Penang Bridge Run.

I did it! After 3 months of torturous training, I finally finished what I set out to do....The Penang Bridge Half Marathon. Actually, they lied when they said it was a half marathon. In reality, the race was 15.5 miles, 2.4 miles longer than a true half. Or, 2.4 miles of pure torture.

After a week of 'tapering' (my favorite part of training) and carbo-loading (also a running perk) my body was so ready to run...even at this ungodly hour (I woke up at 2:30am). I made a new playlist on my ipod for this race and this, I decided, was going to make all the difference. And it did! I decided to usher in the holiday season by starting off with Celine Dion's Christmas album (my favorite). It was just right for my pre-morning, reflective mood. I love the peace of the early morning. No traffic, no motorbikes, no noise...just the pattering of footsteps and my breath. I wish I had the discipline to get up early enough do my runs while it's still dark, but my late-night routine doesn't pair well with that.

It was 30 minutes before I was even on the bridge, or at least over water...the on-ramp is long. The marathoners (who had started at 3) and the men's half-ers took all the water ahead of us (so selfish!) and there was nothing for the first 45 minutes. But luckily I carried my own gatorade with me, so water was never the issue. It was great to be on the bridge, for one thing, because this is the only time in the year that it closes, but also because you get great views of the water and of georgetown. The Penang bridge itself is 13.5km long (the 3rd longest in Asia), but that includes the on-ramps and everything....the distance over water isn't that long. The half-marathon is 25km, so obviously we didn't go the whole distance, but we the course turned around at the toll-booths, marking the half-way point.
Luckily, I was still feeling great! Maybe I got motivation from the people that were dropping like flies around me. Asians are overambitious exercisers. So many people who entered this race were way out of their league. Now, I think it's great that they're trying and all, and I don't expect people to be able to run the whole time, but I saw people start walking from minute 1. Seriously? I mean, if you can't even run 60 seconds what makes you think you can last 15 miles? People were running with full backpacks, with regular, definitely not for running or even walking, shoes. I even saw a guy wearing crocs. And in true Malaysian style, half of the young people were carrying their cell-phones and texting each other.
But I managed to not let it all get to me and I just zoned out in my new ipod playlist (after Celine, that is). One of my favorite things about a long run is that you get to EAT in the middle of it. Energy. My favorite is the Jelly Belly sport beans but you can't get them here, and all we could find are those icky Power gels. Actually, the tangerine is pretty tasty but I don't like the idea of having to suck down a gel. I consumed three during the course of this race. The strawberry banana flavor is NOT recommended.
The run would have been 100% glorious had it actually been a real half-marathon. Because I was feeling good for the first 13 miles or so, and then the pain started to hit my legs....at just about the time that the real half-marathon should have been over! Unfortunately, I had 2.5 miles left! I've always been an injury-free runner, but I've noticed as I've started running more distance that my legs start to break down after about 8 or 9 miles. I'm always training on the roads, and my knees which are absorbing all this pounding start to ache. For this race, the pain really started to hit at about mile 13. This is also the point that I met the sea of orange: the fun-runners. Ugh. So I spend the last 30 minutes of the race fighting not just my own aching body but also the hoards of walkers that were doing a 5 or 10-k or something...I don't really know. All I know is that they liked to stop right in front of you and also enjoyed walking in rows so that you couldn't get through them.
By this point of the race, my ipod playlist had ended and I needed some fast-paced more motivating music. Rhianna it is, then. It works like a charm, every time. Thanks, Rhianna... Please don't stop the music.
In the end it took me exactly 2 hours and 54 minutes to finish. And I didn't care what time I finished in as long as I gave it my best. This is the longest I have ever run and I'm proud of myself for it. I got a little teary eyed at the finish line, mostly because I was worried about collapsing and I felt a little bit lost and overwhelmed in the sea of salty and sweaty bodies.
It took about 2 liters of water to re-hydrate myself and I was faint from hunger. After wandering around the tents for a little bit and considering going shopping (hey, we were at the mall, afterall - a Treece never turns down shopping), Reuben and I left to eat some wantan mee for breakfast.
We must have timed it right, and luckily I got home just in time to watch Hannah Montana.

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© Reuben + ErinMaira Gall