Malaysia has become a country of enthusiastic marathon and short distance competitors, and keen runners will always find more running events to include in their list of achievements. Running is not only for the young folks; many veteran runners have been sighted during a run. There are many local and international marathons being hosted throughout the year, and one of the most prestigious runs in Malaysia is the Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM). It has been held annually since 1985, inviting people from all over the world to come together and participate in one of the most anticipated running events in Malaysia.

PBIM involves running across the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, The Penang Bridge. There are four categories in this marathon – the full marathon, half marathon, quarter marathon, and a 10K fun run. For participants to receive medals and certificates they have to finish within the qualifying time, which varies between 1.5 hours to seven hours depending on the category. Held in November, it attracts more than 20,000 participants, locally and internationally. International runners include those from Ghana, France, Thailand, and many more. Since it is not very challenging, PBIM is liked by many runners – both professionals and amateurs. This year it is expected to attract a record of 30,000 runners.

Since Malaysia is a tropical country, races have to start before the sun rises. Anything after 8am would make runners uncomfortable and tired due to the heat. For PBIM full marathon, the run starts very early at around 2am for both the men and women. Since the run can go up to seven hours, it is understandable for it to start that early. For the half marathon, the men start 15 minutes earlier than the women, at about 3am. As for the 10K and fun run, participants will start running between 6am to 7am. Whether there is heavy rain or perfect weather, the race must go on. During 2010’s marathon, runners were exposed to heavy rain on the bridge but they endured the obstacle and continued running. The runners’ safety is the most important thing during a marathon, so PBIM closed the bridge and assigned a few ambulances along the way.

Winners from all competitive categories are awarded handsomely, and runners finishing first to fifteenth place will receive cash prizes, trophies, and certificates. The most attractive cash prize will be awarded to the first place winner for the men’s full marathon. Charles Kimutai Kigen, from Kenya, received 15,000 Malaysian Ringgits (around £3000) for finishing the run in less than two and a half hours. As for the women’s category, Margaret Wangui Njuguna, also from Kenya, was awarded 7000 Ringgits (around £1,414). Based on previous records, Malaysians rarely finish first. Thus, PBIM has another prize category, dedicated exclusively for Malaysians called ‘Best Malaysian’. For runners who did not finish within the top fifteen there are medals and certificates, as long as they finish within the qualifying time.

Other than PBIM, Malaysia has many runs for its people. Other popular marathons include the Nike 10K Kuala Lumpur Run, Adidas King of the Road, Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon, and the Malakoff 12KM Kuala Lumpur Run. The Malakoff run has one of the most challenging routes in KL. Malaysia also has many clubs and organisations catered for professional runners, providing training facilities and other club activities. One of the most well-known clubs in Malaysia is Pacesetter. From all of this, people can say that Malaysia is not only capable of making good food and having a multicultural society, but that it also encourages people to run and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Sara Ghazie

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