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!