Make every second count

Earlier this year I had the amazing opportunity of taking on and then breaking a world record. As I reflect back, one of the things that most stood out from the attempt was the tiny margin at the end: just 2.8 seconds.


The whole race took a total of 78’10” or 4690 seconds, so 2.8 seconds is less than 1 in 1000. As a comparison it is closer than Usain bolt winning in 9.81 over second place in 9.82. In fact, over a 10 second race the proportional gap would be 0.006 seconds!


I keep thinking what things could have slowed me by 2.8 seconds. What if I hadn’t had my team taking photos and instead had to take selfies, as with my prior attempt? Of if the weather was a couple of degrees warmer…..


But it almost was a few seconds the other way. As those who were following along the day know, straight after the race I thought I hadn’t done it. It was such an emotional roller coaster!


Track back with me to the moment I entered the stadium for the last few 100 meters. I’m super hot, drenched in sweat and wearing this 3 piece suit. I hit the track with 60 seconds to go. I thought I had it.
I did some quick mental maths. Or I tried to. I thought, I can run a lap in under 80 seconds. And as we entered in the back half of the track we had less than 400m to go.


But here is where in the heat of the moment I made a slight miscalculation. I thought: we are at the back half of track so that means I have 200m, which I can do in 40 seconds giving me a 20 second cushion. Yet in reality it wasn’t 200m – in fact, we entered the track nearer to the 300m mark.


So, when I came off the turn for the final 100m I was shocked to see the clock going 55 seconds, 56… Where was my 20 second cushion? I’d just glanced at my watch and it had only just turned 52 seconds. Now I only had 17 seconds to sprint to the finish! (I had to cross the line before the clock turned 78 minutes and 13 seconds.)


Above is my confused face as I’m realising this. I threw everything into that sprint, hitting a pace that my favourite Hong Kong track at Aberdeen stadium has never seen from me. 2:40/km at the end.


As I ducked over the line I caught a glimpse of the clock turning from 13 to 14 seconds. I thought I’d missed out by one second. Then the announcer called out a time a few seconds later as 1:18:18. He sounded so confident I thought that was it. My wife, Helen and I recorded a facebook live video to say I hadn’t made it.


But the fact that I was so sure I was on time coming into the stadium, and that the clock looked closer to 13 or 14 seconds as I hit the line gave me a glimmer of hope. So I went over to talk to the timekeeper.
He pulled up the official logs…. 1:18:10! I almost knocked over the TV in my excitement in rushing over to hug Helen!!



On my wife’s phone is a video of the start line and in that I can see that the marathon clock started at 30:04 before our race. And it was this clock that I was looking at as I sprinted down the final straight. So what looked like 14 seconds was in fact 10 seconds. After seeing that video it all makes sense.


I’m still not sure why the announcer called 18 seconds. He later retracted this and admitted a mistake. I think he must also have been looking at the marathon clock and perhaps glanced at it a few seconds after I crossed the line. But the timekeeper looked at the data and announced 1:18:10.


So I learnt to never give up in til the very last second. And even if you think you’ve failed you could be looking at the wrong clock!

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