Penang Bridge International Marathon

It was humid. Windless. As I was dropped off at Queensbay Mall, the crowd was just building up. The music was already on full blast. Thumping away with the beat of God knows what techno music. There were many runners in their yellow singlets, I think the majority were 10km runners. The question is, What are they doing here at 12:45am? Their event starts at 6.30am! I suppose to these night owls, a few hours of deprivation is nothing. But to a veteran like me, (40 years old) it's NO fun.

I understand the reason why the Full Marathon starts at 2am. But whatever the logical reasons, the normal physiology of the human body just does not agree with this. I managed a 2 hour (interrupted) sleep before this and it was as though I had none. So, 2 am is not a good time to run your best.. I think most would agree with me.

The crowd was building up rapidly as we approached 1:15am. I checked in my bag and waited along with many in the shelter. Some were sleeping. Some looked so tired as though they have just finished their marathon. Anyway, after that, I wandered around, looking for the Seremban 2 Runners. I only managed to bump into KG.

Overall, the organizer did a fairly good job with the promotion of certain merchandise. But to me, none too interesting. (I suppose most people would not be inclined to buy a pair of NB shoes at one in the morning, just for the heck of it!)

On and off, the event coordinators were on the microphone, at the top of their voice (competing with the blasting music), urging all to observe the rules etc. But I thought the repetition was a bit overdone, even for first timers. Then, the Chief Minister arrived at 1:49 am in style albeit an old s class Mercedes. He inaugurated the FM event with a gun off at the appointed time.

And off we went on our long journey into the night. I was running at a pace of 4.5min/km. It was a comfortable pace but I had no idea if I could keep it up. It was a trial run for me. When we reached the bridge, I had already covered 8.4 km at a fairly good pace. I was feeling great having over taken a few runners. But there was a Thai runner who was adamant to tail me. He followed me all the way until midway back on the bridge! How did I know? I could hear his panting and more so, his loud persistent flatulence all along the way. No joke! It was kind of distracting.

Of course I was also overtaken by some fast runners. I think there must have been 15 or so. Some I managed to catch up later. But these runners were really fast! It was particularly disheartening to see them racing past you when you were already at your top pace. Later on, at about midway along the bridge, the half marathoners joined in and started racing past us....that was not a nice feeling. I tried to focus but it was still a bit annoying. I wanted to say, "Hey! Try running what I just did for a change." One of the full marathon runners sharing my sentiment even blurted out to a Half Marathoner, saying: "You running Half? I am running Full." As if to remind the chap not to get too cocky.

Then, as I was nearing the end of the bridge on the way back, the down pour greeted us. At first I thought it was a welcome change to the humidity but after a few minutes into it, I changed my mind. It was HEAVY. I am not one who minds getting wet but being soaked inside out was another thing. It felt sluggish. (Maybe I was already getting a bit tired). I was beginning to slow down. And I felt my right knee giving me some problem. But what to do in this kind of situation? One just have to tough it out. The rain slowed down to a drizzle when I was about 35km on the way back towards the finish. It was then that I tried to pick up pace but the knee reminded me who was boss. I thought to myself. "I will live to run another day. I have to think about the Singapore marathon which is in 2 weeks' time." So, I ran at a pace that was bearable for my knee. In the end, I finished at 3:37. Net time 3:37.47. Not my best but considering the circumstances, acceptable.

My comments on the PBIM:
1. Not enough accurately marked Signs for Mileage markers. I.e. As we were heading towards the toll plaza I saw a sign marked 16.6km. But to my utter surprised, as we turned out from making a come back loop, another sign popped out which read "20.4km". Do u mean to say I just did 4 km in just one loop around the toll plaza? In almost all of the International Marathons that I have participated, the mileage markers were very clear, ONE FOR EVERY KM. But there must have been less than 10 of those for this PBIM. I think the organizers can afford to put up more signs like this! This is a very gross mistake!
2. Drink stations: Not enough isotonic drinks. There was enough drink stations, but PBIM was a bit stingy on the isotonic drinks. This again, was also a gross mistake. We runners need to replenish our electrolyte loss! Water alone will not cut it.
3. PBIM should be renamed as Penang Bridge Night marathon like Sundown. 2 am is way too early/late for a run. I think most people don't train at 2 am in the morning. So why this kind of unsociable hours? Physiologically, it is not conducive to any normal person. We are here to promote health. Not the other way round.

There are other points that I don't deem too troubling to mention here. But suffice to say that PBIM organizers should have taken the runners' view into serious consideration because this is organized FOR the runners. Not just some publicity stunt to promote tourism and what have you....It should have the interest of runners at heart, FIRST and foremost. Just look at Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon. They are indisputably the best organizer for the marathon event. Hands down. It's simply because they listen to the runners.

If PBIM wants to continue to give itself a good name amongst runners in the Asia region, please listen to the runners. You won't go wrong with that.

Well, having said all that, would I run PBIM again? Not likely. Unless they improve on those gross issues. If they do....


  1. thought last yr was the only yr insufficient iso drinks provided..cant believe this yr as well...

  2. Hi Francis, yes... I think timing is big issue as 2am is in the middle of nowhere. 2-hour sleep (Foo did about the same) and you guys still sounded like walking in the park... salute kao kao!

  3. Yeah, totally agree. However, didn't feel it so much when running. It's the after effect. I was drifting in and out of sleep for the subsequent 24 hours! It felt like post on call.....


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