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Race Preview: Borneo International Marathon

Posted on April 28 2015

It is only 5 days away from my maiden full marathon. While some people like surprises, where they just let the atmosphere and adrenaline to sink in and enjoy the experience, I am a little bit calculative. There is a possibility that I may DNS (Did Not Start), but it does not hurt to come out with a plan and visualize the run.


As of today, I have completed merely 23 out of 44 running sessions, with the longest run of 17.8km, from Bukit Ceylon to Bangsar and back. My preparation is hampered by injuries, shin splints, bad knee and hip. Anyway, this is not an excuse.

Stealth black kit
Stealth black kit


If I ever make it to Kota Kinabalu, rest and sleep will be premium. I will drive from Paka to Kuala Lumpur the morning before, attend my cousin’s reception, and take a flight to Kota Kinabalu late afternoon. I am expected to arrive at Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 8:00 pm, and at my accommodation at 9:00 pm. My bus to the starting line is at 1:00 am. It will be taxing. After the race, I will immediate fly back to Kuala Lumpur.

I am still nursing bad knee and hip, which are probably aggravated from my Saucony Kinvara 5 (weird but true). The mind says NO, but the heart says GO ON. I hope my knee and hip will hold up.



Saucony Kinvara 5 has been a disappointment for me so far. I had sky-high expectations of the shoe, but it fails me in most fronts so far. But it is too late to find and get accustomed to a new shoe. So I will make do with what I have. Forefoot, midfoot, heel strike? This is not important anymore. I will just do (run) whatever feels natural to me.



4ea PowerGel

8ea Endurolyte salt tablet

Water and maybe some bananas and watermelons at the water station. I had the best watermelon here last year.


The race course
The race course

Men’s Open Full Marathon will be flagged off at 3:00 am at Likas Sports Complex. This leaves me with only two options. Finish the race in 3 hours and perform Fajr prayer afterward, or perform Fajr prayer somewhere along the course. The former is definitely not achievable yet, so I will definitely have to stop. I allocate 5 minutes for this. If some girls decide to run into me, it will unfortunately be longer.

Taken this into consideration, as well as a possibility of the course to be over-distanced, I have to run at 5:30 min/km pace to finish my maiden full marathon within 4 hours. Even on this pace, it will be a close call especially when there are two major climbs at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) halfway through the course. I will have to tell myself not to run too fast (my fast is still slow) early on. Otherwise I will burn out.

According to the course map, water stations will be dispersed at every 3 kilometers. If the organizer is true to their words, this is perfect. I plan my refueling strategy according to this key information. I will most probably stop or slow down to drink at every water station available except the first one. This is because there is a high possibility that there will be a big crowd at the first water station. And with 3 kilometers in, I do not think it is necessary to drink yet.

I plan to refuel with a pack of PowerGel and salt tablets at every 9 kilometres. The first one will be at KM9, then KM18, followed by KM27, and last refueling at KM36. This relies a lot on the organiser’s promise as I won’t be carrying a water bottle around. If there won’t be water stations at every 3km, I will be pissed. Digestion remains a major concern though. During my last long run on Sunday, after refueling with a PowerGel and 2 salt tablets at 7Eleven Bangsar, I had to stop at a masjid (my Dad calls it masjid bulat orang kaya because when he was young, he used to go there to break fast during Ramadhan) there for an unplanned loo break.

Elevation chart. See the two little peaks in the middle of the course? Do not be fooled by how tiny they are.
Elevation chart. See the two little peaks in the middle of the course? Do not be fooled by how tiny they are.

The most difficult part of the race is definitely from KM19 to KM24 where the two hills at UMS await. Last year during Half Marathon, this was where I blew my gasket. I pushed too hard during the climb and the hills got the better of me. I completely ran out of gas while descending the second hill. I do not intend to repeat the same mistake.

From the race information, it seems that there won’t be any tent/stop for Muslims to pray. Assuming there won’t be any, I plan to stop for Fajr prayer at KM27. It will be an uncharted territory for me from this point onward as I have never run further than 25 kilometres before. I know for sure I will be knackered and this little pit stop is welcomed. This is a window for me to catch my breath, regroup and refuel for the third time.

Then the race heads to Sepangar church. I am quite familiar with this route as it is the same as the cycling route during Specialized Duathlon that I took part earlier this year. It is not going to be easy. It is rolling route where short climbs are followed quickly by short descents. This will be torturous to the knees, and the weather are going to be hot as the sun is about to rise.

At KM30, runners have to make a U-turn back to Likas Sports Complex. There will be water and energy stations there. There will be bananas, and I love bananas. But bananas and my tummy are known not to be close friends. Depending on how I feel, I may or may not take a banana there.

My last refuel will be at the water station at KM36. The last 6 kilometres will see runners running along the beach and the air will be hot and humid. It is going to be tough, but there will be plenty of spectators. I hope the atmosphere will help to spur me and others to finish the race strong.

To finish a marathon is already an accomplishment. But I will be gutted if I do not get what I am aiming for. 5 more days and I am starting to feel jittery. When you are nervous, anything can go wrong. Heart beats faster, stomach turns to a washing machine on tumble dry mode, and mind is restless. I hope I am able to keep up with what I have planned, do not burn out early in the race, and my digestive system cooperates.

Good luck all runners.

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