Thursday, 16 May 2013

Borneo International Marathon 2013 (Part 1)


5th May, 4th May and 25th August

Managing the Impossible

TWO 42kms in TWO weeks?

Yours truly is one of those chaps who firmly believes that impossible is nothing.  Yes I know, the mirror does not lie.  My age is slowly showing.  The whites in my hair a slowing winning.  My fat is always on display.  After Island Ocean Marathon I was ready to tackle what for me was a monumental task: two full marathons in two weeks.  Had prepared for the occasion by taking things easy in Langkawi.  There was a point in the run that I was so tempted to go for a sub-7 hour finish, but then I said to myself I needed to save my legs of Kota Kinabalu, and that's what I did, though I did finish faster than I had anticipated.  A couple of my gym buddies had run last year's Borneo International Marathon.  Having seen the medal, and later the race top gracing a couple of running bodies at the inaugural Spring Live Active Run, I wanted some of that.  Will forever remember the joy of holding last year's Penang Bridge International Marathon medal in my hands...

Sabah's very own proboscis monkey on the medal

Medals are always such a teaser. The nicer they look the more I want.  This year's BIM medal reminds me a bit of the Boston Marathon's one, especially in the colour scheme.  Thanks to my age I have to run at least 4.5 hours in a sanctioned race to enter the lottery to run there.  I know it is a pipe dream.  So you can imagine my joy at seeing such a beautiful medal for BIM.  My rule of thumb in running races is simple: If the cut off time is manageable I will go for the longest run available.  So there was no question that I would be running 42km.  In fact the IOM had been an after-thought, more so because I wanted to run at the River Jungle Marathon, and the fact that if I ran both marathons I would complete the two-halves of the medal.  For those who want to drool I have included an artist rendition of it below.  Trust me, the real one looks really great.  You can see it in my previous blog entry.  

Island Ocean Marathon medal (on top) combined with 
River Jungle Marathon medal (below)

Of course some people, including yours truly had liked the previous rendition of the medals for The Marathon Series, but in retrospect, a medal is a medal, and this one looks just as good.  However I am secretly hoping that next year we get the yin and yang one...  Lets get back to BIM, shall we?  Running two full marathon in two weeks was sheer madness on my part.  However deep inside I knew I could do what it takes to hit the finishing line at BIM in under 6.5 hours, even if I had to trail the cutest 2XU clad compression tights the whole way...  There has to be a lot of self-believe on my part, and my tank was definitely over-flowing.  Having not been to Sabah since I was a little boy I was excited at the prospect of seeing how much Kota Kinabalu had changed.  So my run was registered, my flights were booked, and so too were my hotel rooms.  Many of us from Kuching would be going.  I wouldn't be running alone...


Clash of dates

Unfortunately for all concerned, the Thirteenth General Election would fall on 5th May.  That meant the Borneo International Marathon would clash with it.  We all know which is bigger and more important.  So we all prepared for the inevitable bad news that was to follow... 

"Dear Runners,

In view of the Malaysia Polling Date which coincides with our race date, we are at the moment in discussion with the authorities. Our present proposal is to start the race earlier so we will finish in time for polling. However, the final decision depends on the authorities. Meantime, we are trying our best to ensure that BIM goes on as planned, we'll keep you posted on the updates.

Best Regards,
Race Director"
Sufficed to say I was very upset.  Maybe not as upset as those who I knew were preparing to run their first full marathon.  Everyone knows that the 42km at BIM would be relatively flat.  How hilly can the coastal area be, right?  I am smiling as I wrote that because knowing what I know now, I won't assume anything of any running route until I have traversed it.  
42km race route for BIM
Running by the ocean is always a thrill.  From the race route I could see that I would be seeing lots of water.  That was such a bonus on any run for me.  Alas in didn't look like my dream was possible this year thanks to BIM clashing with GE13.  So there I was leaving it in all in the hands of the running gods...  Two days later we received this post...

"You get screwed which ever way you turn!

That was the comment from a colleague when he heard the news.
The Borneo International Marathon was planned 1 year ago and the date was Sunday 5th May 2013. We were overwhelmed by the response at the close of registration. Planning was smooth and preparations were all on time. We were looking forward to an enjoyable and an outstanding race.

There are 365 days in a year. The chances of a particular day selected would be 0.27%. ………and it was announced on 10th April 2013 that 5th May 2013 would be the polling day of the 13th Malaysian General Election!!!

The Committee had an Emergency meeting till the early hours on 10th April and then presented our plan to the authorities on 11th April at 9.00am.

The authorities would give us their decision on 12th April.

The options facing us were bleak and any decision would have its undesired consequences.

The facts were:
1. Police personnel would not be available for road closure.
2. Certain roads would be closed from 4am.
3. People want to vote.
4. What about the 2000 participants flying in?
5. The Marathon cannot be held from original planned 3am to 10am.

Our choices:
1. Postpone the Marathon. This would mean booked flights cancelled and another date which may not be suitable for all.
2. Carry on the Marathon but at another starting time.

We decided option number 2.
The whole event will start earlier by 5 ½ hours.
1. The Full Marathon will start on 4th May 2013 at 9.30pm.
We believe most of the runners who planned to come would be in Kota Kinabalu by the evening. So this time will not be an inconvenience.

The schools 10km race will start at the same time. There are not that many participants in this category and will not disturb the Full Marathon runners.
This is in consideration that school children will finish their race by 11.30pm and will not be a worry to their parents.

2. The Half Marathon will start at 12.00am.

3. The 10 km race will start at 12.30am.

This means the whole event will finish by 4.00am when the last of the Marathoners return.
For those in Sabah, it will give you 13hrs to get home to vote. For those from Peninsula Malaysia, we hope you will be able to return home to vote.
We understand how disappointing it is for those who have bought air tickets and want to vote and cannot make it to BIM2013. We will give you a free entry to BIM2014 for the category you have paid and registered for. Send us a scanned copy of your air ticket and your name will be added.
This is the decision of the Committee taking into account our capability, the logistics and situation. We know we cannot satisfy everybody but this is the best of a bad situation.
Please try to understand our decision and for those who can't make it this year, we hope to see you at BIM2014 on 4th May next year.
Finally, our greatest sincere thanks go to DBKK (Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu) and the Police for their understanding, cooperation and help in making this event possible."

Talk about a reason to celebrate! Since I would definitely be arriving in Kota Kinabalu on Saturday to collect my race-pack this was a race I could run a day earlier...  


A night marathon?

The 9.30pm gun time meant that this would be a night marathon.  I had never run a night marathon.  Running two 5km races in the night doesn't count.  It's kind of like me running to the 7-Eleven and then back, not that I have ever felt the need to do so at night.  Friends were quick to tell me that performance level drops as much as 30% at night.  Well thanks a lot guys!  Here I am with less than stellar shuffling speed and you heap even more bad news on me.    To get ready for my run there was next to nothing I could do since my legs were still in recovery from IOM and I had frozen my gym membership.  Very smart move Yahya! So I just walked a lot.  Then later in the week following IOM I got my legs massaged by a real professional, and yes, it hurt like hell.  No way was anyone touching my toes.  The plan was to have another leg massage a day before BIM.  Alas that never happened...

Our mobile phones are wonderful things.  They beep and vibrate all the time with sometimes trivial and sometimes life changing messages.  There I was enjoying dinner with MBF when I got the news that nearly made me want to cry.


My Dear Friends,

It is with great regret and sadness that I write this letter.

We received a letter from the Police (copy below) advising us to postpone the Borneo International Marathon.

We will advise you on the next date of the Borneo International Marathon which will be held in 2013. All entries will be deferred till then.

The Committee understands your disappointment and we feel exactly the same way too. The stress, the hard work, and the time we have had to put in has resulted in tears and heart wrenching reflections of our volunteers, supporters and Committee. We have tried our best against all odds.

Finally, I would like to thank all our supporters, sponsors, the Police, Ministry of Youth & Sports, Ministry of Tourism and Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu for all their help and encouragement.

Meantime, participants who have registered may still collect their race pack at 6th floor, Suria Sabah Shopping Mall on 2nd to 4th May between 10am to 6pm. For more updates, please check our Facebook page and the website at

Thank you.
Race Director"


For all non-Malay readers,  

"Title: Borneo International Marathon 2013 on the 4th May 2013

With all due respect, I am referring to Your Excellence Datuk's letter, Serial DBKK. 100-4/10 dated 11th April 2013 on the said matter.

2. It is to inform that I, as the Chief Police of Kota Kinabalu district advised that the said event, Borneo International Marathon 2013 which is scheduled on 4th May to be postponed to a later date.

3. This Office apologizes for any inconvenience caused.

Thank you."

So what were we to do? We could vent our anger at the organisers, or at the police, or at the Election Commission.  I chose to do none of the above.  This sort of thing does happen in races.  I had to accept that fact.  After all the BIM racing committee had done their very best to get the race changed from 5th May to 4th May.  At the end of the day they still had to comply with the authorities, and I wholeheartedly understand the situation.  To at fuel to the fire, 700 detonators and explosive items had recently been stolen (Read:  To be sure nobody wanted a re-occurrence of the Boston Marathon tragedy.  I would rather run safe, then not at all.  Yes I know many fellow runners voiced their gripes.  Everyone is entitled to do so.

To go or not to go...

Tell someone who has booked flights and hotel stay for a couple of days to let it all burn...  Yes I was depressed. Had wanted to run so badly. Was in two minds till the day before my flight, and packing was a last moment adventure.  Best to be prepared, so my running shoes were packed.  There was news that some runners would run all of the runs on the same night.  There was no way I was going to run 42km.  I will never run the whole distance of any race just for fun.  At my age I feel that I need to save my legs.  There was a possibility that BIM would be run after the election, so nobody knew whether the race would be in late May, or even June.  There was a chance though that I would try one of the shorter routes.  Since I had only packed my Skerchers, I was not going to go far, and 10km was it as far as I was concerned.

Kota Kinabalu here I come!

Rack Pack collection

The flight to Kota Kinabalu was uneventful.  The pilot impressed me with his landing skills.  Only a small group of us came.  Thanks to our friend Jason Ku, a Sabah native, we had a ride to our hotel, and later to Suria Sabah to pick up our race pack.  I must say I was impressed at the number of people there.  Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and resigned to the fact that the race was postponed and would be run at a later date.  There were even booths displaying running products.  Even though there was a nice voucher in my race pack, it wasn't redeemable in Sabah.  To think I had collected two of them so far.  Does it mean I may be forced to purchase more race compression products or even a new brand of running shoes? We shall see when the time comes.  There was only one small incident of an unruly runner picking up his race pack, but it was all noise from the foreigner, and he quickly hightailed it when he was informed that security had been called.

I won't bore you with my adventures in Sabah.  Suffice to say everything was in walking distance.  Kota Kinabalu is that small! All of us had enough leg to walk all over town.  And yes other friends from Kuching were going to run the BIM race route.  They form part of the oRun Utans - a group of runners who just like to run, and they do so for the joy of it, week in and week out.  Most of them were FM virgins, and BIM would be when they were deflowered.  So I can understand the need for them to run the 42km route.  Besides all of them were much younger than me.  Two of them met me at 1Borneo.  That's like the biggest shopping mall on the island of Borneo.  It was kind of weird, but also very nice to be recognised by people I had never met in real life before.  Just because I am part of the oRun Utans, does not mean I run with them.  In reality I prefer to run alone, mainly because I run slow.

Race top and running bib

Likas Sports Complex

Big burger time!

At sea...

Triathlon training?

Just to underline the point

My favourite run pose
Yummilicious Yee Fung laksa

Hopefully the pics will give you an idea of what I had been up to. Got lots of sun. Got burned big time for it too.  Ate a lot too. Even tried some of the local delicacies.  Sabahan really like their chillies, which is a good thing for me.  

What the future holds...

"My dear Friends,

At last, the elections are over, the nation has settled down and we have finished with the Race Committee meeting on deciding the date of BIM2013. We have met up with the authorities, permission has been granted and the stadium booked.

The date for BIM2013 is on 25 August 2013, starting at 3.00 am with the Full Marathon, followed by Half Marathon at 5.00 am and then 10Km run at 6.15 am.

We are very sorry for the postponement but when the Police advised us to postpone it, we had no choice. It would have been wrong to ignore it. Once again, we are very sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience but it was completely out of our hands.

Our responsibility is to our Runners and not the event. Believe me, the whole Organizing Committee, Volunteers, Sponsors and Officials were equally disappointed. Money had already been spent on rentals, staff and timing systems. We would have liked nothing better than to have carried on. It was such an anti-climax for us, made worse by not having a climax!

We will not let this hold us back. We are determined and our spirits are restored to make BIM2013 on 25 August 2013 an enjoyable and successful race.

We wish you the very best and look forward to seeing you.


Best wishes,
Race director"

TWO 42kms in ONE week?

Know for a fact there were mixed reaction to the news of the race finally being held on 25th August.  A lot of money had already been burned up because of the deferment and then the postponement.   So I don't blame any runner for losing the mood to run BIM this year.  What's for certain is that having already registered to run River Jungle Marathon on 1st September, I am facing the worst kind of dilemma... TWO full marathons in ONE week! Am thankful for the support shown by fellow runners.  They must think I am a running machine fueled to the brim by Energizer batteries.  I assure you I am not! There is only one way I can do both - run one to meet the cut off time and run the other slow.  Am talking turbo-snail slow okay? So if and when it happens don't look at my times and say I am getting worse.  Just the fact that I can finish both races will be a feat onto itself.  It will also be the best birthday present I can give to myself, since two days after BIM, I turn half a century...

My time in Kota Kinabalu was a blast, thanks to my friends, new and old.  I cannot thank Jason Ku and his gorgeous wife enough, for taking time out to chauffeur us about, and also to feed us at places we would never have thought of going.  Thank you also to Bernard Ng for doing like-wise.  You guys truly helped make this trip worthwhile for us.  The runner in me is so hoping that Jason will take up the challenge to run BIM next year with us.  Our friend Mark Abel wants to run BIM then too.  Am hoping you guys can start at 10km. It's not going to be that hard of a run route, and the cut off time is very fair.  Am also issuing a challenge to my friend Hendrick Foh to join them.  It's time the 10km virgins have some fun too! We FM runners lost ours a long time ago. Big thanks and lots of kudos go out to the people behind BIM.  They were wonderful throughout.  Many did come out to do the unofficial night marathon on 4th May.  From what I heard they had a great time.  To be repeated.  For real. Next time.