Monday, November 26, 2012

Race Report: Alliance Penang Bridge International Marathon

This is my last race for year 2012, no more races lined up until MPIB Run 2013. I was hoping to achieve my sub-5 marathon, but as my training really not up to par, the hope is nothing more than a wishful thought.

I again took the flight from Subang, but this year I skipped the hotel and doing a touch and go run. Touched down Penang about 9:30pm, I took a bus to Queensbay Mall where the starting line is. Reached the shopping mall before 10:30pm, still got time to get some last minutes supplies. The mall guards started to get shoppers out from the mall and the mall will be closed down! This was only the beginning, in the 15 hours I spent in this mall, I really don’t felt like I was welcomed. The mall management really don’t appreciated the crowd that drawn by the marathon. But nevermind, guess this will be the last time we had the starting/finish line here. We will have the 2013 version in the 2nd link bridge!

It was quite hard for me to spent those few hours before it start, the event area was not really happening. Got my usual chores completed and finally saw more runners gathered around the event area after 12am. Time flied when I catching up with some fellow friends and meet up with the BWM group for the photo before the flag off. All runners were expecting rain and a wet run, but the night was hot and humid, almost not a single breeze even on the bridge. Combined with the starting time at 2am, I think this is the toughest marathon condition I been thru so far.

The marketing placed this will be the last time we ran on the Penang Bridge had drawn lots of participants. The FM 3000 participants limit filled up few months before it closed. Hence, we had a very packed start. We ran in rather packed condition all the way to the first u-turn at 4km, and my pace was a mess, can’t pick up my pace unless I prepared to take/give lots of shoulders from/to other runners. Finally, the pack eased after the u-turn and I pickup my pace to chase the pacers. As the plan was to superglue to the 5 hours pacers, I was a bit worry cause I was just passed the 6 hours pacers group. It took me another 5km to catch the 5:30 pacers group, finally I overtook them on the bridge and those elite half marathoners overtook us.

Btw, the closers I got to the 5 hours pacers group was at the mainland side before the turning back. I saw them completed the underpass and heading back the island when I only arrived to the start of the underpass. It’s about 800m? Then I totally lost sight of them. I felt relieved to start running back to the island but I was not able to push my pace anymore. The heat wave plus the polluted air from near by factories really took out my reason to push. One thing that I can’t really tell if the organizer did it right or wrong is the giving out of 500ml water bottles. On one hand, we really don’t need that much of water during run, but those excessive amounts of water really save me from giving up. I took my first bath at this refreshment station (they giving out beard too) by emptying the whole bottle on my head.
Landmines on the bridge... (source: FB photo)
So, I readjusted my target to just don’t let the 5:30 pacers overtake me. As the route joined back with half marathon, the bridge was “people mountain people sea”. Used bottle and sponge filled up every inch of the bridge, and packed with some landmines – the bottles’ caps. I stepped on one and lucky the light footing didn’t cause me to jump. Finally get thru the peak of the bridge and again I saw Maybel and her green 5:30 hours balloon. I tried my best to keep up with her until the half marathoners u-turn point, then I had to let her go. The stomach generated too much of gas properly due to overdosed coffee/caffeine. Due to lack of sleep, the mind seems to shutting down too! I had a hard time to calculate how many kilometers and time I still need to go from the 29k to 33k u-turn point. I took two more baths along this stretch by the godsend 500ml water bottles, just to keep my heat down and the mind functioning from dozing off. Like others’ experience, running this stretch on the Jelutong Expressway is tough, straight long highway stretch with few flyovers/bridges, and after get over it, you u-turn and do it again! But as we are slow runners, we can observe the beautiful sky line changing color and the sun is coming out.

Finally, the route joined with the 10k route and heading back to the finish line. The last 3km of the route was packed with 10km runners but I think still manageable as my time don’t crashed with the fun runners and the organizer separate out the finishing stretch for FM/HM and 10k runners. Saw Lina at the roundabout (really appreciated the support and the photos taken) and really boost up my running form for the photo (die die must look nice in the photos, check out the photo on her blog, totally difference from the bottom half dead one). Completed my 8th full marathon with 5:40’47”.
Half dead... towards the finish line.
Overall, the race is very well organized.
Good things,
1. 500ml water bottle given in most of the water station, and they prepared sufficient in all water stations. We had sufficient water to even take baths.
2. Separated finish line from 10k runners. I knew this is kind of standard practice in other marathon, but you will appreciate it more when it first happened.
3. The last run on the old Penang Bridge.

Possible improvement,
1. 500ml water bottle given in most of the water station. Like I said I can’t tell if this is good or bad thing. We don’t actually need that much of water at once for hydration in long distances running. Lots of bottles abandon on the side way with just few slips taken. I used these bottles to take baths. Those volunteers look strangely at me when I ask them to help to refill my bottle, most of them just hand me another bottle (as usual I carry my own bottle in almost every race).
2. Some sections of the route are very packed, especially on the bridge (join with half marathon), after 39k (join with 10k). I saw some information about the new bridge designed with 2+1 lanes, which I think will be similar to the old bridge. May be the organizer can rethink the route in order to minimize the over lapping? Don’t restrict to start/finish at the same place. The new bridge is 26km long and if the similar routing strategy used, the first 5k from the starting point will be jammed pack like sardine. How about FM/HM starting from mainland, finish on the island? 10k and fun run can start/finish on the island side?

This concluded my 2012 races. Now is time to plan for 2013 training and races. What is your plan?


  1. Still looking good in that photo. ;)

    Hey! There's always another race plus you did this in less than ideal condition. So, GOOD JOB!

    Even 5:30 pacers can't meet their target except Maybel. So how? ;p

    On that mountain onf rubbish - I do wonder why is it hard for us to run, grab a cup, drink and if one can't throw it into a plastic bag, at least move to the side to dispose it by the roadside and not create road hazard for other runners? o.O

    Scared of messing up their PB chances? Yeah... right? As if a few secs will amount to much. :(

    But again, great job Neoh. See you at MPIB Run. :)

    1. Thanks Lina.
      Anyway, there will never an ideal condition, we need to train hard to handle it in the race.

      On the rubbish, what to do, the event attracted lots of runners, but not many of them have the runners' etiquette :P

      See you in MPIB.

    2. Neoh,
      Can't help but noticing - comparing all your FMs that yoou did this year; you've improved your timing in each races. Good job!

      On runners' etiquette - yeah unfortunate that some lack it. And many never even bother to read the race pamphlet/brochure before a race. But these same people has no qualms about complaining about a race afterwards and demand everything should go their own way. :(

    3. You must had skipped the SCKLM timeing :P
      That one I trained hard, rested enough and perfect weather hence PBed.

      The rest of the FM, I am just struggled thru to achieve the 5:40~5:50 timing. Not enough training.

      Hopefully next year I will pushing my PB forward. But my current focus is barefoot training :)

  2. Considering the tough race conditions, I thought you did great!