When I got home from work yesterday, a surprise was waiting for me on the kitchen counter. It was a white envelope, and it bore the logo of the Singapore Sports Council. The parcel made its way to our place via snail mail. I eagerly peeled off the flap and pulled out the content - my Certificate of Participation from last year's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. It was nicely laminated, and on it was etched my official finish time: 4:56:42. I smiled as I read the certificate. It was, after all, a memento of my very first sub-5 marathon finish.
Singapore 2010 was (and will always be) special because it affirmed my slow but sure improvement as a runner. While other more gifted runners can nail a sub-5 right off the bat, yours truly needed all of four tries before finally bagging one. Singapore was followed by Cebu, where I did a 4:50, and then Condura, where I finished in 4:35. I was on a roll, but somehow, all of that got lost in the haze of my preparation for my first ultra. Looking back, it now seems surreal that I had actually been treating marathons and shorter ultras as training runs for the Bataan Death March 102k Ultramarathon. I did Singapore in December, Cebu and a 50k test run in January, and then Condura and a 52k test run in February. March featured the big one - BDM 102, and a couple of weeks ago, it was the Mayon 360° 50-Miler. With a plate that full, it was almost inevitable that my marathon roll would be - as it had in fact been - unceremoniously swept under the rug. This, despite the fact that, as I trained for BDM, my marathon times went down as well.
That first ultramarathon definitely had an addictive effect. Yes, I have fallen head over heels in love with ultra running. Yes, I now enjoy running at a constant 7:30-8:00 pace more than I do at a 6:00-6:30 pace. Yes, I now appreciate a 12-hour, 15-hour, or even a 30-hour cut-off, rather than a five- or six-hour limit. I am not built for speed, and in ultra running, I just may have found my niche as a recreational runner. This does not mean, however, that I have given up on my goal of improving on my personal best for a marathon finish. My PB currently stands at 4:35, set at Condura last February. I recall that my real goal then was a 4:30, hence my finish was actually five minutes off the mark. Maybe it is now time to take care of unfinished business.
My next race is a marathon - the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon on 25 June (no ultras for me until July). Because it will be my first time in Malaysia, I originally thought of running KL with my trusty point-and-shoot on hand, and at shameless picture-taking pace. This would mean sticking to 7:30-8:00 min/km and settling for a sub-6 finish. I hatched that plan right after Mayon, while my shin was swollen and my entire body was badly craving a break from running. Those were probably my feet that were doing the planning, because now, after I have had over two weeks to fully recover from the 50-miler, I am just raring to settle the score. To hell with a sub-6 marathon. The goal for KL will be a 4:20.
Now, let me see... how do I do those speed drills again?