Munich Marathon 2013

This is it. The race that I have been waiting for. The race to redeem myself from the disappointment of my last marathon in Paris, and more importantly as my first stop to Boston qualification. I hired a personal coach, Sarah Whittington, and trained through the summer for this race. I was mentally and physically ready to fly along the course across this beautiful Bavarian city; and I won't be alone. My coach will be pacing me and she had planned for a sub 3:40 finish for me. Everything seems perfect. I was injury free, been on gluten free and cleaner diet and and I even slept well the two nights prior the event.  I even dared to asked Sarah to revise the target and aim higher for a sub 3:30. I may sound over confident, but I felt so ready and well prepared. Perhaps I was too over confident that I forgot a marathon is a long 42.2 km (it was 42.5 in Munich) battle and anything can happen in between.

With Coach Sarah before the start
It was a cold and wet morning with a temperature around 3 deg Celsius when I woke up. But we were lucky that the rain soon stopped and the sun has quickly turned the cold morning into a rather pleasant day. Perfect for a marathon race. With an old grey jumper as a bin liner tucked underneath my yellow Malaysia's jacket, I took a tram to Olympia Park West at 8:30. The tram was full with the marathon runners and everyone looked calm. I guess I was too. The trams and metro are free for the marathon runners today which was cool. I met with Sarah and Steve near the Olympia Stadion eingang at 9 am as planned. We then checked in our bags and had one last porty stop before headed to the Start Line on Ackermann Str. We were in the A corral which was reserved for the German Marathon Championship runners and the expected sub 3:30 finishers.

Sarah suggested that we start at the back of the corral to avoid being pushed and shoved by those fast and over zealous runners as we were planning to run steady from the start. Meanwhile, Steve started well in front as his strategy was to run fast and hold the pace as far as possible. Talking about the German precision, the race started promptly at 10.00 as schedule with a loud bang when the gun wet off. I took off my old grey jumper and tossed it over the fence. Hope it finds a new owner who needs it more than me. It was quite busy as expected at the start so we had our elbows out to guard our space from being run over from behind. I was trying not to get separated with Sarah until we got more room for ourselves after about 3KM, but we were still able to run at our intended pace at around 5:00/km. The course took us into a wooded area of Englisher Garten from KM 5 to KM 15. I thought it was a nice change of scenery from a city road almost like we were running in a rainforest with the streams and dense leafy trees (minus the sealed road). This is where I was overtaken by a speedy guy who ran in a full beer bottle costume (I assume it was a guy). It was huge. You could only see his legs from the knees down.

Sarah was always by my side

Almost There

I made it
The course was almost flat with few up and down slopes (Elevation gain 142m and 132m loss), and I suffered at every up slopes. Clearly I need more hill training when we get back to Doha. Sarah gave me an on site lesson on the correct technique to run up them slopes. Body straight, bum out in the back and sit on it while letting the legs do its work. I was still flying until halfway. My time for the first half was 1:46:46 which could very well be my second best official half marathon time. Then, I started to feel that my right IT band was getting tighter and tighter. It was so stiff that it sort of try to pull my knee out of its socket. Every step was a torture. I tried to hide it from Sarah but it became so unbearable that I told Sarah to take me to KM 30 then I will let her go. But she responded with a firm NO. 'You will walk if I go' she said. Well, that was exactly what I had in mind. I tried to gut it out and run through it but giving up felt like a more sensible idea at the time. Sarah assured me that as painful as it was, it will not cause any permanent damage to my knee. She motivated and talked me through it. My pace went from a stallion's to Turbo the  snail's (from the movie 'Turbo') before he had that freak accident. I also had to stop 3 times to receive 'emergency', super painful physio treatment by Sarah and 1 toilet break. I felt so weak that I could not even hold my 500ml Karrimor water bottle anymore. I was so embarrassed when Sarah offered to carry mine. She was like a sherpa and I was like a spoilt mountaineer. I just ran (read; jog) and she had to carry all my provision. She was running with water bottle on both hands. She did not allow me to walk at the water stops either. She asked me to keep running while she refill our water bottles. I didn't even have to think about when to take my gels as, she reminded me for that at every 45 min.

I was still struggling even with all the help I got from Sarah. I did not care about a Personal Best anymore. I wanted to walk so badly until Sarah struck me with a question. She asked

Sarah:  When Hani gave birth to your first child, was it a normal delivery or a C-sect?
Me: Normal birth without epidural
Sarah: See, what you are feeling now is not even a third of what she went through. So man up!!

Tears went gushing out of my eyes. All the memories from Zachary's birth suddenly looked so vivid in my mind. I saw Hani was screaming in pain while I was trying to comfort her. The memory of that hours in the labour room and how she was relieved when the Doctor finally pulled Zachary out into the world was what carried me to cross the finish line in the Munich Olympic Stadium. I just missed my current PB by a mere 0.1 Seconds.  3:55:21 may not be a new PB but the 5:32 min/km was actually faster than the 5:35 min/km pace I did in Dubai last January because the course in Munich was more than 300m longer. Possibly because of its many turns. It should be 3:53:17 if it was 42.195 and technically it was still a PB.

I may not get what I aimed for, but Munich Marathon presented me with something more valuable than that. I found a true friend. A true friend is someone who stick with you when you need them the most. It could easily be my worst marathon if it wasn't because of Sarah. The 3:55 was her worst marathon finish while she could very well do a 3:15 in Munich but she chose to keep her promise to take me cross the finish line. Thank you Sarah. You deserved the best coach in the world award for your selfless act of loyalty and compassion. I can say that I had a great experience in Munich. I was actually happy with my result too because I looked at it as a learning process and I knew now that I could run a sub 5 min/km marathon pace. I must now work on my strength and stability issues for my next race, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in January 2014. It would be interesting to see how I have progressed in a year since Dubai 2013.

The event was very well organised, as you would expect from the German. I also fell in love with the city. Its green, beautiful and efficient. I also think that the residents are very friendly and honest. Overall, I left Munich with sweet memories. Sweeter than their sugar cookie.

Here are the pros and cons of the event.


  • Detailed website 
  • Easy registration
  • Well organised race pack pick up and the right size expo
  • Well stoked water stops including the sports drinks
  • Well supported race
  • Nice course in a beautiful city
  • Great organisation with attention to detail including showers and massage facilities 
  • Fantastic finish in the Olympic Stadium
  • Event tee to be paid separately and not included in the registration fee
  • No finisher tee
The medal resemble the famous bavarian sugar cookie

Race Statistics
Bib No: 1572
Nett Time: 3:55:21
Gross Time: 3:56:26
Rank Men: 2892/5210 (Finisher)
Rank Total: 3301/6468 (Finisher)
Rank Age Group (M35): 390/633 (Finisher)
Rank Malaysian: 2/7
Shoe: Asics Gel Kayano 19

The certificate

Munich Marathon 2013 by Syafei at Garmin Connect - Details


Anton said…
Kudos dude. Way to go!
Anonymous said…
Hi Syafei, Good story! What are your measured garmin distances on your other marathons? I got 42.4 in Dubai and 42.7 in Rotterdam. 42.5 is the limit for me. Below is good, higher I really don't like. Joost
Aizal said…
@xiM said…
practice makes perfect kan. good job bro!

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