At 20, Mohamad Ezzfikri Mohamad Ezri participated in his first marathon recently and realised that completing it was a highly emotional moment
I HAVE participated in many races, from 5K to 21K, but a marathon is a whole new ballgame. My marathon journey did not start at the dawn of the dyay of the event on May 21. Mine began as early as Jan 1, when I decided to sign up for this year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon, full marathon category.
A marathon, I soon discovered, takes up your entire life — you need commitment, passion and dedication, all in equal measure. It’s not just a sport. It’s a lifestyle skewed towards that goal.
I have always dreamt of being a marathoner. Now I can say that all dreams are but another reality.
I set a goal to run under four hours. At the starting line, I felt this was achievable. As I moved along my starting pen, I felt a mixture of calmness and excitement and all I could think of was that it seemed surreal to be there.
The atmosphere was thick with anxiousness and eagerness from all participants who had filled Jalan Raja that morning.
When the starting shot was fired, I ran and it felt good. I ran at a conversational pace, closely following the four-hour pacer. For the first 10km it felt like a walk in the park, something that I was used to and I was, at that point, confident of my target.
I was tempted to run faster as there were hundreds who passed me every second. Some looked like they are in their 60s and some were running barefoot. That demotivated me a bit. But I was hopeful that I could catch up and pass them at the last 10km.
From the 1th to 20th km, I stopped following the pacer because according to my GPS watch, they were going faster than my target and I felt that if I followed them, I would hit the wall at 30km. It still felt easy and my time at 20km was 1:56.
THE CHALLENGE BEGINS
From the 21st to 30th km, the challenge started. There were many hills which I was not prepared for. The idea of negative splits faded as my pace slowed down with each passing second.
At KM25, I hit the wall, something that I was trying hard to avoid. The hills were affecting my legs and I started to feel them giving up beneath me. I couldn't jog up the hills as my calf was under a lot of pain. My breathing was fine but my legs had slowed me down and this was the hardest part for me in this run.
After that, I reached a water station and took my energy gel and water. I started to jog again and felt better. Although it still hurt, I continued anyway. At KM26, I stopped for a while beside the highway to perform my Subuh prayer.
The pain continued but I could still run, and the race kept getting challenging. The hills were a big part of this challenge and in my opinion, the SCKLM should be known as the hill repeat marathon.
By KM30, my hope for completing this marathon within my target had diminished. I was way below pace and all I had in mind was getting to the finish line. I was about to give up but I was very fortunate to receive lots of support and encouragement from the other participants.
I encountered the steepest hill at KM35 and I thought this was it. I have had enough. But I persevered by repeating a quote in my head — “Intensity of desire will always find a way just like weakness of purpose would always find an excuse,”
I'm so close to the end but there were many points that I stopped jogging completely and walked instead. It wasn’t the way I imagined finishing my first marathon.
At the hills of Bukit Tunku, the 4:30 pacer passed me. I tried following them and could manage only to stay with them for about 500 metres. Dropping off from the pack really was a blow to my confidence but I continued alone anyway.
At the last km, I pushed myself and the sight of the finish line was an emotional one. I had been racing for more than four hours and this was what I have been longing, working and anticipating for.
I enjoyed and savoured the last few steps before the end of the marathon, and I reached the finish line with both relief and denial. Although I didn't hit my target time, I still couldn't believe that I just ran 42km and could still walk and talk.
I imagined myself collapsing at the finish line but I didn't. All the pain I endured from the marathon faded when I crossed the finish line. It is nice to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
Looking back at the race, I could not remember vividly the race. Now, it seems that 42km is not that far and it is totally possible to cover that distance. Indeed, running a marathon is not just a physical experience but also an emotional one, too.
It felt really emotional at the end of the race, the continuous battle in my mind to stop or to move. Joy does come from the pain, sweat and tears. I missed my target time by a duration of two episodes of Friends, but I'm neither ashamed nor disappointed with the time.
I believe the time justified my physical and mental ability during the race. I had dedicated my time and hard work to be a marathoner and truly, this is one of my life’s greatest accomplishments, a memory that I will treasure forever.
“I managed to persevere by repeating a quote in my head ‘Intensity of desire will always find a way just like weakness of purpose would always find an excuse.’”
1- Felt good to kick out of my running shoes after a 42km run.
2- Use with quote
3- All geared up to start the run.
4- All geared up to start the run.