Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Penang Bridge Marathon (4)

Please click here for a complete posting on Penang Bridge Marathon 2009.
The Penang Bridge International Marathon staged on Sunday 22 November 2009 was a memorable run for me. I have not had this excellent form for a long time. This is one of the half marathons where I could run and run with vigour without getting tired.

The weather on the event day was superb in stark contrast to a cloudy, gloomy and drizzling weather the day before. Starting the half marathon race at 3:30 a.m., it was cool and breezy throughout the entire journey of the run. Besides, the air was fresh and there was no fish related smell which is typical of running near to the sea.

Participants run past the lion troupe

At the starting point, the atmosphere was fairly lively with the announcement, the music and the drum beats from the lion troupe. Runners’ movement was also not too restrictive compared to last year where all runners were asked to go into a huge barricade before the start of the race. With the timing chip introduced this year, we can take our own sweet time to cross the starting line to activate the timer in the chip. The various categories of the events were flagged off by YAB Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang, who was there in the early hours to grace this auspicious event.
The event is graced by YAB Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang

In this run, I managed to break the 2-hour barrier. I improved my timing by completing the run in 1:55:57. My last 5km was running much faster than the other 16km overtaking many of the runners that showed sign of tiredness. To sustain the 12 days of thin air in high altitude coupled with the cold weather in the trekking trip to Everest Base Camp, Nepal recently, in my opinion, strengthen my physical fitness.

Running Route
The organizer must have taken lots of effort to modify and improve on the route. Though the main structure of the run for half marathon was similar to last year, there was slight difference as the half marathon only runs for 7km one way on the bridge (making a U-turn after the middle span of the Penang Bridge) while the rest of the 7km was run on the Penang Island. The direction of the run on the bridge was the reverse of traffic flow. So, it was quite an interesting observation that the arrows on the road are pointing at the runners at all times. The feeling of being the King of the Road was apparent when running in the middle of the road.

Immediate relief

Water stations
There was lots of drinking water this time. However, many runners just took a sip or two and then threw away the entire 300cc bottle. From the sound of the bottle hitting the road, we would know that the bottles are still loaded with water. This time, we don’t get to see the Chinese kung fu drunken master in action – runners holding the big water containers to drink; or sharing the 1.5 liters of soft drink bottle with other runners as in a triad.
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This poor youngster fainted just before crossing the finishing line. Immediately, the medical team came to his assistance. I hope he is okay.
Banana Power
It was indeed a surprise to me that bananas were distributed too. So after taken one, I found that it was a bit early to eat. So I hold it as though I was holding a baton, and that helped me to run faster a little. However, the stretch after this station was like a banana-laden route where skins and even peeled bananas were thrown everywhere on the road. If a runner were not careful, he could be running at lightning speed when stepped onto one.

The unique feature of running in Penang

Distant Drum
Somewhere near the middle span of the Penang Bridge, I could hear the soft, faint sounds of thunder from the horizon. When I looked up into the sky, there weren’t many clouds as I could see patches of white clouds. After running for a while, it was indeed a moment to cherish as the runners were passing by a row of drummers that really uplift the mood of the run, and to break the silence where the busy Penang Bridge, for once, was devoid of traffic.

All smiles after completing the half marathon... Alexis, PK Chan, Angie, Josie and yours truly (KC).

Event Organization
The various categories of the running event were flagged off systematically and in style too with drum beats to boost up the spirit of the runners. The introduction of timing chips improved the standards of races thereby making it more orderly. The route was well planned and there were ample water stations around. Congratulations and two thumbs up to the organizer for the great effort in making this annual event a success. BRAVO! We shall be back again for the next Penang Bridge marathon.

The only set back is the starting time at the very early hours in the morning. Since the Penang Bridge is an important link and it cannot be closed for too long, the runners would have to accept the reality of it that it has to start early not until the second bridge is completed.

With the signature sign ... Queen's crown

Road Closure
Another exciting moment on Sunday 2:00 a.m. was to go to Queensbay Mall, the starting point of the event, for the run. The road closer took effect on the dot. So my car arrived just a minute or two slower to the first entry point and the police on duty directed the traffic to the next entry point. To my horror, all roads leading to Queensbay Mall, the starting point, were closed.

Assisted by Alexis, the navigator, with Josie and Angie in the back seat, we were forced to divert further and further away. We even see Komtar and Times Square buildings. At 2:30 a.m., we were still ‘groping’ in the dark (literally) without any map to assist us. Calling our Penang friends in this early hours for help would be uncool though it was a cool morning.

Taking a short-cut to go back to B-Suite hotel after the run

Finally, we saw a police station at the cross-road along Jalan Dato Keramat and we decided to get help to return to where we stay – B-Suite Hotel. Well, that was a good way to know the streets of Penang better. Actually, the hotel is only about 1km to the starting point and we could have walked there. Using last year's method, I parked my car at a housing estate which is opposite Queensbay Mall across the highways. Finally, we arrived at the starting point after one hour of round-trip ride but we were still in time for the run.

To be continued …

Written by KC

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