December 04, 2011, the day of my second marathon outside the Philippines and my first road race below 15°c. I could’ve come more prepared but things don’t always happen according to plan so the goal was simple: to have fun and finish within cutoff!
Galaxy Entertainment Maratona Internacional de Macau (Macau Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon) is one of my most memorable marathons so far. And how lucky can we get, our first time to join this race is a landmark 30th year of the event! Maybe it’s the sights. Maybe it’s the route. But most likely it’s about everything I experienced because of the weather!
The Macanese weather is probably the most challenging aspect of this race for me. Sure I had run the heat and humidity of the Philippines and Singapore, I had even run below freezing under some snow in USA, but I haven’t run in weather that is too warm for winter attire and too cool for comfort. In the Philippines, I had comfortably run in 15°c, but a mere 1°c lower in Macau makes a lot of difference! And this morning of the race the temperature was a tad lower than expected, at 13°c.
Wind—this is something that makes things more “complicated.” Temperature is quite tolerable (for me at least) but if the wind keeps blowing at you, then it’s a totally different scenario. I had my windbreaker for the wind but it would be too warm to wear for the race—and I’m not willing to dispose of it! (No way! Not my prized TNF jacket!) So I ended up maintaining my original outfit plan: my usual Nike compression shirt, Nike football shorts, Nike Pro knee-high football socks, Nike visor which I got from Ohio State University, and adidas ClimaCool Rider (one of these things is not like the other :D). Quite a difficult decision to make under a cool, windy, weather so early in the morning!
The race started on the tracks of Estádio Campo Desportivo (Macau Olympic Complex)—site of the 2005 East Asian Games. So this is how a stadium should look like! I felt a huge sense of delight that I’m finally in a “real” Olympic Stadium, but I also had a bit of envy as Macau, despite its limited space, can provide space for a big Olympic Stadium.
There was quite a crowd outside the stadium before the race so we utilized this crowd’s heat and stayed with the pack—much like how penguins huddle together to keep warm. And there we learned how the “veterans” cope with this weather: disposable plastic jackets! Like I mentioned, temperature wasn’t much of an issue, the wind was! A cheap, disposable plastic is perfect as it would block the wind, and when it gets warm enough disposing it would not be costly. If I had known that Macau’s winter would be like this, I would’ve gotten myself those cheap plastic ponchos from the Philippines (costs around ₱30 each) or a simple trash bag!
One of the unique aspects of Macau Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon is that both full and half marathon runners start at the same time. This is the first time I’ve seen a race does this, but fortunately it’s not as chaotic as expected. The only “issue” I noticed with the gunstart was the narrow sharp corner we had to pass through to get out of the stadium.
From the stadium we were lead to Galaxy Hotel, the event’s main sponsor and one of Macau’s most popular hotels. It’s quite amazing to see entertainers dancing and cheering at the side of the route wearing pretty little clothing in that cool setting. The sun was already rising by then, but it was still pretty cool.
My body was definitely not prepared for Macau’s weather. Because of the cool weather, early in the race I almost had cramps—on both my arms! My triceps felt like I had been inside a refrigerator and I had to devise some ways to put some heat back into them. Our arms don’t normally move much (mostly swinging but they’re pretty stationary) when we run so there’s not much circulation in the area to bring heat.
Pretty soon the flat route was coming to an end with the 2.2 kilometer-long Ponte de Sai Van (Sai Van Bridge) on the horizon. It’s definitely a beautiful bridge, but it was dreadful! At first, the rise was negligible, gaining only some height before running parallel with the bay, but towards Macau peninsula it rises to its peak—a totally different story. Imagine that the biggest ships pass under this bridge—even Skyway would be dwarfed by it! And imagine on the way back, we had to “climb” this peak straight from ground level!
I just love the route! Combine that with a cool weather, you have an excellent race. If not only for the two loops we had to do, it would’ve been so much better. Thankfully, there were some slight deviations between the loops so it was more “tolerable” for runners like me who hate loops.
There were some things with this race that I miss though, the first one being the shorter distance between hydration stations. Hydration stations are placed five kilometers apart, and in between these hydration stations are sponge stations. Hydration stations serve both water and sports drinks, but not in all stations. For sports drinks they provide “Aquarius” which is unfamiliar to us in the Philippines, but it tastes like the familiar Pocari Sweat.
You may find it hard to believe, but even at 14°c I still found these sponges useful! Force of habit must be difficult to drop, albeit I don’t use the sponge the same way as in the Philippines as the weather was cool and the water in sponges felt ice cold. Oh, the wind was still there too. They even have two showers along the route, and yes I did pass through one—then the wind blew hard right after I passed it! It was a very crazy idea that I won’t soon forget! Imagine being soaked in ice cold water in 14°c weather with strong winds—cool! 😀
Another one that I missed was “anything that isn’t liquid.” There were no bananas or gels: just water, sponges, and sports drinks. Good thing I brought along some gels, but I really got hungry! I haven’t been running beyond 21K in a very long time so I forgot how fast I get hungry and forgot to bring along some solids.
Since the route was AIMS-certified I was sure that the distance was accurate so I ensured to have a decent half. Unfortunately I was having problems with my calves and left quads as I finished my first loop—both my calves felt like they were clamped in the middle, and my left quads felt like a rock was stuck inside! As I start my second loop a lot of runners started overtaking me, even those old enough to be my grandfather! From a sub-2 hour half, I was down to more than 6 minute/kilometer pace. And yes, I did walk my way up and down Ponte de Sai Van! Well, I already got a decent half, merely finishing the race within the 5-hour cutoff should be good enough.
There is really something special about finishing a race within a track—you feel like a “real” athlete. Since I probably was one of the last to cross the finish line within cutoff, there were hardly anyone on the road, and I practically had the track of the stadium to myself! Having an Olympic Stadium track all to yourself: priceless!
Right after crossing that finish line I was given this huge, pretty, and shiny medal. It is done! Walking a bit farther were the prized bananas and chocolate wafer bars—I never had to wait this long before having a banana making those bananas extra memorable and appreciated. I also loved those chocolate wafer bars as I was just famished by then! Finishers are then lead towards the inside of the stadium where all our things were nicely brought in for us to claim so we don’t have to go outside the stadium where we deposited it. Pretty thoughtful! There’s a screen inside showing the list of finishers so you don’t have to wait for your results, although I was too impatient to wait for the screen containing my name to be displayed (you may view the race results here). We were also given a beautiful towel which is highly appreciated for warmth as our bodies quickly cool down in their cool weather. There were also free massages in the area but I didn’t avail it because of my minor injury (I don’t want anyone touching my sore calves!).
What made this race more special than it already is are friends waiting for my return (since most of them already completed their 21K races). It had been quite some time since I had friends waiting for me, and I really appreciate the company. Don’t you feel like hugging someone after completing a marathon, particularly those where you endured some challenges? Thank you guys, I really do appreciate it!
Macau Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon as I already mentioned is one of my most memorable races so far. I just loved the weather, the route, the sights, and the attitude of the runners I shared the road with. There were also a lot of nice Japanese supporters along the route cheering on runners, but most of them thought I was Japanese as well, and I can only reciprocate their cheers (chai yo!) with a smile. If not for the two loops and the distant hydration stations it would’ve been “perfect,” but as it is, I’m already very satisfied—so much that I’m seriously planning on doing it again!
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