It was barely light and I was standing in a crowd of a few thousand people on a deserted highway. It was a cold morning but at the moment I wasn’t feeling it. All the bodies around me were keeping me warm. There was an electrifying chatter of excitement. I hopped on the spot, left and right, left and right, trying to get the blood flowing in my legs. A soft drizzle started to fall, and as if by magic, the lady next to me produced an umbrella and snapped it open. The tension broke and people five-deep around her suddenly erupted in laughter. I was bent over laughing, because it was that funny, and because I was embarassed that we were all so in her face. She smiled and shrugged. Fantastic!
You see, the problem was that this lady was standing behind the starting line for a 10K race in the biggest running event of the year – and she brought an umbrella.
In the next hour, I saw runners with big backpacks, a man clutching a black plastic bin bag, and runners with cameras and phones, but that lady definitely won my category of Weirdest Running Accessory!
Last Sunday, I ran one of the 10K events of the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon. Think London Marathon. This is THE running event of the year.
Unlike the first 10K I ran, which was completely flat, this was run on a highway with a series of flyovers. So they can’t be called “hilly”, but one moment you’re ground level and the next you are elevated, it was definitely a challenge.
Although certainly not an indoor cycle track, highways are apparently banked at turns. You don’t really notice it on a bus or in a car, but you’d definitely see and feel it running. All of a sudden, I had long and short legs and I wondered if I was going to bonk because the last time I hurt myself running, it was due to the banked road outside my flat. My legs don’t like banks.
So up and down banked surfaces…and then there were the people. Not everyone is able to run the whole distance, and everyone runs at a different pace. My mistake was under-estimating myself and signing up for the second slowest group. Instead of running in a straight line, I ended up cutting a zig-zag path through the crowd. Besides from avoiding collisions with slower runners and walkers, I had to side-step around people who’d stopped in the middle of the road to take photos and people who’d decided that a race is an appropriate time to hold hands and stroll like it’s sunset on Bali.
Other than wanting to murder photo-takers and lovey-dovey strollers, my second 10K was fantastic. The drizzle stopped and the sun came up. I was running on an overpass with uninhibited views of the Hong Kong skyline. I always like the pre-race chatter and jitters, and there’s nothing like crossing the finish line.
Despite of everything and my lack of training, I still clocked in at 58:03mins, just one second behind my last (flat) race time. So you know what? I’m gonna give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. Plus, I recovered faster this time too. So I must be doing something right!
I still remember when I signed up those many months ago. I was deathly afraid of not being able to finish within the time limit of 2 hours. I thought I would be that last person who’d get scooped up into a truck and shipped to the finish in shame. I suppose perceived humilation does motivate.
So here I am thinking, if I can do 10K, surely I can run the 10K twice in a row? Which, if you’d know, is just 1K short of the half-marathon distance.
We’ll see. We’ll see.