Penang Run 2013/2014 First Series

12 May was one of those weekends packed with races. Let me see, you have the Kuala Kangsar 15km, Banana Relay, Deuter Trail run, and up North, the Penang Run 2013/2014 First series. Runners have never been more spoilt for choice.

For me, it was obvious. Without the need to travel far or take time off for the whole weekend, Penang Run 2013/2014 made my A list. I must say the idea was brilliant. It's conception was the brainchild of Andrew Loh who thought of creating a series of 4 half marathons, culminating in the grand finale in Jan 2014. Thus, circumventing the whole of the Penang Island in a 4-part round island race. Pretty ingenious!

This First series was just a warm up for 2 more gruelling courses to come in July and October. The turn out was very encouraging as more than a thousand participants from all over Malaysia took part. Among the runners, there were also international participants from 16 nations. I believe the organizers were thoughtful enough to set up separate categories for international runners; just in case some of the locals feel somewhat intimidated and deprived by the challenge posed by Kenyan runners. So, in a way, it was "fair" to all. This certainly kept everyone happy.

The First series would take us from George Town (Esplanade) to Teluk Kumbar. Earlier, Debbie and Eddy had offered me a ride back to town after the event. Therefore I needn't get up too early for the bus transfer from Teluk Kumbar. It was a blessing as it afforded me an extra hour of sleep. And sleep, in my case, is a luxury.

So, I made it to the starting point at 5am. A relatively late appearance, only possible if you stay about 15 minutes away. Felt like a "lazy" start for me. These days I have been training only in the afternoons. And that includes the weekend LSDs too. Therefore, getting the juice going at this hour was still somewhat difficult for me.

Manage to spot some familiar faces. After all, an event like this wouldn't be complete if the social aspects of running wasn't fulfilled with chit-chats and the obligatory photo shots. But soon it was time to put that aside and get on with the more serious stuff....

5:30 am. Flag off. The 'gazelles' sprinted off in no time. Soon, they have left most of us mortals trailing far behind. Unfortunately, an unforeseen hiccup occurred at the initial few hundred meters which resulted in a detour for the elite few. It was quickly rectified but that meant they had to run an extra 200m or so to rejoin the pack. But within minutes, they were back on track. No real harm done.

For me, since I am not anywhere in the same league, it didn't affect me. Even if I were, it didn't matter at all. It was my own race. And I was just happy setting my own pace.

However, for every race, no matter what your reason for running may be, I feel that a certain degree of seriousness to it is called for. Call it self improvement or enrichment, we owe it to ourselves to push just that little bit harder. So, though I knew I am currently nowhere near the fitness level I possess when I was training for sub 3 last October, I thought it would still be important to test out my strength. To see how I fare against some of the top runners. You'd never know unless you try. Besides, there are always new things to learn. If you have never push yourself, you may never realize your strength or weakness.

So it was a 'trial' for me. I had some folks in mind when I started the race. I had planned to use them as pacers. But these fellows proved too fast for me. So, early on, after Chuah (Tiger) woosh pass me, I decided that I was just going to run at my own manageable pace and see how things work out. Soon, Jin Ji came flying by and shocked me with his commanding lead. I was not planning to give chase but the competitive side of me was aroused. So, I tailed him all the way from about 6-7km onwards.

The initial 10km was not a pleasant run. Felt sluggish. Fought hard just to maintain a comfortable pace of 4:13. But eventually, I was relieved that it somehow eased off beyond that. I soon realized that I am the kind that only 'warms up' after 10km or so. The strides became smoother and the breathing more rhythmic. I was beginning to take command of the body. And this was when I gave chase and overtook Jin Ji and another young chap beside him. By 15km, I came across another young chap whom I thought was beginning to slow down. But instead of letting me pass, he put up quite a fight to keep pace. I briefly glanced at him and decided that he seemed to want it more than I did. So, in the final few km, instead of pushing forward, I decided to pace with him.

At one stage, we had a slight detour of our own when we ended up going up a fly over. It was due to the absence of a marshall at a crucial turn. For that, I think we paid the price due to the elevation gain. But then again, it was not a major detour.

But nearing the end, the young chap suddenly sprang forward and took the lead with only 200m to go. I gave chase but then decided that we were after all in different categories. So why the aggravation? I was just literally 2 steps behind him as we crossed the finish line. I finished with a 1:32.

This was an easier race in comparison to Bidor just 2 weeks ago. There was still some juice left in the tank. But the desire to push just wasn't there. I am not even sure why.

Later, I found out during the prize giving ceremony that the 'young' chap 2 steps ahead of me was in fact a Veteran! And to think that all along I had presumed that he was in the Men's Open. But nonetheless, he paced me well til the end. And regardless, he was the better man on that day.

Photo courtesy of Wong Jin Ji

photos courtesy of Wong Jin Ji

With Jin Ji, up and rising star!

Photo courtesy of Anthony See

Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I took on the race. That could explain the lack of desire to push harder. Perhaps I didn't 'want it' as much as the other guy. I was negotiating with myself a lot during the race to whether or not ease off and slow down. How much of it was physical fatigue? How much was mental weakness? I couldn't quite differentiate. But despite that, at the end of the day, I was glad that I fought hard enough to stay on course til the finish. That's what mattered most. I suppose perseverance could only be forged at the moments of conflict. When all you want to do is stop and walk. Or even slow down a little. Slack off just that bit. And despite the allure or promise of that morsel of indulgence in those crucial moments, you choose to fight on. That, is the battle ground of the mind. One which we cannot afford to lose.

And the outcome? You may not be faster, or win top position on the podium. But you will definitely be a stronger man.

And I am going to need that. Because Comrades is in 3 weeks' time.


  1. Congrats again on your excellent performance :D You never fail to inspire me. I can at least say I played a tiny part in this event by printing the bibs and timing chip stickers. Hope there were no complaints ... LOL!

    1. The bibs were well designed. Thanks Nick!


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