MELBOURNE, Australia -- It's 9 a.m., and the sun exposes salt residue on my legs as I peel of my socks, only to reveal two massive blisters on my right foot. Grossly enough, I am pleased; in fact all smiles as I gaze at the finish line in the MCG, the finish line that I crossed one hour and 48 minutes ago.
It all seemed so long ago -- turning off my alarm clock at 5 a.m., hurriedly eating my banana and Vegemite toast and frantically pinning on No. 7886 to my shirt while rushing out the door to meet my mate at 6 a.m.
Ten minutes to go, now 45 seconds and BANG! It was the sound reminding me I had 21.1 kilometers, 13 miles if you may, to run. It was the ASICS Half Marathon, my first half marathon and the largest half marathon to ever take place in Australia. Quite a site at 7 a.m. -- 7,500 competitors, running to support The Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC), the official charity partner of the Samsung Melbourne Marathon. In fact, 20,000 people volunteered their time and support for the CPEC by participating in one of the four races sponsored by Samsung, ASICS, The Coffee Club and Active Feet.
I couldn't believe the morning had come. After three weeks of spring break and a bit of slacking off on the training, I was a bit nervous as to my completion of the race. As I devoured heaps of pasta and gulped down gallons of water the night before, I incessantly reminded myself that I just wanted to finish, not in last place, and under two hours. There was no need to be regretful of the registration decision I had made months ago, but any sort of race brought back memories of high school track and how my nerves tended to get the best of me ...
After hearing the start gun, I didn't have much of a choice but to run, to enjoy myself and to make the best of it. In my head, I repeated over and over again: "Pace yourself, pace yourself, this is not a sprint, but a marathon ... well, half."
It was quite a leisurely run because of perfect temperature and enjoyable scenery. The course circled around St. Kilda, the lakeside of Albert Park and Beaconsfield Parade, which is along Port Phillips Bay.
BUT, my nose would grow if I said I ran the race with no difficulty. The first 10K was a breeze, and I was doing well both physically and mentally. Then I hit a wall around 14/15km, and secretly wished I could jump on the person's back in front of me in hopes of him carrying me to the finish line. Too obvious that it didn't happen?
I all but had to lift my legs with each stride and distract myself from the dreadful feeling that each kilometer seemed to be getting longer and longer. Note to self: Next time I decide to run a half-marathon or a marathon, it would be wise not to go on vacation just weeks before!
I did get a boost of energy at the final kilometers of the race when I heard the cheers from my friends and knew the MCG was merely minutes away. Ah! What a sensation of accomplishment: crossing the finish line and completing my first half marathon in Australia.
Even better, I received a finisher's medal and free stuff galore. How exciting! Though, when I flaunt my medal, I like to pretend I actually placed in the top three; yea, not so much ... maybe next time ... which there will be, but this time the full thing. Look out Richmond marathon, here I come!
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