The Half Marathon


source // sweetsrun

Tuesday, 24 November, 2015

Taipei, Taiwan

I joined a running club back in January, which inspired a new challenge – the task of completing a half marathon. Unfortunately, within months that group became thinner than my grandfather’s hairline, resulting in its erasure, and I was no longer with the cool kids in the club – it was that tough period as a baby-faced, seventeen-year-old all over again.

Still, I remained stimulated by the original objective and continued to train solo at the park after work. Truthfully, it wasn’t always easy to motivate myself to run for an hour after a day’s worth of teaching the dance moves to some funky ‘colour song’, or having to defuse a heated altercation over whether a kid played his hand too slowly in a game of ‘paper-scissors-stone’ – but, I managed to stick with it, and achieved my goal last weekend.

So, on to the race – the 21k Sweets Run 甜蜜路跑, to be precise. This is a themed event, with the primary message basically being ‘don’t feel guilty about eating sweets’. Muhammad Ali once declared, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” – I suppose each message is inspiring in its own way, but then, it is impossible to say how truly great Ali might have become with a bit more fudge.

The place was filled with different stalls and gimmicks, some bloke even dressed his dog up in a complete running outfit from head to paw – I wouldn’t have been overly surprised if the pet was there to compete, the whole vibe seemed pretty light-hearted. Not to mention, the organisers probably still dress up as vampires and go ‘trick or treating’ at Halloween, so who knows the entry rules?

Oh man, could you imagine if I had trained for the best part of a year only to find out that I would be battling it out with a furry canine that has probably drank toilet water in the past? As it goes, he was just there for show and my dignity (mostly) remained intact.

Prior to the race, they had the warm up – now that was an event in itself. It lasted about thirty minutes and was essentially fifty or so people panting and swinging their arms about, as they tried to keep up with the work-out / dance routine displayed on stage.

I didn’t know whether to admire or pity the silly sods; sure, they were knackered, but they were also mavericks! I mean, why play by society’s rules of a light warm-up, when you can boogie your arse off before a marathon? These nutters probably wait until Monday to eat their Sunday roast and start a novel at chapter three. After seeing that, I suddenly valued the dog a lot more as a competitor.

When it came to game time, I could have been a bit more switched on. I didn’t realise you’re supposed to head over to the starting line twenty minutes before the run, and due to that lack of knowledge, I was at the back of the huddled-up group of people waiting for the whistle.

As a result, it took a good while to plod through the starting line, and while this may be a bold statement, I’m pretty sure that the slow start was the difference between finishing 43rd and finishing 1st in the end. To be honest though, there was no catching the winner – he went faster than a bullet train and completed the race almost thirty minutes before I did. He seemed a bit unrealistic as a human, to be frank – he should be tested for drugs or cyborg DNA.

I’ll tell you what, there are very few things more devastating than when you’re contently thinking that you’ve been running along for about 5k, and you see that God damn, ugly 1k sign post. Knowing the race had sign posts was pretty soul destroying at later points, too. It was this race that allowed me to discover something they don’t teach in school, as it goes, the distance between each kilometre is not actually the same – each kilometre is longer than the last – if you don’t believe me run a half marathon.

They also gave out various different sweets at supply stations, which was kind of cool. However, I was so focused on finishing 43rd that I didn’t have time to take one. They did somehow, and for reasons unknown, manage to slip a hair scrunchie on my wrist towards the end of the race, but otherwise, I went without their goodies.

sweets 45f

source // sweetsrun

The period of the run that sticks out the most is the long haul between the 17k and 18k sign posts. Not many people bothered me too much throughout the race, but for some reason, that one kilometre of pathway was the place to get friendly.

I had been running for around an hour and a half and was releasing more sweat than a pregnant nun at confession, when a bloke started running alongside me. He began asking basic questions in Chinese, that due to my lack of breath and crap pronunciation, I always had to answer two or three times. Thankfully, he got bored of my ‘I don’t know what you said’ responses, and soon left me in his tracks.

He did find the opportunity to put his arm around me for one of the cameramen that appeared on the side of the road though – it was the picture all the papers wanted, the two men battling it out for 42nd place smiling together. Hang on, perhaps he actually saw me as a threat and was trying to wear me down with that hug/headlock pose? It worked, he passed me – but then, I’d much rather finish 43rd with honour than 42nd through photobomb-cheating.

It was around that section of the race that I came into contact with the fella that decided to wear tight white bicycle shorts to run in. Regrettably, I now know just about as much as his wife does regarding his genitalia. On a more positive note though, those crotch-hugging shorts probably went towards improving my time. You see, having the exact outline of a man’s butt a few yards in front inspires you to up the gear and change the view. Somehow, I found energy at a time that I thought I was fully out. In other words, if you want to be another person’s inspiration in a race, wear white bicycle shorts.

The final five kilometres were exhausting, and at times, seemed beyond my capabilities. However, I did it! Three minutes faster than the average competitor of my age and thirty minutes slower than that robot that entered. Just think as I write this blog, he is probably saving the planet from an alien invasion or something.

So, what now?

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