Monthly Archives: February, 2017

Rangoon, thank you for changing your name!

I never seriously looked around for a different Y marathon. As soon as I was definitely running Xiamen, which was as soon as I was sure the project was on, Yangon had to be. Already being out in the Far East was a bonus, and it allowed an extended holiday. The real fear, however was the actual date. Looking at past races Xiamen and Yangon seemed to be on the 1st and 2nd weekends in January. With the 1st of January being a Sunday, and Xiamen seemingly being a Monday race, could they actually be on the same weekend with Yangon on the day before Xiamen?
The dates were only published in late September and they were in the right order but challenging with just 6 days between marathons and in what would be testing conditions.
The 5am start was facilitated by having my gluten free porridge delivered to our hotel room at 3.45am and a taxi to the National Indoor Stadium. There isn’t much of a running culture in Myanmar so unsurprisingly the entry for a race, although advertised as international, was small, 600 I was told; but as always is the case many more in the HM which started half an hour later, the 10k at 6.45am and the 3k fun run/walk which was still finishing as I did.
The roads were not closed, just a single lane was coned off for us. Caution was required during the first few km as there was little illumination and the surface was frequently very uneven. The other-than-fragrant smells, so familiar in all tropical cities, were evident as soon as we passed close to populated areas, and a local crossing in front of us with at least a dozen plucked chickens over his shoulder was certainly a unique marathon sight.
It didn’t get totally light until almost half way and I happily plodded along quite regularly passing locals, many of them seeming younger than usually evident in marathons, who had dashed off too fast. At 24k spiderman came past me with ease; it’s always a bit of a surprise when I know my pace isn’t varying but in a small field someone seems to be much faster after well over 2 hours of running.
The 5am start really did prove beneficial as the conditions never really became as uncomfortable as I feared they might, remembering The Reggae Marathon in Jamaica. There was quite a bit of shade, except for along the most scenic section, Inya Lake where the reflection suddenly upped the temperature (and there were steps up and down to the path). It was here that we also ran past the house of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The most unpleasant running occurred during the last few km, where our coned off section was the middle of a 6 lane duel carriage way with heavy traffic going both ways.
At about 36k I spotted spiderman a couple of 100m ahead and I was clearly gaining without increasing my pace. Although in my marathons I usually only really race against myself (the end of The Midnight Sun in Tromso was an exception) a much younger superhero was a challenge I couldn’t resist. When I did pass him, I think the shame of the possibly of being OAPed spurred him on and he immediately sped up. I decided there was plenty of time and distance before the finish line so settled in a few metres behind him until we had past the 41k sign and he commented something like “Here you come again” as I passed him and it was on. We really did race and my splits on Strava confirmed by far the fastest segment of the 42.2k (actually 42.5k). Everytime he draw level I pushed a bit harder; the last few 100m involved negotiating the 3k fun walkers who were still finishing and others who had finished and were leaving, walking towards us, busy on their phones so not looking were they were going, and cars crawling along. My wife will confirm that my skills at squeezing past people on pavements are exceptional so either this or spiderman had decided he didn’t want to join me in a sprint to the line but when we turned for the final 50m to the finish I was clear.
Marion came down from the stadium concourse were she was viewing the finish, I collected a finishers top (always good to get one of these as well as the runners top supplied at the bib collection) and a souvenir towel. I was amazed to be only 12 minutes slower than 6 days earlier in Xiamen and equally surprised to finish 40th out of 181 finishers, clearly there had been a large drop out rate.
There wasn’t too much to hang around for, the on-stage entertainment was a well known local boy band that were causing an adrenaline rush in the teenage girls that finishing the race had done for me. An added incentive to get back to the hotel was for a 2nd breakfast, another real bonus of a 5am start, followed by beer and relaxing by the pool for the rest of the day, where it really did sink in that I had completed 25/26ths of what started as a bit of a silly idea but could end up as an achievement that will be difficult for anyone to beat.