Standing Group Run

Tuesday & Thursday, 7:00pm, LePark Night Run.
Sunday, location & time varies.
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Thoughts on Kuching Marathon 2015

This is a story of the ordinary.

No amazing weight-loss tale, no story of triumph over adversity, no glorious victory, no race record.
It was an ordinary start to a race day. Our running club had been preparing members for months for this event and everyone came excited to run their best.

“Wear the club t-shirt, we’ll take a photo together after the run”

I was running the half-marathon, but woke up early to send my husband off. I was having breakfast and wondering if I should bring my phone. My running belt’s zipper had gotten stuck and I was contemplating stuffing a gel into my pocket and just going with that. I ended up soaking the belt in hot water and voila! The zip opened up! I had to run with a wet belt though. In the end, I stuffed my phone into a plastic bag and brought it.

I started out in the middle of the pack with Desmond. We agreed to stick together as our pace was roughly similar and he had forgotten his Garmin. As we passed the starting mat and started slowly jogging, I exclaimed loudly at the pack leader, already past the U-turn and racing back to the Padang and to the rest of the course. It was the last time I would see the group of eventual winners in action and I eagerly cheered them on.

It was a cool morning, and a quiet one. There were no sleepy cheering villagers this year, and we began to speed up to race pace. We chatted and joked along the route, although Desmond was more comfortable at the fast pace than I was. I was grateful for his company. We were born in the same year, same town, and had gone to the same kindergarten. Although we had lost contact later when I changed schools, we re-connected again through running.

About halfway through the race, he was a few hundred meters ahead of me. I had slacked off the pace slightly to catch my breath. Desmond turned around when he noticed my footsteps had gone.
“You okay?”
“Yeah” I said, “You go ahead. You’re maintaining a steady pace, you can finish well ahead of me. Run by feel.”
“Okay, I’ll see you later.”
We split up. 

I found another girl running at around the same pace and we stuck together for a while. She was a school sprinter, and had taken leave from her job to come to Kuching to race.  
I caught up with another girl, and we chatted a bit. She was from KL, and had run as a pacer in Malaysian Women’s Marathon. We shared some encouraging words along the way.
There’s lots of fast girls this year, I thought to myself.

As we passed the toll and came up to the bridge I saw a guy hunched over at the side.
“Are you okay?” I asked him.
He gave me the thumbs-up while rubbing his knee. I continued running, but I heard another runner behind me ask him if he needed help.
Runners are a really cool bunch of people, I though.

I passed a few water stations and high-fived the cheering squad. Wonder how long they had been there chanting the same song.

I was running around the swimming pool when I saw Desmond running back towards me.
“What’s going o…”
“Eric’s at MBKS” he blurted out as he sped past me.

What the…

Something must have happened.

I picked up the pace and ran to MBKS. I saw Eric at the side of the road. There was another runner holding him up. He was pale as a sheet. Another runner who was holding a pack of ice stopped and iced his head.

“What happened” I wanted to ask. But I kind of knew he’d hit the wall in a huge way.
I heard the ambulance and ran out to the road, waving frantically.
A girl who introduced herself as Dr Ng came out and took his pulse.
“His pulse is okay.”
Oh thank God.

Desmond had run back and joined us. The guy with the ice was a runner I only knew casually. “Continue the race” I told him, “I’ll stay.” They ran off, knowing there was nothing more they could do.
“Sir, can you hear me sir?” the doctor asked, tapping Eric's hand. He was staring ahead, looking through her.
“Eric” I called out his name, “Eric are you okay.”

The doctor conferred with the ambulance driver. “Bring him to Central.” I overheard the doctor say.

Three of us carried him into the ambulance. The doors shut and the siren went on. They sped off.
Desmond and I looked at each other in a daze. The last thing I wanted to do was to continue racing. I also knew I had probably dropped a few places as we had been passed by loads of runners in that time.
“Are you okay?” Desmond asked.
“Let’s finish this.” I said.
We ran back, trying to pick up the pace.
“Where do you think they brought him?” he said.
“I heard Central, so maybe Central Padang?” I replied.

Wordlessly, we both sped up. We came around the Corner of Good Hope at a gallop. My mind was on my friend, and hoping he was okay. I knew it was the same for Desmond.

“Not likely I can PB now anyway.” Desmond joked as we raced on. We had forgotten everything. Pacing and breathing was out the window, we didn’t even bother to stop at the last water station. It was an all-or-nothing for the finish line.
We sprinted.

I finished about 15 seconds behind Desmond.

People we knew were congratulating us. I collected my medal and shirt and saw Desmond at the end. I knew we both wanted to look for Eric.
“He must be at the Medical Tent.” I said.
We walked out onto Padang and towards the tent. No sign of Eric.
“Did you see our friend?” I asked the medical staff. “He was brought in by the ambulance.”
“What’s his bib number?” we were asked. Good Lord I don’t know, I thought. I know his name. He’s not a number to me.

Eventually we found out that he was brought directly to the General Hospital.
“His wife is still running.” I said. “Did you call his emergency contact?”

I gave them his details, as I had them in my dropbox. I used my phone data plan to go online and retrieve it. I thought back to the moment that I almost left my phone at home.

“Let her finish the race.” Desmond said. It was Janette's first marathon, and we both knew how she had been training hard for months.

Desmond waited patiently for her at the finish line. When she finished with a group our of club members, the pure joy on her face shone through. A first marathon joy is really hard to encapsulate.

However, Desmond broke the news to her and some friends whisked her off to the hospital.

Eric had an epic 6 liters of saline pumped back into his body in one day.

He’s healthy and recovered now, although he still supports Manchester United.

This whole experience made me think. Think for days. 

And I've come to 3 conclusions.

1. Hydrate yourself well when running in this weather. Its something we all have to practice, and its something small that we can do on each and every run. The skies can be a cloudy illusion, but make no mistake, we are losing water by just standing in the heat and breathing. Our bodies are an amazing, complicated machine that needs salts and water to survive. When I say hydrate, I'm talking about salts as well as water. Learning to keep your salt-water balance in a state of homeostasis is a technical skill we all need if we are to continue running long distances.

2. Desmond is a hero.
If he had not found our friend when he did, there may have been a much gloomier race day for us. But as he said, "Any one of us would have done the same."
I hope to goodness he's right. Its just us, ordinary people with ordinary lives. The good we do has a bigger impact than we let ourselves believe. Its this ordinary good that makes some really extraordinary moments.

3. Runners are hands down the best people to know. If you're a runner, you've got a friend anywhere. I love this community that maybe wouldn't know each other at all, and yet now that we run together we sometimes know each other's bowel movements and sweat output. Even if I know you, for example the way I know Desmond, there's no way I would be as close friends if it were not for running. We have something precious here. Let's look out for each other, on the runs, on the roads, and on the trails. Welcome new runners and share your knowledge with them.
The bonds that we have made in just a short time knowing each other and being around each other in training are pretty strong, I know that friends I make when running will be my friends for life. I hope I can continue to run as long as that friendship lasts. 

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