Thursday, May 8, 2014

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?


Jace K said...

I was told Kevin has already been discharged from the hospital, well. i am sure he will be back for more, but not sure if he will be 'allowed' to hehe

Cornelius said...

No worries, Jace K, I have faith in Kevin's persuasive skills. I'm sure the Mrs will eventually let him try again!

Kevin Wood said...

Ha ha! Hi Cornelius was great meeting you at 26km although I must admit I totally forgot about telling you who I was previously and was taken aback at hearing someone mention my name. It was indeed a pleasure meeting you albeit it rather briefly as you sped on past. I have absolutely no recollection of the 41km mark and think I might have been in the early stages of heat dementia ha ha.
Thanks Jace. If I even mention running in this house I think my wife might kick my head in!

I have written about my experiences here -


Cornelius said...


Just for the sake of completeness of your memory of the race, let me tell you that I saw you running in a zig-zag manner for several metres before you collapsed.

I doubt that I would ever push my body to that extent in a race. I don't surrender very easily, but I won't risk my life fighting for this sort of things!