A friend informed me that my holiday in Koh Samui coincided with the annual island marathon, so I had little choice but to run the half marathon (no full marathon heroics this time). The registration was a breeze and I got done within 30 mins after having caused my fair share of confusion when I refused the questionable registration freebies. The entire island seemed to be buzzing with running talk and for the first time in 8 years, I spotted Kenyans in South East Asia. Whoa. This could only mean that the marathon had a cash prize. A friendly jambo-habarigani-kwaheri (hello-howareyou-goodbye) later, I was off on my pre-race day 5km test run, which confirmed what I’d suspected – I was out of form, a beer belly was on its way in, and it was too hot to run. Just the way I like it.
The race kicked off at 6am and I killed time until then by answering fellow runners’ questions about my shoes (I run in Vibram Five Fingers). I snapped out of zombie mode when I noticed that most of the runners had overtaken me within the first 100m of the race. Several glances at my watch confirmed that I was on target with a 12kmph speed. This meant that I was either going to finish the marathon last or first. Fortunately for my self esteem it turned out that most of the runners were running their first half marathon and had shot out of the blocks, all guns blazing.
The thing about U-turn half marathons is that the first half is always more difficult because you know that every step you take, (every move you make, every smile you fake, la la la) is going to have to be retraced. Despite severe motivational issues at the halfway point, I managed to keep going and wound up with a half decent 1 hour 44 minute finish.
1) Keep your cool – Just like the Koh Samui half marathon, many newbie runners lose the plot at the starting line. It’s extremely easy to dash the first 100m and then when you’re gasping for breath, realize that you’ve got 20km more to go. Don’t be that person. Take the first 2 kms easy as you warm up and get stuck into your stride. You can always speed up at the halfway point in case you realize that you’ve got some extra fuel in the tank. Your first goal should be to finish the half and not to break Kenyan records.
2) Go easy on the water – Surprising as it may seem, more runners die from hyper-hydration (or water intoxication) than from dehydration. We’ve been conditioned to understand that running induces sweat and sweating dehydrates. However, drinking tons of water doesn’t replenish the lost salt. Excessive water consumption further dilutes the salt levels in the body and causes a drop in performance. In extreme cases it can also lead to death with women being more susceptible than men. The amount of water you should drink depends on how much water your body loses per hour and this varies from person to person. If you consume more that 600mL per hour, you’d better be know what you’re doing.
2) Carry a snack – Running requires energy. And after you’ve been on the move for 90 mins, the sugar in your blood becomes important since your body has used up all the muscle glycogen reserves. Consuming carbs and sugars on your run will prevent your body from running out of fuel and will improve your performance. Possibilities include chocolate, sports drinks, fruits, energy gels, etc. I usually carry along a bar of snickers on my long runs. Try and consume around 100 cal after an hour of running and then 100 cal every 40-45 mins after that and you will survive.
The 3 sister islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan are World famous for their white sand beaches, full moon parties and the beautiful dives. My Koh Phangan dive was the best I’ve had in my short diving career (20 dives) and for this reason alone, if you’re a diver, Koh Phangan should be on the top of your list. If you’re not a diver, you can always just chill on the beach and enjoy a breath taking sunset.