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Brunei Marathon 2006

Categories: East Asia, Brunei, Citizen Media, Health, Sport

Brunei Marathon 2006: A Wet Affair

Brunei Marathon
From SoulJah's Flickr Photos [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] waited with bated breath as the Marathon neared [3]. Some had practice runs [4], 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 [5] who participated in the Fun Run.

Come Sunday, the weather greeted participants with rain. It was a soaking wet affair [6] but Bruneians and non-Bruneians alike had ran the entire route. Some noted bloggers also took part, such as Nonnie King [7].

The shutterbugs [8] came out specially to capture the emotions of the day with their expensive cameras, including Ahim Rani [9], who donated some to my own blog, Turquoise and Roses [10]. 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 [11] 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 [12] 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 [13]

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 [14] 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 [15] 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 [16], 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?