Achievement unlocked! Great route, cheerful spectators, grand finish! The perfect race conditions at Kaohsiung International Marathon 2019 helped me established a new 21KM PR. But the story doesnt end at 21K. Read along for the whole story.
Direct flight at last
I was in Kaohsiung last year as a side trip after the Standard Chartered Taipei Marathon. We had to take a high speed train from Taipei to Kaohsiung and then back again for our flight back to Manila.
I saw an advertisement last August 2018 that AirAsia has now a direct flight to Kaohsiung. It took a while to search for a marathon event in Kaohsiung. When it was announced in their FB Page that the Kaohsiung International Marathon will be held on February 17, 2019, I had my tickets booked right away.
Without the direct flight to Kaohsiung by AirAsia, I would probably not sign up for the race since the train ride will be expensive.
The registration was still in November though and it closes by December. For foreign participants, it is not that easy to register and pay online. The website is mostly in Chinese and there was no option for credit card payment. I used online translators to get a gist of what the pages are about.
Fortunately, the customer service via email and FB messenger was prompt and helpful. They adviced that I simply fill up the form, tell them my registration ID and they can enable the option for credit card payment.
Everything was easy afterwards. I was officially registered and excited for my first race in 2019.
The World Games Stadium
I got my race pack at the World Games stadium. This venue also serves as the Start and Finish Line of the race. It looks grand. I am excited to run inside the track oval for the finish.
The claiming was fast. Some of the staff are unable to communicate in English. But one of the organizers was very kind to assist me with the claiming as well as my questions about the race.
There were several sellers and exhibits by the sponsors. I bought a jacket and some accessories.
One of my main concern was how to get to the starting line at 5AM. I was told that the trains will have a special early trip to accommodate the runners who are joining the race. Kaohsiung really knows how to treat their runners well.
Another chance for a PR
After doing a sub-5 marathon in 2016 and 2017, I started training for a sub-2 half marathon last 2018. I finished 2:38:12 at the Standard Chartered Taipei Marathon in January, next was 2:26:29 at the Bohol International Marathon in August and 2:10:01 at the Halong Bay International Marathon in November. Without that bridge in Halong Bay, I felt I could have nailed the sub-2 goal already.
My best chance then is the Kaohsiung International Marathon. I saw that the route have little uphills and the weather is just right. It has the perfect recipe for a PR.
I trained just as crazy as 2018. But this time, I added more recovery activities with regular stretching, rollers and fast walking. I also added some leg workouts given by a coach at the gym. It was great to develop muscles needed for uphills.
What I did not realized was the half marathon distance is not the standard 21KM. It was a 25KM race which they call an Ultra Half Marathon or sometimes a Super Half Marathon. I felt that my effort will be put to waste since my 21KM time will not be the official one. But still, I decided to go with it. Nail that sub-2 time at KM21! I will then decide what to do in the next 4 kilometers.
I Love Kaohsiung Marathon
Gun start for both 42K and 25K starts at 5:50AM. It was a cool morning at around 12-17C. However, by 9AM the temperature rises to 22-27C which can be hot for the 42K runners who would finish more than 3 hours after the gun start. You need to run fast to avoid the heat.
The route of the Kaohsiung Internation Marathon was beautiful. The 25KM passed through many of the scenic spots in Kaohsiung including the 85 Sky Tower, Lotus Garden, Central Park, and Banana Pier. During our city tour, we rode the train to get around these places. I can’t believe I can just run around them for less than half a day.
Traffic support was excellent. The main roads were closed for the runners only. However, after KM21, runners need to stop at busy intersections for the vehicles to pass. It’s not a good scenario if you are chasing for a PR. I had to stop 3 times at the intersections. One of them was almost a minute long!
There were plenty of cheerers along the route. Some of them create music, some have pompoms, and some even have a simple support station of water, biscuits and candies. It reminds me of the lively spectators during the Bali Marathon.
The support stations were well stocked. It started at KM5 but it was available at 2.5KM to 3KM intervals afterwards. Some stations have bananas, sponges and ice. There were plenty of tables and volunteers. I did not worry that the stations will slow me down so I dropped by as often as I can.
The route was mostly flat. It can really be a fast course. There were probably 2 or 3 significant uphills. One was going out of the tunnel, and another was through a bridge. But these were early in the course and I can still maintain a good pace. And it wasn’t as bad as the exhausting bridge of the Halong Bay Marathon.
What was made the route more challenging was the headwind after KM10. Despite the tall buildings, it was a bit strong that I started hiding behind a pack of runners for some draft. It helped lessen the drag.
Sub-2 Split Time Target
Things were perfect on race day. I kept a close 9:00 min/mile pace throughout the course. I slowed down at the tunnel early in the race but I was able to make up of it. I kept glancing at my time every mile to make sure I am still within my goal for every mile. By KM15, I was almost 2 minutes ahead of the goal. I took it easy on the next few kilometers for my legs to relax a little. I started to steal a few seconds for a stop and take quick photos.
At KM20, I am still a minute ahead. I increased my speed while looking for the KM21 sign. Finally, there it was. At KM21, my time was 1:57:58 according to my GPS. I saw the timing mat a few meters ahead and sprint towards it to officially record my 21KM split time: 1:59:23!!! Sub-2 at last.
A Grand Finish
With my pace, I should be able to finish the remaining 4KM within 2:22:00. I could slow down since I have reached my goal already. Instead, I thought of pushing myself more for a 2:20 finish in a 25KM race.
Approaching the World Games Stadium is a grand moment. The atmosphere of finishing inside a world-class stadium is different. It feels like you are in an Olympic event. You get to run on precious rubber tracks and there are people at the grandstand. It feels like all eyes are on you as you run towards the finish arch. And when you cross that line, it’s like everyone are cheering for you. I love that feeling.
My official finish time at 25KM is 2:20:21!!! Chip time is 2:20:02! And I ranked among the Top 10% overall for 25KM!
Thumbs up to Kaohsiung
I am very impressed with how the Kaohsiung International Marathon was organized. The race claiming was a breeze. Coordination with the local government was excellent. They even had the trains leave at an early schedule to provide easy transport to the World Games venue. The train was really crowded with runners on their first trip.
They also provided a mobile app that can provide updates for your family and friends. Everytime you cross the timing mats, the split times are sent through the app almost at real time. Thus, Quennie and Gab knows how close I am to the finish line.
There was a medal engraving service, massage stations, ice pack/recovery station and refteshment distribution. The process was fast with plenty of volunteers to assist you.
An actual printout of the race certificate was available on the spot. It even has all the split times in print. I was happy to see that my 21KM split time is officially recorded. It’s an official proof of my sub-2 hour time.
Let’s have another one, Taiwan
I love the Kaohsiung International Marathon more than Standard Chartered Taipei Marathon. Both are well organized but Kaohsiung was more scenic and the route was mostly flat. I also loved the fact that I got to start and finish at a world-class stadium.
Taiwan started the test run of its visa-free policy for Filipinos last 2017 and it has been extended twice already. I hope they continue to make it visa-free and this policy becomes permanent. Airasia and Cebu Pacific have direct flights to Taipei. But only Airasia has a direct flight from Manila to Kaohsiung. There is a high-speed train from Taipei to Kaohsiung but its expensive.
Sub-2 hour achievement has been unlocked! But I want it to be more official by running a 21KM race again. Not a 25KM.
So how about another one, Taiwan?NOW AVAILABLE. TAKBO.PH COTTON TEES AND HOODIES. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ORDER.
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