Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Borneo International Marathon 2013—The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back

The Borneo International Marathon 2013 (BIM), which was originally set to flag off at 3am on 05 May, was expected to be its grandest and most successful installment in the annual series dating back from 2008. The organising team had worked very hard since almost a year ago to ensure its success. But a few weeks ago it was announced that polling for the 13th General Elections falls on the same day. That announcement was a big blow to the organiser, and a late night meeting was subsequently held to deliberate what to do next.

The next morning, another meeting was held with the Police and the KK City Hall to submit a new proposal in an attempt to salvage the race. After much deliberation, it was eventually decided that the race could proceed, but with the starting time adjusted to a good 5.5 hours earlier; in fact at 9:30pm on 04 May. The idea was that the race would end at around 4am on 05 May, so that runners would still have sufficient time to cast their votes for the elections.

The organiser is aware, of course, of the months and weeks of preparation that most runners must have committed to run the BIM. Not to mention that plane tickets have been purchased; hotel rooms paid for. The committee members have also put in many, many long hours into organising the event. It seemed such a waste if the race is cancelled or postponed, so it was understandable why the organiser had tried so hard to proceed with the show despite all the problems. 

In the days that followed, the running fraternity around the world was shocked and saddened by the news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon that claimed 3 lives including that of a child; and many others severely injured from the blasts.

Well, the BIM was to flag off this coming Saturday night at 9:30pm, but a last minute letter from the Police has urged the organiser to postpone the race. The organiser was devastated; in spite of all the hardwork to salvage the race, in the end a letter from the Police was the last straw that broke the camel's back.

As can be expected, many participants reacted angrily; they felt cheated and taken for a fool. Harsh comments all over facebook. They demanded for refunds of entry fees, even compensations for air passage and hotel rooms already paid for—the usual knee-jerk reactions. But very few of them tried to understand why the race simply had to be postponed

I was disappointed too, as I was looking forward to run the BIM again this year, since I was unable to run it last year. But I keep an open mind; whatever decision the organiser makes, I know that it was made in the best interest of the participants.

Just a few days ago, over 700 detonators and explosives suddenly went missing from a quarry in Menggatal as reported here. Nine people have been remanded to assist in the investigation, but so far the detonators and explosives have not been recovered. 

Now I'm not suggesting that this is gonna be another Boston, but we have had some rough rides in Sabah over the last couple of weeks. We have had the bloody episode of a mini war in Tanduo; we're gonna have the elections coming very soon, and some of you might still remember the history of bombings here in KK during one of our elections years ago. 

Be honest and ask yourselves from the bottom of your heart, if you were the Police and the organiser, knowing very well that those explosives are still out there somewhere, would you really take the risk and proceed with the race anyway?

My heart breaks to see all the harsh words thrown at the organiser. I'm truly thankful to have an organiser that cares for the runners. I hope I'm not alone...


johan amilin said...

I was looking forward to doing the first ever midnight run in KK...the torhes, the flashlights would have made it a beuatiful run...

This morning, as part of the Befrienders volunteers for the run, Anslem and I did a briefing to our UMS volunteers. This was at 10 in the morning.

At first I was devastated when I heard the news...but in hindsight, let us not forget, it was not that long since the Sulu invasion, and with the theft of those explosives and with the lives of young voluteers around including my own life at stake...the decision to postpone, although bitter, is the right decision.

You are not alone.

I will continue to support BIM and the organizers any way I can.

lina said...

Well said.

Stay safe. First and foremost.

Shady Ramadan said...

This is how failed states act. Poor organizing, and poor management for the events.
If they had doubts about the security of the marathon during the election because there was a previous explosion, and because they don't have the capacity to organize the event, they should have postponed it once the elections was scheduled.
If the explosives were stolen couple of days ago, and again, the police knew that they don't have the capacity to secure the race, they should have postponed it. People are flying from over the world, some decided that this is their annual family vacations, and you are talking about a knee jerk reflex?!!
The london marathon took place less than a week after Boston marathon. Why? Because the security forces there decided they can secure and protect the race.
Postponing a race at the last minute while there was many opportunities to do that beforehand and save people's efforts and money is a failed state act.
Don't be offended, I am from a screwed up state too with government can't figure out a shit !

Jonas said...

I agree that safety comes first.

What a sad state of our society that sports events now can not be organized without security threats.

Jonas said...

I agree that safety comes first.

What a sad state of our society that sports events can now not be organized without security threats.

Robert Blake said...

I agree with Cornelius - it must have been a terrible decision for the organisors to have to take - after all that hard work, and knowing how much commitment many runners had put into it. I was pretty upset, but only live 5 mins from the start. I really feel sorry to all those who have booked flights & hotels.

The race committee made the right decision in the circumstances - they cannot be critisised for that. Let's just hope that they can organise a bigger & better event next time, & that this won't dampen anyone's enthusiasm for the next one.

RaYzeef said...

Disappointing but we know that organizer try it's best to accommodate everyone.

Understandably SAFETY comes first, looking forward to run BIM next year.

Ellie H said...

Being Malaysian we know better than to compare ourselves to other more develop state or country like London. Even the US has failed to protect their own people during the Boston attack. Just two homemade pressure cooker bombs resulted in 3 deaths and more than 20 innocent bystander loosing one or both legs. They didn’t loose their lives because there were 50 ambulance on standby and the respond was quick and Mass General Hospital ranked #1 in US (also teaches Harvard Medical Student) is just 5 mins away in the city.

It was devastating. I live in Boston and was 2 km from the finish line watching and cheering for the runners. The whole city was shut down and in lock down. It took 7000 police officers, plus all the intelligence officers and FBI round the clock for 5 days to catch the culprit and ended the chaos.

Back to our little town of KK where a group of passionate runners and friends decided to keep BIM going after the passing of BIM founder and director, this is their 2nd year organizing and they have been working day in and day out on it for the whole year without any pay, any reward. No big sponsor, no StanChart Run, no ING run, just their name Borneo Int Run. Sometimes I wonder how they do it without any government support, always under scrutiny and still they do it. Most put in more than just their “free time” and I thank you for that. I have been running because of my first experience in BIM. I have been traveling to many races around Asia eversince for the joy of running but mostly holiday with friends… and I would say BIM is not the best but it certainly is not the worst. Plus KK is great for relaxing and vacation, so if you can afford to fly across the world for an armature race, you can afford the RM130 registration fee. For RM130 you get Tshirt n medal n chip n shuttle n cert… compare US230 (RM700) for London marathon. So you do the math.

Back to my point on safety issue. 700 missing detonators, a high tension election all happening now. If two homemade pressure cooker can cause these devastation in the Boston, what of the 700 missing bomb detonators. You seriously want to gamble your life and trust our Malaysian police forces to protect you and be held responsible if anything happen. For foreigners you want to be treated by our doctors in our local hospital thousands of miles away from home. No offense to my doctor friends, dr. Heng I know you volunteer for earthquakes disaster so you are more than capable to handle anything. But would you want to be held responsible??

Have a heart people… on refund, can you tell the manufacture to take back the tshirts and medal, and give you the money back? Can you tell the orphans that there wont be any donations…

If you ask those victim in Boston what would they give to have their legs back…

Don’t give up BIM. A marathon runner never gives up. Just like life itself… the going is tough but you don’t quit. When life gives you lemon… You go grab the salt and tequila.


William Kong said...

Hey Ellie H. Give you a hi five! I definitely agreed to what you posted here. Although I'm not a serious runner, this supposedly my 5th time returning to BIM since my 1st participated in 2009 and that's my 1st ever participate in a road race for a 10km run. That's the reason why I'm returning whenever I can.

It's indeed unfortunate that after the organizer put in lots of effort and personal time and it has to be postponed due to various reasons you mentioned. I don't think many of us will sacrifice so much effort to keep the BIM going just because the passing of the previous director and founder. Their efforts and not for profit intentions really deserve a salute from the runners that registered themselves for BIM. RM130 event fee might be a lot for a typical Malaysian but that's really nothing if compared to others running event outside Malaysia. Although I don't expect I would return for the postponed BIM 2013, I'm quite sure I will return for the 2014 edition.

I guess I will just fly in to KK for a few days unplanned holiday since the flight ticket and hotel were paid for and can't be canceled nor refund. As for the event registration me, I really don't mind what the organizer want to do with it.

To the BIM organizer, you all definitely earn my respect for all the efforts!

Cornelius said...

Thank you all for your support; I'm sure the organiser could use some support now.

I'd like to respond a bit more for Shady Ramadan, whom I'd also like to thank for his comment.

When the earlier announcement was made, the police and organiser did not deem it as entirely necessary to postpone or cancel the event. But now circumstances have changed. We can't just ignore the fact that over 700 detonators and explosives have gone missing. We are all in the dark as to why they are missing; and what are they intended for?

Unlike the ruling government which has the benefit of a feng shui master who can predict success, there was no way the organiser could foresee that explosives of that ridiculous amount would go missing a few days before the event.

I'm trying to fathom the concerns of others over entry fees, air passage and hotel reservations, but I treasure my life much, much more than all those. But I respect their opinions; I can accept that they may disagree with me.

Low Tzewen said...

I support the organizer for making the best out of a hopeless situation.

I was looking forward to my first Borneo marathon but i treasure my life anytime. I can run again another day if i am still alive not when i am dead.

I was just hoping if the organizer can least give us a chance to run next year with this year registration or let us know when is it postponed to. I think that is quite a reasonable request.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cornelius,

I am Ray from Manila. I met Andrew (RIP) and you in BIM 2011. This is just a manifestation of Murphy's Law. As organizers, you did & are doing the right thing/s. What can you say on the fB invitation of some runners to run the 42km route at 930pm on Saturday?

Cornelius said...

Low Tzewen,

Please be patient, my friend. The organiser is trying their best to find a suitable date for this event. There are many parties involved, i.e. the police, the City Hall, the volunteers, even whether the stadium is available, because we need that venue. Everyone is caught by surprise because of this latest development. I'm sure the organiser will make the announcement as soon as they possible can.

Cornelius said...

Hi Ray from Manila,

Yes, I'm aware of several groups of runners who are planning to run, unofficially, on Saturday night anyway. I don't believe it's suddenly gonna be a war zone out there that night, but please be informed that runners run at their own risk, and the organiser is in no way responsible for the runners' safety.

As one of the Admins of the Kota Kinabalu Running Club (KKRC) group on facebook, I'm only concerned that the starting times for all these separate groups of runners range widely from one another, so it may take the whole night! We had a short casual discussion about this issue this afternoon, and we thought although we can't stop people from running, perhaps we can at least coordinate these groups for a bit. No firm decision has been made, but it seems certain that there will be people running on Saturday night.

I will post more info here again when I get anything new.