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Brunei Marathon 2006

Brunei Marathon 2006: A Wet Affair

Brunei Marathon
From SoulJah's Flickr Photos under CC attribution license

On Sunday, the 10th of December, 2006, some very excited Bruneians and non-Bruneians gathered in Bandar Seri Begawan, the sleepy capital city of Brunei Darussalam to participate in the Second Brunei Marathon. The route was expansive, the official website explained,

Starting from Jalan Sultan, next to Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddin, runners will speed out of town towards Jalan Tutong passing number of Brunei Landmarks, the Royal Regalia Building, the Edinburgh Bridge, the High Court Building and eventually passing by the Royal Palace, Istana Nurul Iman. The 1st ‘U-turn’ will be at 6 km point, going back to the Edinburgh Bridge, before turning towards Kiulap. Runners will than have to make a 2nd ‘U-turn’ at the 13 km point at Jalan Kiulap….

For those not familiar with Brunei, the route was cleverly been designed by the organizers so that it will pass by some of Brunei’s significant historic landmarks, such as the Taman Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddin, where the late His Majesty Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien had loudly proclaimed Brunei’s independence in the early 80s, the Royal Regalia Building, where predictably all the gold and glittery Regalia of the Royals is put on proud display for the public, and the Royal Palace, Istana “Nurul Iman”, Arabic for “Light of Faith”, the magnificent residence of His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Hassanal Bokiah the Sultan of Brunei.
Not surprising. Considering how the event was jointly organised by the Tourism Board of Brunei, and endorsed by the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, they would naturally try to squeeze in as much Bruneian ‘beauty’ as possible.

And so, people started pouring in with their applications and those like Jewelle waited with bated breath as the Marathon neared. Some had practice runs, again not surprisingly, with the first prize being a big lump sum of BND$25, 000.

But one thing is for sure, the Marathon is a major event. Indeed, some of the national dignitaries dressed down from their black suits and air conditioned offices to take part in the run, some captured on camera by Emma the Good Egg who participated in the Fun Run.

Come Sunday, the weather greeted participants with rain. It was a soaking wet affair but Bruneians and non-Bruneians alike had ran the entire route. Some noted bloggers also took part, such as Nonnie King.

The shutterbugs came out specially to capture the emotions of the day with their expensive cameras, including Ahim Rani, who donated some to my own blog, Turquoise and Roses. However, the run had not been controversy-free.

Only a few hours later, the first blog post giving a review of the Marathon churned out bad publicity for the Organisers. Rano, in his blog had reported that the marathon experience left scars on runners.

Brunei Marathon left a big scar among many especially the foreigners. There was a major controversy that put the 21km results in doubt. Most runners had either shorter routes or longer route. Pol had the run a few extra kilometres to finish off his supposedly 21 km. An Indonesian runner cried foul as she eventually ran the whole 42 km but she registered for a 21 km and amazingly she still finished top 30 for her efforts. One runner had his top 6 finish disqualified because he didn’t use the “chip” for the electronic timing.

Evidently, it was a badly organised event.

Brunei Marathon 2006: The Day After

The day after the Marathon, those who had participated, as organising committee or as runners, started rolling in with angry blog posts.

The Borneo Bulletin reported “the much-touted Brunei Marathon ran into stormy weather”and said what Rano had reported earlier.

While other runners in the 21 km (half-marathon) were also frustrated by the lack of proper signage, race marshals, muddle over the importance of electronic chips or. face disqualification, face in their route, some participants ended up running more than 21 km because they strayed from their route which resulted in their times being off mark.

In his interview, the organiser of the event, Pg Sharifuddin Pg Hj Bakar, manager of Excellence Event Management denied any knowledge of these claims, as reported by The Brunei Times

Pg. Sharifuddin bin Pg. Haji Bakar, manager of Excellence Event Management the race's organisers denied the runners’ claims.

There were motorcycle escorts leading the pack of runners,” refuted Pg. Sharifuddin.Visible markers were placed at strategic points over the route, and we had race officials posted at critical points throughout the route. These officials were supposed to ensure the runners in the different categories Marathon (42 km), Half-Marathon (21 km), 10 km, and Fun Run (six km) followed their respective routes.

Jack of Old Man’s Blog writes that the controversies surrounding this Marathon reminded him of last years

Its almost the same stupid happenings of last year happening again this year. The event organiser is still the same inept group of people, led by the same bloke who oversaw last years mess, and I heard this year he outdid himself.

Jack also said that the Tourism Board made a big mistake by allowing the management of Pg Shariffudin to overlook the event, considering what happened last year. He commented also on the lack of publicity the event had attracted and expressed concern that international events such as this Marathon will reflect what Bruneians are as a people and as a country.

LSM too commented on the event, albeit rather breifly, noted that the Tourism Board’s Director, Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohammad, was unhappy with the way the Marathon was organised and the event does not bode well for the nation's tourism effort.

The Brunei Resources Blogger, wasn’t in Brunei at the time of the Marathon, however, after reading everyone else’s blog posts, he was rather surprised at the outcome of the event because firstly, this is not the first time that the event is being held, and secondly, organising events is a Bruneian ‘specialty;. His question was “what happened?”.

Indeed, what did happen?

6 comments

  • Hey guys,
    As you can see since i ended up here, I have been trawling the net from Kenya checking out local reaction to the Brunei Marathon.
    I am the Agent (check out nano) for most of the Kenyan athletes that took part (1st, 2nd and 4th males; 2nd and 3rd females).
    I have been doing this for fa while and I must say I was thoroughly shocked at the organisation in Brunei.
    I decided to personally travel to Brunei this year as we had problems last year and I figured I could help smooth things over but as would happen, the race organiser Shariffudin basically managed to hide for a whole week.
    Everything went wrong even before the race day. Athlete’s flying in from around the world could not get into Brunei as the race office had neglected to process their on arrival ‘visa’s’ and notify the RBA ports (singapore and Kuala lumpur).
    I personally had to take over making sure athletes got in, sending faxes to RBA and Malaysia and liasing with the immigration at the airport. A lot of the elite athletes did not even get a complementary meet at the airport and had to find their own way to hotels and face a further shock when the official hotel (Orchid Garden) told them they had to provide for their meals and personally pay for accomodation (Even when the organiser, as is tradition for elite athletes had promised that all was arranged and taken care of by the race).
    Man, I could rant for a whole month as I have not even gotten into the half marathon yet!!!
    Later
    Andrew Sang

  • Yikes! I was contemplating to join Brunei Marathon last year, thank God I didn’t and went for Angkor Wat 1/2 Marathon a week after, instead. I hope things will improve in 2007, if there still is a Brunei Marathon…

  • That is bad Andrew. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  • Sir,
    My Name is UKWUAGU CHUKWUDI EMMANUEL from Imo State Nigeria,
    I’m a MARATHONER, I have been participating only in my country ( Nigeria ) and i think competeing only here in my country will not help me, so i need to be participating in other countries that is why i’m writing this, Please Sir, if there is any Marathon Race that is going on in your country or in your Club, Sir, i will like to be Invited, you can contact me. I’m doing very well in Marathon Races Here in Nigeria . So for your proofs Here is my website http://www.marathoner.gq.nu just visit it and is what i’m talking about.
    Thanks.
    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Ukwuagu Chukwudi

  • Ex-Brunei Expat

    I lived in Brunei for about 3 years and participated in 2006 Half Marathon. It was a shambles. I knew the route very well, driving and running around it many times in the course of my daily life, and of course, in training.

    There were two turn around points for 10k and 21k that were within a few hundred metres of each other. At both, all that was at the turn around was a whiteboard with a u-turn arrow. Given it had been raining all morning, these were practically washed out. There was no indication that they were for the 10k or 21k (I stopped and looked hard at 21k!! I didn’t want to run the ‘Mabohai Hill’ just beyond u-turn.)

    There were no officials at either post. What eventually made me decide to keep going, despite knowing that it was the point listed, was that there were no timing mats. At the other two turn around points, there were ChampionChip timing mats: to avoid DQ, then, onwards we ran. 2km down the road, an official was placed, yelling abuse at the half-mara’s for being ‘off-course’.

    The organisation is typical Brunei. All showy promotion, lots of promises (including prizemoney – another story!!) but ultimately rubbish organisation on the day.

    Pluses – it rained, so cool. Lots of water (in fact, 600ml bottles – so too much water at any one time. Don’t know if it lasted for the end of packers. Can’t remember any 100Plus etc). Close to home (walked home). Interesting route, variety of topography, interesting Brunei tour.

    Negatives – How can you not get the route clearly marked? Km markers barely visible (too far off the side of the road and too low. Only saw many of them while walking home!) Despite running the 25k route, a friend came 6th in women’s, but given the 10th prizemoney because she was behind the other four runners at 12k timing mat. So her great finishing few k, which she had trained hard for, was for nothing as the women she passed on the Foreign Affairs hill at 19k were still given the prizemoney in front of her. If you are offering considerable prizemoney for Half Mara, maybe timing mats should be placed at all turn arounds?

    Do not make a special trip to Brunei for any purpose organised by local/Government organisations, business or leisure. You are bound to be disappointed. Sorry, lah. Inshallah.

    Try elsewhere – Singapore was the same weekend and Angkor Wat Half is generally at a similar time. There’s also one in KK (Kota Kinabalu) in October, so plenty of options near by for that time of year.

    Good running!

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