It must have been around mid-2008 when I was lucky enough to have decided to register for the Borneo International Marathon (BIM), the first of such event to be organised in Sabah in over 20 years. That was also the first ever race I've joined.
I was unsure of my level of fitness, so I ran only the half marathon that year. That was a significant turning point in my life, not only because of the discovery of a new passion in running, but also because I found a new friend, Andrew Voon; he was the Race Director of the Borneo International Marathon.
Andrew had been running for a while prior to 2008. And because of his passion for running, he organised the BIM, against all odds, together with some of his running buddies. That the BIM is a success is a fact no one could deny as evidenced by the gradual increase in the size of participation as well as the size of funds raised for charity.
Well, it's been four marathons organised by Andrew, and I still can't imagine how he pulled them off, considering that he had to juggle between running his own business which required frequent overseas trips, and his passion in running, biking and fellowship with his friends. But like a magician, he conjured up tricks upon tricks to bring the success story of the BIM to new heights without fail.
Among our circle of friends, Andrew played the role of the organiser all too well. He'd be the one who'd organise gatherings. Pre-marathon dinner, post-marathon BBQ, post-training drinking sessions, Christmas Potluck party—you name it, he never ran out of ideas to keep us all on our toes!
It was in Hong Kong earlier this year, when we were there to run the Hong Kong Marathon, that I shared a room with him. We had lots of time to chit-chat, and I actually found myself thinking that I was so lucky to have found such a good friend in Andrew.
We're approaching the end of June, but Andrew had already lined up so many more events for the rest of this year. Apart from running the KL Marathon next Sunday, he had also registered for the Sydney Marathon in September. He's also planning to join the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon, the Miri Triathlon, the Sabah Adventure Challenge in November. He's just so full of life...
That's why I was shocked beyond words to have received the news of his passing this morning. He went to the Likas jogging track and was into the first few laps of the intended 18km run, when he suddenly collapsed onto the track and never regained consciousness again. He is survived by wife, Carol, and 4 kids.
The man who brought us all the Borneo International Marathon had enriched many lives with the passion of running, promoted Sabah as a marathon destination, while at the same time raised funds for charity. I was there at the funeral parlour this evening to pay my last respect to a great man, a dear friend; without any doubt a very big loss to the community.
Thank you, Andrew Voon; rest in peace my friend; your passion lives on in the rest of us. You will be missed.