Gold Coast Marathon 2022: The Final Countdown - Race Day 2, The Village Roadshow Theme Parks Marathon

And that's a wrap!

With the struggle of the half marathon behind me, I was seriously in doubts as to my abilities to finish the marathon. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, my self confidence was shattered. Did I have it in me to get through the Village Roadshow Theme Parks 42.195km's ahead of me? I really couldn't answer that. Thoughts of not starting were high on my list. Excuses were beginning to form in my numb brain. My legs can't take it, my old ticker wasn't up to it, I might get injured and the list of excuses go on. 

But I finally composed my thought and remembered what my wife always says. Putting negative thoughts in your mind to begin with is already a failure in itself. You haven't even tried yet, how would you know you would fail? Comforting words but still a daunting task ahead was waiting for me. I put all the negatives aside, pushed what was coming the next day out of my head and focused on finishing what I started out to do.

After an early dinner of pasta at our usual pre-marathon restaurant, it was straight back to the hotel to prep the race gear and call it an early night. Sleep was hard to come by and I was practically twisting and turning the entire night. The only consolation was waking up the next morning to great racing weather. That lifted my spirits a little. I seldom eat before a race cos I have gut issues if I do but I knew I'd be out on the race route for quite a while, so I wolfed down a simple ham sandwich, a little isotonic drink and was down and headed to the race start location by 4.30am.

With the crew at the pre-race dinner

The place was already bustling with runners enjoying the good turn of the weather. I foresaw a lot of PR's from them judging by the confidence on their faces. Hung around the baggage area, warming up as best as I could, ditched the bag at the baggage section and headed out to my pen, which was pen D as I knew it was going to be a slow start for me.

The weather was great, clear skies but still cold with a slight gust of wind. Not such a big deal, at least it wasn't a wet race. I was as ready as I could possibly be to take this on. The race flagged off on the dot at 6am, which was the first time the marathon was being flagged off at 6am instead of its traditional time of 7.20am. Since I was way at the back, it was basically a walk till the start gantry which took me close to 9 minutes to get past.

Once past the start gantry, the running finally began. I took off at a very easy and conservative pace, after all, my goal was just to finish before the cut off, speed wasn't anywhere near the agenda. While it was great racing weather, my body wasn't really warming up fast enough and I knew I had to keep going until the sun peeked out, hopefully. My legs were no where near rested. The aches and pains of the previous day was lingering around reminding me of the insanity of this attempt.

I had already decided on a run as long as I could and walk as little as I can race strategy, I was being honest with my capabilities at this point. The crowd along the way, even at this early in the morning was fantastic. Their cheering kept me going, even though I was at the very back of the field. Soon, the 6 hour pacers caught up with me. Crap, that was fast, I thought. I stayed with them for a bit but the cold was still getting to me. With my run/walk strategy, they pulled off ahead. 

Still I kept on going knowing full well, that I would be seeing the 6:40 sweepers pretty soon at the speed I was going. And true enough, not long later, the blue balloons approached me. This was it, I had to keep pace with them or I would never make it to the finish in time. When I saw one of the sweepers, I was ecstatic, it was Digger (Bruce Hargreaves), my very first Gold Coast marathon pacer, way back in 2014 when it was known as the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. The man brought me in to my first ever marathon PR back then and I knew I was in capable hands. If anyone was going to get me through this, it was Digger!

I stuck with him and when he learned of my double attempt, he told me to just take the cue off him and I'll be fine. He was on a short 150-200m run/200m walk strategy and it suited me just fine. I even managed to recover a little. We kept going with him regaling us (another runner was also pacing with him) on his exploits, which were not just entertaining but kept the mind off the pain and the daunting task ahead.

Are we there yet?

It was actually beginning to lift my spirits a little. By then, most of the faster field were already running past and I saw many familiar faces, some with a surprised look at seeing me pacing with the sweepers. Hey, that was all I had in me! Somewhere along the 13 to 14km mark, the sun came out. I was never this happy to see the sun as I was in my entire life. I felt rejuvenated. I told Digger I was going to take a potty break and I would like to give this a good try after that and he told me to go for it. A quick toilet stop, and off I went, passing Digger with a thank you wave and went into a slightly faster paced run. I kept it conservative cos I wasn't about to be over confident, after all, it still was a long way to go. 

With the sun warming my body, I was making some good progress. I slowly caught up with many who had gone past me, shouting words of encouragement as I went by. I still needed to walk but at least I was running a lot more now and at a much faster pace than before. It was to be this way, up to the 31km mark just as I headed for the only uphill stretch of the entire race. I was already beat by this time but I had made up good time and with some calculations (again using all my fingers and toes, bad at math and all that ... hahaha!), I knew I could somehow pull this off. 

The crowd along the route was already out in full force by then and you could practically feel them carrying you along. FANTASTIC, to say the least! Just after passing the start point, it was basically a huge struggle to get through this mental 10km stretch but I wasn't too concerned. I had clawed back lots of time and as long as I kept to my calculated pace, I knew I would pull this off. That kept me trudging along. It was mind numbing to say the least as I pushed and pushed with every kilometer of road.

Pain or no pain, you grit your teeth and keep going!

But by the 40km mark, my legs were rebelling, it was harder to keep one foot ahead of me. The pain was mind numbing and I did the best I could to try to run but I just couldn't do it anymore. With some rough mental calculations, I figured out that even if I walked the entire last 2km, which I actually did, I would still make it within the 5:30 finish which was way better than what I had anticipated! 

With that thought in mind, I went into a power walk routine, well to me it was a power walk, but I'm sure to the spectators I must have looked like a penguin limping along ... hahaha! Then the famous McDonalds sign ahead made an appearance and I knew it was just a little over a kilometer to go. This section was beyond my expectations. The crowd here were more than fantastic that I felt all I had to do was stop and they'd carry me to the finish. They were incredible. They kept urging me to keep going so much so that I tried to run but was unable to. A walk to the finish it would be. I even managed to stop for a minute at the Gold Coast Run Nuts tent to chat with Anthony (our man behind the scene) for a bit since I had lots of time in the bag.

Soon enough the final 250m left turn came into view and I felt like a star at this point hearing my name being called out left, right and centre to just keep going and that it was just a few short metres away. When I saw the finish gantry ahead, I was ecstatic, I had almost done it. I was walking at this point but when I saw the two photographers positioned just before the finish, pain or no pain, I just had to run. You ALWAYS run for the photographers ... hahaha!

Level Unlocked!

And finally, after 5:23 (gun time) minutes of self doubt, pain and suffering, I had completed the 63.3km Double and  I won't deny I had tears in my eyes (good thing for sunglasses ... hahaha!). I ambled along to get my finisher entitlement and that (as my wife calls it) big assed 63.3km medal and savoured the achievement. I had finally done it. All those doubts, fears and conflicts were finally put to rest. After the two years the world has had, this was indeed a redeeming achievement for me. 

The first thing I did after collecting my stuff was to text the wife and tell her I made it. She was even more surprised that I pulled it off way before my expected time. She was happy for me all the same cos she wasn't expecting to hear from me so soon. I told her I'd bring home 3 medals and here it was. The crew had already left when I finished so I made my way back to the hotel to get some rest and meet them for a celebratory lunch. 

An honour to get a picture with the medal designer herself, Lisa Sorbie

The fact that this entire trip was always in the balance and the personal trials and tribulations I had to go through the months leading up to this made this all the more sweeter. Would I do this again? Not in a million years, this was a one time thing and I'm hoping to see more of my fellow Malaysians attempt this. Please don't let me go down the history books as the only insane Malaysian to do this ... hahaha!

But this milestone challenge for me would not have been possible without the tremendous hospitality and support given by Events Management Queensland and Tourism Queensland all these years. This is something that I will forever be grateful for and no matter how many 63.3km double races I run will ever be enough to express my thanks! 

And to my ever suffering (whenever I get into a training phase) wife, your support, trust and confidence in me something that means more to me than these medals. I can be an absolute motherf***ing pain when I'm in training but you've always put up with it and for that, I'm truly blessed, something which I will make up to her. Looking forward to running together with you for #GCM23. Till then, thanks for the memories, Gold Coast! 

The gang all finally together!


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