Brain Zaps, Brain Shivers, Brain Shocks. Head Shocks or Electrical Shocks are a common side effect from antidepressants, I suffer from them periodically, unfortunately, the day of my Half Marathon in Chiang Mai was one of them. I knew as soon as I got up at around 3 a.m.that all was not well. I was feeling very light headed and dizzy. I hoped that the symptoms were just the result of getting up so early and would pass as soon as I started running, sadly it was not the case. In fact, as I attempted a warm up, vertigo kicked in and I had to take a moment to keep my balance as the chemicals seemed to swim round and round inside my brain.
My hotel was less than 500 metres from the start line. Michael Craig who had flown up from Singapore for the event asked me to join him in a warm up but I declined without offering any reason. He did his warm up and then suggested that we start at the front of the field. We were only a couple of rows back when the race set off into the early morning darkness. The organisers had advertised the temperature for the race as being from 12-16C, it was actually 23c and the relative humidity was in the 90s when we set off at 5 a.m. I managed to avoid the mad scramble that you get at the beginning of races, particularly in Asia and settled into my own pace. The course was flat and I was running well until I had to turn at the first bend and had to endure the first Brain Zap, an electric shock-like sensation in the brain which knocks you sideways. I stopped at the first drink station which was 2k in and tried to get my composure back before setting off again.
The first 7.5k of the course took us around the old city walls and moat of the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand and the sharp corners couldn’t be avoided. I had to endure an electric shock every time I moved my head to the side and I couldn’t look down because of the Vertigo but apart from that my running was going well. I was concentrating on not running too fast and I reigned in the pace a bit.
I had noticed that in the 2013 results, the third M50 had completed the event in 1:50 something and felt that that was a reasonable target to set myself. I was being sensible, stopping at every drink station, taking some water on board and pouring the rest over my head to help cool me down. This seemed to amuse the young volunteers who thought that it was already cold enough.
The course then took a left turn away from the old city and down a major road near the airport. As I neared the 13k turning point things started to get a bit more painful. We met the faster runners coming back towards us and the slight glances that I made to my right exacerbated the electric shocks. Thankfully, I was much nearer to the front of the field than the vast majority of runners so there weren’t too many runners coming towards me. Michael Craig was though and I applauded him on his way to collecting the M50 first prize of 5,000 Thai Bhat. however once I had turned round and was making my way back the repeated, involuntary glances and associated Brain Zaps became almost unbearable.
The stragglers from the marathon, which had started one hour ahead of us caused me some confusion as I started to overtake them before turning at the 13k point. Now things got really bad, the repeated, involuntary glances and associated Brain Zaps became almost unbearable. I started to cry out in pain as one electric shock followed another. ‘Krap?’ came the familiar word of the Thai runners as they enquired if I was o.k. I replied ‘krap’ but things weren’t all right. The pain was excruciating and the constant Zaps were taking their toll. I told myself that there wasn’t too far to go and to hold on, ‘don’t stop, keep running’. I think I must have slowed a bit because as well as the thousands of runners making their way towards the turning point, others were now overtaking me. I tried to keep my focus ahead of me but even if I just caught the other runners out of the side of my eyes I was punished with an electric shock. My brain was being frazzled, tiredness was taking hold of me, I was staggering a bit and I had lost count of how far I had run and more importantly how far was left to go. The last few kilometres seemed to go on forever. With every corner that appeared, I hoped that the Finish Line would greet me.
My brain was being frazzled, tiredness was taking hold of me, I felt myself staggering from side to side. I became disorientated, I didn’t how far I had run or, more importantly, how far was left to go. The last few kilometres seemed to go on forever. I had heard that the course was long but surely not by miles. With every corner that appeared, I hoped that when I rounded it the Finish Line would be in sight. When it wasn’t I just had to dig deeper knowing that it would need to appear at some point. And then I saw it, my oasis in the desert, the Finish Line. I couldn’t believe that the clock was indicating 1:50 something, I had been battling for an eternity but there it was still within my grasp, my target time. As runners so often do, I found the energy to speed towards the line, crossing it in a watch time of 1:50:20. I had did it, I still couldn’t believe it but I had. My previous Thai Half Marathon record of 1:59:59 had been well and truly smashed and not the easy way, far from it.
I received my medal, bananas and assorted drinks before staggering back to the hotel where a warm shower and a long rest awaited. If you haven’t visited Chaing Mai, you really should, it’s a great city. I’ll be back.
Here’s hoping that my next race will be easier, wherever it is.
Official Result: I finished 127th out of a field of 2157, my Gun Time was 1:50:21 and my Chip Time 1:50:18.