Our first marathon experience left a lot of questions to be answered by the two of us thanks to an unfortunate illness and severe cramping that saw us walk the final 8-10 kilometers to the finish. I remember Eric swearing off marathons forever somewhere in that final 10km and I remember my "Dude, you'll never be satisfied with a 5 hour personal best". At the time, in the moment, it was half serious and half friendly encouragement...trying to bring a little positive into that situation where we were both feeling really down, having trained for our first marathon but not being able to perform and max out the challenge.
We trained well, outside of a couple stints on the sidelines injured or ill, but we trained mostly small runs on weekdays and slow, long runs on Sundays. We didn't really do any speed work or hills. Eric did make it to the track a couple times for some sprints and I did mess around a few days on the treadmill running on an incline. At the park, we would do our short to medium runs pretty much above our marathon pace, haha, not sure why we always did that! I think we just got so used to running our three kilometer loop at about 15 minute laps or 5 minute kilometers that it was hard to pull it back during training. Same with our long runs. We would start out fast and slow down after some kilometers and always end up somewhere around 11kmh. I know we're supposed to probably run our long runs at a slower pace, but again, some days we just wanted to work hard. I think we need to be better at this for future training or we risk over training.
Leading up to the marathon, we did two 20 mile runs which we ran at about 3:07-3:13, so we felt pretty sure of what it felt like to run 20 miles (32km). The first 20 miler I got to choose the pace and I thought that we could go out and run 16:30 laps or 5:30 kilometers...We didn't quite make that pace, but came close with 5:52 kilometers average over the 32 kilos. Afterwards, I pretty much felt like crap. Eric chose the pace of our second 20 miler and I do believe that the goal pace he set was 18:00 laps or 6:00 kilos. It was good to change up the pace, because I found that I felt equally like crap after the two different paces!! This would lead me to my Pattaya Marathon strategy; run my half marathon pace for as long as possible, hopefully to 20 miles, then just see what happens after that!! Again, probably not the brightest of tactics!! Hahaha! Eric went with the more reasonable, less reckless option of sticking to a certain pace for the entirety of the race. We both had no real goal time, but leading up to the day of, we decided that we'd like to cut some time off of our 5:17 Bangkok time. We had joked back and forth in emails and messages about a 3:59:59 marathon, but we knew in reality it would probably have to wait until November in Bangkok. So, a time of somewhere in the 4:15 range was probably what we were looking at based on our previous training runs. Any variance would be because of THE WALL, digestive issues, injury or an extremely good or bad day on the pavement. After a few of our runs, Eric would hit his race conversion calculator and tell me that I could run a 3:38 marathon according to his calculations...This kind of time seemed ridiculous to me but I knew that with good preparation and a good race I could break four hours...someday.
We tried to adjust our diets for the week leading up to our race which was difficult for me, but I tried to eat as much as possible and as much carbs as possible...I think I went a little heavy on fruit juices rather than breads, pastas and potatoes...but it at least gave me a little reassurance knowing that there was something in there even if I went a little too heavy on the quick burn carbs. I had a bad stomach the two days before, but that went away before the race.
Eric and I decided to take a two hour taxi ride to Pataya, run the race, then hop back in the taxi and return home. Hotel is the obvious smart choice, so you can relax and get proper sleep, but I had to consider Bunbun being home alone for over like 20 hours with nobody to take care of him (rabbits don't do so well in the heat). Eric was a little concerned about transportation but I assured him that "I know a dude, he's very dependable, he's always early". You see, we were leaving Bangkok only a few hours before the start of the race, so we were pretty stressed out when dude didn't show up, I called, and he had just woken up at 1:00 AM when we should have been heading south already! Eventually he showed, drove and got us there alive. I was kinda spacing in and out in the back seat, but I do remember hearing Eric say to dude in Thai, "We have plenty of time, I have a wife, I have kids, I love my family, I want to see them again, drive slowly, I don't want to die, no more than 120 kmh". Haha, that had been the agreement all along, but since dude picked us up an hour late, I think he was trying to make up some time. I had to tell him that the only reason I wanted to leave so early and get there early as because I always have to spend 30 minutes in the toilet before races because my guts just erupt with anxious streams of digested stuff...and it's not nice for the URGE to hit you when you're 10K into a race.
So, the wheelchair marathoners started and the people in the chute filled the 5 meters where they had been. Everyone just scrunched forward to the starting line. Eric and I, both on only a couple hours of sleep, shook hands, gave the "good luck bro, see you in 4-5 hours" look and waited for the starting horn to blow! 5-4-3-2-1
HORRRRNNNNNNNN! SHINY CONFETTI!!! MUSIC!! ELBOWS!!
It was a celebration! They started us out in style! It was exciting...until we were a couple hundred meters into it. The music faded and a steady thumping and scuffing of footsteps took its place. This is when realized that we had another 4 hours to run!! Hahaha!
As the number of marathoners was only around 640 and the organizers staggered the start of Wheelchairs, marathoners, half marathoners, 10K and fun run, we were pretty much spread out after half way and not too much passing was happening. I was running with a Thai Marine for a good 8K, an older fellow, retired perhaps but still wearing the colors and name MARINE (in Thai) on his run shirt. I took a lot of energy from following him early in the race and it probably went a long way to helping me run that first half in under 5 minute kilometers. After 30K, when we finally got off of the highway and took a left turn towards the beach, I was passed by 4 Thai women and one by one about 6 Japanese runners (recognizable by their black compression socks that mostly they only seem to wear). I was fine with that and just concerned with running my last 12 kilometers and not walking.
I was very happy to pass 20 miles or 32K under 3 hours. I had never done a 20 mile training run in under 3 hours. Actually, I was a couple seconds under 3 hours when I reached the 34K marker! This gave me a lot of energy as I really knew that I should be able to hit that last 8K in just under an hour. I had also started to catch or pass some of the folks who had passed me before as well as the heart problem dude in blue and black spandex who said he was gonna run a 4:30/km pace...He stayed up in front of me, but I saw him in the distance which gave me a little extra confidence. He would go on to finish 5 minutes before me.
So right as I saw the time on my watch tick over to 3:00:00, right after 34K...right after rejoicing internally at the prospect of a sub-4 marathon...my left hamstring locked up...and by "my left hamstring" I mean that huge hunk of meat on the back of my leg under my butt!! And by "locked up" I mean that the bad boy nearly stopped me in my tracks! "I could stop and stretch for a minute" I thought to myself in that moment of severe discomfort and pain..."or I could try to run it off." Yeah, once the left leg got wind of these "keep running" thoughts, it collaborated with the right leg, and after about five more steps made my decision for me. Both hammies locked up, I found myself stopped beside a big bus full of people, stretching my hamstrings in the middle of the road. I heard a lonely clap of hands from the direction of the bus and then the annoying voice of a fruit vendor on the sidewalk of "Wing!" which translated means "Run!" I know he was trying to encourage me but considering my hamstrings were both balled up in my leg and telling me "Welcome to the wall brother!" I didn't see it that way at the time.
I stretched for under a half minute and started shuffling my way up a slight grade within the city. The 36K marker just never came! I wanted it to come so badly because each marker that came meant 2K less distance until the end of my suffering. I had Pae in my head during this time slowed at my "wall" telling me to keep going, to just do my best, to stretch, to run and that she was proud of me...It may seem cheesy, but in preparation for the marathon I had read a little about visualization (of the race and other things) and how a positive outlook during those hard moments in the race really help you to get through them...both emotionally and physically...so Pae was there cheering me on during those nasty final kilometers.
Eventually, I looked up to see a sign that said "5km to go" and felt better mentally. That bit of relief was as brief as it was welcomed. I looked ahead and saw a giant golden Buddha statue sitting on a mountain, facing the sea. I thought to myself, "Hey, a giant golden Buddha statue sitting on a mountain, facing the sea!" My legs and my heart only got "Blah blah blah, blah blah blah MOUNTAIN, blah blah blah!"
There was no way to get to the finish line without passing this hill...I saw about fifteen runners ahead of me. I could only see them because they were going UP! There were several (4) of them walking in their compression socks...Perhaps the Japanese runners weren't so good with hills. I'm not the strongest nor am I the fastest...but hell if I'm going to walk up that beast hill, so close to the finish and with Pae in my head. Each pair of compression socks I passed was a tiny bit of energy to keep powering up the hill to pick off the next pair. I passed more than 10 people on the final two hills, half of which were Japanese runners, and somehow maintained a 6:06/km pace in doing it.
The message boards echo one of Eric's first comments after the race..."Never again!" People, even the Thais who generally won't complain too much about these types of things, were straight up like, "If the Pattaya Marathon organizers don't look at these problems and fix them, we're not running the Pattaya Marathon next year."
Here are our numbers, both Eric and I achieving Personal Bests for the 42.195 km race!
Guy- 3:48:50 (PB)
Overall finish - 116 of 640 marathoners
40-49 age category - 34 of 168 marathoners
Eric- 4:45:07 (PB)
Overall finish - 300 of 640 marathoners
30-39 age category - 41of 82 marathoners
I also went and looked at the race participant categories. I was interested to find that most marathoners were from 40-59 years old! 75% of the marathoners were 40+, is that pretty normal other places in the world? Just wondering. I think the younger kids here tend to run the Half and the Quarter. Here's the breakdown for men:
under 29 - 42 marathoners
30 to 39 - 82 marathoners
40 to 49 - 168 marathoners
50 to 59 - 185 marathoners
60 to 69 - 52 marathoners
over 70 - 15 marathoners
And my training partner Eric, dude, we got out there for several months and hammered away at the pavement in the park and it all led to the Pattaya Marathon. It's great having someone to run with, to share the good days and the bad days with, to share the accomplishment with, and to watch each other improve...we've both come a long way and there's still a way to go for both of us...lots of room for improvement whether it be in the marathon, half or even our shorter distance times. Thanks for challenging me to run that first marathon last year, thanks for pushing me at times when I just don't have it, thanks for humbling me when we do the shorter, faster runs and thanks for being my friend!