Army Half Marathon – 6 curios

This is about 6 weeks past the event but I feel that’s in keeping with the general feel and organisation of this event and I’d like to share some things I noticed about this event. My result in itself isn’t worth writing about – 5th in 72.53 behind 4 Kenyans. It was won in 68.30ish. I felt ok and half marathons really are hard in this climate. I went with the Kenyans, dropped off, and picked up a couple later on – with a gap to the locals behind me including my training partner Melvin Wong who was first Singaporean (or “race winner” as Singapore call it).

  1. The elite starting pen

So the 50 or so elites nearly missed the start. We started on a bridge which makes getting to the front quite tough. However the race organisers had arranged for the elites to gather on the pavement and then cross a hand-built staircase to get over the race barriers to the start. Not a bad idea all in all. But when we heard the “ONE minute to go folks!” call and we’re all still on the side we got agitated. The Kenyan athletes started trying to climb fences and things got edgy. They had forgotten to finish the staircase to get us to the front. Luckily someone drew their attention to this and they delayed the start to get us on the startline.

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Staircase gets built on right hand side. Just in time!

2. Have we started yet?

There were a few schoolkids lined up in front of us to stop us edging forwards before the gun went. But as they counted down these kids sprinted off in front of us. Was that the start? What’s going on? With no expectations set as to how we started we sort of half started and then a couple of seconds later the gun went. More confusion. I have no idea why these kids didn’t just move to the sides….

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Is this the start? Can we start??

3. Water stations

The race started at 4.30 am. It was dark. And it’s Singapore so it’s really hot. I wanted to get water to pour on me and grab a drink whenever I could. There were plenty of water and sports drink stops which is great. However they didn’t really label which was which so many times I poured sticky sports drink over me. And of course the drinks are in paper cups so the chance of getting any in your mouth if you want to drink are tiny….. I ended up very sticky……

4. MEN WITH GUNS – WTF??

I get it’s the army half marathon, and the army memorabilia like tanks and soldiers is completely fine. But men pointing rifles at you while you are running is just WEIRD and freaky. They may have been pretend rifles – again it was dark so you can’t see a huge amount – but even so – why would you do that?? I thought it was a terrorist attack the first time.

5. I’m finished – water please

So I finished the race – pissed off with myself for cruising the past few km thinking I had no hope of catching the 4th Kenyan – only to turn the final bend and see him jogging in and I ended up 2 seconds behind him. Oh well. Now I am HOT (and annoyed) and just want water to pour on myself. But that’s fine, EVERY race finish has water right? Wrong. I asked all the marshals at the end where water was. Blank looks. There is none. Eventually I found a sports drink station (they hadn’t set up yet though) and they gave me something to drink. It turns out there was a water tent later on – they just hadn’t bothered to set anything up for about 20minutes after the leaders came through.

6. The prizes

I won $200. That’s nice. I guessed there was some decent prize money on offer as the Kenyans wouldn’t have turned up otherwise. There was NOTHING on the website beforehand about the prize structure or even that there was any prizes at all. The first Singaporean prize was $3,000, handy. I left the race to get water, and then got a Whatsapp message from Melvin that I was due a prize but he couldn’t collect for me. One week later I got an email telling me to bring my bib number and ID card to a centre on a certain week to collect. I said I threw away my wet useless bib number. No prize for you they said. What the actual fuck I said. I KNOW what my bib number is, and I have an ID card. Why do you need it? Eventually they told me management had said it was ok to get my prize, on this occasion. Thank you I said.

To be fair, the race itself was pretty good – some bands and entertainment on the course and well marked out and everything. I just found these details quite funny….

Running in South East Asia Pt 2: Yangon, Myanmar

This is the 2nd place in South East Asia I did some running in as part of a weekend away. The true British colonialists amongst you will know this place as Rangoon, Burma, but well, it’s not called that anymore.

First impressions of Yangon is that it’s not a touristy venue and fast developing but still quite “improvisational” in its infrastructure. I can’t recommend it enough for those that like the ‘real’ side of Asia over the tourist resorts. It’s cheap, the food’s great (and has it’s own variations) and it has incredible temples and massive buddhas.

So anyway – the running bit. So Yangon isn’t too bad for running: there’s not crazy traffic, and there are some lakes and sort of parks to use as a focal point. The pavements aren’t great, and sometimes there are no pavements so you just hope cars avoid you. A few stray dogs as well, but they all seemed pretty tame and none tried to bite me, so that’s a win. You can also do some great temple tourism as running through the city is reasonably easy.

So I did 2 runs, the first from my $50/night hotel which was functional if not luxurious. I ran about 3km North to Lake Kandawgyi and basically ran a lap of that, alternating between running inside the fence of the park around it and then back outside when the paths disappeared or if there was wooden decking which looked treacherous. I saw an early morning aerobics crew, a few other runners but it was pretty quiet otherwise.  Strava link here. I found Yangon less hot than Singapore, and maybe a bit less humid too. This was a 10 mile run and it was pretty easy and some good sights also. Enjoyable!Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 5.07.46 PM.png

 

The next day I decided to venture a bit further afield to Lake Inla. My plan was to run a lap then run home via the Shwedogan temple. I got a 6.30am taxi to the bottom of Lake Inla – which cost $6. I was initially greeted by a dead kitten and just a main road, but as I turned to the lake there was a really nice stretch alongside the lake. The lake paths did end at several points, so you have to navigate a few back streets to follow the perimeter but it was pretty easy and not too busy.

From the lake you basically follow a main road (which was quiet and had wide pavements( towards the People’s Park and Shwedagon Pagoda. You could see quite a few sights if you chose to – I elected to mainly keep running until I got home and see them when I was less sweaty and could unlock my phone more easily for photos! This was an 18km run altogether and shorter than I thought so you could add on more for a long run. Lake Inla isn’t the most beautiful lake in the world – it’s basically just an expanse of water, but I did see some cool aquatic birds, and there are some interesting little food stalls around it.

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I enjoyed both runs and would repeat them – Yangon is decent for running, although I didn’t find a great spot for fast running or intervals. You’d have to do an out and back along a good strip of pathway I expect.

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MASSIVE reclining buddha

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I got hawked by a tourist guy and he made me go to the monastery and get blessed….

That’s all for part 2 of my sort of running sort of travel blog of not much substance!

Running in South East Asia Pt 1: Bintan, Indonesia

Part of the fun of being a runner for me is trying to find places to run when you go away on holiday or work trips. This challenge is made even more ‘fun’ in South East Asia with the added complexities of the climate, traffic chaos, ill-formed pavements, tropical wildlife – the list goes on. Now none of this is ideal if your training is the priority, but for most people it’s a case of trying to make the running fit around the life, not the other way round. I used to subscribe to running before life, but my priorities have shifted. But at least I’m still getting it done!

So, I shall write a few blogs that describe my efforts and discoveries in the various places I travel to. There is NO more joy than discovering an amazing running route on such trips but 90% of the time it’s s case of failed attempts. Some places so far have just been too hard to even attempt outside running and so the treadmill has been the preferred option. Ho Chi Minh and Mumbai fit that category so far….

So, last weekend I went to Bintan, a 60minute ferry ride from Singapore. It’s a small island mainly known for beach resorts and tourists. So we did the tourist at resort thing and were staying near Trikora beach at Bintan Spa Villa resort.Whenever I go to new places I have a couple of ways to see any half decent running routes; googling “running in Bintan” brought me very little joy so plan B was to use Strava segment explorer. This showed me a 10km segment right outside the resort – excellent!

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Strava link here

Not excellent it turned out but at least runnable. Run 1 comprised of running out and back along a main road with no pavements, at 5pm with no shade. It was HOT; locals found me extremely curious and shouted and waved; and I had to keep stepping off the road onto uneven grass to avoid cars. It was extremely boring, with no nice views of the beach. I managed an 8km run as my 2nd run of the day and knew I couldn’t do another two days of that.

So, back to Strava Segment Explore for other options. I found a good 7km loop elsewhere on the island at a place called Lake Lagoi – but it was an hour’s drive away. It’s part of the course for the Bintan 10km and the Ironman so I thought I’d have more luck here. Luckily it was near a great beach and other stuff we could do to make the drive worthwhile! I planned to do 2 hard laps with a recovery – but we had plans for 6pm so I had to attempt this at 4pm. I knew this was going to be disgustingly hot so I didn’t even bother with a warm up. The good news was it was a perfect loop for running. A footpath around a manmade lake with no-one else in sight. The bad news was there was no shade whatsoever and after 3km I knew I couldn’t do 2 laps so I just focussed on getting a solid 7km done. I didn’t go flat out but 7km in 3.23/km isn’t too bad.

 

Strava link here

This lagoon is a great place to run – completely flat and uninterrupted. But go early or late as there is no respite from the sun!

I finished this run and immediately jogged to the sea and cooled off, followed by some strides along Lagoi beach – which is an incredible beach with white sand.

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Post session strides along Lagoi beach

All in all, Bintan wasn’t too bad. If you can cope with the monotony of road running out and back then it would be reasonable – and if you are near Lake Lagoi that seems a good option.

Other Bintan tips:

  • Go on a boat ride around the Mangroves
  • Make the effort to go to Akau hawker food market in the evening
  • Have pizza and read a book in peace by Great Coral Beach on Trikora beach

I’m not leaving early – I’m working

Ever since I left university and started doing proper jobs I’ve always wanted to make time for running and intentionally avoided industries where working long hours is expected. This is probably why I quickly fell into the advertising industry when I moved to London and then a start-up!

At this stage of my life, working was just a job and running was very separate to that and was the main focus for me. This focus shifted over time and I definitely now see running as something I do outside of my work. As my professional life has taken up more of my headspace I’ve also noticed something quite interesting – running actually helps my work.

No problem is so big it can’t be solved by a two hour run – Anonymous (I made it up)

I’ve found that running is the only time of day I let my brain just drift and wander. I’m a mobile phone addict otherwise and a chronic multi-tasker where I flit from one task to another in a haphazard way that seems to work somehow. However when I run I daydream and my brain drifts towards areas that require problem solving. So many times I’ve finished a run with a much clearer plan of how to tackle a work problem – or mentally rehearsed things without even knowing it.

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I don’t think this is anything new – it’s just a form of meditation and applies to any areas of life. However it’s something I’ve sort of built into my working day. I know I can think about things when I go running and I can put off trying to have a solution until I’ve let the run “work it’s magic”. It could well be no coincidence that as I’ve started to see running as more a way of life than “training” for performance that I think about different things while doing it.

I don’t have a formula for how long I need to run for to get a problem solved – I’m not sure it can work that way. Also, after a while all you can think about is when the run can stop as you get tired (or hot in Singapore!) so there’s probably a sweet spot before your brain focuses on survival rather than secondary problems!

So now when I leave work early and I get jokey comments like “Half day today is it?”, I respond with the title of this blog. Please don’t hold me responsible if your employers and colleagues are less understanding than mine though!

4 of the best, 4 of the worst: Singapore

Hi all,

Right, I haven’t blogged since before London marathon last year, when to be honest I was falling out of love with running – at least the intense marathon focussed grind aspect of it.

So I moved to Singapore 3 months ago. I wasn’t sure what running I would do, but I’ve got into a good routine of running 6 days a week, and hitting 80-120km a week. My hamstrings can cope with this volume, and it doesn’t seem too invasive to my life. Quite frankly, I don’t have enough water in my body to do the volumes I used to do!

Here are some of my observations of running in Singapore:

First, the BEST:

  1. The wildlife! I’ve seen otters, turtles, eagles, macaques, monitor lizards, wild boar all in or nearby the city which is pretty amazing. So much running is near the water that the nature ecosystem is woven into Singapore.
  2. The adoration. I can’t lie, I’m a biggish fish in a very small pond and I can’t say I don’t enjoy the fact I don’t have to be at my very best to be much more than competitive. That has helped motivate me for sure!
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  3. The Park Connector Network. This is a series of towpaths and bridges/underpasses which link up parks and various places of interest throughout Singapore. It means you can run almost anywhere just by following signs and not keep waiting for traffic lights.
  4. People are helpful and humble. I’ve had so many people reach out to me to help me train, and to run with, as well as last minute entries to races. The welcoming attitude has been a huge driving force in me wanting to get half competitive again.

 

Ok, so what’s bad?

  1. The climate. I come home absolutely soaking wet from every single run. Either because of the intense humidity meaning I am soaked in sweat (even my shoes squelch from the dripping) or much more favourably – an impromptu monsoon. There have been occasions it’s been so hot/humid that I thought I may not make it home!
  2. The average pedestrian. There seems to be some innate unawareness of people around them and people zig-zag around footpaths and seem not to understand that they could move to one side when you are running towards them. Even WORSE is the electric scooter craze – so people are unaware AND motorised!
  3. Athletics tracks are free to use. What? Why is this in the “bad” section? I’ll tell you why – people wander onto tracks and treat it like they are ambling around a supermarket (see point 2). They bring their shopping, their kids, all sorts. Shouting “TRACK” just confuses them and so track sessions are intensely frustrating.432a6d12-686c-4aac-9bf2-583a6aa273c8
  4. Not much grass. While I enjoy the connector network, and there are also some great trails around the nature reserves – I do miss grass and big parks…

I will write more, I promise. Again.

Niggling injuries, Chicago aborted, all eyes on London

Wow, 7 months since my last update. That’s very poor form of me. The reason I haven’t updated is due to a host of niggling injuries that have hampered me since July. It all started with me dropping out of the M7 half marathon after 8k with an IT band issue that led to me walking 8k back to the start and feeling extremely sorry for myself while enduring “you can do it! Keep going!” cheers of encouragement from most of the field passing me. This issue cleared up quickly but led to hamstring issues. The right hamstring. Then the left. then the right. Then both. Then the right. Finally it culminated with a right hamstring tendinopathy and after repeated failed attempts to train through it I received a PRP (peptide rich plasma) injection around the tendon in December.

 

Just before this all happened I had been in pretty good shape: regaining the NSW long course XC title, my fastest time at the 4K road relays, and a decent 64.31 at the Gold Coast half (having gone with the pace of 14.40 through 5k).

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Falls Creek – looking forward to getting some great runs done here

In the midst of the niggly issues I aborted my attempt to run the Olympic qualifying time of 2.14.00 at Chicago marathon. I was gutted at the time as felt I was in good shape to try and run sub 2.14 but with the typically late release of the Olympic qualifying criteria by British Athletics I have actually had some good luck. The criteria is such that London Marathon is an effective trial – the first 2 Brits under 2.14 past the post get picked. So had I run sub 2.14 at Chicago it would have effectively meant nothing. I don’t think this is a bad selection criteria, but releasing it so late is poor. I feel really sorry for Scott Overall and Callum Hawkins who have run the time and now have to go again. On the other hand, it makes it more of a lottery and the luck of the draw on the day so it’s good news for me I guess!

So plans from here? Well I am pinning all my hopes on a successful recovery from the PRP injection which after a week off and a week of running feels good so far but will need to see how it recovers from sessions and proper training before I can say for sure. I am currently at Falls Creek enjoying the serenity and champing at the bit to get some good running done. All going well I will get fit and put a plan together for London Marathon in April.

5,000m PB; more recovery, time to apply some pressure.

Hello all,

I’m sorry, this post has been way overdue – I’ve been very busy at work, and did a bit of travel to San Jose and Borneo for work as well, and generally haven’t got round to updating this. Nothing incredibly exciting has happened, although for those that missed it, I DID run a 5,000m PB at Melbourne so that was pleasing, although I really wanted to break 14.00. The whole race felt like I was hanging on for dear life, what you’d expect from a marathon runner I guess!!

Hanging onto the field at the Melbourne Track Classic - 14.04 PB!

Hanging onto the field at the Melbourne Track Classic – 14.04 PB!

So what’s next? Well I want to run Chicago marathon and take some serious time off my marathon PB. I don’t have an entry yet, but currently that’s the aim. Why Chicago? Well the timing is good, the course is fast, but the real reason is I identified it as a race where I’ll have a big group to run with to 20-30km at 2.12 pace. I’ve never had the experience of a group to run with in a marathon, since my 2010 London marathon, so I’m hoping this will get more out of me than a solo effort on a fast course.

My next block of training will be geared towards that. I’ll do a mix of XC and road races in the build up, and I have committed to myself and my coach Ken that I will do better at the recovery side of things. This means less socialising, more sleep etc. This will be vital as I include some longer threshold runs and really focus on my long runs as part of my build up.

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More recovery – Endura can help with that

Another thing I’m going to explore is the psychology side of things. I’ve thought about this in the past but what really hit home that I should look further was a presentation I experienced at work by a guy called Andy Meikle. Andy was an Ironman athlete but didn’t win as many races as he liked and started to wonder what sets the winners apart from the nearly-winners beyond fitness. He started to interview extreme high achievers – Nelson Mandela; CEOs; scientists; sportsmen; Zen Masters; even guys who broke out of high security prisons! What he started to discover was they had unwavering belief in their ability. His next step was to understand how this belief was instilled and how to apply this to himself. A lot of what he said resonated with me – lowering expectations to take the pressure off of myself, setting sub-conscious ‘limits’ on ability based on training/races, and finding reasons not to really hurt myself mid-race. I want to understand if and how I can change these things and see if I can get much more out of myself.

I have some time arranged with Andy to discover what is possible – I’ll update on that soon!

Take care y’all.