SP Half Marathon 2013

13 September 2013

I came to Sungai Petani with an aim to finish the race in the top 20 based on my current form and their last year's result. It was a very realistic target and for that very reason I was willing to embark on a 10 hours bus ride from Johor Bahru to participate in this race, despite all the negative reviews I heard about them in the 2012's edition.

I arrived in Sungai Petani at 6.30 am  on Friday and I was lucky that the hotel allowed me to check in early at 7am instead of the normal afternoon check-in. I had one full day of rest after collecting the race pack at Dewan Penjara.
Clockwise: 10 hours bus ride; Dataran Zero the Start / Finish area for the event with the town's famous clock tower; gear check; race kit collection at Dewan Penjara

The hotel was only about 400m from the Starting line, and this time I arrived 30 minutes before the flag off and started right at the front alongside the elite runners. As this was a manually timed race, we were required to checked in by collecting a ribbon at the start line. 2 more ribbons were collected at check points along the route. The race was flagged off promptly at 6 AM as scheduled. Everyone dashed off when the gun was fired, making me look like a turtle in a race against the rabbits. But I knew most of them were running in their anaerobic zone and there is no way they could hold it. True enough I started overtaking them one by one as early as 500m. I was enjoying my run and the sights of this small town focussing on my breathing and running technique. My heart rate was stable and I could run at a decent pace aerobically, which made possible by the nice cool morning in North Malaysia. It was still very humid though. The temperature was around 24 deg Celsius with 90% humidity.

I was still overtaking runners in front of me one at a time. I was 24th when we reached the turn around at KM 7. The course was hilly to Doha's standard but nothing really crazy like the Brooks Half Marathon's in KL. The route was quite scenic when we ran through the villages and paddy fields. I continued cruising while maintaining my pace enjoying the run and picking up runners in front one by one. The Half marathon route merged with the 10 km's at about halfway. Then the course was a little crowded with the more casual 10 km participants. However, I could still differentiate the half marathon runners from the 10 km ones. I was just behind the leading woman in half marathon category, and was 18th overall when I arrived at the T junction on KM 16. Then a disaster happened. The hordes of 10 km runners including the leading woman in half marathon turned left at the T junction, and so I did. After about 300 m I saw that leading woman with another male half marathon runner ran back towards me. The woman was crying while talking to the guy so expressively. I could not understand what they said as they were speaking in Chinese. I had my suspicion but decided to just proceed. Well as fellow runners, they should have told me that I made a wrong turn, so maybe they had other reason. I continued until I saw an official giving out a check point ribbon. Only then I was told that I had took a wrong turn and he asked me to go back. I was so furious, and lost my cool and started swearing. I told him there was no marshal and no sign at the junction, but he said there was. I was swearing all the way back. Cibai lah .. babi lah cibai lah and all that.  well I was 18th overall and 17th men!! I had run 700 m extra by the time I got back to the T junction. And there was the sign. Right at the T junction itself. It was hidden by all the slow 10 km runners. There was no marshal and the sign should be placed BEFORE the junction instead.    

I picked up my pace trying to make up for the loss (while the cursing continued). I was so pissed off and totally gave up my top 20 pursue when I saw a runner I overtook at KM 10 was in front of me that means I was back at 24th and by the time it was already too late. I just stop my watch after 21.3 km with the time of 1:45:43, and restarted it again to see the extra length I ran because of that wrong turn by the time I crossed the finish line.  I have lost 2 min 45 sec for that 700m extra. 
I accept that it was my fault. My coach has reminded me before I left Doha to learn the course well and remember all the turns and corners, but I was too lazy to do it. Lesson learned. I joined this small town race to 'win' but I think that would be the last. To add salt to the wound, they only timed and rank the top 10 of every category. As they race was manually timed, we never knew what our official time and ranking was. This race is only suitable for the locals or if you think you are good enough to make the top 10. Apart from that, I must say that the organiser already tried their best. The volunteers, water station, traffic control was good for the size of the race. For that I thank you.

With that, I just licked my wound and took another long bus journey back South.

Pictures Courtesy of, Sean Marathon World and Running Malaysia. See how pissed off I was  

DBRC Maroon shirt in Sg. Petani, Malaysia, rare!
Garmin player here:

SP Half Marathon by syafei@yahoo.com at Garmin Connect - Player


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