On our way from the airport to our hotel in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, we noticed some street banners, advertising the “City Run” to be held the next day. With some further research, we discovered that this annual 4km run attracted 10,000 runners, registration was free and it started at Merdeka Field, not far from our hotel. Even though I hadn’t brought my running gear with me, I was keen to have a go. My hiking shoes would do for 4km, my Rocktape T-shirt would be OK so all I needed were some running shorts- not difficult given the number of clothing shops in KK.
So race morning dawned- hot and humid for a change! We got to Merdeka Field at 6:30am. Loads of people were there, music was blaring and there were plenty of announcements in Malay that meant nothing to me, although I did work out that there are no Malay words for “high definition LCD TV”- one of the spot prizes! Race start was supposed to be 7:30am, but the pre-race aerobic session didn’t start till then and it went for at least 15 minutes. Most were displaying more energy with this part of the event than they would once the run actually began. We found the start line (fortunately a banner in English gave this away) but I had no idea where the run was to go- along the flat sea-front or up into the hills behind. I figured I would follow someone in front.
The race start was the most chaotic ever witnessed. Whilst the official photographers were busy taking photos of the mayor holding the Sabah flag, a third of the field just took off! So the rest of us went too, not very quickly mind you. The phenomenon of slow runners, walkers and children wanting to be right at the front for the start is obviously a world-wide one. So about 1km down the road I started to actually stride out in true running form. There were loads of people walking by 1.5km so I was passing plenty, and then we hit the long slow climb, and lots of others were almost in reverse. It was hot and sticky but I love the hills and by the top of the hill, there weren’t too many in front. The downhill continued all the way to Merdeka Field and there was quite a cheer as this red-headed, lily white guy crossed the field to the finish line in 5th place! I’ve never felt like a celebrity before, but post race I was even stopped by the Mayor for a quick chat.