A marathon first on Isla Formosa
Event: Taipei Standard Chartered Charity Marathon
Where: Taipei, Taiwan
When: 19th January 2020
I’d been thinking about trying for a marathon since joining Portobello RC in June last year, and after a summer and winter of training with the club, the perfect opportunity presented itself on a recent trip to Taiwan.
The atmosphere of the pre-dawn start was electric. Around 30,000 people were warming up under floodlights and Lunar New Year lanterns next to the Presidential Palace in the government district of central Taipei.
It was still relatively cool (around 10°C), and after waving goodbye to my support team, I was in the starting grid and getting ready to run my first marathon. How would it go? How would those months of winter training on Portobello Prom translate to race conditions in subtropical Taipei? It was time to find out!
The first 25 km were wonderful. We ran through the historic city centre, passing landmarks like the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the old East & South gates of the city, and the 2/28 Peace Park.
Leaving the old city centre behind, we headed north, crossing the Keelung River and coming into view of Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest buildings. The sun came up, a very light cooling rain started falling, and I was feeling good.
I settled in with a group of runners wearing matching company t-shirts who were calling out their pace every kilometre in Mandarin. Great, all I need to do is stay with this group and I’m on track for my target time of 3 hours 30 minutes. Oh my sweet summer child.
The first sign of trouble appeared when I slowed down to walk through an aid station, and the group I was following barely broke their stride, grabbing drinks, and powering off into the distance, taking my hopes of a 3.30 finish with them.
The last 12 km were tough. I ran (and eventually walked) alongside the river, crossing twice more, before doubling back the way we came.
I realised at the 40 km mark that I still had a chance to come in under 4 hours, and that helped me pick up the pace for the final mile.
I was in bits by the end, but very happy to be finished after running for 3.58.41. Much needed recovery included hot soup, cold beer, and a long steep in a hot spring. Overall, it was a memorable (possibly even enjoyable?!) first marathon in one of my favourite cities. I’d like to come back for the larger Taipei International Marathon in December.
Finally, massive thanks to Portobello Running Club’s team of coaches and the Sunday long run crew who made it easy to get in those tough winter miles. Next stop, the John Muir Ultra 🙂
Race Report : Jamie Auldsmith