With 2 weeks to Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM), the Kookaburras were all excited as they turned up for their final group run. The turnout was not too great as quite a number of runners were using the weekend of races both locally and overseas to make up for their run.
As we were about to start, dark clouds loomed in the horizon and our trainers made a good call to run in the opposite direction to minimize the likelihood of us running into the rain – and it turned out a good call as we avoided the short bout of rain closer to the C4 and Playground areas.
Most of the runners were putting in their final tests of equipment and pace, and were trying to sustain a faster Enhanced Pace for distances of 18km and 28km. After the rains, came the high humidity and heat, which seemed to pose additional challenges for the runners.
Our mantra of ‘Train Hard, Race Easy’ would give the Kookaburras confidence of performing well on race day, after putting in the hard efforts during training. In spite of the challenges, most of the Kookaburras returned to the Nest by 10:30am, quite exhausted, at the same time satisfied.
This coming weekend will be the final tapering run before we wrap up Operation Kookaburra and make our way to the Gold Coast. To date, there are more than 340 Singapore runners going down under, and this would surely be fun as we travel, race and meetup as Team Singapore.
In spite of being one of the most challenging Sundown Marathon to date (with the high humidity and the Sheares Bridge slope), the Sundown Marathon Pacers accomplished our mission of bringing the Sundown Marathoners to their target timings.
This year’s Sundown Marathon, Asia’s premier night race, brought with it some new enhancements which provided more excitement and ‘glow’ to an already established and ‘must-do’ marathon. After months of training in both day and night conditions, the Sundown Pacers who have sacrificed their personal race timings in a bid to help the many Sundown Half Marathon (HM) and Full Marathon (FM) runners fulfill their race objectives.
The Sundown Race Village (set up a few days prior) was abuzz with busy chatter and an air of excitement as we gathered at the Sundown Ambassadors’ booth at 8:45pm. The nearby New Balance, Maxinutrition and sponsor booths were also kept busy with lines of runners capturing photos and trying out products.
The Sundown Pacers @ Ambassadors’ (Pacers) booth were gearing up with their timing bibs and colorful pace balloons, and of course, lots of group photos with Sundown Runners and Team FatBird trainees who have met up to get final advice and to give support with words of encouragement.
By 10:45pm, the Sundown FM Pacers were ushered into the race start to take up positions in their respective starting pens, according to target finish timings. There was a warm welcome from the MC and with loud blasts of music, and the Pacers were pumped up and ready for our Mission Finale. The runners were let in 10min later, and soon the Pens were filled to the brim – and the show to ‘Bring On The Night’ began.
After a good warm up routine and some high energy entertainment from the band, the FMers were flagged off promptly at 11:30pm along with the Hand Cyclists right in front. The run through the specially designed stage (with bright neon colours at all the sides) gave us the feeling of running through a rock concert opening for a very special performance indeed.
The Sundown Pacers with our colored balloons soon settled into Optimal Pace (a slightly faster pace with a little buffer for contingencies and PB performances) which eventually proved to be useful when we slowed to tackle certain dim areas of the course, encountered the hill climb at the 34km mark and punching through the crowd near the end of the race.
The first 10-12km was one of high humidity where runners were dripping in perspiration and yet could not dissipate heat fast enough for an easier cruise. Many of the Sundowners were seen to be affected by the humidity as their pace slackened from the 12km mark onwards. The ECP portion saw a few unofficial support stations with cheering supporters, that brought the morale of the ‘tiring’ runners up a notch.
Meanwhile, the HM Pacers and Runners went into their respective start pens at 11:45pm and were treated to the same delightful starting line activities as the FMers had gone through earlier. The slightly larger HM contingent flagged off at 12:30am to very humid conditions and a thick crowd in the first 5-8km of the race.
After the FMers sustained 2 hours of what seemed like a long road to eternity, the winds came as the weather took a turn for the better (at least for the Sundown Runners). That allowed the runners to keep up with the pace, and a number found new strength to push on for the middle miles (15km-28km). The Sundown Pacers who have been maintaining Optimal Pace all this while also found some respite form the humidity and were able to cruise through this section and encouraged more runners to follow on.
The real challenge of any full marathon really comes at the 30-32km mark, where mentally and physically sapped marathoners start to see the proverbial ‘marathon wall’ and normally are looking to slow down. Things were made even more challenging at the 34km mark (14km for the HM) where there was a long slope climb over Sheares Bridge where many runners were slowed to a slow walk, losing precious minutes unwillingly. The Sundown Pacers dug deep to continue maintaining pace and urging the runners to keep going and not to give up at that crucial juncture.
It was sheer relief when we were greeted at the top of the climb with an equally long descent which helped us to make up for some of the lost time. However, the 4hr-5hr bound marathoners had to contend with a crowd of walking HMers with lots of weaving around and slowing down for the crowd. We sure were glad we had some buffer built up with our Optimal Paces to last up till the final 5km.
From then on, it was a push to the finish. The Sundown Pacers were shouting timings to all who were close to meeting the target timings, as well as to the slower ones in front to clear to the sides for a better passageway for the ‘rush’ to the finish line. With pain in the legs and the tired bodies of the marathoners who would just want to sit down and rest, the finish line in sight with strong encouragement from the Pacers were what kept them ‘pushing’ for a strong finish.
Crossing the Sundown Finish Line never felt sweeter, and the beautiful finisher medal and tee shirt will be treasured for many years to come. Congratulations & Consolation were shared among all who have put in their best, and everyone who participated and completed was a Winner!
There was a sense of deep satisfaction in many of the runners’ visibly tired faces, with ‘shagged’ bodies just sitting around and resting their sore legs, clutching their hard-earned finisher medals and reflecting on just how they have managed to ‘survive’ one of the toughest marathons in a long time.
A big shout out to the Sundown Race Organizer for Bringing On Such An Exciting Night with new sights, sounds and challenges, many of which were nice surprises for the Sundown Runners. Although the weather (which could hardly be controlled) threatened the race with initial forecasts of thunderstorms, it turned out to be fine for most parts of the course, but not without exacting some serious damage on the runners with the high humidity levels in the first 2 hours.
Overall, it was a highly successful race which many have enjoyed (even though some did not get PBs or their desired timings) thanks in part to the strong support of the sponsors and partners, and most importantly to the committed bunch of event managers, coordinators, volunteers, Pacers, along with the encouraging participation of all the Sundown Runners who shared this eventful night with us. Sundown Marathon Brought Us The Night! Sundown Runners Rocked The Night! Facebook Photos from MK, CK, Ronnie, Berno, Joshua, Cherlynn
While the NightHawks were into their final 2 weekends of long runs, the Kookaburras were just about entering the mid-way of their training program, with 7 weeks of training remaining. Both training groups were early as the NightHawks collected their finisher race singlet, while the Kookaburras collected their bright-red race singlet for qualifiers based on attendance requirements.
The group briefings and photos were kept short to achieve a nice start time of 7:15am. The respective pace groups soon settled in with familiar faces amongst each of the groups, chatting and catching up on events and training of the past few weeks.
The NightHawks were in cheery mood and high spirits as they have only 15km (HM) and 25km (FM) to cover during this tapering phase. The Sundown Pacers were also putting their final race night plans into practice, with some fine-tuning and tweaking to even out any creases in their teamwork and formations.
The Kookaburras were in for a longer buildup with 21km (HM) and 30km (FM) @ Optimal Pace, requiring an extra effort from the participants.
The air was humid and felt heavy. With the sun creeping up in the early part of the morning, the first 10-15km felt laboured although the pace were still being maintained fairly well. The showers at 9:00am were a welcomed relief for the tiring runners, giving an immediate boost to motivation to sustain targeted Optimal Pace.
We have not run in the rain for some time before this, and it sure felt cool and refreshing with the sweats of perspiration being washed away and the rain droplets helping to cool off the runners to bring heart rates to sustainable levels.
The spirits of the runners also improved with the rain, as fellow NightHawks and Kookaburras cheered and Hi-5 one another whenever they see pace groups coming from either operations. The entire workout completed slightly ahead of time – by 10:15am, every runner was back and accounted for.
This was a very useful session where the final kinks were being ironed out, and we had a few runners who sacrificed their 10km Green Corridor or Real Run just to be able to do the 25km-30km LSD. By the time the runners were leaving home, the rain has stopped and the skies cleared up – such a nice timing.
The Kookaburras will have the next 2 weeks as self training. A number of them are participating in the Sundown Marathon on 31 May, using that as a time trial of sorts to gauge their chances and any improvement areas for the GCAM on 5-6 July.
The NightHawks will continue into their final week of tapering with reduced long run mileage, but maintaining respective intensities and paces for their weekday tempos/fartleks and weekend LSD. Final preparations and tests of race night gear, race/hydration/fuel plans will be locked and loaded next weekend before the Race.
With the consistent and smooth buildup of the NightHawks, and the reasonable base established by the Kookaburras, we are confident that all trainees and Sundown Pacers will perform to expectations and achieve race timings or Pace Group targets on Sundown Race Night. The Sundown Runners Are Ready! Bring On The Night! Facebook Photos by Meng Kiat
In week #5, the Ops Kookaburra participants had their third group training with Team FatBird at the ECP for Optimal Paced long runs of 18km for the Half Marathoners and 28km for the Full Marathoners.
The turnout was not bad and we had the regular group of trainees settling in well to the training structure, with some firm foundation built up in the previous weeks of runs. Although the run was a night one, the rather humid weather posed some challenges, especially in the second half of the workouts.
Still, the Kookaburras were focused in sustaining their targeted paces for as long as possible. With the guidance of experienced Gold Coast Marathoners as Pacers, the Kookaburras learnt more about balancing their efforts with sustainable paces, as well as implementing some elements of good in-run fuel and hydration.
The stretch of ECP was real busy on this Saturday night, adding on to the challenge of the run as we had to weave around the crowd at times, and also be exposed to the smoke from the BBQ pits and families with children hogging the running paths. However, all the activities and merry-making added to the fun factor of the run as well as heightened the senses of our runners as we had to be extra alert to avoid any potential accidents.
The mainly FM Kookaburras completed their 28km distance with good effort, although some had to slow down the pace after 21km as the humidity and fatigue took their toll. Still, the Kookaburras were able to continue with the remaining distances at slightly slower pace, fulfilling the overall training objectives no less.
After this phase of training, the Kookaburras will embark on their next phase in week #6 at Optimal Pace (a tad faster than Marathon Pace). That will also prepare the runners for a trial of their abilities as some will be participating in the Sundown Marathon at the end of May.
The Kookaburras are building up well even as we are having a few more participants join us for GCAM. The GCAM race registrations are looking good for yet another large contingent from Team Singapore.
For marathoners who are still on the fence about registering for GCAM to do their Personal Bests (PB) or Qualify For Boston (BQ), there is no better time than to do it NOW – Do visit the GCAM booth at the Sundown Marathon Race Expo On May 16-18 to get more details of the travel package and possibly register in the spot.