I have attempted to finish a sub-5 marathon for years. Finally, I did it.
My previous PR for a marathon was 5:08 last 2012 at the Borneo International Marathon. After that, my finish time would be around 5:30. Last year, I signed up and trained for the Seoul Marathon but wasn’t able to race when Gab got sick a day before our flight.
This year, I was supposed to sign up again for the Seoul Marathon. However, I was late and te 42K slots was closed earlier than I expected.
Good thing, Rodel aka Argo, told me that there is another marathon to be held in Jeju the following week. Joining Jeju will be a bit more expensive since I need a plane ride to get to this beautiful island. But I took the added expense as an added motivation to meet the sub-5 goal and make the trip really worth it.
Jeju Marathon Race Route
Jeju Marathon Elevation Profile. It’s hilly.
Sub-5 Marathon Training Plan
My training plan requires me 5 runs a week including 1 long run in the week day. I try my best to meet the 5 weekly runs but in most weeks, I only do 4 runs. But I make sure the LSDs are done regularly.
One important note on the plan is to train for a 4:48 finish time and not a 5:00 finish time. I learned this lesson the hard way when I trained for a 2:00 finish in a half marathon. I ended up finishing 2:00:13. I should have trained for a 1:45 finish time to be sure of a sub-2 half marathon.
I followed a run-walk-run method. And since the training plan was in miles, I set all my run tracker apps and devices to miles as well.
For the run portion, I need to consistently run at a pace of 11:00 minutes/mile. This will get me to a comfortable 4:48 finish time. For a sub-5, I should not go lower than 11:30 minutes/mile as an average.
Another note on the training plan states that to be ready for a sub-5, I should be able to finish a 2:15 half marathon and a 1:00 10K. I can run both so I know I am capable of a sub-5.
What Jeju is like
Jeju is an island volcano south of Seoul. It is a well known destination for Koreans and tourists. There are some beautiful UNESCO heritage sites and some quirky museums. There is plenty of activity for the family in Jeju.
I would recommend staying in Jeju for 4 days. That will give you time to see what the island has to offer. You can allot 1 day for a tour on the east side, another day for the west side. Then 1 day for the rest day and another day for the race.
Cherry blossoms along the streets in Jeju
Weather during the last week of March is still cold. It averages between 6-8 degrees. It can go as high as 10 deg but that is still cold. I wore hoodies and gloves to keep me warm. You can wear another layer of insulation if you wish.
The starting line
The Jeju MBC International Peace Marathon is held at the Hallim Stadium. Start time for the 42K is 9AM. I find it unusual since most races here in the Philippines starts at early morning. Starting at 9AM gives me more time to rest the day before. While the sun is up already, the temperature is still cold.
I have to arrive at the stadium by 7:30AM to get my race kit. I was given a package with the bib, RFID, compression pants and a souvenir magazine. The magazine is pretty cool since the list of runners are printed on it. It is where we found out there are less than 300 runners joining the marathon.
Inside the race kit. We got compression shorts instead of a singlet.
While waiting for the gun start, I ate a light breakfast. Again I find it unsual to eat before the race. But I would be running until 2PM, if I don’t eat, it means I have skipped both breakfast and lunch when I finish. And running on an empty stomach might be a bad idea.
View at the starting, Hallim Staduim in Jeju
With strong Korean runners. They one with a red cap is 60+ but finished ahead of me.
Before the gun start
Jeju Marathon – The first 21K
The gun start for the 42K and 21K runners were simultaneous. There were clapping and cheering. Even though I don’t understand anything they were saying, I joined the revelry.
I followed my plan of running an 11:00 pace during the first half of the marathon. If I stick to this pace, I can finish at 4:48 and my sub-5 goal is reached.
I left my jacket at the baggage counter so the first 20 minutes of the race was so damn cold. It was probably 10 deg or even lower. I wore a pair of gloves which kept me warm a little. Despite the cold, I wore a thin, long sleeved shirt and shorts, just like I would race here in Manila at 30 deg. I knew my body would heat up afterwards so not wearing a jacket during the race was a good decision.
Early in the race, I felt strong. I am so confident I can make the sub-5 mark. My pace was consistently below 11:00. I find my pace a bit fast but the temperature in Jeju helped me .
The route was beautiful. It was mostly along the coastline. We’d pass by the Hallim Park, catch a view of the beaches, see wind turbines, and a rock island.
Everything was doing well in the first half of the race. Supposed to be, I am not to take any pictures because it can cost me some precious seconds. But I was still within my target so I thought stopping for a few photos won’t hurt.
Water stations were about 2.5 meters apart. They serve Pocari Sweat at some stations but they seem to have ran out in most stations. Bananas were available at the turnaround points for 21K and 42K.
There were no portalets along the route, but there are public toilets runners can use along the way. It’s just tricky how to find them.
Road closures were superb. We were safe from motorists in highway. And most cars slow down in areas where we share the road. Marshals and police were present in the intersections to monitor traffic. Overall, it was a well-organized race.
The 13KM Marker
Passing by the marathon top finishers
Hitting the 20th kilometer mark
Jeju Marathon – The 2nd half
What comes up, must come down. If the first half was a breeze, the second half turned horrible.
I reached the turn around point at 2:25. That’s 5 minutes ahead of a sub-5 target. If I continue with my pace, I can make it to the finish by 4:50. That would be a great finish time!
Exhausting ascent to the turn around point
However, KM19-21 was an uphill. But the time I reached the reached the turned around, my legs felt tired. It was not a good sign. So instead of keeping up to an 11:00 pace, I decided to drop my pace to 11:30. It was a more comfortable pace and I can still finish at 4:55. I have a 5 minute buffer. I just have to make sure I don’t drop my pace below 11:30. Otherwise my 5 minute buffer will run out.
I must have enjoyed the route while going to the turn around point that I didn’t notice how hilly the route. While going back to the finish line, I was surprised by how high the ascents have been. KM28-30 was specially gruesome.
I felt the need to pee at around KM24. I have to glance at my watch if I have extra time to do that. I can afford to make that bio break while a public toilet is still within sight. I may have lost about a minute for this stop over, but that is one less worry while running. Not to mention, some excess baggage to carry along if I hold on to it. My buffer is down to 4 minutes.
At some points, I knew my pace was getting slower. I kept on glancing at my watch to be sure I am still on target. What seemed to be easy in the first half, was surprising hard in the second half. I was asking where the hell did this hill come from! It was not there in the first half?
The last 3KM was another ascent. It’s the critical moments. I still have a 4 minute buffer and I must hold on to it. I cant afford to drop my pace lower than 11:30.
But at KM40, I felt exhausted. My hydration bottle is empty and I badly need to refuel. I saw a convenience store ahead. Should I buy a drink or endure the thirst?
The convenience store has no queue and the drinks are not far from the cashier. I hurriedly went inside, grabbed a drink, paid the exact amount at the cashier, and went off. Buying that drink costs me 30 precious seconds but it helped me feel better and rejuvenated.
The last two kilometers was the most hilly part. I ran the slowest pace in this final stretch. Sounds cliche but it did feel like the longest two kilometers ever.
A few meters more and a Korean marshal was cheering on me. He was saying something but I cannot understand Korean. He was giving a #1 sign. I was wondering what it meant. Did he mean one kilometer to go?!?! No way! It should be less than a kilometer. What does he mean to say?
He was smiling and I just smiled back. When I made a left turn, I think I knew what he meant. Right in front of me was the finish line! The clock was showing 4:56. With less than 100 meters I knew I have reached my goal. Sub-5 at last!!!
My watch says I finished my 10th marathon at 4:57:31. Organizer’s official race time is 4:57:13.
Sub-5 marathon at last!
The next 10 minutes
I crossed the finish line with very few people left at the stadium. The field looked empty compared to how it was like earlier during the start of the race.
I looked at my watch again to check the time. It’s really a sub-5. I was not dreaming. I congratulated myself and started sobbing.
Tears of joy? I think it was except there was no tear. I was just sobbing. Just happy to have reached my goal. I looked around and there was no one nearby so I just let this emotion flow. No one to see me and feel embarrassed.
Five minutes later, I was still sobbing. Ten minutes later, I was still sobbing. I was able to regain composure a few minutes later. But my smile never faded until we went back to the hotel.
Argo getting a massage at the finish line
Now that I have finally reached this elusive goal, I am thinking of what to do next. For sure, I don’t plan to train for a sub-4. And I don’t plan to beat this PR anytime soon.
I would still train for another marathon. I hope to finish 3 more this year. Maybe try to finish 50 marathons in 5 years? Ouch! I have met runners who have completed 100 marathons already and I envy them.
My next PR to beat is a a sub-2 half marathon. I did a 2:00:13 before. I have to shave off that 13 seconds.
It may take months to train for a sub-2. But like my sub-5 goal. I’ll take it slowly but surely.
Big thanks to Argo for helping me out in the registration and the accommodation too! Until next time with the gang. *wink wink*
|5K Training||10K Training||21K Training||42K Training|