Thursday, March 27, 2014

Borneo International Marathon—The Full Marathon Route

The Borneo International Marathon (BIM) will be held in about 5 weeks' time on 04 May 2014, and there will be some participants running it for the first time. The vast majority of those who run the marathon are people doing it for the sake of conquering the distance, but not overly concerned with how fast they can do it. They're happy as long as they can do it within the cut off time set by the organiser.

However, there will be some runners who will want to finish the race as quickly as possible. They train hard for a few months leading up to the event, and they will try to gather as much information as possible to help them come up with a racing strategy. I am one of those who'd like to challenge myself to keep improving on my time even though I'm aware that there is just no way I can win anything! I very rarely run races just for the sake of finishing, although last year was an exception as reported here.

There is a brief description of the full marathon route as well as a downloadable map in the official website, but there is no mention of the terrain. I thought it might be a good idea to share with my readers what to expect in the BIM full marathon route, and hopefully you can use the information to achieve good timing.

But let me deal with some minor issues first. I was talking to a member of the organising committee just recently, and I was informed that there is a possibility that all the categories will start outside the stadium, although still within the Likas Sports Complex. This may or may not result in a slight adjustment in terms of distances, but we're getting some qualified persons to officially measure the distances again to make sure that they conform to the so-called international standard.

Now the full marathon route brings the runners into the Kota Kinabalu city centre first starting at 3am, and it will be a flat surface for about 6.5km. After that, there will be an approximate 300m of gentle climb to Bulatan Nenas (Nenas Roundabout), followed by a short distance of flat surface before descending on the other side for about 100m to Jalan Tuaran. It may interest some of you that the first hydration station is about 5km from the start.

I don't foresee the 300m of gentle climb mentioned above will be of much trouble to most runners, as it's still fairly early in the race and just shortly after the hydration station. But it's still worthwhile keeping it in mind. An even milder gradual climb between Km7 and Km8, which is hardly noticeable to most people. Beyond that it will be almost fully flat again throughout up to a complete loop to reach the Likas Sports Complex again. That complete loop is about 11km.

Runners then head out to the coastal highway once again, but this time upon reaching the roundabout they will turn north, away from the Kota Kinabalu city centre. All this will be on generally flat surface up to approximately Km16 when runners make their way up the arched bridge across Sungai Likas. However, it's not a very long distance. Down the other side again to a flat road, and it will be quite a pleasant run until approximately Km17.5 where there will be a hydration station (it's a good idea to consume an energy gel at this station in anticipation of the coming hills) followed by a slightly undulating portion of about 500m.

Runners will then find themselves at the traffic lights at the main entrance of the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). A few hundred metres straight road into the UMS compound before reaching a huge roundabout and then turning to 3 o'clock the climb of about 700m-800m. Now bear in mind that this is almost halfway of the 42km for the full marathon, so it will be quite a challenge for many runners. But the good news is that there will be a long descent on the other side and runners can therefore run faster. Then a short while later the climb from the other side to the top of the hill once again before descending back to the huge roundabout and exiting UMS to the main road. I would say if you need to apply a bit of caution in this race, the UMS loop is where you should do it. Cramps and injuries are just waiting to happen there! But once you've survived the UMS loop, you will know that you've conquered the worst of the BIM route.

Upon emerging on the main road once again, turn towards 1Borneo and that portion is generally gentle, but becoming slightly undulating later on when nearing the turning point. I won't be unduly worried about the undulating terrain along that road though, as they are not as bad as the UMS loop.

Once you come to the 1Borneo again on your return leg, you should know that you've survived most of the hillwork, except for the crossing of the Likas bridge again, but that is just for a short distance. Beyond that bridge, it will be almost fully flat all the way to the finish line, and this is the portion where one is able to run faster if he has paced his race correctly.

Those of you who're not familiar with Kota Kinabalu will find the above a little confusing, but I'd suggest that you keep referring to the route map provided in the official website.

I've been neglecting my speed over the last half a year when preparing for the Ironman New Zealand, but now I'm throwing in some speed training into my routine in the hope of achieving a sub-4hr marathon in the BIM; and beyond that I'm trying to achieve a PB in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon on the first Sunday of July.

Good luck with your training and see you on 04 May!


Cornelius said...

Someone asked me about the half marathon and 10km routes. In particular, he wanted to know if they're the same as in previous years.

Well, they are the same as last year's, but substantially different from the years before that.

For the 10km, runners no longer go into the city centre and turn back along the same coastal highway. Instead, they will make a loop through the city centre, up Bulatan Nenas and to Jln Tuaran back to the Likas Sports Complex.

For the half marathon, runners will not be running into the city centre at all. They will instead turn north upon reaching the coastal highway, to the UMS loop and then back to Likas.

I would suggest that download the respective maps from the official website.

Eric said...

Thanks Cornelius, appreciate all that detail! I notice the course map refers to "energy stations". What is typically found there?

Cornelius said...

Hi Eric,

An "Energy Station" usually provides bananas, and sometimes (but not always) energy gels too.

Last year we had a little bit of an issue when energy bars were distributed instead of gels; and I heard a runner running nearby complaining about it. He was saying that that was the first time in his the many races that he had participated that energy bars, as opposed to energy gels, we given out. That, however, didn't stop him from from grabbing the energy bar anyway.

I'm not sure what's the real story with the energy bars. But if not mistaken it had something to do with the sponsor. I think the original plan was to distribute gels, but because the event was delayed for a few months, the gels had reached the expiry date. So could no longer be given out. So the energy bars were given instead. Something like that.

Whatever the case is, one should always bear in mind that the organiser tries its best to ensure everybody gets his share, but SOMETIMES, they MAY run out. It's still a good idea to bring your own gels if you're convinced that you need them for your race. At least I usually bring my own supply.

Unknown said...

The only 3 things I remember from the 1st Borneo Marathon was that it was flat all the way, there was a strong smell of durian somewhere along the route and the damm heat.
And I love the start and end in the stadium. Don't take that away especially the finish.

Cornelius said...


The race routes in the BIM have gone through several changes over the years since it's debut in 2008. I believe the original idea was to show runners (especially those not from KK) the whole north-south coastal areas of the beautiful KK city. Hence the tagline "The Beautiful Run". The route during the early days included the Tanjung Aru First Beach, the Sutera Harbour internal loop, and of course Jln Sulaman in the north. Runners also went through the heart of KK City itself, passing through the central wet market.

However, as the size of participation grew of the years, it became obvious that it was no longer feasible to maintain the original route, as the chaotic traffic condition through the city centre was too big an issue to deal with. Minor changes were made - the Sutera loop was excluded at first. Then eventually the entire southern route were removed.

The major overhaul of all the routes happened last year, and the full marathon now involves the UMS internal loop which adds a bit of excitement and challenge as it had hilly portions to be reckoned with.

Personally, I like this latest route much better, although I used to have a phobia of hills when I first started running some years ago!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting about the route Cornelius. I'd been searching MapMyRun etc for details about that hill at 21km but no luck until I found your blog.
Thanks mate.

Eric said...

I have one follow-up question. Does the road between the sports complex and the turnaround point past 1 Borneo (I don't know the name of this road) allow for vehicles to drive on it?

I'm just wondering if my family might be able to go up to, say, the McD's or along the road by Alamesra, or wherever, and park on the roadside to greet me. I assume one lane will remain open for cars?

Cornelius said...

Hi Kevin,

Glad that this post has helped you. And all the best to you for BIM!

Cornelius said...

Yes, Eric, Jalan Sulaman will still be open during the race. The race will only be using half of it, and vehicles will therefore still be passing through. However, I'm not sure if you will be allowed to park your car within the closed half of the road. You can park your car at that McD's outlet across the road. But of course you will have to remind your wife to be very careful when crossing the road. We have crazy drivers here in KK!

Roslyn said...

Appreciate your effort to fully elaborate on the route. I am doing half marathon only however, at least I can psych myself to anticipate the hills at 6.5 km and at the UM loop. Which sounds treacherous! = )

Cornelius said...

Hi Roslyn,

The half marathon course is not the same as the full marathon course. Yes, it starts from the Likas sports complex too, but instead of going round to KK for a loop, runners turn directly towards UMS upon reaching the coastal highway. So it's more or less flat throughout except that you will eventually get to those same hills at UMS. Incidentally, those hills are also about them midway for the half marathon route. Once you've survived those hills at UMS, it's more or less flat all the way back to the sports complex again (except for that small climb across the Likas arched bridge.