35th PAAA Annual Round the Island Relay 2012

One word sums up the 35th Round the Island Relay: FUN. 

That's what relays were meant to be. When you take the pressure off the individual and make it a team effort, it enables the individuals to perform at their best. But ultimately, the team reaps the benefit of that collective effort. 

This was my second Round the Island Relay. Last year's event was a duel between Taiping and Penang's own Forward Runners. And we were the champion for the Men's Veteran category. 

But this year's event was a lot more relax for me. In fact, my participation was a last minute decision. Andrew Loh was smart enough to invite me to join his "Team with No Name" right BEFORE the start of the 3rd Penang Rainforest Hash Challenge on 8 Dec (Sat), a day prior to the Round Island Relay. I happily agreed. Little did I know....(you'd understand why if you have read my previous blog).

Had I known, would I still run the Relay? I probably would anyway. It would be a shame to miss out on this. I was aching all over the body after the Hash Challenge, and the fatigue was my main concern. I didn't want to jeopardize the team's chances if I couldn't run well.

But my worry was allayed when we met up on race day at Penang Esplanade. It was in the wee hours at 4:30 am. This was where all the 29 teams assembled. And the runners were then transported to their respective stations through out the island. I met up with my team members, many of them for the first time. There, I was informed that only 3 teams have signed up for the Men's Veteran category. So, the pressure's off. One way or the other, we would finish in the top 3 position for our category! 

And also, judging from the colour of our team's singlet: PINK, I'd say that the team manager seriously had 'FUN' in his mind. I never knew that Pink would have such a calming effect. 

Andrew was kind enough to assign me as the 11th leg. That's the same leg that I ran last year. He knew that Station 11 was less than a km from my home. So after being dropped off by the bus, I made my way home to catch up on some well deserved sleep.

I slept like a log. Only to be awaken by Andrew at 9:30am to inform me that the baton has been passed to the 9th runner. You gotta love that guy, he plans everything so well. That gave me ample time to have a quick bite, drink my coffee and jog back up slowly to get into position. 

It was about 10am when I reached there. And within 10 minutes, amidst the chit chat with other team mates from earlier stations, the 10th leg appeared. When I took over the baton, another runner from a different team and category was already about 50 meters ahead of me. Although we are not competing with each other, that still gave me the impetus to run fast. It was pure instinct. I wanted to see if I could catch up with the runner in front of me. As far as I knew, he had just done an over-distanced Macau Marathon a week ago with an impressive 3:18. If it were the actual distance, he would probably be sub 3:10. A fast young chap indeed! Furthermore, to give chase in such a short fast race would not be easy. 

So, it had become our private little race, so to speak. The advantage I had was my familiarity with the 6.4km route. It's a rolling course. Elevations were not too steep but enough to drain you if you were going too fast. I could see that he was fast as we descended from Station 11. Down hill was always a good opportunity to quicken the pace. I could only match his pace at that point. But as we approached Dalat International School, where the climb began, I sped up to close in on him. And when we headed down after the elevation, I caught up and overtook him as we descended beyond the Penang Swimming Club. We had about another 3km to go. And the effect of the Hash Challenge the day before was beginning to weigh down on me. The legs and breathing were getting heavy and laboured. I was half expecting him to catch up and overtake me at that point. Having no watch on me (my Garmin had given up its ghost) meant that I wasn't even sure what kind of pace I was running. But I pushed harder knowing that I would naturally slow down otherwise. The heat at the time of the day was no help. But at least there was some breeze along the way to make up for it. I was feeling tired as we reached the Island Plaza. But with only a few hundred meters to go, I couldn't afford to slow down, after all the hard work. So, I pressed on and finished my run as I passed the baton on to the 12th runner at Marina Bay. 

We later made our way back to Penang Esplanade and catch up with the rest of the teams. Everyone's in such a relax and cheerful mood that it really didn't matter at all what position we ended up with. But in case you were curious, we finished 3rd in our category. But personally, it didn't matter at all to me. It was one of those rare and precious moments where you get to catch up with good friends and just have a good time. That was all that really mattered. Wasn't it?


  1. Hi Francis, it's such a shock when I saw your leg 10 approaching when I got mine. As you said, it became a race of mine too. I tried the best I can right from the start hopefully to delay the time you overtake, and become very exhausted after the elevation that you mentioned.
    Running hard and waiting the moment to be caught up, that was really not the relay that I expected this time. I tried to catch up but in the end could just see you moved further and further away. I hope I'd be more competitive if there's really a next time. But it's my pleasure to have this experience.

    1. kent, nothing gives me more joy than to be able to run alongside a friend. And I consider you that. The competitive edge is always a healthy one as long as our ultimate goal is to improve our own target time. Like they say, iron sharpens iron. I am very sure you will be faster and faster with your current rate of improvement. Keep at it!


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