Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2008

What? Penang Bridge International Marathon

Where? Pearl of the Orient, Penang

When? 16 Nov 2008

How Long? 25km (slightly more than a half marathon)

Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM) 2008 was a race that almost didn't happen at all. It was originally scheduled in middle of the year 2008. However, the Federal Government had pulled out fundings for it after Penang State fell into the opposition's hands during the March election. It was a shame to see an international sport event like this get the boot due to political related reasons.

Anyway, the new Penang State government came to the rescue and gave PIBM a kiss of life. There were a couple of major changes. The start has been changed to the humongous mall – Queensbay Mall (from previously USM), and the distance was longer by a few kms. (Used to be 22.3 but now 25km).

I travelled with CCube and Frank in Aeroline bus from Sunway to Penang. Six hours, two movies (Transformers and Fast & Furious Tokyo Drift) and one Subway sandwich later, we arrived at the Sg. Nobng bus station. Initially, we were told that we will be stopping at Queensbay Mall but that stop was not ready until the 18th. Hiya!

Look at the choked Penang Bridge (pic above) from our bus. On the next morning, all traffic would disappear, making way to all runners like us. Yippee!

Thanks to Chee Kong, we got a ride from the bus station to Queensbay Mall to collect our race kit. The collection was hassle free at least at that time we were there.

After a quick lunch at Sunshine Square with Chin, we checked into Krystal Suites – it is spacious, clean and within walking distance to Queensbay Mall (start point). It is also very near to a 7-11, making it a fantastic choice for out of town runners like us.

The Race Kit + Goodies Bag. What?? No timing chip??

The trip to Penang for PBIM would not be complete if it was not coupled with Penang International Gastronomical Marathon(Insert burp here!)

On the day of the run, I woke up around 2:00am. Frank and Choi was preparing to leave the apartment as their event supposed to start at 3:30am. I grabbed a muffin and a pack of Milo as breakfast before I walked to Queensbay Mall with Chee Kong and Loke. All three of us signed up for half marathon.

I was quite impressed with carnival like atmosphere. There was singing. There was lion dancing. There was even fire juggling.(Click Play)

That's Hot. (Insert Paris Hilton pout here)

We were asked to go into the holding pen which was located about 50m away from the start. I felt like I was a sheep herded into the slaughter house. It was packed. It was noisy. Upon surrendering our reporting cards, we were given a rubber hair band each. (Click Play)

Reporting Problem. Crowd control collapsed!!! (Click Play)

The holding pen was like a freaking RAVE scene minus the designer drugs. Loud music. Jam packed with sweaty people. People clapping their hands while moving to the music. Unbelievable! (Click Play)

Everybody Dance Now!!! LOL!

About 10 minutes to the start time, we were told to go to start point. It was a messy affair. Lots of pushing and shoving. Everybody wanted to get out of the holding pen first. Lots of people ignored their own safety and climbed and jumped over the holding pen fences.(Click Play)

The Great Escape....I hope next year they will improve on this before someone get hurt. Video doesn't lie. :) (Click Play)

There was lion dance at the start. I was not sure who was the VIP that supposed to set us off....Something quite hilarious happened! (Click Play)

The arch at the start point almost collapsed during the final count down due to lack of air. Runners were seen holding on the arch to prevent it from falling. You have got to see the video. BTW, no one way hurt in making the video. Phew!!!

Despite that we were off to a very good start, with confetti and all....

Queensbay...The road was much better compared the last year's start at USM.

Look who I caught on video...He was on his the way to fertilize the grass along the road side! LOL! As you can see here, many runners relieved themselves openly due to lack of toilet facilities at the start point. We were barely 2 km in the run.

The road that led to the bridge was quite dark actually. I have seen one fellow "worshipped the ground" due to uneven surfaces of the road. I constantly keep my eyes on the ground to prevent any fall.

I was running slowly enjoying the beautiful scenery. As I described in my previous race report, the brigde look like a dragon lying across the Strait of Penang.

As I was busy running, I was overtaken by some one familiar (Click Play)

It was Frank...."Potong sayur". Look at him go.....This guy is fast. :). One by one I was overtaken by the marathoners who had start their race earlier.

I kept going. This was the centre of the bridge (Click Play)

This mean 1/4 way done...I was not worried about timing. Heck I didn't even wear a watch. As long as I completed the run on time, I would be happy as a clam. :)

Then I was "sayur-ed" by CCube, The Saucony Man! (Click Play)

I was "sayur-ed" by a sayur eating runner. LOL!

I plodded on.....I was quite happy when I reach Butterworth!

U-Turn...The battle was half won! I collected a check point elastic band after the U-turn.

I was quite shocked when I see this! Quickly snapped a picture for a proof. They ran out of cups, forcing runner to gulp from the 5 litre bottles. Yikes! Later I heard the ran out of water too! (Insert Macaulay Culkin's Home Alone expression here).

Penang Big Gulp! I took this video not to belittle the organiser but to show the problem that we, runners faced during the run. Improvement must be made!

A new day is dawning.....

That is the moon in the sky.....

Help is on the way! Kudos to the organiser for providing adequate medical assistance to runners. (Insert thumb up here)

Beautiful, right? I stopped a few times to take pictures, and some self potraits too, thanks to my Joby Gorillapod.

This is my favourite picture. One side of the bridge is orange (10K fun runners) while the other is predominantly white (marathon & half marathon runners) as they merged after the 10K U-turn.

The sun is up!

Many decided to stop and enjoy the glorious sunrise.

La Isla Bonita?

One more km....Run! Fatboy, Run! LOL!

Swaggering towards the finish line.....Yay! I made it!

Many post race activities were lined up for runners. This is Chinggay...An act of balancing huge flagpoles, a "sport" unique to Penang. Love it!

Question? What is this guy doing? Is he peeing and the other guy try to grab his wee wee? LOL!

Nah!....He is just dispensing Nescafe into a cup.

But I wonder he had to dispense it like he is urinating? LOL!

Huge tent for runners. Another praise is due to the organiser for having this. We didn't have to suffer in the sun while waiting for the prize giving ceremony and lucky draw.

The winner. I forget his name. Oops! Sorry!

Prize giving by Penang Menteri Besar - Lim Guan Eng. Ever wonder what shoes does Mr. Lim wear??? :)

A pair of Asics. What model? I dunno-lah. LOL!

The Men Open winner walked away RM10,000 richer!

Any luck for me???

Damn! That is not my number!

The main prize, which was a PROTON SAGA car was won by a school boy barely legal to drive! Congrats!

Overall, I was quite impressed wit the new organizer for being first timer except the horror stories I heard from the full marathoners that they didn't have even a drop of water to drink in the middle of their journeys.

As a summary,

The Good – The fun atmosphere, colour printed runner's guide booklet (not photostated, mind you), attractive lucky draws and big finisher medal. (Cinya tua liap!)

The Bad - The start for half marathon. Very messy. The runners were herded into a holding pen which is away from the start point. Many of the people leaped out holding pen as show in the video clip earlier. Proposed a holding system based on finishing time right at the starting point.

The Ugly – No cup and water at the drinking station for full marathoner. Thank god nobody died because of dehydration. Please ensure water is enough. I can't stress this enough.

Overall, I enjoyed myself tremendously in Penang. I hope the organizer can improve and make it bigger and better run next year. I might just sign up for a full marathon if I see improvement in the future.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Frank, CCube, PF Chin, Chee Kong for the supports rendered in any way, making the trip to Penang a memorable one. You guys rawk!

Before we left Penang, we had a special lunch in Queensbay Mall.

The restaurant is called T-Bowl. I am sure you know what "T" stands for, right? It was a perfect end (ehem....can't resist the pun!) of our Penang International Gastronomical Marathon! LOL!

Looks yummy???? Would you like to join me next year? LOL!

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