Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Holy Grail of Endurance Sports

I have been in a kind of on-and-off, and then on-and-off again, debate with a friend about the one sport that deserves the title of The Holy Grail of Endurance Sports. He is of the opinion that the Ironman Triathlon is the ultimate challenge in endurance sports because it consists of 3 different disciplines, i.e. swimming, cycling and running, and all made of punishing distances in themselves. There is that insinuation that if one can conquer the Ironman, he would have been able to conquer all the rest! Or at the very least, the Ironman title is of higher class than the rest.

I'm convinced that there are many people who can swim 3.8km, or cycle 180km or run 42km. But perhaps substantially lesser people who can do all three consecutively within 17 hours. Yet, I don't agree that the Ironman (distance) triathlon deserves the title of The Holy Grail of Endurance Sports.

I am not born to be an elite athlete. If I trained hard and long enough, maybe I can achieve a little faster finish and would qualify for an average athlete; maybe slightly better than that recognition, but certainly not much more. Since I started running seriously in mid-2008, I have run a fair number of 42km marathons, ultra marathons up to 100km, and triathlons ranging from sprint distance to the Ironman distance. In between races, I have lost count of how many half marathons and beyond that I've run during my training over the weekends.

Having experienced the wide-ranging endurance sports above, I still disagree with my friend—I don't consider the Ironman triathlon as the ultimate challenge. I don't agree with the popular argument that the Ironman is the "final frontier" on account of "lesser people have completed the race" when compared to, say, the 42km marathons. I think if one were to make a fair comparison, then that comparison must be made on a "level playing field", but we all know that is impossible in this case, don't we?

Firstly, a typical Ironman race limits its number of participation to about 2000 only, whereas a decent marathon event can easily have 20 or 30 times that number, if not many times more. Even if all those who sign up for the Ironman race can finish the race within the cut off time, that number is bound to be much smaller than the marathon finishers.

Secondly, the cost to race the Ironman is substantially higher than that of the marathon, so much so that even if the limit of participation is raised, not everybody can afford to join due to financial constraints. To join an Ironman, the entry fee alone can be up to 20 times more than the entry fee of the marathon. Then there is the cost of a decent bike. I guess it's entirely possible to use the cheapest steel bike in the market that weighs a ton more than the average tribike, but let's be honest, how many people would go to that extent even if they're not aiming to win?

Thirdly, one can quite comfortably finish a 42km marathon with say 6-8 hours weekly training. That is still manageable for many people. For an Ironman race, however, requires about 13-15 hours minimum weekly training; the bike session over the weekend alone can consume up to 6 hours. If one has a money-printing machine at home, then perhaps 13-15 hours of training per week is no big deal. But if he has a full time job with occasional extra hours to meet clients' deadlines, family obligations etc, 13-15 hours is quite a challenge in itself—and that is just the minimum requirement!

A challenge is a challenge—whether it is a 42km marathon, or 100km trail run over hilly terrains, or 3-discipline Ironman race, or an eco-themed race comprising 10 different disciplines, I don't think it is fair to rate the difficulty level based on how many people have conquered the race. Therefore, I don't think it is fair to say that any single event, when conquered, can be construed as having overshadowed all the other endurance sports. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way! At least that's not how I see it.

There is, to me, no such thing as The Holy Grail of Endurance Sports.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Curse Of The Offensive Sense Of Humour

I have known people who get their kicks by telling jokes about gays, or priests and nuns, and about the Arabs. Some of these jokes are entertaining. But not everyone may find them very funny. Instead, they may be offended by them.

I'm not a particularly gifted teller of gay jokes, religious nor Arab jokes, but I'm cursed with a dry sense of humour which is unfortunately not everyone's cup of tea. My jokes are "dry" in that some of them require a bit of figuring out, and some people may not find the connections and therefore miss the jokes altogether! 

For example, there was once when a woman asked me about a running event in West Malaysia, and I told her not to fall asleep during the race. She interpreted that as a boring event. But actually there is a deeper meaning to my comment. You see, her surname was Hare, and it wasn't till I reminded her about the race between  the hare and the tortoise that she actually got the joke.

Sometimes, I just wonder where I get the ideas for my jokes—they just somehow come to me from nowhere. At times, I may have been influenced by other stories I've heard. But I share my jokes without malice; they are never intended to offend the listener. Nevertheless, that does not mean that the parties reading or listening to my jokes won't get offended!

I have of course written plenty of articles in this blog which inherently contain a fair dose of my dry sense of humour. I'm not really trying very hard to be funny—I just put my fingers to the keyboard and let the stories flow, and at the end of it, I'd find that I have somehow included some sense of humour in them. As I said, I'm cursed with this style!

While I have received a lot of compliments for my style—which is apparently the main reason why some of these people have become my loyal readers—there are others who have criticized my sense of humour. For example I have been criticized for the articles entitled Piercer (18SX), and  Survival Instinct & Mattresses, to name a few.

I guess there is nothing much I can do, because obviously it is just impossible to please everyone, unless if I want to shut down this blog or say something which is totally not me; and at the end of it all, I still don't think I can please everybody!

I have lost count on how many friend requests on facebook that I have ignored or rejected up to now, not because I'm not keen to have more friends. Rather, I'm always conscious that I may end up offending some people with my comments. The exception is of course if I think I know that person well enough; or he knows me well enough. But this is not a foolproof approach.

This morning, I was reminded once again that my sense of humour had offended a friend, and I was told to be more "sensitive" with my comments. I'm not sure if I'm able to control my sense of humour; neither am I sure that I would want to be someone that I am not, for the sake of pleasing others. I have since unfriended that friend from my facebook list, but that is not because he is no longer my friend; rather, it is my attempt to spare him from my offensive comments.

As I said, I am cursed with this sense of humour, and it's almost impossible for me to control it. Read my blog at your own peril.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Power To Act & React

Most writers for superhero movies would try to fashion out their characters based on real world behavior. Of course we do realise that the special abilities of those characters are fiction—they can fly, can run extremely fast, may have the strength of 100 people combined, and so on and so forth. But although they have all those abilities, their behavior—how they interact with other humans around them—is always intended to reflect that of an ordinary person in the street.

We see, for example, Superman, who is much stronger than any man (after all, he is an alien) would try his best to avoid a fight. He tries very hard to keep his special abilities a secret; he would rather walk away from the big bully rather than engage in a fist fight. He would, however, use his powers to save innocent people. Generally speaking, we see this same trait in most of the other super hero characters—they would exercise amazing self-restrain from using their powers for as much as, and as long as, they can. What's even more amazing is that they will even avoid circumstances that could potentially give rise to the need for them to use their power if they can help it.

Except that that doesn't really reflect human nature. The reality is that in most cases the behavior of an ordinary man depends very much on whether or not he has special abilities. Imagine that a man is weak and has no power to defend himself against crooks. The behavior that can be expected of him is that he would most probably avoid walking in a dark alley alone. He'd mind his own business and try his best to have nothing to do with bad guys. If possible, he'd probably make a detour if he sees a gangster 100m away in his path. He will avoid even the slightest potential of trouble!

But how do you think that same man would behave if he has special abilities. Let's just say he is a policeman and carries a handgun, and an expert in martial arts. Would you think it is natural for a person fitting that description to avoid the dark alley, or change his direction when seeing suspicious characters in his path? 

Perhaps the writers of superhero movies would answer the above question in the affirmative. That is why, I've always felt that superhero movies can never be realistic from the psychological point of view.

Now check out this news article of a recent robbery case in KK, which was posted in our Kota Kinabalu Running Club's page. I am a co-Admin of the club.

Based on this article, what advice would you give to the members of the club? Well, in not so many words, I told them to avoid running alone—try to run with friends if they can. Avoid the secluded areas, and don't bring a lot of cash or wear valuable items such as Rolex watches. 

But apparently this advice is only suitable for nerds like me. It does not accord well to those having "the abilities" to overpower the bad guys! Some of them who are within this latter group responded that we should run with weapons such as a parang. I suppose they can then use the weapon to defend themselves or even counter-attack the bad guys if that becomes necessary. In fact, I dare say some of them may even be hoping for that to happen!

Writers of superhero movies have always got it wrong. But I guess if they wrote their stories based on reality, not very many people would enjoy watching the movies.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thomas Cup 2014—Almost, But Not Quite

It was an intense competition. At the beginning we were leading when Datuk Lee Chong Wei delivered the first point.

Then Japan levelled off. Then we saw our hopes gradually fading when we lost the second singles and were trailing in the second doubles too. Somehow, in something nothing short of a miracle, we came back from the brink of defeat—our second doubles pair managed to keep the hope alive.

Then the final game; the third singles. A roller coaster match that caused too many nails bitten off; and severe injuries to the buttocks as Malaysians were all sitting at the very edge of their seats. But in the end, the Japanese brought home the Thomas Cup.

Congratulations to the Japanese for a hard-fought victory. And congratulations to the Malaysian team too for demonstrating amazing valour. I haven't been watching badminton for such a long time, but tonight, even though we lost, it was a very exciting fight. I enjoyed myself!

It's been 22 years since the last time we won the Thomas Cup, and the wait continues. Hopefully we will win it the next time!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Searching For The Missing Link

A few years ago, I shared the story of my childhood in this blog entitled Time & Its Healing Properties. And then a few months ago, when my grandfather fell sick, I visited him at the hospital and shared the account of that visit here. Shortly after that visit, my grandfather passed away while I was in New Zealand for the Ironman race.

This lately I've been thinking about my real grandfather, the Japanese officer who was posted to the then North Borneo Island, now Sabah. As a little boy, I overheard conversations by my late grandmother that he was a high-ranking Japanese Officer during the Second World War. But when the Japanese surrendered in the mid-forties, he had to leave Sabah to go home to Japan. After that all contacts were lost. Even my father have never met his own father.

The hope of meeting my Japanese grandfather today is very remote; if he's still alive—I doubt it—he'd be a very old man by now. But it's entirely possible that he had another family in Japan after the war. After all, he was still a fairly young man when he left Sabah all those years ago. 

Unfortunately, there isn't much that I know about him. Even his name is something of a confusion. My late grandmother knew his name, of course, and somebody tried to search for that name in the archive in Japan many years ago, but could not find any match. In fact, one has to wonder if there is proper records for all the soldiers at that time.

A few months ago, two of my close friends ran the Tokyo Marathon, and they had a lot of good things to say about the event. I'm therefore keen to join that race next year. However, it's not so easy to join, as that event is well sought-after, and one has to put one's name in the ballot system and then relies on luck for his name to be picked. When the Tokyo Marathon opens for registration, I will just submit my name and just forget about it for a bit. If my name gets picked, then I will run the race next year. If not, then I will try again the following year.

I'm not sure where exactly to start, but I will find a way to embark on gathering as much information as I can about my Japanese grandfather, and if there is a good lead, I may spend a little longer after the Tokyo Marathon—assuming that I can get a slot in the race—to search for possible relatives in Japan. It's just a matter of curiosity. Obviously, it is a long shot but one can never tell how these things may turn out in the end. All this is a very ambitious plan, but I'm not putting much hope for success. 

As a side issue, it's rather amusing that I was even contemplating learning some basic Japanese, so that if necessary, at least I can speak a bit of the language to communicate with them. But then I changed my mind when I was watching the movie Wolverine recently of which the story was set mainly in Japan. I was, like, "Oh wow! Japanese is an extremely difficult language to learn!" It is also spoken extremely fast! Maybe it would take me many years to learn even a bit! So I guess I will just focus on finding out more about the soldier first. Let's see what information I can get from the mostly-senile old members of my family in Sabah!

For The Love Of The Dragon Warrior

A few years ago, I was walking in front of a bank in Gaya Street during my lunch break when a man approached me with a pamphlet. He and several of his friends were soliciting for donations for Majlis Kanser Nasional (MAKNA). According to its website, MAKNA’s mission is “to mobilise resources in order to provide curative, preventive research and support services to cancer patients and their families, high-risk groups and the general public, in Malaysia and the World.” I spent the next few minutes filling up the relevant forms and then pledged a fixed monthly amount of donation. I’m still donating to MAKNA up to now.

A few weeks after I pledged the donation to MAKNA, I was stopped once again at that same spot in Gaya Street, this time by representatives of The Budimas Charitable Foundation. According to its website, Budimas’ mission is “to provide guidance and funding in support of welfare and well-being of orphans and underprivileged children in Malaysia.” Again, I filled up forms and then pledged a fixed monthly amount of donation, and that has also continued up to now.

The donations to MAKNA and Budimas come up to just a little shy of RM1,000 per annum. In the earlier years, I’ve been receiving annual reports in the mail, basically to keep me informed what’s been happening in these foundations. I also received official receipts meant to be submitted to HASIL. I think I’m entitled to some sort of income tax rebates for the donations to these foundations. But these recent years I have received neither reports nor receipts. I sent emails a year or two ago to enquire why, but I received no reply up to now. I’m gonna assume that they are continuing to put my money to good use. However, I’m thinking of stopping the donations; maybe then I will get their attention and will hear from them.

Anyway, there was a third occasion when I was stopped at the same location—yes, that’s a popular location to get donations and promote Digi, Maxis and Celcom. This time representatives from WWF. That’s the acronym for World Wildlife Fund, not the World Wrestling Federation. The former is a leading organization in wildlife conservation and endangered species. The latter is just a club for comedians.

I did not donate to WWF, not only because I have more or less used up my allocation under the heading of “donations”, but also because I would rather donate to help other humans, rather than animals. If I have extra cash for donations, I would rather donate for the purpose of, say, providing piped water, electricity and education to the poor folks in Kota Marudu.

I’m not saying that animals are not important, mind you, I just give more priority to humans with my limited resources. I think it would be good if the government could allocate more funds to finance the protection and breeding of endangered species in Malaysia such as the Sumatran rhinos and the pygmy elephants. At the same time, efforts should be made to curb the overpopulation and breeding of the unwanted species, i.e. the many Datuks and Tan Sris that’s sucking on the economy. Obviously, all this calls for the prudent employment of limited funds. 

If necessary, we could spend RM60 million to save the Sumatran rhinos, the pygmy elephants, and several other endangered species in Malaysia, instead of spending that money on just a pair of pandas that’s not even ours. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Parental Instinct

Recently, a cat named Tara became famous for saving a little boy from a dog attack. A video clip of that incident has been posted on youtube and it has attracted almost 2 million views so far. Dogs—even the well-behaved ones—may sometimes become aggressive for no apparent reason. 

Of course we have had our own cases of dog attacks here in Malaysia; and some have resulted in the loss of lives. This is one such example; and this is another.  I'm sure one can search online for at least a few more similar dog attack cases in Malaysia. It is so easy to forget that dogs, though sometimes commonly referred to as a man's best friend, can kill.

Elsewhere in this blog, I've posted on how hard Mia and I tried before we finally had JJ. And then we tried again for a second child, but it was never meant to be. JJ is our only child, and she is very precious to us. I'm not a paranoid parent as Mia is—I'll probably allow JJ to start dating when she's 30. I'm just waiting for someone to invent and then legalize that micro chip thing that was implanted in Agent Dana Scully's neck in the X-Files so that I can track JJ all the time.

But anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that, as a daddy, I would do all that I can to protect my child. If I'm convinced that she is in danger of being attacked by an aggressive dog, although I'm not sure if that attack will really happen, I would rather err on the side of caution. I'm not going to take chances and wait until the attack really happens before I start reacting, because it may be too late by then. I know that I will never be able to forgive myself for the rest of my life if I lose my child that way. All it takes is for the dog to show a little sign of aggression, and I will react! If you think I'm being paranoid, then I guess that's what it is!

I'm thinking maybe I will call for help, and then while waiting, try to shoo the dog away first, perhaps by making loud noises or throwing something at it. Failing that, I may resort to a more aggressive approach. If necessary, I will use whatever weapon that I can get hold of. If I have a baseball bat, that would be nice. But unfortunately, I don't have one.

Sometimes, people may not have the luxury of deliberating an issue thoroughly before reacting. Sometimes, the circumstances call for immediate action; and sometimes, our actions are governed by the parental instinct rather than a well thought-out consideration of all the pros and cons.

Am I prepared to kill an aggressive dog to protect my family? Of course I am! As I said, I will use whatever weapon I can get hold of—I will use a baseball bat if I have one; I will use a gun if I have one; and I would use a bow and arrow too. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Jumper, The Jaywalker & The Blinding View

A few days ago, a young woman jumped to her death from the 6th floor of a commercial building in Kota Kinabalu. It happened just shortly after midnight. Apparently, she was kind enough to bid adieu via facebook. She did not forget to apologize to her family members too. There have been speculations that it was a case of suicide and it had something to do with a love story that went horribly wrong.

I suppose modern day life can be quite stressful, and I read somewhere recently that everybody is suffering from at least a bit of stress on a daily basis. I was talking to a friend about my slightly-elevated blood pressure when he suggested that perhaps it had something to do with stress. I also happen to know some people who are on medications for depression on a permanent basis.

Yesterday, a lady friend sent me a photo via Whatsapp of a jaywalker who crossed the road around Karamunsing in the nude in broad daylight. But because I'm not very keen to get into trouble like Alvin Tan, the sex blogger, I've modified the photo before posting it here.

In the original photo, every part of his body was fairly clear, but I have since blocked out his private part. I'm not sure if my lady friend—she's still single, by the way—was there to take the photo herself, or was it also forwarded to her from other sources.

As I'm typing this, I haven't seen the papers today, so I'm not aware if this jaywalking stunt had been reported in the media. Being the analyst that I am, I'm trying to get as much info as I can from this photo. Has it got anything to do with that huge advertisement signboard in the background that says "LEBIH GANJARAN" (more rewards). Who knows whatever ganjaran this fellow thought he could get from walking in the nude like that. 

But since I'm aware that many of our local runners in KK are following this blog, I'd like to remind them to refrain from heel striking like him; it's been said to slow you down as it amounts to braking your forward momentum on each stride. Admittedly, I don't know if this has been proven scientifically.

See that oncoming bus? Well, I won't be surprised if the driver broke his neck because of this jaywalker, since all the passengers—especially the female passengers—must have rushed forward to get a clearer view of the man, so much so that they didn't even realised that they were crushing the poor driver.

I fancy my lady friend stepping hard on the brake, thus bringing her car to an abrupt stop and causing a few-car pile up, but the accident was well worth it as long as she could get the perfect angle for this shot. That's a great souvenir to be kept in the album. I don't know if she's ever been warned though, that she could become blind for seeing a naked man like this. But even blindness is worth it lah.

Well, today is Mother's Day, and it is also a Sunday. Let us all de-stress ourselves, but don't choose the jaywalking method above, ya hear? I'd like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother's Day.

As for my lady friend, I'm so sorry for you, you will have to wait till tomorrow to treat your eyes. I'm afraid all the specialist eye clinics are closed today. But perhaps it could help a bit if you'd just stop looking at the photo.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Joy of a New Tri Bike

I haven't been posting many articles on cycling even though I rode quite a lot while preparing for the Ironman. But among those few articles that I've posted, a couple of them were about bike accidents. One was when my friend Judy Liew had a minor accident, falling off her bike while cycling as reported here. Another was the bike crash I had with the mighty Teo Chen Lung as reported here.

While cycling is a good alternative to running as a cardio workout, it's not exactly a good idea in Kota Kinabalu. Each year, we have several accidents—mostly minor ones, but we've had some serious ones that had resulted in hospitalization. Our roads are just not conducive for cycling, and the drivers in KK are not always eager to share the roads with cyclists. If our roads are safe for cycling, I'm sure many more of my runner friends would take up the sport too.

This morning, it was announced in a Whatsapp cycling chatroom that one of the regular cyclists in KK was seriously injured while riding along Jalan Serusop. I don't know the full details of the accident. All I know was that a bus hit him, and he suffered several broken bones, apart from a punctured diaphragm. Incidentally, I was out running a 15km recovery run this morning, and I saw a group of cyclists on the road. He must have been one of them.

A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised when Mia arrived home one day with her new tri bike. It came complete with the clip-on pedals. I'm not sure what she's planning to do with the bike, but I suspect that she may be entertaining the idea of attempting a Half Ironman race this year, or even a (full) Ironman next year.

Ordinarily, I would be thrilled for her. But not in this case. You see, she's having a bit of trouble balancing herself on a bike; and she struggles to balance herself when reaching for her water bottle while the bike is in motion. She tried getting onto her new bike while leaning on a wall in one of the rooms at home, and it took only a few minutes before JJ and I heard a loud crash. Thankfully, the bike was not damaged. She's planning to ride on the road soon.

Actually, she's not ready to ride on the road yet, but I carefully refrain from stopping her, because that will only provoke her to want to ride even more. After all, she's an ex-St Franciscan girl, you see. Any of you who know St Franciscan girls would know what I mean.

However, she was asking me about a triathlon event in Phuket some time close to the end of this year, and I made a big blunder when I told her that, from what I've heard, that race is too tough for her. I said perhaps if she could run the half marathon within, say, 2:20, then maybe Phuket is worthwhile considering. She struggled to finish the half marathon last Sunday in BIM in 2:37. So now I guess she will be registering for that Phuket race.

In the mean time, I'm not sure when and where she's gonna train for cycling. Perhaps it's a good idea to buy some more life insurance first, because of course people having life insurance won't die so soon. One thing's for sure, she loves her new tri bike!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Those Amazing Kenyans

I'm always in enormous awe of the Kenyans when it comes to long distance running. They are almost always there on the podium at the end of marathon races all over the world. Whether it's in their genes or the training method, or both, it is interesting how they keep raising the bar all the time. I won't be surprised if the world record for the marathon (42.2km) dips below 2hours during my lifetime. After all, it now stands at 2:03:23, set by Wilson Kipsang of Kenya at the Berlin Marathon last year. If the record goes below 2hours at all, my guess is that it will most probably be set by a Kenyan runner.

We've had our share of the Kenyan runners in the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) too. But the Kenyans that I've seen in the BIM did not impress me as much as those in the likes of Wilson Kipsang. Far from impressing me, they disgust me!

A few years ago, some of you may remember that the prizes for the top winners in the BIM were fairly attractive. They were not anything to shout about, but they were more than what they are today. What happened back then was that we had a couple of Kenyans that came to our shores to run the BIM. They came strictly to win, and only to win! And of course they did win!

However, after a while a few more of them joined the BIM. As we all know, not all of them could be the winners. Some of them, although fast runners by our local standard, could not win. They're among the fast finishers, but not the winners. 

It was fun seeing the Kenyans running against each other. But the trouble was that they joined the race with the attitude of someone jumping into a bottomless pit, hoping that there's a safety net at the bottom somehow. They come with a one-way plane ticket and zero pocket money. If they can win the race, then they're safe. If not, then they would become the "victims"—they would be stranded in KK and become a nuisance, until some fools are willing to fork out the money to send them home. While they're at it, they would be interviewed by the press, and they'd spew out plenty of rubbish about the organiser.

Such was the case a few years ago when a fourth-place finisher was stranded because he had no money to go home. However, it was rather amusing how he came up with a story about why he lost the race. He said he was leading the other Kenyans, but somehow lost his way and ended up fourth! Of course the timing mats that recorded the order of the runners at several points during the race showed that he was never leading at any time during the race. Then he said he was walking at the coastal highway one evening, and a bunch of crooks robbed him. The robbers then tried to beat him up, but he ran away and eventually jumped into the sea to escape. That was why he had no money on him.

I have long forgotten his name, and I've been trying to search for his photo online, but failed to find any. So I'm just posting this photo to give you an idea of him.

A lot of hoohahs because of the joker, and then it was decided perhaps it's best not to offer big prizes for the race. We could live without these trouble makers.

A few years have since elapsed, and we haven't seen the Kenyans in the BIM. But this lately they're coming back again even with the small prizes on offer. Times must be getting tough, and some desperate people may be willing to jump into that bottomless pit again for whatever little fortune there is down there. Of course it's not our policy to reject runners who'd like to join the BIM. So we saw 2 Kenyans last Sunday. And of course they won their respective races. 

Accordingly, the organiser paid the prizes into the respective accounts on the next working day as promised. But what do you think happened after that? They came knocking at the door of the organiser, demanding for cash. They had no money even for meals. Here are the famous marathon winners.

They are now not only the famous winners, but also famous "victims" that got stranded in a foreign land with no money to survive. Some of you from KK might have seen them with their sad story in the local papers today.

Now how should we deal with these amazing runners? I would suggest that all Kenyan runners wanting to join the BIM in the future should be made to show their return air tickets and a minimum of say RM500 spending money each to be deposited with the organiser in order to be eligible to join the race. This money will be refunded when they leave Sabah. Otherwise, find another race elsewhere, because we are not in the business of victimizing these people. We don't want troubles. This is merely my idea, of course; not that of the organiser's.

Once these people are out of the picture, then maybe it's time to raise the amount of the prize money again. What say you all, hmmm?

The Lust For Challenges

Shortly after the conclusion of the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) last Sunday, a fair number of its participants have requested for an earlier flag off time next year. That's not surprising because we're having an extraordinarily hot weather this year; and most of the participants suffered the heat during the race.

A visitor of this blog named Kevin Wood said in his comment that he was trying to achieve a 4-hour marathon in the BIM. He gave a general description of his running attire for the race. I was also aiming to run approximately a 4-hour marathon, so I reckoned that I was bound to meet him during the race. It was probably about 26km or 27km into the race when I finally caught up with him. We ran abreast for a moment while I introduced myself. I could see that he was already struggling then. I then went ahead and thought that was the last I would see of him.

Much later during the race, on my return leg along that same road, at about 5km to the finish line, it was obvious to me that I wasn't gonna achieve my 4-hour target, and I decided there was little point to push myself. Accordingly, I slowed down my pace. But then Kevin caught up and overtook me, and although the 4-hour target was already out of the question by then, I decided I might just run together with Kevin. For a few kilometres, I kept my distance of about 5m-10m behind Kevin. I had planned, just for the fun of it, to overtake him for one final time a few hundred metres before reaching the finish line.

I was preparing for that final push, but imagine my horror when I saw Kevin collapse to the ground at about Km41. One could almost smell the finish line from that spot! Several people came to help, and I went on to finish the race, feeling sorry for Kevin. Later on, I was told that he ended up in the hospital, but was recovering well. 

Kevin, my friend, if you are reading this, I hope you will come back again to conquer the BIM next year!

People run marathons and other endurance races for numerous reasons. But there is generally one thing in common in most of them—the lust to conquer the challenge. All these races are actually selling challenges. The organisers would come up with parameters such as the distance, the obstacles such as hills or trails or jungles and rivers etc, and of course there will be other factors such as the weather. All these elements are then sold as a "package". The athlete then sizes up all those elements and then asks himself if he likes the challenge. If he does, then he will commit. If not, then he will look for other races, perhaps milder or tougher, which are more to his liking.

It goes without saying, therefore, that each race is different from the rest. Some races are organised through hot deserts (these are for the kings of nutcases); others are organised during the early mornings when it's colder; others still are organised fully as a night marathon. Some are made of flat surfaces; others are of undulating terrains; others still are of impossibly hilly courses. Different sets of challenges that may or may not be appealing to the sports enthusiasts.

I find it interesting that the last time I joined the TMBT, some people were complaining on the issue of having had to carry the headlamp during the day. Whether or not that was a sensible item to be on the mandatory list was a secondary issue to me. A participant may lose his way and may not find help till nightfall. But I take the extra weight of 200g as a challenge. If that is the rule of the game, then I will abide by it. If I'm not willing to obey the rules, then I wouldn't have joined the race in the first place.

The Borneo International Marathon is designed to be run in the morning, perhaps half of it in the morning sun for most runners. It simply means that the second half of the race will be hot on most days in Kota Kinabalu. That has been the case since it was first organised. Whether or not the runner would consider that as a "beautiful" challenge, that depends on personal preferences. After all, some people consider climbing Everest or trekking the North Pole as thrilling and fun even though they could lose their lives. It all boils down to the challenge that they're seeking.

I take the ridiculous temperature during the race as a big challenge, but I wouldn't expect the organiser to change the flag off time so that it will be colder and therefore more pleasant to run. If I'm so worried about the sun, then I will find a night marathon to run; or perhaps run in a colder climate elsewhere.

I think many of us should revisit the original question of why we're joining these endurance races. To me, it's for the challenges—that I can conquer them! For if it's not for the challenge, then why the heck would I slog it out there when I could spend my time much more comfortably in the comforts of my air-conditioned room at home on a Sunday morning?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Seasoned Marathoners at BIM

I've lost count of the number of marathons I've run even though I haven't run that many. I'm not even sure if I've done 15 road marathons so far. But I've done many other races ranging from 10km, half marathons, triathlons, even up to the recent Ironman triathlon. Not forgetting several ultra trail and road marathons up to 100km. Although I don't consider myself in the least an elite runner, I'd like to believe that I know quite a bit about running. I've been to a fair number of races in the region, and except for a few of them, I almost always try to achieve a personal best (PB). 

Well, last Sunday (4 May), I ran the Borneo International Marathon (BIM). In fact, I ran the BIM since 2008 except for 2012 because I was helping some friends to organise the event for that year. My best performance in the BIM was 4:29, I believe set in 2011. After that, I tried to achieve something better in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, but I was only able to achieve 4:09 in 2012.

Going into the race last Sunday, I was determined to run a sub-4 hours full marathon. I have of course achieved that feat, but that was in Hong Kong where the temperature was much colder. I reckoned that it's doable in KK too. But oh boy; I was in for a tough race!

Well, to cut the long story short, I finished the race 7 minutes adrift in about 4:07. I stopped trying at about 5km to the finish line, because having made a bit of mental calculation, it was obvious to me that I had very little left in my legs for the required pace to achieve the target. It was one of the hottest marathons I've joined, if not the hottest of them all.

You know what, I could blame the ruthless weather that day; I could grumble about the hydration stations that ran out of isotonic drinks and cups; I could grumble about the insufficient sponge stations which came rather too late at the tail end of the race anyway; I could grumble that the drinks at the stations were not iced. I can never run out of things to blame for my failure to achieve my target time. Perhaps I should grumble like how a seasoned marathoner would. It's much more agreeable to my ego! After all, in most cases, only the seasoned marathoners would complain in such a manner. But when seeing the newbies, they were profuse in compliments; they praised the organiser and volunteers for a job well done and pledged to come back again next year!

If I'm fit to run next year, god willing, I will participate again. I take the race as it is, for what it is, for better or worse, and try my best to achieve what I can. For I don't expect everything to be perfect. I go for these things for the challenge—may it be the heat, the slip-ups at the hydration or sponge stations, or lack of paper cups. The only way the race can be perfect according to my liking, is for me to arrange everything myself exactly how I like it to be. I'm not saying that I won't appreciate a perfectly-organised race though.

I run these races knowing very well that it won't be perfect. I view them much the same way I face life on a daily basis. Too many people expect everything to be perfect. But sometimes in life, it's all those little imperfections that make it worthwhile pursuing. 

May I appeal to the many so-called seasoned marathoners out there for their understanding and kindness to give the organiser a bit of leeway and breathing space. Trust me, they are trying their best, even if their best is not good enough for you. Your valuable feedback will be greatly appreciated, of course, and that will be brought back to the drawing board to be discussed and deliberated for future BIMs. 

I am therefore inclined to join the non-seasoned marathoners in pledging my return yet again to the Borneo International Marathon 2015, perfectly-organised or otherwise. Bring it on!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Irreversible Punishments

My first reaction, when reading the news article in the Daily Express entitled "Muslim Doctors At Odds Over Amputation", was that of enormous awe. It is somewhat difficult to fathom the minds of some of these learned people who're supposed to heal the sick and weak. Some of them are willing to amputate perfectly healthy limbs as the punishment for crimes. And even more disturbing is that some of them are even advocating doing it without administering anesthetic to inflict pain on criminals.

A friend opined, "Parking humanity aside, maybe Hudud is something that our country needs. So many lives needlessly lost to snatch thieves and the cops do not yet have any concrete solution."

I can appreciate my friend's sentiment; it is so tempting to agree with him. But no so fast. I have posted something about crimes and punishments a couple of years ago. If you are keen, check it out here. Actually, even if the Hudud law comes into effect in Malaysia, I doubt that anybody will be getting his limbs amputated anytime soon. Besides, the majority of the population shouldn't worry too much about that law, because all we need to do to prevent the loss of our limbs is to refrain from committing crimes. And if indeed that law is only to be applicable to the Muslims, then the non-Muslims are totally immune from it. If that's what the majority of Muslims in Malaysia want, then so be it, who am I to say what's best for them!

Now I don't claim to be a law expert. But my idea of crimes and punishments should be for the protection of the innocent majority. If a criminal is a threat to the society, then he must be locked away until such time when he's no longer a threat, much the same way we would confine a dangerous animal in a cage. 

Unlike animals, however, criminals are humans, and as hard as it may be to accept the fact, at least some of them have hope for rehabilitation. In fact, I see punishments for crimes—may it be mere imprisonment, or hard labour, or (in Malaysia) caning—with the goal of rehabilitation in mind. I'm not sure about punishing the criminals mainly for the purpose of inflicting pain on them because "they had it coming their way". Somehow that doesn't sound very civilized to me. I realise, however, that it's human nature to adopt the "an-eye-for-an-eye" approach, but I don't know if that's what it's all about.

What if a person steals out of desperation, gets caught in the process and then punished with the amputation of his hands. He experiences excruciating pain and then feels remorse for his crime. But his hands are gone forever and there is nothing he can do about it. 

The thing about amputation is that once done, it is irreversible, even if the criminal truly repents. That formula for dealing with crimes doesn't sound to be very appetizing to me. I'm a firm believer that everybody deserves a second chance in life, because we're only human after all—like it or not, we are bound to make mistakes that we're sorry for. 

I'm for the kind of punishment, as severe as can be, that is aimed at rehabilitation, and not to inflict pain for the sake of inflicting pain and totally erasing the possibility of a second chance for the criminal. I'm saying this from the general point of view about the legal system; not necessarily addressing the Hudud law. As I said, if the majority of Muslims in Malaysia are for the amputation of the limbs of criminals, then by all means, so be it! I just hope that they don't do it for the wrong reason.