Whenever school holiday times come around, one of two things happen every week night in our household. Either my wife and I do paper, rock, scissors to decide who is going to skip work the next day to entertain our two boys aged 8 and 6. Or we do paper, rock, scissors to decide which of our parents we are going to burden the next day to do the same.
This time, however, we decided to both skip work and entertain the kids up on the Gold Coast of Australia. For those who don’t know, Gold Coast is essentially a stretch of beachside towns in Queensland, about an hour’s flight from Sydney. It is where high school kids go to binge-drink in gaudy bars, small kids go to run amok in theme parks and 41 year-old fathers go to ogle at bikini-clad ladies.
This time, however, I had another objective, namely, to run the Gold Coast marathon. This was to be my swansong. This was to be the last competitive race that I would pay money to inflict pain on myself.
But … but only if I finish the race under 3 hours and 50 minutes!
And, as an added incentive to achieve this goal, my wife booked a fancy buffet lunch at 12.30pm on the day of the race – an appointment that definitely requires me to finish under 3 hours and 50 minutes, unless I want to turn up at the swanky restaurant with my body in sweaty gear and my face in salty smear.
It was perfect weather on the big day, with temperature at 18 degrees Celsius and not a cloud in the sky. In fact, everything was perfect for the first 23km. Ever present to my left was the pristine stretch of golden sand and sparkling ocean so beautiful that it made my heart ache. Ever present to my right was the endless stretch of spectators so supportive that it made my spirits soar. Without seemingly trying, I maintained a solid 5 minutes per km pace for those first 23km, and even had the energetic temerity to high five any roadside children who were holding out their little hands.
As usual, however, it all began to unravel around the 32km mark. My mind started playing games, asking me why I’m doing this to myself when I could be lounging around on the beach ogling at bikini-clad ladies. My hamstrings joined in the protest, threatening to seize up at every opportunity. And by the 36km, I even started to resent the sun, as the heat was too much to bear and I could literally feel my body dehydrate.
Through all that anguish and pain, there was one thing that kept me going. No, it wasn’t the goal of finishing under 3 hours 50 minutes. It wasn’t the bragging rights to trumpet to family and friends back home.
No, the thing that kept me going during those final dark kilometres was the thought of the tantalising buffet lunch that my wife booked at 12.30pm that day. The seafood, the meat, the pasta and the salad – all washed down with a cold beer (or two) and topped with a dessert (or five). Indeed, in the last 800m before the finish line, I think I was hallucinating, as the crowd of cheering spectators resembled, in my eyes’ mind, a massive buffet table with an orgy of food and drinks, all cheering me on to eat them!
The final time? 3 hours and 45 minutes! 5 minutes ahead of my goal and 4 minutes faster than my previous Personal Best. I would like to say that I was elated at the end with the achievement, and filled with pride. But, in truth, I was just obsessed about getting back to the hotel to clean up and then make it to the buffet. In fact, from the 36km mark to 12.30pm, all I thought about was the buffet.
“Congratulations! Here’s your finisher’s shirt and medal“, offered a cheerful girl at the finish line.
“I need to go to the buffet!“, was my reply.
“Would you like to try our brand new energy drink?”
“I need to go to the buffet!“.
“Please walk this way to catch the shuttle bus back to the main city.”
“I need to go to the buffet!“.
“Sir, do you have a ticket for this shuttle bus?”
“I NEED TO GO TO THE BUFFET!“.
A trip all the way to the Gold Coast to run a marathon and, on the day, it was all about the buffet and nothing else!!!
On reflection, yes, I am very pleased with my effort in the marathon. A beautiful day, an extremely supportive crowd and a scenic course, all culminating in a PB time. I am also looking forward to not participating in any more races (unless, of course, if it is New York, Tokyo or Berlin marathon). In recent times, I have noticed that I’m dreading the thought of training and struggling to find the time to do so.
That is not to say I will be giving up running. No, siree! I am simply looking forward to running just for fun and relaxation.
After all, I have a name to live up to!
Keep on pounding.