With only 2 weeks to race night, the NightHawks were all charged up for their 15km and 25km Optimal Paced (OP) long run on a Saturday night at Parkland Green.
With the race routes and timings finalized, the long training run this evening incorporated the main portions of ECP, Gardens By The Bay and even with the hill loop at the Marina Barrage for good measure.
Under the guidance of the NightHawk trainers and Sundown Pacers, the contingent of NightHawks put up their best showing thus far with strength and speed endurance sustained throughout the targeted distances.
The cool weather (after the bout of afternoon showers) make the run so much easier and enjoyable, and before long, we were already past the midway mark and still raring to go. The NightHawks also took the opportunity to test their hydration and fuel plan to make finer adjustments where required.
The NightHawks proved to be well conditioned for night long runs, especially after they had progressively built up their mileage and paces with more than 5 runs in the night. By 10pm, most of the trainees were back at the training area, replenishing fluids and carbs with isotonic drinks and bananas.
A briefing was conducted with respect to the importance of good nutrition, hydration and rest during the tapering week to maximize performance on race night.
We ended training early and on a high note, with the NightHawks clutching to their just-issued red training singlets, and planning how they will match with race gear and shoes.
The Sundown Pacers will be at Race Entry Pack Collection (REPC) on May 20-22, and there will be a meet-up on race night for all Sundown Runners as well. Do visit them and have a chat with your timing group pacers, get your pace bands and possibly get advise on the pace strategy for race night.
After two successful lead up runs in March and April to train and prepare Sundown Marathoners for the night marathon in May, the Sundown Marathon Pacers from Team FatBird conducted the final and longest run of 19km (HM) and 32km (FM) at PlayGround @ Big Splash.
The turnout was much bigger than the first 2 sessions, probably hitting 300 runners – all eager to put in their final long run before starting the tapering phase next week. Most registered runners reported by 6:45am, allowing the Sundown Pacers to organize and brief everyone on the routes and pacing objectives, including a quick 5min of dynamic warmup to get everyone’s adrenaline flowing.
The Sundown Pacers looked great in their Compresssport Pacer singlets, and were highly visible for the respective pace groups to follow. The flag-off horn sounded at 6:50am for all runners, who soon settled into their respective pace groups as they approach Fort Road and Gardens By The Bay (GBB).
The skies were clear and the sun was heating all the runners up. Thanks to Sundown Organizers setting up two hydration points, well stocked with iced-cold isotonic drinks and water, that the lead up runners often looked towards as motivational check points. After 10km of running, many of the runners were soaking with perspiration but continued to keep to their Marathon Pace (MP).
We made a concerted U-turn around Marina Promontory loop to return back to GBB and Fort Road. By then, the sun’s heat was ‘piercing’ through our skin adding a new dimension to the already challenging MP.
Once the mid-point of the required distance was passed, we increased to an Optimal Pace (OP) which would provide the runners some practice of achieving a negative split (ie. running the second half at a slightly faster time than the first half of their run). Some of the runners could not sustain the pace but were ‘collected’ by our trusty pacers at the rear guard of each pace group.
The Half Marathoners did a U-Turn at Parkland Green to return back to Big Splash for a good 19km paced run. The confidence levels were high for a good race on 28 May night. The Full Marathoners proceeded on towards Big Splash, led by their determined Sundown Pacers who were keeping to OP by then.
The heat made the run after 22km very challenging, and a welcome respite was granted at the second iced-cold water point, a real savior for the tiring runners. The strong ones in front were taking all the heat in, treating it as conditioning and toughening for their marathon bodies.
Some of the newer marathoners were quite affected by the heat, but with the ample drinks provided, there were no incidents of anyone ‘hitting the wall’. By 10am, all Group 1 runners have returned, followed by Group 2 at 10:15am. The timings achieved were commendable, especially in such hot and humid conditions.
The 5hr, 5:30h and 6h pace groups all returned by 11am, the maximum time (4h) allowed for the runners to be on their feet during this phase of training. Anything longer would put the runners at risk of fatigue and could sabotage their recovery and preparations for a good race 3 weeks later.
Drinks and bananas were welcomed at the end point to replenish all the lost electrolytes and glycogen. A few had empty tanks, but most of the runners returned very strong, with ample reserves to continue for another 10km is required to do so. With the series of three lead up progressive runs completed, the Sundown Marathoners looked set to be amply prepared for a successful race night with the Sundown Marathon Pacers.
We wish all Sundown Marathoners, especially those who have joined us for training and lead up runs a successful and fruitful performance in your respective HM and FM on 28-29 May.
TheKookaburras (Gold Coast Marathon training) and NightHawks (Sundown Marathon training) convened at MacRitchie Reservoir Park (MR) on Saturday evening for their week 9 Optimal Pace training and Week 3 Base Building respectively. It was to be the longest run for the NightHawks and so we assembled at MR Amenities Centre by 6:30pm.
This route traversing the MacRitchie (MR) and Upper Peirce Reservoir (UPR) reserves all the way to the Mandai Zoo has always been the most challenging and interesting every year for our participants training for the Sundown Marathon. The route is one of ups and downs with winding stretches and also a long PCN flanked by water bodies.
After a bout of afternoon showers, we were treated to cooler weather as we ran towards Upper Thomson Road and then onto Lower Peirce Reservoir. The respective pace groups ran in tight-knit outfits for safety as well as taping on the groups’ energy to see them through the long night.
Every year, we would have some trainees who might hit the wall after 25km and would have to take public transport back to the start point, so this time all were ready with some loose pocket change and good hydration on them.
The first half of the run was at easier Marathon Pace (MP) for all to get sufficiently warmed up and into the groove. All runners were chatty and feeling strong as the meandered along Old Upper Thomson Road (OUTR) and then onto Sembawang Road towards Mandai Road. The Half Marathoners turned back at the Mandai Road/Yishun Rd junction for 20km, while the Full Marathoners headed for the Zoo.
There were areas which were quite dark and runners were reminded to be vigilant and have higher leg-lifts to avoid any trip-ups. Pacers had their blinking lights on to serve as guideposts for the runners, and we mostly ran against the flow of traffic and on pavements where available for safety reasons.
The FMers reached the U-turn point of 17.5km at the Zoo by 9pm before turning back for the say way back. The return trip was faster as we turned up the pace to Optimal for a negative-split attempt and also a transition of pace from MP to OP. With the string base built up over the last 8 weeks, we were happy to see most of the NightHawks able to maintain the pace, especially in the face of rolling slopes and winding roads.
Hydration and fuel plan were put to good use with gels and other carbs intake at various points of 15km, 23km, 30km to have sufficient glycogen to sustain the faster pace. All groups managed a good run to return to the start point by 11:05pm, 5min ahead of the cutoff imposed for safety and injury-avoidance reasons.
As the various groups completed their runs, there were shouts of “Sundown Runners, Group…We Are The Best!” echoing through the night, evident that the runners still had sufficient reserves in their tanks for that last few km should they be required to add to their run mileage. Such is the readiness condition of the NightHawks that they go into tapering mode after next week with full of confidence for a strong night marathon completion on 28-29 May.
The NightHawks Completed The Longest Run Strong! The Kookaburras Are Building Up A Strong Base!
The 3rd CarFreeSundaySG saw a good turnout of i-Runners and Cyclists in front of the steps to the National Gallery. Runners started to stream in to the i-Run kiosk at about 7:00am and by 7:15am, we had a good group of 40 runners to get the dynamic warm-up underway. Led by Team FatBird‘s i-Run trainers, the runners were taken through 10min of dynamic running drills and warm-up exercises to get the engines ready for ‘ACTION’ at 7:30am.
The VIPs flagged off the contingents promptly and our i-Runners strode along in their 3km, 5km and 7k categories. With the 5km segment of Shenton Way completely closed to traffic, we had good access to the roads along with the cyclists and those on mobility vehicles sharing the same corridors of advance.
Our NightHawk participants (training for Sundown Marathon) made their way from Parkland Green at ECP down to CarFreeSundaySG to do 2 laps of 5km as part of their long run requirements of 22km (HM) and 33km (FM).
From 8:30am, the respective pace groups to the i-Run registration point for their drinks and the start of their 2-3 laps of 5km around the closed road segment. There were smiles and applause as the pace groups with their runners pass, with encouragement from those gathered around the i-Run water hole.
There were also many other running groups like RunningHour, Pasir Ris Runners, Tiong Bahru Runners that paid the i-Run gathering point a visit and rested while continuing on for their subsequent 5km laps. There was a hive of activity and it was encouraging to see so many people from all walks out and about exercising and keeping fit.
The NightHawks kept to their respective training targets and left the Padang area by 9:00am for their return back to Parkland Green for that extended distance that are necessary to build their base for a good Sundown Marathon showing in May.
The i-Run activities continued till 9:30am before we base farewell to those runners who hung around to mingle and share running stories and simply catching up with fellow runners.
The NightHawks capitalized on the great weather to complete their training by 10:45am for their longest run to date, enhancing their confidence levels for next weekend’s longest pace run training. They were still running in tightly-held groups till the finish at Parkland Green, 3-3.5hrs later. That speaks volumes about the conditioning and readiness of the NightHawk participants for a good buildup to race night.
It was a successful CarFreeSundaySG and NightHawk training session! Oooh Aaah!
The Boston Marathon Race Report By FatBird Anthony
It was at the Sydney Marathon in 2015 that I unexpectedly qualified and eventually was accepted into my first Boston Marathon, a dream for most serious marathoners to at least participate once in this holy grail of marathon-ing.
I have heard so much about The Boston Marathon, its glories as well as all the controversies, but more so about the unpredictable weather challenges and the famous Newton Hills and HeartBreak Hill that makes it one of the more challenging races for any experienced marathoner. I was part of a group of 30 from Singapore for the Boston Marathon 2016, and I took up the VIP package from Marathon Tours as recommended by the Boston Marathon website, twin-sharing with my travel mate Ngee Hung. Before departure, I had much help from fellow FatBird Ngee Hung with all the bookings as well as the advice on how to prepare for the challenges of the weather in Boston Spring.
The flight into Boston was a torturous 26hr affair with a 6hr stop in London Heathrow, making us so tired when we finally got to Boston Marriott Copley Place on Saturday afternoon. We hopped on to the nearby race pack collection and expo upon checking into the hotel. The crowd was thick as the whole city of Boston was suddenly full of marathoners for the big race on Monday Patriot’s Day.
We collected our bibs with no problems but moving around the expo was difficult. I went straight for the ‘must-buy’ Boston Marathon jacket but missed out of the very popular tee shirts as the men’s sizing was gone by the time we arrived. We took a few photos before going back to the hotel and had a good rest.
On Sunday morning, we put on our race gear for a short ‘testing’ run along the scenic Charles River. Lots of running groups were up and about and we even bumped into Meb Keflezighi. The weather looked a lot more promising and we were satisfied that race day would be better weather than the rainy and cold Boston 2015.
The rest of Sunday morning was spent checking out the finish area at Boylston Street and Copley Square, meeting fellow Singapore runners for lunch and dinner, and shopping for race essentials.I turned in early for the night and had a good rest before waking up bright and early Monday morning. Took a breakfast of peanut bread with coffee before the VIP bus brought us to the start point at Hopkinton, some 40min drive away. We had a private staging area away from the public area, which was really good as it gave us some space to prepare ourselves and access to the toilets.
We over-prepared ourselves with food and warm clothing and blankets, but were quite happy to leave them on the bus to be donated to the needy as the weather was warm enough not to require them. At 9:45am, we put on the bare essentials and made our way to the Athlete’s Village and start corrals.
We checked into Wave 2 at 9:55am and were soon in the queues for our respective corrals. There was about a 1km walk to the start line and along the way bumped into fellow Singaporeans and even the famous Tarahumara Runner Quaimare who was in my corral. The excitement was high as the groups of runners prepared for the start.
Wave 2 was flagged off by the gun at 10:25am. By the time I stepped on the chip-mat, it was 4.5min after the first corral left. The first 10km of the course was generally down slope and this is the portion where many a marathoner have made the mistake of running too fast and paying the price when they come to the hills between 26km-32km.
I took the initial miles very carefully and kept to a conservative pace of 5min/km along with many of the steady lady runners. There were water points every 1mile, well stocked with Gatorade and water. Loud cheers rang through from supporters on both sides of the roads, making the atmosphere a highly charged and motivating one.
It was warm in the first 15km of the race with the sun beating down on us furiously. I was contemplating if I should remove my inner piece of clothing, but decided against as the weather might change to be colder – anything could happen to the unpredictable Boston weather. I was more tolerant of the heat than many of the American and European runners who were showing signs of heating up.
I got my first Clif gel at around 17km, and popped it in with some water provided at the next hydration point. I was maintaining pace at 4:55min/km and soon was hit by some strong headwinds and cool weather. I was glad I had my beanie and gloves on as it was starting to get a little chilly. The Half Marathon mark was crossed in 1hr43min.
Soon I could hear very loud cheers and screams by thousands of supporters in the horizon – yes, the famous Wellesley Girls screaming and waving with boards asking to “Kiss Me” and all holding out their hands for high-fives. The atmosphere was electrifying, and I too gave them high-fives at various stretches of the 200-300m line up.
After the euphoria, we soon arrived to the first challenging hills of the course – the Newton Hills. The climb was rather steep but quite short, so it did not pose too much of a problem for most marathoners in my wave. Once we passed that, we were hit with the famous Heart Break Hill, which actually is a series of rolling hills. Coupled with the headwinds, this stretch really zapped much of the energy out of many of us. I almost broke into a hamstring cramp, but was contained only when I slowed down for the tingling to ease off.
That hills took us to the 32km mark, and from there, the final 10km was generally more down slope. If one had run the first 32km well and not expended their full resources, the final 10km could be a breeze and a chance to make up for lost time for a strong finish. I maintained my pace at 4:50min/km and was able to overtake many of the tiring runners along the way.
The Final 10km
The female runners were very strong, keeping up with their steady paces all the way. I ran along with them most of the time to keep to a steady pace, along with my trusty Garmin 235 as a guide. The crowd got thicker as we approached the city of Boston and got nearer to the finish at Copley Square along Boylston Street. The cheers were incessant, and that provided a lift to my tiring legs as I continued to stride along to overtake more slowing runners.
The turn into Boylston Street was euphoric as we approached the final 600m. I could see the iconic Boston Athletic Associations emblem in the finish arch in the distance as I picked up my strides to go for a quick finish. My legs were feeling good and with both sides cheering, I crossed the finish line in a net time of 3:29:43, a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time for my age group of 50-54 – my third BQ since the first one in Sydney 2015.
I felt happy and thankful that I completed Boston strongly and feeling great. As I walked along to collect my well-earned Unicorn finisher medal and space-suit, there was a surreal feeling of calm and quiet within me. I moved on to get some bananas and chocolate milk to replenish lost carbs and protein before going to the S segment to meet with Team Singapore runners.
Lots of exchanges and photos later, I was with Ngee Hung back at the hotel for a nice hot bath and stretching out of the legs. There were already postings of my timing splits in facebook from friends in Singapore monitoring the race, many whom were rooting and showing their support. I would like to thank all of them including my family and close friends who have been quietly supporting and cheering me on as I complete this historic and iconic marathon race, which many have deemed the holy grail of marathon running. With my first Boston Marathon in the bag, I have a couple of observations and takeaways for others who might be interested to attempt this race one day.
Lessons & Takeaways
Prepare well for the unpredictable Boston weather – the temperatures can blow hot and cold even during the race, so wear very versatile clothing which can be stripped off when it gets too warm, but never throw anything away until you cross the finish line on Boylston Street
Start & maintain a conservative pace for the first 21km, especially the first 10km when it is generally down slope. Coupled with the adrenaline rush, many runners tend to out-pace themselves and have to pay the price when they hit the wall in the second half of the race where the series of hills and winds come in
Hills & More Hills – the rolling hills after the HM mark have been known to break many a fast runner’s strides to a crawl, offsetting early gains in the flatter portions by a huge percentage. Do more hills runs and repeats during training, best to put some steep rolling hills after the 25km mark for that enhanced simulation of actual course conditions
Have a good hydration and fuel plan – with the many hydration points and 3 gel points (1 on both sides of the roads at every mile), there is no excuse for being under-hydrated and under-fueled
Race starts from 10am, and there could be a waiting time at the Athlete’s Village for 2-3 hours. Get yourselves comfortable with warm clothing and some food while in the tents, and bringing the bare essentials when you are called into the starting corrals.
Official merchandise sells out very quickly, so you might want to hit the race expo as early as you can find time