A very cold IPA is slipping down right now as I wait to board for Melbourne. The crowning of an indulgent adventure in Singapore this weekend with my running compadre, Mr Lars Grombach.
We came to tackle the Craze Ultra 55km night run. Neither of us had necessarily reached pique fitness in the preceding weeks (Lars, in fact, fractured a toe whilst playing football on the beach during my stag weekend 6 weeks back) however both of us were in fine mental fettle, and then increasingly delirious from touching down at Changi airport on Friday lunchtime and checking into our hotel (complete with McDonalds round the corner and 7/11 even closer) all the way up to our 5pm starting time yesterday.
We moved into full prep mode once we got to Singapore. No alcohol Friday night. Lots of carbs and protein. Movie. Sleeping tablets. Lie in. And then an enormous buffet breakfast yesterday morning before plenty of chill time, during which our eyes watered as we watched Eliud Kipchoge smash his sub-two hour marathon attempt.
As soon as Kipchoge was hugging his family and jumping up and down with the Vienna crowds, we were marching off to the start line, vaseline applied, energy gels packed and music playlists at the ready.
Our starting group number was 30 runners in all. A “local” race you could say – a status cemented in full as a young girl, taking our picture on her smart phone, handed out our pre race instructions: “just run straight, unless you see any signposts telling you otherwise”.
Fully confident after such an extensive briefing, we set off through the urban suburbs of Singapore and pitched up at Check Point 1 after 13.5kms running in 1 hour 27 minutes. We were doing good. I switched up my socks (as well as the brand new soles I’d bought that afternoon that predictably were giving me blisters – lunatic) and we headed off with a renewed sense of purpose. The next Check Point we got to would be halfway…
Sadly, the combination of luck along with the race’s local flavor were not on our side. As we departed the Check Point, continuing along the road we’d come up, no one pointed out to us that we were going the wrong way. Caught up in some chat about nothing and the warming realization that we’d passed the 20km mark, we were oblivious to this crucial detail until it was way too late – about 8kms too late to be exact.
Lars’ 4G regrouped us back in the right direction and we eventually caught up with a slow moving group of Singaporeans wearing full head gear and running suits. We’d arrived at the official 15km mark – but we’d manage to run 24kms.
This wasn’t great.
To set out to run 55km in itself requires an element of psyching up. For that km total to increase out of the blue by 8kms was not part of the script.
Hunkering down and fighting our respective demons, we persevered.
Lars, however, was in a pickle. Having not run for 6 weeks, his legs were OK but his heart rate was spiking up to 190 beats per minute. We walked a bit, we jogged on. We walked a bit more.
A few distractions were thrown to us at this stage. Around one corner we stumbled into a fellow runner called Craig, covered in blood. He’d tripped and landed on his face. I assessed he probably needed a stitch on his lip and one of his top front teeth had been snapped in half.
His adrenaline ensured he could keep a sense of humour about the incident. I offered him water, juice, ibuprofen, a tourniquet, but he had all these things, and just wanted Lars to call the organizer to come pick him up.
In an awkward moment of silence whilst this took place, I offered to take a picture of his face for him so he could analyse the extent of his injuries. I’m not sure why, but he thanked me for that, and we patted him on the shoulder and then went on our way.
Thinking this might have calmed Lars’ blood pressure down (being witness to a fallen solider such as Craig) I tried to boost our spirits with some chat. Helpfully, a frog jumped in front of us at that moment, and right into the forward stride of my right leg, meaning he received a boot which flung him a metre in the air.
As ice-breakers go, I thought this was divine. Lars checked his heart rate again – 192 – he was not ready to entertain the perspective of it all. No chipped toothed participant, or slightly winded amphibian was going to district him from the fact that he was in a dark place.
Not before long – at around our 27km mark – we parted company. He’d had enough and I didn’t blame him. Unlike any other race I’ve done, this one was randomly marked out, and took you through sparsely quiet pockets of the city.
I cranked up my playlist and put my head down.
Ironically, the next stretch of 15km was great. Inside parks, alongside rivers. I reached the halfway mark (still 8kms extra on my watch) and did a quick U-turn to get on with the job of reaching the finish line.
Doubling back and covering more familiar pathways was OK. But the psychology of constantly reminding yourself you’ve run more than is required smarted a bit.
My legs were in good shape though and I had one fortunate encounter with a Filipino runner who helped ensure I didn’t deviate off the badly signposted roads. His name was Renate and he’d walked the route last week and taken pictures of himself by distinguishing trees so he wouldn’t get lost. Clever guy. Lucky me.
Midnight came and went. I’d reached 55km. I should have got to the end. Instead, more gels, more water, some salt tablets, some pain killers, some loud guitar chords, and before long I was into single km figures and I knew I’d make it.
These races, these “tests”, these adventures. There are always moments of doubt, moments of pain and moments of comradery and laughter.
As long as I can, my biggest hope is to always put myself in these bizarre, and yet extremely ‘human’ arenas – to compete, to roll the dice, to live a little bit differently for a brief moment in time.
Or, as Lars would say, “YOLO, dude”.