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.