I literally can’t remember the last time I went for a run. I know I took part in a race in 2017, because I won a 10k in Myanmar, and I ran an 800m at Toa Payoh Stadium at some point that year, and I must have run a couple of times this year, but to say I’ve been neglecting my running training would be a gross understatement. Signing up a couple of months ago to run in an 800m was meant to spur me on to train. Sadly, I can now report that signing up for an 800m was definitely not enough encouragement to make me do any training.
Then again, if we’re thinking about ways to neglect proper preparation for a run, flying to Manila and back again and not sleeping properly might figure quite highly, as could breakfasting on two shots of espresso, some maple-smoked bacon and an ice cream. I suppose this is why people pay for coaches to advise them on their diet and lifestyle habits.
Anyway, the race was at 3:10 in the afternoon, and (as seems to be the tradition whenever I have a track event in Singapore) at 1pm I was doubled over on the toilet with gastric… issues, and after that rushing to almost the other end of Singapore (Choa Chu Kang Stadium) to make it in time for race sign-on. Again, a note to future self: having to sprint the last 800m from MRT stop to stadium in order to get there on time is not a great warm up. I sat in the stands, trying to pin my race number onto my vest, hands shaking, sweat pouring off my face.
The competitors were a motley lot; serious types in track spikes, youngsters in regular Nikes (which look ridiculously bloated compared to track spikes), and me. I made up for having track spikes by being bloated.
The Akira Track & Field has a nicer atmosphere than the Singapore Masters’. Well, that is to say there’s no miniature Hitler yelling at you because your race number isn’t perfectly lined up with the stripes on your shirt, or because your shirt isn’t tucked into your shorts. But with almost nobody in the stands, there’s not much of an atmosphere. (But honestly, what kind of loon is going to be outside at three in the afternoon on a hot Singapore day?)
We all got counted and lined up, and walked to the start, spikes clicking on the paving and then silent on the track. Track spikes feel odd on the track; you don’t sense that the spikes are sticking into the ground, but go back to regular flat soles and everything feels mushy and wrong.
The start is almost too simple. You hear "on your marks" and move up to the line. There’s no "set!", just a burst of static that counts as the starting gun, and off you go. If you’re not in the inside lane to start with, you head for it as soon as you can (I was in lane 3 or 4).
As usual, I went hard out of the gate. Going round the first bend I was close to the front three, and was successfully boxing in a couple of runners, but by the end of the curve (ie after 100m) I was already losing pace as the field stretched out and wemt past me. By 200m my quads were in agony and almost everyone was past me – by half way into the final stretch of the first lap, I was dead last.
On the second lap, the pain went away, but instead I couldn’t feel anything. I kept trying to push, but my legs just weren’t responding – I felt like at any moment I might just stop. Still, somebody else was having a worse day than me: at 500m I overtook one person (maybe the only person who brought regular running shoes) and for the rest of the second lap I was concentrating solely on staying ahead of him. I made it to the last curve with room to spare, still paranoid that I was going to grind to a halt and gift him my position.
Allowing myself a glance back as I rounded the last corner, I could tell I was probably safe. I pushed as hard as I could to the end, finishing in a respectable (if you’ve not been training at all) 2:47, and then came to a halt, legs like jelly, feeling like I was about to keel over.
Here’s me after the race (compare and contrast to just before). I really must make an effort to train more for 2019…