Challenges of Running a Marathon at Midnight Posted on December 27, 2018

By Rameshon

(Masters In Education, University of Western Australia, 2005 to 2008)

Picture 1 –  Mariviv and I, just before the warm up for Chiengmai Marathon 23/12/2018

In a race, it is a fact that waking up at midnight and then doing an activity, like running, actually poses a real challenge, which is not seen as we run at our usual morning or evening time. Staying alert throughout after midnight poses a strange challenge where one’s sleep pattern usually starts to get affected. Normally people gets to sleep between 9pm and 12 midnight. It is actually good to sleep at between 9 to 10pm. In fact, people are less overweight if they sleep at this time. Some even sleep at 1am or 2am, especially for those who are very busy with work, or for one who have to submit projects and assignments at the eleventh hour etc.

Sleeping between 9pm and 10 30pm is optimum, as one will be well rested and recovers well after sleep if they sleep at this time. Between 10 30pm and 11 pm, it is still not bad at all to sleep at this time. It is only after 11pm that it is known fact that the recovery of the body will be affected, as one sleeps later between 10 30pm and 12 midnight. The later we sleep, our recovery will be not be that good, but worse. Between 12 midnight and 2am, one may not be able to concentrate on one’s job, as sleep overcomes one’s alertness. Between 2am to 5am, I have seen people who work suddenly at night having problems to stay alert and they go into a state called ‘sleep mode’ at this time. Once a person goes through this state of consciousness, it will be hard to do anything, besides losing focus. A military guard will usually go through this. 

Picture 2 – Just before the Chiengmai Marathon at 2am Singapore time, 1am Thailand time.

Between 2am and 5am, one’ s mind may become blank, sometimes the mind will go through its own stored memory bank, and without the mind’s knowledge, sometimes, there will be some images and thoughts played from the stored memory of the mind. This will keep playing in front of one’s mind eye, sometimes even without one’s awareness of mental and physical awareness or consciousness. In Chiengmai Marathon, Mariviv and I went through this condition, which is the same as Sundown Marathon kind of experience. Many fellow runners also go through this condition during the race.

With this limitation, one will not be able to do things well. Therefore, this problem is actually seen as a similar situation to a jet lag kind of situation, staying in another country’s different time zone and that will surely affect one’s performance in the end. One’s body’s circadian rhythm will be greatly affected.

As such, for races that starts between 12 midnight through the morning, like the Sundown Marathon, etc, one will actually feel very sleepy and will start to feel time out after half-way into the race. One could be seen to yawn even before the Chiengmai race and I think that it is not a good sign of alertness.

One’s tough training done throughout the year will all come to nothing, as one has to perform when the body clock is actually wanting to sleep at the same time, while it knows the need to be alert and to focus on running. This is actually a great disadvantage for those are not used to waking up at night. In fact, those who works night shift will be able to do well as they have been able to be awake themselves up throughout during the night shift. The benefits of doing well may to a certain point materialise, as the weather is cooler at night, if one has, so long, been doing the necessary training needed to be done, like conditioning oneself for the race.

If one does not condition themselves to be awake after midnight, the individual will definitely will see their own performance affected, even though the weather may be optimum to run. To get a personal best time in this condition will be very difficult. Recently, I ran at a time of 1am at the start of the race, for Chiengmai Marathon. which is the same as Singapore time of 2am. It simply means that it starts at 1am according to Thailand’s time, but our body clock is more attuned to Singapore’s time of 2am instead.

The good thing about running in midnight runs in Singapore is that it is cooler to run and it is easier to get a good time as compared to running in the heat. As such, running in a cool weather is very beneficial, especially to prevent dehydration running in a hot and humid climate, instead. However, when one runs, later on into the race, there will be competition going on between the individual’s whose body which will clamour to sleep instead. One will not be able to sleep or to run during the race. One’s mind will actually switch off in some parts of the race, and thus the focus is all gone. One may in fact get into accidents as well.

Mariviv and I will share in our interview on how we managed to overcome this. Running at 2am Singapore time was actually not a good idea but the organisers came up at the eleventh hour to put the race at 1am on Sunday. It is interesting for us to see the problems we had to go through to run this race, from answers given from the interview. 

Edited by Tan Mariviv!