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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2017: Race Review

This year marked the fourth time I ran the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I remember the first time I stepped foot in the Gold Coast and fell in love with the place that it's become sort of a second home to me.

The past three years saw me running the full marathon event with mixed results but this year saw me taking on the half marathon instead. Choosing to run the half marathon was not an easy decision but one that I'm glad to have made and which turned out to be the right one.

Hot on the heels of the disastrous Seoul Marathon and being as prepared and confident as I was, things just went horribly south for me. It's something I can't explain even until now. I was disappointed and depressed with the results and GCAM 17 was also not a confirmed thing at that time.

I went into a state of depression, something that if I didn't put a stop to quickly would have had dire consequences. I got back into training, albeit one with a simplified plan just in case I decided to run GCAM17. But then I got a text from a friend, a Bostoner who offered to draw up a plan for me to take on the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I was honoured that he had that much faith that I could do this, even though I was doubting myself.

I agreed to give it a shot and a plan was drawn up. It wasn't a tough plan. In fact, it was something that was absolutely doable, granted it was a different approach to what I would normally do if I followed the Hansons plan, but still something I could work on.

My hopes were up again, someone actually believed in me. I was on fire and dove straight into the plan. My wife was skeptical. Now, she might not be a certified coach but she knows what I am capable of. The initial weeks of the plan went well, I was able to follow the plan to a tee. But as the weeks went by, I was feeling very tired, not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well.

Doubts begin to creep back into me. I went through the motions of the training, still able to keep doing what it dished out but my mood was beginning to affect the people around me and the one to bear the brunt of it was my wife. There were many heated words between us as I struggled with myself to keep with the plan. Whatever that plan was I had no idea.

After week 6 or 7 I decided that I just couldn't do this. I was tired physically, mentally and spiritually from one disappointment after another. I sat down and thought about things and realized that I was struggling simply because I had been training for the past two years since GCAM15 where I ran it with a stress fracture and had to start all over again and then getting struck with a meniscus tear just before Kyoto which effectively ruined that race as well.

All these start, stop and coming back took a huge toll on my body and mind. I'm not young, mind you. It takes a lot longer for me to get back to shape and I realized I was pushing things too much and too soon. I needed a break, a reboot of the system before I could really embark on my actual marathon goals but with all my training buddies improving by leaps and bounds, I just didn't want to be left behind and kept pushing myself only to get one injury after another.

I decided there and then that my wife was right and I was just too tired from over training. I switched my plans for GCAM17 to run the half marathon instead for a complete overhaul of my system. The huge relief I felt by this decision couldn't be described. It felt like a huge weight just lifted off my shoulders. I text my friend who drew up the plan, hoping he would understand my decision. And he did understand, in fact he told me he was going through something along the same lines as what I was going through, OTS (OverTraining Syndrome). I was glad that he understood but told me to keep the plan and give it another shot when I'm ready and I definitely intend to give the training another shot soon.

With that out of the way, it was time to really look forward to GCAM17. With all the travel and accomodations all sorted out Jamie and me landed in the Gold Coast on Thursday morning. We really didn't have much time to do much things. The day was packed with a lunch stop the moment we landed, then to the expo followed by a late check in at the Mantra Legends Hotel, a quick Team Malaysia photo session before sundown and followed by dinner before calling it a night as we had a 5.7km race to run the next morning.

After the experience of running the 10km race two years ago, we both decided that running a 10km before a marathon (or half marathon) would be too counter productive and ran the 5.7km this year instead. Suffice to say it was a good decision by us. We were joined by Jeanie, Li Leen and a few other GCAM MY members. The Star Gold Coast 5.7km Challenge was just as much fun, if not more, than the 10km of two years ago. It was easily my personal worst for a 5km distance and I was proud of it. Loads of pictures and fun came out of it and I would highly recommend this before the main event on Sunday. It's a great way to just let your hair down before putting all your focus on the task ahead on Sunday!

We didn't stay long after the run as both Jamie and me had to rush back for a quick shower before heading back for the Garmin Legends Lunch. The lunch was as entertaining and fun as it was two years ago when I attended it. No matter how long you've been in the running scene, there was always lots to take away from the lunch. Before coming here, I told Jamie that by hook or by crook we'd get pictures with Desiree Linden and Sara Hall and I'm happy to say that we pulled it off though we missed (barely) of getting some shots with the like of Mungara and Kawauchi.

After the lunch we headed back to get some rest before grabbing an early dinner not too far from the hotel. We wanted to keep things easy on the stomach so we opted for some Japanese food. Even though I was running the half marathon, I had to get up way earlier than Jamie as the shuttle was leaving the hotel at 4:30am and I opted to get on it instead of the free tram service. So we called it a very early night after dinner and made our way to our respective rooms.

My gear was already laid out much earlier and after a quick final check it was lights out for me. Sleep didn't come by easily and it took me a while to doze off. Before I knew it, my cell alarm was buzzing me awake. Did my usual pre-race routine before heading down to take the shuttle to the race precinct for race start. There was a familiar face in the form of Jeanie and quite a few Malaysians on the bus along with me.

It was a cold and windy morning when we arrived and we all tried to keep ourselves as warm as possible while waiting for race start. Both Jeanie and me, with some prior experience of race mornings over here told everyone to shelter themselves on the stage or in front of the giant screen display to avoid the wind which was really the main culprit for the cold.

Soon it was time to head to the start pen. I had no goals or aims as I made my way into the start pen. I was going to go by feel and yes, the only minor goal I had was to come in under 2 hours which I thought was entirely possible. To be honest, I was feeling a tad depressed. I was running the half and I felt that with most of my other friends running the full marathon, I was running a lesser event. How wrong I was. The Asics Half Marathon is no less stellar than the full marathon as the 9000 plus participants can attest to. I personally think that the Half Marathon just isn't given enough coverage for the spectacular race that it is.

I was in pen B and made my way to the back of pen A just as the race was flagged off. I looked ahead and was shocked at the number of runners ahead of me in pen A. Damn, how was I going to make my way through that bunch! But I kept my composure and just went with the flow. The weather was still chilly but a lot more bearable now that I was on the move. I decided to keep the pace easy and increase the pace once I negotiated my way through the crowd

Strangely enough, as packed a field as it was, I didn't really have any issues having to avoid anyone cos everyone was basically on the same pace setting. The first kilometer was run in a pace of 5:50. By the second kilometer, my pace was down to 5:30 which was kinda surprising. I was feeling good and with no stress or pressure of aiming for a goal, I could really run by feel.

Now here is where I say that the half is no less stellar than the full marathon. I've run 3 full marathon's here and they were nothing but awesome. I've heard tales from some who've run the half here a few years back that the half was practically devoid of supporters and stuff like that. From what I saw, I can only say that is totally untrue. The route was littered with spectators along the entire way screaming and shouting that I thought I was on the marathon route itself. It was simply awesome. This is one reason why I love running the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

Race wise, I was having a good time. I was feeling really good and was enjoying myself looking at the sights which was absolutely scenic by the way. The water stations were well spaced out and plentiful, maybe a little too plentiful. This time round I didn't stop at the water stations to drink but simply grabbed a cup on the run. The route was unfamiliar to me since it was my first time but I did look at the wife's Garmin data of her time running this twice before and had an inkling of what to expect.

I was still running in fine form and was actually surprised by that. My training, while it's been decent wasn't exactly up to par and falling sick 5 days before flying off didn't help matters much which was why running at 5:15 to 5:30 pace without any noticeable signs of difficulties was really surprising. I wasn't complaining but wasn't going to be over-confident too. I kept at it, keeping check of my effort making sure I don't push too hard since things were going good for me. 

Just after I made the 11km U-turn, I spotted Jeanie on the opposite side running an incredibly strong race. I called out some encouragement to her and went on my way. I was feeling so good I forgot to even take my gels until I saw one of the runners in front of me with a gel which had me frantically grabbing a gel from my pouch. In the end, it didn't really matter cos I think my body is used to running a half distance without gels since I train this distance back home without gels anyway. I didn't bother with the remaining two gels in my pouch and carried on.

The rest of the race went by without any incidences and by the time I spotted McDonalds just down the road, I knew it was going to be a sub 2 finish. Now this is the stretch that I adore the most, one is simply because the support along this stretch is second to none and two is for the fact that you know you're in the home stretch. I really didn't have to pretend to look good over along this stretch cos I was really feeling good. I manage to urge a few struggling runners along the way with shouts of encouragement and got smiles and a few thumbs up in return.

I made my way into the final 250m stretch with a huge smile on my face. I knew it was good day at the office for me and while it was way off my personal half marathon best, I crossed the line with a decent net time of 1:55! This was it. With this finish I now officially own all 4 medals (5.7, 10, 21, 42km) of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

I was still feeling so good that I could have run another 10k right after this only reinforced my belief that I did the right thing in choosing the half instead of the full. I had successfully done a total reboot of my flagging system! Now, with some hard work, I can look forward to better things.

I still had a lot of time to spare since I was waiting for Jamie to finish his full marathon. I promised him that I would be at the finish waiting to see him achieve his personal best which I truly believed he would. Since I had official access to the media area, I made my way to the side of the finishing stretch to wait for him. The only regret I have is my silly phone camera hanging on me as he made his way down the finish but at least I was witness to his superb finish!

Once he was done with his stuff, we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed rest and food. What I bring back from this is that sometimes we need to take a step back to get back on track. Don't be afraid to admit to yourself that you're not good enough at times and just work on getting yourself back up to speed. Hard work and perseverance always pays off. I've come out of this much stronger both physically and mentally and from this point on things can and will get better, of that I'm positive.

That aside, the Asics Half Marathon is one hell of a race. A super flat and scenic route, a much earlier race start, avoiding the much later searing sun of the marathon and is just the right distance for someone wanting to experience the hospitality and superb organization of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon but is not ready for a full marathon distance. This coupled with the 5.7km or 10km on Saturday is just the right tonic for a taste of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon!

That said, if you're looking for a scenic and incredibly well organized race to run overseas, then the Gold Coast Airport marathon is one you simply must try out. A flat, scenic route littered with awesome supporters and a nice sunny winter weather to achieve your personal best or simply just to have a good time! I've run this four times and have enjoyed every single edition. With next year being the 40th year, plans are afoot to make it even more exciting!

Before I end my post, I'd like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland and Holiday Travel and Tours for the hospitality and support provided and Air Asia X for the smooth flight into the Gold Coast and back. Without your support, this wouldn't have been possible. A big thanks also goes out to the GCAM17 Team My in training for the training support through the years and months and most importantly, my wife for tolerating the amount of times I'm out of the house training, coming back tired, being difficult, not holding up my end of the deal but yet never wavering in your support and belief in me!

And to the Gold Coast, I will be back to make my mark there again sometime soon!


  1. Can't wait for the pack to assemble again. 💪🏽

  2. What a great read! I'm planning on running my first FM at the Gold Coast in 2018 so this has been inspirational.

    1. Hi Ben, thanks for reading. Great to hear that you'll be running your first FM in the Gold Coast. It's a great race to pick as your first. Do join our Facebook training group at "GCM18 - Team MY In Training" where we update every on all things about the race.