Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five kilometres, painfully

I got out of bed at 6:30. This was a struggle because I was up until 11:30 last night, reading The Postmortal. That was an enjoyably grim story exploring a future where a cure for aging. (It doesn't end well for anyone: there are other ways to suffer apart from getting old.) It's vaguely reminiscient of the Blair Witch Project, crossed with a blog: the conceit is that the whole story is discovered in an abandoned settlement, and for the most part it feels convincing that somebody would be journalling their experience. Not at the end though. I wonder if I would be.

Such thoughts of mortality aside, I had to get up early this morning because I had a race to get to. It was a 5k over by the Singapore Flyer, which is two miles from our flat. I faffed about for half an hour, struggling to find enough safety pins to fix my race number to my shirt. My wife, half asleep, moaned at me to eat a banana. "They have potassium in them" she protested as I contrarily ate an apple and then trotted off out the door. I got to the start line with time to spare, and surprised myself by being at the front of the queue of runners.

Usually in Singapore, no matter how fast I'm feeling, I end up with a phalanx of septugenarians in front of me, shuffling as slowly as possible without being completely stationary. I don't like being in the middle of a big group of runners in Singapore, because it's hot enough without the warmth pulsing out of hundreds of people around you, all breathing and sweating away. I was excited to be at the front for a change: I just wasn't sure what that was going to end up like.

Before the race was a little pep talk from the organisers. They asked if anyone had been out clubbing the night before. One cheery chap waved his arms. They asked if anyone had been drinking. Just that one chap. Apparently people who stay out late boozing don't get up early to go running. Who would have expected that?

The organisers told us that anyone whod been drinking, or consumed stimulants or drugs in the last 24 hours, should go to the medical tent and not exert themselves. (I thought if you did drugs in Singapore you were meant to go to prison, which might suggest the whole event was a cunning plan to arrest stupid, athletic drug users. Well, it would be a better way than chasing after them. They could probably run quite fast.) This was in stern contrast to how my friends and I used to prepare for races in England. If you could stand up the night before a race and you weren't throwing up out of a car window on the morning of the race, you were not participating in the spirit of things. A different rule for downhill mountainbikers than for runners, perhaps.

We waited for the start signal, and I inwardly rejoiced that I couldn't hear Gangnam Style. And then we were off.

Predictably enough, I wasn't at the front for long. Everyone tore off at a tremendous pace: my GPS told me I was going at 3:20 kilometre pace, which (if I could keep it up for 42 km) would mean I'd be a world class marathon runner. I'm not a world class marathon runner. From being in fifth I steadily fell back towards tenth place, and then ground my way round the course, trying to ignore the voice in my head telling me to stop.

5k isn't a long way, but at the same time it's quite long enough to suffer, and I don't think my training regime was that helpful. Doing a kilometre every day for a month, and then trying to do ten times as much two days beforehand is not the stuff champions are made of. Still, I got round without grinding to a halt: I arrived at the finish line just in front of the first female runner. I guess that's the benefit of Y chromosomes. (I did the same in my first race of the year, when I finished about five seconds up on the first woman: but that was a race so cold we all had jewels of frost across our faces.)*

At the end of the race, once we'd threaded our way through the 10k runners who were finishing at the same time, we were given an enormous medal, a banana, a bottle of Pocari Sweat and a towel soaked in cold water. The towel was my favourite thing; I took off my shirt, wrapped the towel around my neck, and made my way back home.

Idiotically, I didn't stop there. After brunch and a very short nap, I went out riding at Kent Ridge with one of the alcoholics I used to go mountainbiking with back in England. He cheats now by not being a drunk and also being very fast, while I was a slapdash mess with a pounding headache, fighting with my bike all the way around the trail there. If I can just discipline myself to ride my bike every week, I might one day get a bit better. Not sure that's likely to happen...

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. I'm wondering if I can be any more foolish than I've been so far this weekend. Perhaps a bucket of water propped above a door in the office?
Perhaps not. I do enjoy paid employment, after all.

* It turns out, upon inspection of the results, that I was behind the first three women. I assumed I was in front because the organisers were rushing to hold up the finish tape for the person behind me. Not entirely sure what that was all about, then...


Post a Comment