Thanks to ntv7 and Media Prima, I hit another milestone in my running, er, career, when I ran in my first international event this past Sunday; the Standard Chartered Brunei Half Marathon.
In case you didn't know, I once worked in Miri, Sarawak which's just a few minutes away from the oil Sultanate. But somehow I never did cross the border then, so this was indeed my first time in Brunei.
We left Saturday morning on an AirAsia flight, and yes, the plane was filled with runner-looking peeps from Malaysia. It took us just a little over two hours to reach our destination, after which a van took us to our hotel, the Radisson. It's one of the better hotels in the city I was told, and also the official hotel for the event.
Then it was time to hunt for lunch, and we were told there was a good food court just around the corner. We walked in the blazing sun and picked a stall to try some local dishes, although I ended up ordering Roti John. Haha!
After then it was time to rest and I also got to sneak in a bit of gym time, the fitness club being right opposite my room! When night fell, we were all ready to paint the town red! As if, lah. : ) We actually took the hotel shuttle that dropped us off at one of the malls, Komplek Bangunan Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. What caught our eye straight away was the magnificent Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque.
We also got to see a bit of the famed Kampung Air. It was funny how when we stood by the jetty area, tons of speedboats came racing through in the dark, thinking we were potential passengers.
We then made our way back to the mall in search of some souvenirs and local food. Using a map as a guide, we walked around town a bit looking for the food stalls near the river, but were told that the place "dah terbakar". But we did see a few other decent-looking makan places before that, so we picked one, and ordered the Ambuyat spread. Ambu-what? Well, this was a local delicacy that many people recommended to me, so I just had to check it out.
But first came the various lauk pauk. I must say they were pretty good, indeed.
After a bit of a wait, the ambuyat came. Ambuyat's a "dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm. It is a starchy bland substance, similar to tapioca starch." I didn't mind the taste, but trying to twist and flick it on to the plate was rather tricky.
Then it was time to head back to the mall for the shuttle to return to the hotel and a good night's sleep.
Woke up the next morning at round 4.45am and proceeded with the normal pre-run rituals. We then took a taxi to Stadium Hassanal Bolkiah, which took about 10 minutes and 10 Brunei dollars.
The stadium itself was quite a sight. As a fan of sports venues, I must say it was pretty exciting to be at a stadium I've only seen on TV all these years.
The half-marathon was flagged off at 6am. So we had a bit of time to warm up before the 10km started at 6.30am. According to reports, 4,000 people took part in the event, and it did feel like it. It wasn't too crowded, but the feel was rather lively.
The run was flagged off on time and the weather at that time was really good.
There were plenty of water stations, so I can't say I have any complaints there. I started off well too, but by 7.15am, the heat was really getting torturous. All of us agreed that the heat added at least 2 minutes to our final time, while another 2 minutes were contributed by the T-shirt. Yup, a vest would have been much, much better.
But still, it was a pretty good run. The route was rather up and down, but no steep inclines. And there were trees everywhere!
The other great thing about the event? The queue at the milo van was really short! Haha.
A very well-organised event overall, and a great experience indeed for all of us. Thank you Brunei!