Macau Marathon 2015
Background: I had already done my 2015 Marathon, but decided to give myself another challenge towards the end of the year. I knew Macau well having lived there twice before (and run the half-marathon in 2001 and 2002), so it was always a race that I wanted to do at some point. I was feeling pretty good and ran a consistent three times a week with some reasonably long runs each weekend. Looking back over the records on Strava, I didn't run any really long runs (30+km), but was running a strong 20 to 25km every weekend in the 6-8 weeks before the race.
Travel: I signed up without knowing that I had an important work function on the same day, so my travel plans were pretty tight to say the least. It was going to be a one-night trip with a return immediately after the race. I travelled on the Jetfoil with my wife on the Saturday afternoon. We arrived into the new ferry port on Taipa itself and picked up the race-packet at Taipa Stadium, before heading over to Macau where we stayed at the Sofitel hotel. The hotel was amazing - we were well looked after in the executive floor and only wish we could have made the most of it.
The Race: I was up around 4am for my usual pre-race breakfast of bonk breakers and electrolyte drink. Then into a taxi over to the 5:30am race start at Taipa Stadium. It was a cool, damp day so I chose to wear two layers - the under shirt to keep warm and prevent chafing. The atmosphere at the start was jovial and relaxed - everyone gathering on the track waiting for the off. My strategy as always was to keep below the 4-hour pace of 5'38" per Km, but I like to put in some faster splits in the first 21km to be sure there is plenty in the bank for the inevitable slow down towards the end. Probably not a well-prescribed strategy but this was my 5th Marathon, so 5th time lucky?
The first 10-11km took us over the bridge to Macau-side and back again. The bridge was wet and windy, so a little challenging, but I managed to keep the pace up to a good level. After 11km I was back in Taipa with 58 minutes on the clock - so far, so good. The next section took us over what was formerly Chinese land, but now the new location of the University of Macau. Despite some up-slopes as we ran through tunnels, I ran well and hit the 21km mark in 1'52". Plenty in the bank, but I needed to hang on.
The second half of the race was tougher with more tunnels and more up-slopes which threatened some minor cramp, but I ran through it without slowing down too much. My slowest split came at around the 33km mark, and indeed I missed my target pace in all but one km from then on. However, I didn't miss by much and didn't walk any aid stations, so the pace was still on target for sub-4 hours. As I ran through the final tunnel and up the final slope at the 40km mark, I knew I had it in the bag. The final Kms to the stadium were some of the most emotional ones I've ever ran - just a great feeling of accomplishment and my eyes welled up (a little) as I saw my wife just outside the stadium. I ran the final lap feeling elated as I was comfortably under the four hour mark at 3'53'54". No regrets, no lost seconds anywhere on the course - I had finally executed as I had planned.
A fun atmosphere at the finish line, but no rest for the wicked - I grabbed my post-race gear and met up with my wife before working our way back to Hong Kong via bus, ferry and taxi. I was back at work by 1:00pm, but the aches and pains were well worth it.
Post-race thoughts: I can only look back on this race with very happy memories - I had finally cracked one of my major race goals. It took me 5 races and almost 4 years, but I had done it, and with time to spare. It's a lovely race - well-organized, not too crowded and plenty of space on the roads. The course has changed over the years, but remains largely the same and showcases some of the nicer areas, and is laid out well to avoid any major boredom. Macau is an amazing little corner of Asia and although it's losing some of its old world charm with increased development, there are still some fantastic sights and restaurants tucked away if you know where to look. If you get the chance, do this race and spend a few days in this amazing city.