Iskandar Puteri Night Marathon 2018 Race Review: A Hard Battle
It’s one of the hardest half marathons I’ve ever run.
Iskandar Puteri Night Marathon 2018 was held in the Saturday evening on 14 April 2018 at Dataran Mahkota, Iskandar Puteri (formerly known as Nusajaya), Johor. The race offered four distance categories, namely 42km Full Marathon, 21km Half Marathon, 10km and 5km.
I have never participated in any running events in Malaysia before, so I have no idea how things work there. I registered for 21km Half Marathon, scheduled to be flagged off at 8:30 p.m.
Getting to Iskandar Puteri
My friend and I decided to stay overnight at Johor because we would be too tired at the end of the race to return to Singapore. In the IPNM’s website, there were three recommended hotels for runners. We chose Somerset Puteri Harbour, a serviced apartment located just 850m from the race village at Dataran Mahkota.
On Saturday afternoon, we drove from Singapore to Iskandar Puteri via Second Link. The traffic was pretty smooth; we crossed the border in less than an hour. After having our lunch, we checked in to our awesome Studio Executive, before making our way to Dataran Mahkota to collect our race kits.
Race Kit Collection
The race kit collection was held over three days. On 12 and 13 April 2018, the race kit collection was held at Mall of Medini from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Meanwhile, on race day, 14 April 2018, runners could collect from race village at Dataran Mahkota, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
As we were not able to travel to Johor on weekdays, we chose to collect on the race day itself. From our apartment, it was a short drive to Dataran Mahkota. The collection process was very smooth. There weren’t many runners there when we collected our race kits.
Inside the drawstring bag were race bib with timing chip, event tee and several sponsor’s vouchers. We were delighted to see Starbucks’ buy-1-get-1 voucher that we decided to head to Puteri Harbour immediately to buy the coffee. Then, we took a rest in our studio before getting ready for the race.
From our apartment, we walked to Dataran Mahkota for about 10 minutes. When we arrived, we were met with various food tents. When the clock showed 8:20 p.m., my friend and I decided to enter the start pen. The flag off committee has been standing on the stage beside the start line, ready to flag off 21km runners. Pacers could be easily identified as they were carrying balloons with LED lights.
At about 8:30 p.m. the countdown for flag off began, followed by fireworks. The unique flag off ceremony surely pumped us up, but we weren’t able to speed up at the beginning of the run due to slight congestion. About 1km later, we reached the main road, Lebuh Kota Iskandar, where the road was wider.
Running along Lebuh Kota Iskandar didn’t feel as humid as Singapore roads, probably due to the fact that there were hardly any skyscrapers around and it was raining hours earlier. Actually, I enjoyed the first 5km of my run because I could feel the excitement and hear the laughter from fellow runners.
Lebuh Kota Iskandar has two to three lanes in each direction. I noticed that, at certain locations, there were traffic cones separating the road shoulder and the first lane. Also, occasionally, vehicles were allowed on the outermost lane. I felt that the cones should’ve been completely removed from running route to minimise fall hazard, and safety barricades should’ve been installed between the second and third lane if the road wasn’t completely closed.
It was my first race in Malaysia after all, so I didn’t have high expectations that everything would be smooth. The race guide stated that the full road closure was only for Lebuh Kota Iskandar between Puteri Harbour roundabout heading towards EcoWorld Gallery, which meant that not all of the running route would have road closures. Fortunately, it was late at night, vehicles were sparse and there were many road marshals who did a good job controlling the traffic.
The race guide stated: “Distance markers are placed at every kilometre along the routes,” but I didn’t see a single distance marker throughout my run. At critical areas where runners need to make a turn, there were direction signages and helpful road marshals.
There was a time when volunteers were shouting to runners, “Go to the left!” I didn’t quite understand why we were asked to do so, but I obliged anyway. I thought probably elite runners were coming. It turned out that the checkpoint mat was located on the first lane only, instead of the full width of the road. So, all of the runners were squeezing on the first lane in order to cross the checkpoint.
As I reached the first hydration point at 5km, I was shocked to find that there were no more cups. Volunteers were opening new 1.5L bottles of water and 100Plus isotonic drinks. I grabbed a newly-opened bottle and poured the water into my mouth, without letting the bottle touch my mouth. Then, I put it back and continued my run.
When I reached the second hydration station at 8km, I was again shocked to find there were no more cups and water. A pacer told her friend, “Minum ais (drink ice)!” Yup, some people chose to eat the ice cubes used to cool mineral water. I told myself that I still could run to the next water station without drinking.
At the next hydration station (11km), there were also no more cups and water. More runners were eating ice cubes compared to the previous station. I still didn’t want to eat ice cubes because I was afraid of getting sick. The 11km point was just opposite Dataran Mahkota, the race village. I could actually cross the road, walk to the finish line, collect my medal and call it a day. But I didn’t want to quit. At least, not yet. So, I continued.
The next hydration station was supposed to be at 15km, but the road from 11km to 15km seemed so far. I hadn’t been drinking anything since 5km and I felt really thirsty. At 13km, I was seriously toying with the idea of giving up.
One side of me was telling me, “Don’t give up. There are more hydration stations in front. Look at all of those runners in front of you, they don’t quit. If they could persevere until the next station, why can’t you? Anyway, the ambulance is always patrolling, so, you can just flag the ambulance anytime you feel unwell. Since you’re going to write about this race, you need to complete the race in order to tell the whole story, don’t you? You can always walk if you can’t run, just don’t give up.”
But, the other side of me was saying, “Don’t be foolish. Don’t torture your body. This isn’t right, this isn’t a healthy race. Even though you signed up for 21km and you’re going to write a review about it, you still have the right to quit.
You have the right to take care of your own health. Look at the road in front of you, can you see the hydration station yet? Nope, you can’t see it because it’s still far away! Even if you make it to the station, I doubt there’d still be any water by the time you arrive there. It’s better to turn back now, rather than later.”
When my Apple Watch beeped to inform me that I’ve run 14km, I saw two runners were stretching on the opposite direction. They have passed my next hydration station and were on their way back to the finish line. I approached them and asked, “Is there any more water in front?” One of them answered, “Yes, 2km away!” Right then, I knew I had to make a decision whether to continue or give up.
Honestly, it was an easy decision for me. Within seconds, I decided to enter the opposite lane and walk back to the finish line. I didn’t feel any guilt or shame; instead, I felt liberated. I didn’t have to run the race that I didn’t enjoy. My steps were feeling lighter.
About 2km later, there was a van in the middle of the race route. From behind the van, the volunteers were distributing 1.5L bottles of mineral water to runners. I quickly grabbed a bottle and gulped as much water as I could. Many runners in front of me took the bottle, drank about one-fifth of it and left it in the middle of the road. But I intended to hold my bottle until I arrive at the finish line.
Then, I saw a girl trying to choose the best-looking bottled water on the road that has been left by other runners. I quickly approached her and gave her my bottle; she needed it more than I did. My battle was almost done, but hers was only starting.
The final stretch at Dataran Mahkota was in total darkness. I used my phone’s torch to see what’s in front of me. Finally, I could see the finish line. I sprinted and crossed the finish line with a huge sense of relief. Soon, many volunteers were asking me, “Do you want muscle spray?” I nodded as I felt the pain in my legs.
After the finish line, I couldn’t figure out where to collect the finisher’s entitlements until I asked a crew. On the way to finisher’s booth, I passed by 100Plus hydration station. I gulped no less than 4 full cups of 100Plus isotonic drinks before collecting my entitlements. Inside the drawstring bag were 21km finisher’s shirt, finisher’s medal, bread and mineral water.
- There was a firework during the flag off.
- Hydration stations require much improvement.
- Distance markers and safety barriers were not in place.
- The race location is easily accessible from Second Link border.
- Tips for future participants: bring your own water and torch.