A physiotherapist told me I might have a torn plantar fascia in my left foot. As early as 5km into the race, while going down a steep hill, I felt like someone had stabbed a knife through my left heel. I was on a strong pace then (15:47 through 5km ~ 66min 36sec half marathon pace) and was absolutely frustrated with the flare up of my old injury, which I had gingerly managed for the last 4 months. A combination of less supportive racing shoes, the hard road which was also slippery from the rain, hills and the fast pace resulted in the reoccurence of this injury.
If it was any other race, I would have dropped out immediately. But this was the world championships. I was wearing the red and white of Singapore. When you’re at a major games for your country, you’re not allowed to drop out – that’s my philosophy.
I sucked it up and pressed on. I hoped that by continuing to run, my heel would get so beat up and swollen that the sharp pain would gradually numb up, like how boxers who break their fists in a fight wait for their fists to numb up before attacking again.
At 10km, crossed in 31:28 (just 13sec slower than my 10km national record), I felt something snap in my left arch. “Not good”, I told myself. I bit my lip from the pain and started to lose contact with the huge pack I was leading just seconds ago. Some of them, such as my Bulgarian friend Iolo, continued on to run under 67min despite the tough conditions. I was now in no man’s land, running alone against the hills, wind and rain.
The wind started to howl and the rain started to fall. Favoring my right leg over my left, I got to 13km and felt like my left heel was the size of a tennis ball. It felt so swollen. But because it was so swollen, it started to get numb. I was no longer feeling the sharp pain, but felt like I was running with a golf ball in my shoe.
“Just one more mile,” I told myself. I got to 15km in 47:23, the fastest I’ve ever run for 15km.
“One more mile,” I told myself again. And again. And again.
Despite slowing dramatically from the now torrential rain and 42km/hr headwinds, one thing kept my spirits up – I was passing good runners from France, South Africa, China, and other powerhouses. The thought of a Singaporean mixing it up with these guys allowed me to fight on.
“You drop out, you waste the money of your association. That’ll make it harder for other athletes to go for overseas races in the future. Other countries will look down on Singapore. This is about more than just yourself.” I told myself again. And again. And again.
I got to 20km and couldn’t feel my face or my right thigh. Then my left. I drove my arms hard, chasing the Chinese athlete in front of me, narrowing the gap as much as I could. After what seemed like eternity, I crossed the finish line in 67min 56sec, in 64th position – the highest a Singaporean had ever placed at the World Half Marathon Championships. I once again proved to myself that I take bad weather conditions better than most other athletes. The surprise win at last year’s SEA Games Marathon and today’s race are both testament to that.
The time left much to be desired, but I am confident that in better weather conditions, going under 67min with my current level of fitness would not have been a problem. And maybe my plantar would still have been in one piece.
But that’s life. And if I learned anything from this experience, it’s that if we have the right motivation, we can always give more. #cardiff2016