Viewing the Nat Geo run in retrospect, there were a couple things I could’ve done to improve:
1. Race Prep
Before the run, I made no effort to engage myself in any form of organized training. With mileage that would fluctuate roughly between 3 to 20km per week, I knew this was clearly not enough (since building a solid bed of mileage is vital to half-marathon survival). At the time, I honestly felt it was a mental game more than anything, a test to see if I could push myself to survive the rigor of 21 km with my bones (and dignity) intact. I wanted to confirm, in no uncertain terms, that I could do it; that, for all the would-be physical torture that my foolishness would engender, I could drag my stubborn feet to the finish line without walking.
At the end of the day, I survived of course, but it left me wondering, what if I had actually subjected myself to a legitimate training regimen?
2. Get to the venue early to warm-up
My cousin and I arrived at the race venue quite late due to the insane traffic in the area. Thus, our pitiful warm-up consisted of chugging down an energy gel and running from the Mall of Asia parking lot to the starting block and beginning the half-marathon straight away.
No stretching, no pre-race venue rituals, nothing.
As expected, this bit me in the ass as early as the first kilometer, with my left shin acting up and causing me to rethink this particular life decision of mine. Luckily, by the time we hit the third kilometer, my legs were beginning to be a little bit more cooperative.
3. Manage Hydration and Energy Gels
Unfortunately, one of the facets of this race which I was not able to map out (since I barely did any practical mapping out, as my cousin would attest) was my hydration plan. On this, I noted two things: (a) Intake Schedule: I should’ve determined my intake schedule beforehand (the key points in the raise where one should ideally take a sip, e.g. at certain km points, or after using up a pack of Gu, for instance); and (b) Amount of Intake: I shouldn’t have chugged water like there was no tomorrow midway through the race, the lack of which towards the last stretch caused me to be extremely dehydrated soon after I emptied out my last pack of gels.
4. Utilize the Sponge Stations
Few sensations in the world rival that of squeezing an iced-water-soaked-sponge above your head as you force your body to complete an intense run. It’s a pity I only discovered this quite late into the half-marathon.
When I felt almost certain that I would give up from the heat and exhaustion, taking a sponge to the head (literally) was what I needed to give me that additional boost to finish the race.
Another thing I realized only towards the end of the run was how helpful mindfulness is. When every ounce of my body was telling me to throw in the towel, zoning in on my breathing and the physical machinery of running allowed me to silence the raging thoughts in my head, and to just focus on each every step.
It was a bit strange, to tell you the truth. It’s like that feeling which Haruki Murakami described as he was narrating his ultra-marathon experience in his book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, the feeling of being metaphysically “disassociated” from your body as you run. Either way, the practice helped me survive those last crucial kilometers in the race.
Hoping to take these lessons to heart for my next half-marathon (hopefully this June 25)!