After the briefing and group photos, the respective pace groups were flagged off to the sound of air-horn and whistles, and that got their adrenalin pumping and energy levels up for a good start. Maxifuel (the official nutrition sponsor for Sundown 2012) were on hand with 2 fuel stops to fuel-up and energize the group for this 20-28km run. The lead-up runners and Pacers were steadily pacing in groups, all very uniformed and smart-looking. The first 9km was covered with much pleasure, getting to know one another, and avoiding a faster-than-required pace. The first F2 Fuel-Point was met with much excitement as cheers welcomed us, although we were not feeling too thirsty because of the cool weather, and the drizzle that was starting.
It was a much anticipated lead-up run for many, and we were not disappointed – what with the showers of blessings and the additional mileage which we managed to hit on target pace (in fact, was slightly better than even pace). In spite of the twin marathons of
Baliand Run350 this weekend, there was still a good turnout of nearly 90 lead-up runners with another 80 NightHawk trainees to boot. Along with the Sundown Pacers, the 200 of us were a standout at the relatively quieter ECP this morning.
The Sundown Marathon organizers were already there before dawn, setting up the staging area when we arrived. There was a hive of activity as the Pacers received their final coordinating instructions, and the participants queued to sign-in. Many of them came prepared for a good workout, although some have not had much of a base-building phase before this. Nonetheless, we were going for even-pace running after a brief introduction to pacing for the audience. The Sundown Pacers, in their distinctive green tops, were all ready to set the pace for their respective groups of HM (2:00h, 2:15h, 2:30h) and FM (4:00h, 4:30h, 5:00h, 5:30h, 6:00h).
To keep the momentum going, we stopped for less than a minute, getting sufficient drinks before moving back towards The Playground. By then the rain was rather heavy. Since there was no lightning, and the various pace groups having checked with the runners of their comfort levels (many of them could not have felt stronger in that cool weather), decided to continue on to the delight of all who made the effort to come all the way just for this preparatory LSD. The mid-point was reached with most of the groups banking in a few minutes because of a slightly faster 1st half. Bananas, gels and isotonic drinks were served at the Playground fuel point, before the runners moved on towards
Fort Road for their second loop.
The cool weather, coupled with the good nutrition support, allowed most of the runners to be able to sustain the good pace in the second half of the run. It was thanks to the Pacers’ regular reminders to stay on pace that prevented the groups from running too fast and splitting up. The runners stayed close together till the 18km mark before the HM groups turned back at C4 to complete their 20km. The FM groups continued on with their target paces to the F2 Fuel Station for the second time.
Spirits were high as the motivated runners kept on to their targets to complete the remaining 6km from F2, for a grand total of 28km for the FM groups. Many were elated when they heard they had achieved a bonus of 3km from the intended 25km, what with maintaining the good paces they had targeted. The weather and pace group support helped lots, resulting in a happy and thankful bunch of lead-up runners and NightHawk trainees (who went on to do 31km for FM).
The Official Sundown team of photographers and support crew were at the finish line to greet and welcome all the runners back, and as they ran past the Sundown Banner Posts in what felt like a race-day finish, the sense of satisfaction in having completed the long run was just so enriching and motivating for the soul. Discussions of why some of us were able to complete the long run and yet feel good continued in the midst of planning for the finale Lead-Up Run of 30km on May 6.
A large number of lead-up runners are already preparing to return for what might be their longest run before Sundown, and we certainly look forward to having an even bigger and better run than what was experienced this morning. As we cleared up by 11:30am, and walked merrily from The Playground, we could still hear echos of GO, GO, SUNDOWN, the whistles blowing, and the imagery of our strong runs lingering on in our minds long after for the rest of the day. Thanks for all who participated, especially the organizers Sundown Marathon, the Sundown Pacers as well as the nutrition support from Maxifuel. We all made SUNDOWN EXCELLENCE HAPPEN!