It's been a long time since the last time I went up Mount Kinabalu. I've been up there 11 times, and it's highly unlikely that I will ever attempt it again. Some time in my late thirties, I developed the altitude sickness, and whenever I went up the mountain, I would suffer terribly, and would take a few days to recover.
It's interesting, however, that whenever I climbed the mountain on my way up to Laban Rata, I'd bump into other mountain climbers who were on their way down. Pretending to be a first-timer mountain climber, I'd ask them how much further to reach Laban Rata. In most cases they would say something like "Almost there!"; or "Just a little bit more", even if it was in fact very much further still to go!
Since I started running races a couple of years ago, I have noticed an interesting tendency about people in general. I run races of varying distances; and more recently, I have done ultra trail marathons up to 100km. In some of those races, when I was exhausted and hoping for the torture to end as soon as possible, I took the trouble to ask the Marshals "How much further?".
The strange reality about asking Route Marshals about remaining distances is that an overwhelming majority of them would deliberately tell you a much shorter distance than it really is. From what I've been through, I'd say easily 80% of them would purposely give you the wrong information—saying something like "Oh! about 3km to go...", when they know that there's actually 5km to go.
In the recent Borneo International Marathon, of which I was involved in overseeing the race routes, I found myself at the tail end of the race route, ie about 1.5km to go to the finish line. And I took the trouble to announce to the runners that they had 1.5km to go. That was the truth. A fellow Route Marshal who stood beside me then said that I should have told the runners that they had only 500 metres to go.
I turned to him and asked why would I lie about the distance? He smiled as if embarrassed by my question, and seemed lost for ideas. But after a while, he said he would lie because he wanted the runners to be encouraged to run faster.
However, in most cases, when these runners run the subsequent 500 metres much faster, they would end up even more exhausted; yet they'd still have 1km to go thereafter. The pain would be even more. In fact, in all likelihood, they may even end up walking to the finish line. I'm convinced that my fellow Route Marshal knew this for a fact, yet he chose to lie about the distance anyway. Immediately we ask ourselves—Why?
Sometimes when faced with a difficult question, there is a tendency to offer the easiest and most logical answer. But the easiest and most logical answer is not necessarily the truth.
There is a psychological significance to this.
Some people do it consciously; others do it sub-consciously. But the truth is that somewhere in all of us there is that sadistic inclination, whether you want to admit it or not. There is that strange craving for seeing or causing pain and suffering upon others. The only question is to what degree. We derive some sort of strange pleasure of seeing others suffer the disappointment and torment of having to continue yet another 1km when they had expected the torture to end.