Packed like Runners in a Subway Car
I woke up at 4 a.m. The sky was still a sweeping shadow outside; and the streets of Yau Ma Tei still slumbered. The only hint of something amiss was the scant attire of the dozen or so passengers waiting on the MTR platform at 4:30.
By the time one started for the perilous crossing between the red and blue trains at Admiralty station, however, it became obvious that a special treat lay in store for whoever dared to journey east on the island line; at the very least, one could guarantee an excruciating ride in a train cabin as packed as cattle car, nary an inch of space to spare inside.
I arrived at Tin Hau station with 20 minutes to spare before the starting gun would, at last, commence a 10km journey that, in my life, has been four years in the making. Disregarding traffic for the sake of shaving a few seconds off my commute, I dashed over to the main library where the CityU delegation would muster; and after laying down my bag, my colleagues and I hastily being shepherded together for a team photo, we all ran as one to the starting line.
The starting line was far away. I didn't anticipate the almost one kilometer span separating the finish line from the start; neither did I consider the crowds, which, so close to the starting line, had congealed into one immovable, impenetrable force of nature. Around 300 meters from the line, I gave up my futile attempts to wade through the rock. In carving my way through the multitude, and in allowing precious seconds to tick away even before my journey could begin, I could only be patient; and of course, thankful for an opportunity to be a part of this athletic spectacular.
More than two minutes later, I finally crossed the starting line. The race was on! For the next four kilometers, not only would I wend my way through the throng, but I would also power over the granite undulations of the Island Easter Corridor, the lights of which, operating like small stars on this intergalactic highway, lit up my path in pale hues of orange.
I was happy to be running. Indeed, so great was my joy that I let loose a torrent of praise and worship to God, for providing me with two fresh legs on which to run, and a city, gathered together in communion, for which I could pray and give abundant thanks. I'm grateful.
My pace picked up at the 4km turnaround point; and my steps really thundered by the weary herd at around the 7km mark, when, at last, I could spot kilometer posts with regularity. The pack had thinned considerably; it was not a fortuitous time to have feet of stone, but to be fleet of foot; and to watch the crowds trudge along on the other side of the barrier while I whisked myself away, in my mind towards the finish line. The Clif shot that I took fifteen minutes before the race began to kick in, I believe, and, refreshed by the water I had been drinking at the station - in my experience, it pays to slow down enough to drink two full cups at each station - and renewed by prayer, I was in excellent condition.
As I ascended the final acclivity which turns runners sharply from the harbor before plummeting them, as though on a roller coaster track, down alongside Victoria Park, I put what I had left in my legs onto the stones below; everything had to go. 400 meters from the finish, the fans shouting and cheering from the sidelines, I shifted into my highest gear and motored by several competitors; but, as always, there was one who tried to get away, obviously spooked by my lusty pursuit. He ran hard, and I ran with him. Soon enough, in our last gasp duel, we had caught up with another runner. We were on the runway, the homestretch, 150 meters from a well-deserved rest, and my nemesis, whose long legs no doubt proved the difference, proceeded to leave us in his wake; that just left me and him. The other guy screamed and charged headlong towards the end. Despite my entreaties, my body had had enough and wouldn't cooperate: I finished a second behind him.
My official time was a shade under 41:00; and my chip time will most likely dip below 38:45. The result is surprising because it was faster than I had anticipated. Maybe, if I had known how prodigious my vigor would be, even so early in the morning, I would have woken up earlier to eek out a more advantageous spot at the start of the race so as not to expend so much energy over several kilometers to weave around thousands of other runners; thus, more slivers of seconds could have been mine to dispose of; and that shall definitely be a consideration for next year. For now, I'm happy to have finished the race, to have run well, and to be full of joy in doing so!