show our support for this new local event & at a brand new venue.
What will I do differently the next time?
I hope to enjoy my second FM more with my newfound self-confidence, or die trying.”