MWM Race Experience 
Thanks to Ash Be Nimble

Ira started running as an occasional runner to challenge herself, and only started being a regular runner late 2016. She started running regularly as part of her training plan to hike up Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal! By the end of 2016, she was joining in on 10km to 12km runs, had already ran 4 events, hiked Gunung Kinabalu TWICE & Annapurna Base Camp(ABC).

“Coming home from ABC, I realized that I am capable of so much more than I thought I can do so I started to dream big and craved for bigger goals. The idea to run a full marathon was in plan, but I was only thinking of joining the one in November!
I didn’t expect that I would win 2 Full Marathon (FM) slots from ABN in April, a month before Malaysia Women Marathon.
 I know it is a little overambitious to attempt FM  in a month’s time, but I was not going to turn down the opportunity either! My parents stays in Shah Alam & I was homesick & needed excuse to come home too. So the first thing I did was to Google “preparing for full marathon in one month“.
According to an article I read, it is do-able if I am already running about 7km-10km on regular basis. I was already doing that as I was preparing for a 12km trail run in February, so I thought “Yes, let’s go”! After consulting Effa, a friend who has done FM before, I started to execute my own intensive training and recovery plan.
 I tell myself daily that I am not crazy & that I have done crazier stuff & that I have survived daily long hikes for 12 days straight. If I can do all that, I can do the 42KM, & that I can run long. While running I would chant this to myself, “If I can do 10, I can do 20. If I can do 20, I can do 30. And if I can do 30, I can do 40 too. It’s just numbers“.
 I have to admit that the situation gets intense. I thought of and talked about it all the time. I spent hours looking at my training plan and researching for other runners’ experience and tips for first FM. I got really anxious. One week into my training week, I still couldn’t shake off my anxiety. One day, I read about a previous MWM runner’s experience completing a half marathon with a male pacer, and I thought- yes that’s it. I’d nail it if I have a pacer.

Enter Khairi the pacer. The problem is that Khairi is in KL and I am in Labuan & we’ve never ran together until the marathon day itself. It’s our first, and probably the last time. Once I was assured about not having to deal with the run alone, I immediately relaxed and was able to follow my training program. Even when the training session had taken a toll on me, it didn’t feel so bad as Khairi continued to encourage me through our endless Whatsapp conversation.
On the final weekend of my training plan, I scheduled a 30km LSD run & invited Effa to run together with me. Off we went at 4am, conquering a quarter of the Labuan island on foot, not without any misadventures in itself- forgotten headlamps, guard dogs, coconut look out and ice cream temptation. By the end of it, we recorded a 29km run & Effa assured me that I’d be able to complete the 42KM. I promised her that we will train for Borneo International Marathon (another FM) and TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon (30KM) together.
 I couldn’t sleep at all the night before the run. Sure, I had everything ready & in place. I have been carbo-loading religiously throughout the week, I had my physio sessions & I didn’t strain my legs anymore. 630pm on 4th March, I was ready with my eye mask and ear plugs on – but no, I kept turning and tossing around until 130am, the running day. It’s the same thought, over and over – “What if I did not finish?
My goal is simple. I want to bring the finisher t-shirt home. I want to wear it on my flight back to Labuan. That’s all. But to get there, I have to arrive at the finishing line in 6:45 hrs. It has never been done before. So I reminded myself of who I truly am- that my willpower is my strength and my resilience will take me there. I repeated my mantra – “if I can do 10, I can do 20…“. The first 10km was good. The pace was a little faster than usual, but I felt alright. I told Khairi that it was too fast for me and he told me that I can slow down if I want to, but I had different plans. I wanted to catch up before I can’t. I spotted my target- the 5:30hrs official pacers with their green balloons.

It wasn’t long until I lost sight of the green balloons but my spirit was still high. Khairi and I eventually trailed behind the 6:00hrs pacers with their orange-coloured balloons. We even agreed that as long as the 6:30hrs ones are behind us, we are good. Both of us were still in good spirit.


 We were just halfway into the 2nd half of the first loop when my tummy started to feel funny & I called for a restroom stop. It was a fake tummy ache, I spent too long getting in and out of my compression pants and my usual pain in my left piriformis has started to kick in. By the time we reached KM20, I was in tears. I lost the 6:00hrs pacers, Khairi was too fast and I struggled to keep up because of the pain that has already gone all the way down to my left foot. I was upset and in pain. I wanted to quit.

But Khairi waited for me just right before the KM21 signboard and he gave me the cooling gel that he carried along. So I took another step forward and kept running. One step after another. When the pain got too much too bear, I would apply the cooling gel again. So that was basically the routine that I have developed- run, cooling gel, pray that 6:30hrs pacers would not passed by. Although they did eventually, and when that happened, I summoned all the willpower I have left to not stop and to keep up with them.

That’s when Jessalynn, a bubbly runner who was always within my radius, started to talk to me. She asked if this is my first FM and upon learning that it is, she gave me a high five. We started talking about her FM experiences and truly that had been the boost to my depleting willpower. I felt encouraged after talking to her and that kept me going until the KM30 checkpoint. I arrived at KM30 checkpoint at about 4:30hrs into the run and as I had to make a U-turn on the loop, I realized that there were many others behind me that have not given up. I could see their willpower bursting and shining through. I thought to myself, I still got this. I can do this, let’s finish this in time, & finish this strong.

However, no matter how much pep talk I gave to myself nothing actually prepared me to the challenges that I had to face during the last 8km of the run. Both of my legs were in pain, I started to drink 2 cups of water at every water station and I could feel the midday heat along the highway. Strangely enough the idea of quitting seems no longer to be an option and instead I started utilizing a meditation technique to keep my feet going. I counted my running steps, and I counted my walking steps, then I counted my running steps again. So on and so forth. There is no point on counting, except that it kept me going and it kept my mind on the run, away from the pain and the midday heat. It seemed to have worked. Not great, but it worked.

At the last 4km of the run, one of the 6:30hrs pacers whom now has retired and no longer has his balloon with him, turned around and looked at us, about 10 runners, & and said “We can still make it for the COT. The stadium is just right there.” “At this pace?”, I asked. He said yes. So all of us ran in a group together. Well, we didn’t actually run, the road is now off limit to us as it is reopened to the traffic so we had to use the uneven pedestrian pavements. A pacer started to hold his pacee’s hand. The others started to encourage each other. A veteran runner started talking to me, “Is this hell or what?” “Is that your pacer? It’s so nice to have a pacer”. We kept each other going.
 In between all that chaos and heat, the never-ending hills and the rush to catch up with time, I eventually arrived at the finishing line at 6:41:08 hrs. It was surreal – I saw a photographer at the finishing line & I gave him a big smile. I heard someone say “keep walking”, so I did. But all I had in mind at that time was my medal and finisher tshirt.
Between the last 4km, my sisters stopped their car by the roadside when they spotted us just to cheer me. It was an amazing memory I don’t think I will ever forget that moment!
 Thanks Hui and the team at ash be nimble for giving us the opportunity to run MWM and for that first FM challenge- I’m so happy that a dream now come true. Here’s to many more #gotheextramile (and awesome pleated skorts!).
So that’s my whole experience of my first FM, narrated in full details. It’s amazing, it’s crazy, and I thought that that would be it, I’ll never run again. But no, as I write this I thought to myself I can’t wait to do my run today. As for my pacer Khairi- I understand that he would rather stick with his ultra trail run for now, and as for road marathon? “Never again,” he said.”
 We’re so inspired by Ira’s story on how she ran her FIRST full marathon after winning 2 slots. We love how she started off with 10km runs, finding ways to run a full marathon in ONE MONTH, never stopping, & always looking ahead!

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