Newton Challenge 2014 – December 28, 2014

This was my 3rd time running the 25km at the Newton Challenge. Traditionally it takes place at the last Sunday of the year and is something like an institution for many runners. You can first of all meet many LYN Runners just as me there, as the area Bandar Kinrara / Ammah Hills represents basically the home pitch for us.

It is a rather hilly area with plenty of possibilities to vary the running route and distance to run. Petrol stations are somehow strategically positioned allowing runners to buy water along the routes at plenty of points.

In 2012 I managed to make it into the top 10 of my category (Men Veteran). At that time only the top 3 received trophies. Then in 2013, with the top 10 receiving token of accomplishments, i.e. trophies I finished 6th in a very strong field of runners.

This year I continued the improvement in regards to ranking, finishing 4th. I ran the 24.1km in official Gun Time of 1h:53min:45sec resulting in an average pace per km of 4min:43sec.

So far the route changed every year, as such the respective results are hard to compare. However, judging from the elevation and personal perception, I feel that this year has been the toughest route so far. Main reason being the new loop through the Kinrara residences with a long and rather steep climb inside (at least it feels long and steep after 18km of running).

Flag off was punctual at 5:30am. Super early actually, as that meant to wake up at 3am. Looking forward to this race I was too excited and ended up with maybe 1 hour sleep at the most. Still I started well, having set myself the target of an average pace of 4:40.

Different to earlier times people didn’t push much upon start and so the leading field of 30 runners or so quickly scattered without much overtaking and no human traffic. I managed to control my pace well, knowing hills will come and 25km ahead of me. I thought I will overtake most of the runners ahead of me at a later stage when the gruesome hills take their toll. However, that didn’t happen to the extend as I thought it would. I overtook a few but at the end far less than I thought.

Obviously the athletes ahead of me were well prepared and knew how to pace themselves. At the few U-turns along the route I tried to get an idea about my position but at times it was too dark to see the bibs of the opposite runner properly. So I pushed as responsible and economic as I could.

The event handbook informed that there would be water stations at only every 4km with only one station with 100Plus. I consider that as insufficient and outdated with most quality running events offering support stations at less than 3km from each other. As such I didn’t dare to finish my water bottle. I don’t like to carry stuff in my hands during runs, as that impacts the biomechanics and can lead to tensed muscles, mostly in the shoulders. I was worried I get de-hydrated and thus continued to carry the water bottle.

Eventually it turned out that only the first water station was 4km from the starting line, the subsequent water stations actually came within 3km mostly and at least 2 water stations carried 100Plus. As much as I appreciate that good turn out, the organizer did not inform accordingly, which made it at least for me hard to plan my hydration.

I know most of the route from previous years and training runs. I avoided to push uphills, as I am not strong enough, being in the middle of a demanding training plan. My last tough session, a Pyramid Fartlek on the track, was only Friday. I did a full training session, even though my coach recommended to take it easier considering I am racing today. Eventually I ignored the advice, as even the race today was actually nothing more than another good training session. I am yet to decide which race I want to work towards to, to race at my maximum.

Other runners this morning were not able to sustain their pace on the hills and those were the few I over took. Another runner ahead of me continued to increase the gap to me, with me subsequently closing in again. This runner turned out to run in my category and “stole” the 3rd place from me at the end by only 12 seconds. Blaming it on my tough and consequent training the last days, I didn’t have the strength to overtake this runner.

As mentioned, water stations were sufficient, so was the marshalling and road safety. Most stretches were kinda secured by cones separating the road from the running route. Most crossroads were staffed with either police, volunteers or RELA personnel.

A big flaw was the complete absence of checkpoints, neither time taking gates, nor ribbons were used. This opens the possibility to cheat, as the route leads through residential and commercial districts allowing a number of shortcuts. This is to be avoided really, as there have been cases of suspected cheating at other events.

Reaching the finish line I missed to receive a placing tag, actually standard at any decent conducted running event. Those tags aim to inform the runner of his preliminary placing and the organizer a certain level of overview by when the podiums of the respective categories are filled. I knew I must be in the top 10 but nobody at the finish line could give me further details.

Good point, bottles of water were supplied upon crossing the finish line. More water and 100Plus could be obtainted less than 10 meters from the finish. I consider this as essential and it was well done. For as long as I was at the venue there was no obvious shortage of water or 100Plus – well done!

What was missing was some food. Quickly after reaching the finish I became really hungry and the banana that I brought was not enough. During previous years they offered fruits for the runners but that was completely abolished this time – nothing to eat, argh!

The rest of the morning went well, the price giving ceremony started on time and was efficiently conducted. Within half hour all winners received their prizes and could go home to finally grab a bite – getting hungrier and hungrier.

As for the LYN Runners we still met for a group photo with impressive participation, showing off our new collection of running shirts and vests. An overall good running morning came to an end.

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