Shortly after we were shocked by Andrew's sudden death almost a year ago, it dawned on us that the fate of the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) was hanging by the thread. Andrew was running the show almost single-handedly. It was also unfortunate that some parties were all out to kill the show. It was publicized in the local papers that the BIM was an illegal event. The popularity of the BIM was gaining momentum, but that word "illegal" had a curious effect of making potential sponsors shy away from the event. The scenario was gloomy at best, and the BIM seemed destined to die a natural death.
Then one fine day I received a call from some of my friends, calling for a meeting to discuss the fate of the BIM. We duly assembled at the Sutera Pacific Hotel where we were quick to decide in favour of reviving the BIM.
It wasn't smooth-sailing though; no—it was an uphill task. A sports body responsible for promoting sports which was all out to extort astronomical amount of money for a piece of letter containing its endorsement; so many red tapes to pass; financial issues since we had to start from zero! We had no money to pay for the mighty endorsement of the SAAA, let alone to actually finance the running of the event itself. It was clear that we would come to a dead end.
Then someone found a brilliant loophole in the system—we could still organise the event through a legal sports club.Within no time we have established a sports club known as the Kinabalu Running Club. Committee members were quickly chosen; responsibilities assigned. It was amazing how quickly things were put in motion. But money was still an issue. So some of the members contributed personal savings as seed money to get things started. And then suddenly the Borneo International Marathon was born again—still continuing the vision of the late Andrew Voon, but a total reboot in that is it no longer organised by Championship Sports.
Many people who run marathons are not aware of what's going on behind the scene in organising of such events. The thing is, it is not cheap to organise an event of this size. We are all professionals in our respective fields, but none of us are professional event organisers. We had to learn as we go along. Because of the limited funds, we had to be very, very creative on cost-saving. There were times when we arrived at dead ends, and it's amazing how the team members rose to the occasion to solve one problem after another.
The timing chip issue was a major concern, as it was obvious that we could not afford the cost. I had before this thought that it would probably cost something like RM5 per piece, but oh boy, how wrong was I! It was decided that we could provide timing chips for the full marathon and half marathon categories, but not the 10km category. Without sufficient sponsorship, it was impossible to provide timing chips for the 10km category.
Through the months, we had had many meetings with the City Hall; potential sponsors; the police; and so many other parties. The logistics were a nightmare, you won't believe it! This kind of event is typically handled by professional event organisers; yet there we were—people who had no background in organising a marathon, groping in the dark.
We did what we could, however, and promoted the event as best as we could. As we secured more and more sponsors, we were finally able to afford the timing chips for the 10km category too. But it was still not perfect, as we could not afford the cost of the starting mat, a fact that became obvious during the day of the race.
The task became daunting as we got closer to the day. Volunteers, medals, brochures, sponsors, drink stations, route markers and barricades and the timing of their deployment. Oh! so, so many things to do, and so little time to accomplish them all. We had very little or no sleep at all for about 36 hours until the end of the event. Throughout the entire duration of the race, we were all kept on our toes.
When the event finally ended, we all gave a big sigh of relief. Almost nobody had confidence that we could pull it off; and I don't blame them! Looking back at all those months, I'm still amazed and surprised that we actually organised the Borneo International Marathon 2012. It wasn't perfect, of course; I bet there will be many complaints in the days to come. But in spite of all odds, we have increased the participation from 2,200 last year to 3,600 this year. We changed the configuration of the race route and made the police much happier with the traffic condition. Although we were exhausted because of the event, we were rejuvenated when we received kind compliments from the participants.
Andrew, my friend, this is for you!