Sunday, June 30, 2013

Be Frank - Yogathon...

By Frank

The Yogathon is the second fund raiser under the Be Frank campaign where the first was the one I did in conjunction with the Comrades Marathon 2013. The Yogathon was successfully held yesterday, 29 June 2013 at the Piano Lounge, Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club and is a campaign inspired and driven by Joey Liang, a yoga instructor from Serenity Yoga who has lost  a dear friend to cancer and hopes one day, that cancer will finally have a cure.

The Yogathon banner welcoming us in the Piano Lounge.

The Yogathon brought out about a strong 40 yogis of all ages and genders on a clear Saturday morning. Staffs from CARIF including Professor Teo, Sook Yee and Jane was there together with familiar faces from my circle of friends like Bennie, Lyana, Roy, Ericca and Mak too. 

The event kick started off around 9am with a speech and basic guidance from Joey herself. She was assisted by Joyce at the same time too walking around to make sure that everyone had their poses right. Most of the moves were pretty do-able  though some like the warrior and tree pose may be a bit challenging. But both of them tried their very best to assist each and everyone of us to make sure we all had fun stretching it out to a wonderful weekend.

With Lyana, Joey and Bennie stretching ourselves into the weekend.

I myself had lots of fun alongside Bennie and it was a fruitful event. At the end of the 2 hour session, we sat around in a circle to remember those affected by cancer and some even shed tears in remembering them. All in all, this has proof that a simple gesture like having a yoga session is strong enough to deliver the message and also exploring the myths of cancer together. The funds raised through the Yogathon all channels towards cancer research driven by CARIF themselves. We hope that Joey will continue to inspire us and I hope that this Yogathon will continue to go on in the near future for it not only delivers the message across, but also for the well being of our both physical and mental.

For more info about the Be Frank campaign or just simply to donate for a good cause in helping all of us search for a cure for cancer, do visit us at 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Third South African Holidays...

By Frank

So yeah. This was suppose to be part of the Comrades Marathon 2013 race report. But seeing the entry grew too long, I decided that it should be split into 2, the race and the holiday itself.So let's keep thing short now and get my holiday entry started. By the way, I've further edited this entry so it became really compress. Not as detail as before while still keeping attention on what had happened and where I visited.

Day 1, 24 May 2013 - And so, my journey to South Africa began on a quiet Thursday, 23 May 2013 where I spent most of the day at home doing last minute packing before flying off on the 7.30pm Emirates flight. 2 surprises at the airport was Tey coming to send me off while the other being upgraded to Business Class. The entire journey to Johannesburg almost took a day with a 7 hour transit over at Dubai where I spent 3 hours there snoozing off at Snooze Cube. Upon arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport, the first greeting I got from a local South African was “How are you China”? It was a very usual warm greeting from them as long that one understands that “China” actually meant “mate” for them. Immigration was pretty swift as the officer asked my purpose of visit. Showed him the Comrades Marathon logo on my Be Frank polo tee and he gladly welcomed me with a smile. Pretty warm welcome thus far!

Business class galore.

Upon touching down, I found that the weather was not as cold as last year though. A sign of a different race condition? Mei-Ee and baby Xi Ning picked me up shortly as Chee Kong needed to work. And quickly enough, I found myself at Fourways with Chee Kong working from home. Took a rest while unpacking my luggage before visiting the nearby Lion Park safari. As it was private, there was no problem spotting the games like lion, leopards, hyena, wild dogs and many more birds and antelopes. As for supper, it was a gathering with my fellow Malaysian friends there, Peter and Estee. Great catching up once again after a year, and we had a simple but absolutely delicious Korean cuisine at Rivonia. Upon filling up, I was already feeling wonky due to lack of sleep on the flight earlier hence calling it a day early.

Up close and personal with lion cubs.

With Peter and Estee for an awesome Korean dinner.

Day 2, 25 May 2013 - An early morning club run with Fourways Road Runners. It was their final 10KM club run for the Comrades Marathon and I was surprised that some of them knew me! The run was at a pace that is fast by my standards. I struggled to catch up as I was still feeling wonky plus the altitude of around 1400M isn’t a plus for me. Breakfast of bacon egg burger was served after the run and we all sat and caught up with each other while sending regards for the big race. This is really something missing from the Malaysia running scene. Rested back at home later before swinging over to Lynnwood, Pretoria for Allan’s birthday get-together. And it was great to meet up once again with my South African friends like Anthony, Susan, Allan, Caroline, Pierre and Renee while making new friends in the process. We had a braai session at a school and it lasted till 9pm for us before making our way home.

Suffering at the Fourways Road Runners club run.

Day 3, 26 May 2013 - Nothing much as we visited Caroline’s humongous residence and spend the day at the city centre visiting Market and Arts on Main. Really happening place with so much international food to eat. Absolutely had a blast here before returning home for a short run around the 420M Springfield Park.

Day 4, 27 May 2013 - Spent back at home with a little noon time over at the nearby dentist and hospital with Chee Kong and Mei-Ee doing their health check. I myself did another short run looping Springfield Park again but this time feeling more comfy. Finally adapting to the conditions.

Day 5, 28 May 2013 - An early trip to the airport to welcome CP and Khim to South Africa. Arrival was on time and after having rested, it was my turn to play tour guide. This was also my very first time driving in South Africa and to make matters interesting, it’s a manual MPV and a huge one too! Brought them to the exact same place when I first visited Johannesburg which was the Apartheid Museum, Hector Peterson Memorial and Nelson Mandela’s House. There are historical places which should at least be visited once if one visits South Africa. Everything was done before the rush hour of 4pm where we arrived back home soon after to welcome Roy and Cham this time. We all had dinner together at Monte Casino before calling it a night as all 4 of them were feeling very wonky themselves already.

Hearty welcome breakfast for CP and Khim.

The Pillars of Constitution at the Apartheid Museum.

Day 6, 29 May 2013 - Early departure for Imflonzi National Park at 6am. I was again the driver with Roy, Cham, CP and Khim being my passengers. It was a long drive and we stopped a couple of times at 2 small towns. The second was Polonga for lunch and it was beautiful where a huge dam was. After about  6 hours on the road, we finally arrived at Hluhluwe National Park. It was about another hour’s drive before we arrived at Imflonzi and along the way, I believe it was an eye opener for my 4 passengers as they saw the landscapes and games of South Africa.  The lodge at Imflonzi was actually pretty all right. It was huge! The only downside, the power generators goes off at 10pm and the water heater is powered by gas! To make matters worse, the curio shop has basically nothing and there is no restaurant in the park. But we came prepared with instant noodles and some junk food and nuts. And that settles our dinner before calling it a night after a very long and tiring drive. It was my longest drive!

Lots of warthogs welcoming us at the gate.

Park ranger welcoming us.

Day 7, 30 May 2013 - When we all woke up, we double checked with each other if we heard leopard roaring in the night. It wasn’t a dream after all. The cats were near and let out a few roars! WOOO…  Anyway, we started the morning with a game drive where we managed to spot buffalos, rhino and lion. That’s 3 out of Big 5!

Young white rhino spotted.

Young lion spotted and running away from us.

And after completing our drive and cleaning ourselves up, we left for Durban which was about a 3 hours drive. I was getting tired but was glad to have brought my passengers to the race city safely. And safely we did into the Comrades Race Expo where the first high profile person we met was Stephen Muzinghi, 3 times Comrades champion! Had a photo with him before proceeding to collect our race pack. For international runners, collection was a swift. However, I was given a Green Number race pack by mistake which was rectified quickly. I’ve also met up with MBali whom I picked up my VIP invite from. And from here onwards, it was shopping madness and in the process, I bump into Comrades Marketing Coordinator, Thami before  we check into our hotel at Belaire Suites.

A short rest before we proceeded to Hilton Hotel for the International Meet and Greet session, hosted and organised by Bruce Hagreaves, Australia's Comrades Ambassador. We were a little late and we came in just as Bruce Fordyce, the Comrades King and 9 times champion was giving out his talk. We managed to get a group photo with him and he reminded us that he had a little Malaysian side in him as he did reside at Seremeban during his younger days. Therefore, Malaysia did actually had a Comrades champion, well in a way or little.

With Bruce Fordyce, 9 times champion of the Comrades Marathon.

And soon later back at the hotel, our Malaysian contingent grew bigger with Francis and Fook Seong joining in. We also met Celene from Hong Kong too! Dinner was Thai food this time, something different from the usual South African cuisine which some has grew sick of. Absolute great time together but we all found out the weather is a little on the warmer side. It’s going to be a different race this year!

With Stephen Muzinghi, 3 times Comrades Marathon champion.

With Thami, the Comrades Marketing Coordinator on the right.

Day 8, 31 May 2013 - Early breakfast and finally, the contingent is completed with Kin Kok joining in. After a fantastic breakfast,  next on the itinerary was to tour the race route on our own. We drove in 2 fully packed cars, and entered the route via Botha’s Hill. It was fun to see the expression of the first timers when they saw the rolling hills. Things are starting to heat up. We stopped just before Drummond to have lunch and to enjoy the spectacular view of the Valley of 1,000 Hills.  We then continued on to the Wall of Honour before making a wrong stop at Arthur’s Seat.  Fast forward later, we safely arrived at the Comrades House for a short history lesson. I’ve also finally met up and officially introduced to Sian, museum curator and a whole lot more roles in the Comrades Marathon Association. It was a pleasure after communicating so many times via e-mail and Facebook. Back to Durban after a tiring day and next was the Runner’s World Pasta Party at the nearby Sun Coast Hotel and Casino. Awesome party and talk by the Unogwaja and Dr. Ross Tucker, and not to mention in meeting more friends like Susan and Shaun, and some strangers that eventually became friends too. This is what Comrades Marathon is all about!

The 2013 Malaysian contingent at the Wall of Honour!

A pleasure meeting up with Sian at the Comrades House.

With dear friends Caroline and Susan.

Enjoying the pasta party.

Day 9, 1 June 2013 - Free and easy day, but that’s before running the AIMS Youth Run in the morning. Except for Chee Kong, Francis, Kin Kok and Fook Seong, we all did the 5KM run which includes the 3 ladies too. It was rather badly organised where we nearly could not run it due to missing bib and also wrong time allocation, but eventually we did. It was a fun run but we all enjoyed it very much. And after the run, it was back to the expo as we met up with Barry Holland to have an autograph and chat session with him before having lunch there. And fast forwarding to dinner, it was a simple one at Wimpy before calling it a night. The big day awaits!

Bumped into Bruce, Comrades Marathon Australia ambassador at the AIMS Youth Run.

At the AIMS Youth Run.

Day 10, 2 June 2013 - COMRADES MARATHON 2013 RACE DAY! Read all about it the the link!

Day 11, 3 June 2013 -  And so reality sets in. The Comrades Marathon is over now and we who ran it are now having difficulties walking especially at the stairs. Breakfast was good as we finally bid farewell to CP and Khim who are flying off to Cape Town. Francis and Kin Kok will stay behind while the rest will make our return to Johannesburg. Cham volunteered to drive us back as my legs were just way out of this world. We stopped by a rest area just outside Harrissmith and had a wonderful German lunch. We can see Comrades runners around the stop too and everyone was just limping. Comedy indeed. We arrived home safely and this is where Roy and Cham will bid farewell to us as they had a place to catch at about 9pm. After a simple Indian dinner, we sent them off to the airport before returning off for a well-deserved rest.

Day 12, 4 June 2013 - To Krueger National Park as myself, Fook Seong, Chee Kong and Mei-Eee together with Xi-Ning started our journey late at around 9am. Stopped by a few familiar places like the Alzu Petroport and Yellow Caravan. After about 5 hours drive, we entered Krueger via the Crocodile Bridge Gate where we immediately spotted rhinos! We then headed off to Lower Sabie Rest Camp where we spent our night there together with very noisy hippos that can’t stop making weird noises at night. We had braai for dinner for the curio shop here sells lots of varieties of food.

Entering Krueger National Park via the Crocodile Bridge Gate.

Huge and angry looking warthog.

Sunset at Krueger.

Day 13, 5 June 2013 - Woke up early for the morning game drive. It was a misty morning and throughout the 3 hours drive, we had very little luck. We only managed to spot some very common animals like the zebras, giraffes, impala and some other smaller ones. We did however spotted elephants though at a distance. We left Lower Sabie with out next destination Satara in mind. And just out of the gate, a young elephant bull came charging out of no where. We were lucky indeed that we were out of his path. Soon, I was feeling wonky already and I knew at that time, that I am falling sick soon. But I was lucky that I’ve visited Satara before hence almost everything looks familiar. Upon arrival at the rest camp, I took a rest before going out for a short evening drive. Then it was braai for dinner again at the fence side hoping to attract hyenas but to no avail. I call it a night early as I was feeling really down. Fook Seong gave me some antibiotics and flu tablet and off I went to sleep.

The young elephant bull that came charging out of no where.

Hippos and a couple of crocodiles living in harmony at the Lower Sabie river.

Day 14, 6 June 2013 - I had a long deep sleep. Almost 12 hours and I did not join the rest for the morning drive. However, it was worth it as I felt much better. Left Satara at 10am sharp, our next destination was Olifants where the view was spectacular. Met up with a South African Caucasian while having lunch there and we exchanged some of our Comrades stories. He has ran about 20 plus times! Amazing! We then proceeded on to Letaba, our final camp. Our lodge here was huge. In fact, it was house with 2 rooms. Our usual braai dinner for this night was a feast! We had beef, pork ribs, borewors, potatoes, tomatoes and salad. Had a wonderful dinner here for our it was our final night in Krueger!

Volcanic rocks at the Olifants River.

The chefs in action.

Bon apetit.

Day 15, 7 June 2013 - Departed from Letaba Rest Camp at 6am and exited via Phalaborwa Gate after an hour’s game drive. It’s going to be a long drive back to Johannesburg. Did a couple of stops in between but the most awesome will have to be at Dullstroom where we stop by at Harries for some awesome pawsome pancakes and probably the best red cappuccino in South Africa. Even load up on macadamia nuts here. And after about 10 hours on the road, we finally got home safely. A short 5KM run in the evening before dinner at Shanghai Restaurant, Sandton together with Peter and Estee. Food was average and service was a little tad poor. However, I was pretty impress with a South African black lady waitress who can speak and understand Mandarin. BRAVO! And after dinner, its back home for rest for a run awaits tomorrow.

Phalaborwa Gate. Farewell Krueger National Park.

Awesome red cappucino at Harrie's Pancakes.

Day 16, 8 June 2013 - Had awesome Tigger 10KM Trail Run at Pretoria in aid of a children hospital in the morning, 10KM trail running event sponsored by Saucony. Not many familiar faces at the start, but at the end, it everyone became so familiar. That's what South Africa is all about. The run was held in some private park and upon arrival, we already spotted some kudus, giraffes and zebras. Fast forwarding to the run, the start was a little struggle for me as the rocks were loose. Took it easy and safely and soon, I found people overtaking me! And when we finally exited the hilly rocky area after 3KM or so, it was into a single track trail where I really had fun, smoothly zooming through it. So much freedom.

Zooming through the single track area with Fook Seong chasing me down in yellow.

Meeting up with Tigger at the hill top.

Back on the road at about 5KM, it was an uphill road up to the telco tower. Magnificent view of Pretoria from up there as I was greeted by Tigger! OH, did I mention that Chee Kong was zooming down in second spot when I was running up. Crazy fast! I had fun zooming down too, back tracking to where I came from. Upon entering the single track area, I nearly tripped over a loose rock. Lost my balance but in the end able to avoid falling flat down. *PHEW... Zoom  through the bushes and finally arrived at the open area zooming in closely on Johann. And it was a side by side photo finish with this new found friend! Enjoyable and most do-able run indeed. Only downside, no game spotted during the run. Guess most went into hiding already.

With Johann towards the finish.

While on the way home, Chee Kong took a wrong turn and we ended up turning one big round back to Fourways. But it was a wrong turn worth taking as the journey took us pass part of the Om Nie Dam race route. Beautiful indeed.

Back home, we rested for a while after the run before heading off down town to Neighbourgoods Market for food and to meet up with Peter and Estee again. And I thought it was art. It was pretty similar to Market and Arts on Main but with lots more people and food. After filling up our tummy, it was back home. While the other rested, I started working again. After all, it has been 16 days already away from work. In the evening, we all had dinner at Zen Garden Rivonia, where I had my favourite SzeChuan saliva chicken. Totally heavenly indeed and myself and Mei-Ee wallop a lot of food. And after dinner, we all sent Fook Seong to the airport for reality started to kick in. It’s time to go back home for the next day will be my turn. And after seeing him off, it’s back home for a well deserve rest, but that’s before I finish packing.

Happening place at the Neighbourgoods Market.

Nope, it's spelled correctly - Neighbourgoods Market.

 Day 17, 9 June 2013 - The finale! A meet up with Belinda and John in the morning for breakfast at Citadela. It was a pleasure to meet them both finally at a place which serves fantastic breakfast. And before leaving for the airport, a quick visit to Spar to buy some coffee, biltong and chocolates before reality sets in. My third South Africa trip ends here for my flight was at 2.10pm en route to Dubai making a 4 hours transit there before touching down at home. And so yeah, everything was good except for the luggage back home at KL International Airport which took me almost 2 hours to retrieve. Else, had a wonderful flight back sharing my Comrades story with Lee, an English working in Kuala Lumpur.

Breakfast at Citadela with John and Belinda.

My flight home. Farewell again South Africa and thanks for everything.

And so yeah! It all ends here. A fruitful 17 days trip to South Africa mainly for the Comrades Marathon 2013 which to me was a success not only for the run itself, but the camaraderie and making new friends. All in all, I had an awesome trip that I was sad to leave South Africa for the third time. Can't wait to get myself back there again!

* photos here credited to Chee Kong, Cham, Kin Kok and their respective owners.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Comrades Marathon 2013...

Event: Comrades Marathon 2013
Venue: Durban, South Africa
Date: 2 June 2013
Time: 5.30am (South Africa time) / 11.30am (Malaysia time)
Distance: 86.96KM (88.15KM by Suunto Ambit)
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara 3
By Frank

Sorry my entry for the 2013 Comrades Marathon took so long to complete. Going on holiday after the run, falling sick and flying back to catch up with 3 weeks of work is certainly not blogging friendly. But I hope the long read as follows will be worth it. And when I mean long, it's REALLY LONG!

The Comrades Marathon 2013 has come and go. It was my first year as the Comrades Marathon Malaysia Ambassador as I brought along 4 other first timer to attempt The Ultimate Human Race together with 3 of us from previous year. I initially wanted to combine both my holiday and race report together, but as I type, it quickly became a 15 page word document hence I guess it's better to have them on separate entries. Part of this entry, including those from the holiday was written during my 4 hours transit at Dubai International Airport on the way home though.

And so, let's talk about the Comrades Marathon 2013!

My race number.

Sunday 2 June 2013, 2.00am. GOOD MORNING DURBAN! I had about 6 hours of sleep and I woke up feeling great! But I was not the first one up for Roy was already prepared to do battle. I had 2 hours to prepare and that was all I need as my usual pre-race ritual like breakfast and potty loo went smoothly. By 4am we all gathered at the hotel lobby for a photo session before the ladies drove us to the nearest drop-off point. We walked and jog a little to the City Hall and quickly discovered that it is going to be a warm and long day. The morning this year was so unlike previous. No ponchos were needed, not even gloves though I brought along mine.

Calm and being wacky before the storm.

Just outside the H seeding, we wished everyone the best of run especially to the first timers. Francis, CP, Roy, Kin Kok and of course our special lady from Hong Kong, Celene. With 20 minutes to go, we all checked into our seeding pent. I started the last H seeding which was really spacious.  And with 10 minutes to go, everyone was squeezed together and from H, we eventually ended up in F seeding. The national anthem was sung first which I sung along with. Yes, I did my homework and I know the lyrics. The locals must been thinking how that this Chinese know how to sing? Then it was Shosholoza which made the entire Durban come alive. Chariots of Fire was next and finally, Max Trimborn cockcrow. I started my chrono here for this is the gun time! The cannon went off next and this was it! It’s time to run the epic journey, for here goes Comrades Marathon 2013!

The starting pent.

Took me 7 minutes or so to cross the start gantry and off I went settling into my comfort zone quickly. The earlier warming up and stretching helped. The spectators lined up at the side were awesome cheering the runners as we ran pass. This continued till we entered the highway and soon it was Berea, the old toll-gate area. And this is where I spotted Susan Hui who was clad in almost everything Canadian and ran to her. Before the race, she kept telling me not to roll her over and this is probably the reason she dashed off after the short chat. Grin…

Alan Robb, 4 times champion and one of the legends of Comrades Marathon running his 40th this year. He always wears his Liverpool FC cap and red socks.

I continued on my journey and the climb started almost here. It wasn't really steep here but we kept climbing and this is where energy and strength is slowly being zap away. I may be good in hills, but I did not want to risk it and just maintained a reasonable pace.  The highway was twisting too and soon, I saw Ric and greeted this friend of mine before bumping into Renee next! It was really great to see my old friends during the run. At a water station at about 7.5KM near Mayville, there was this 2 tier road. Most runners took the lower tier but seeing less runners on the upper and also I still had by GU Roctane Brew drink with me, I took advantage of it. And during the process, I spotted Fook Seong who was dashing into the crowd of runners grabbing the water sachets.

Fast forwarding to 10KM, I took off my gloves as it was getting really warm and passed it to a poor local who was collecting clothes and anything being threw away by the runners. It was also here that I spotted the Unogwajas. Simply awesome people who have cycled more than 1600KM 10 days before the run from Cape Town to Durban to re-live the Phil-Masterston-Smith experience. There were singing, screaming and jumping as they run. But most important, they had their knee length red socks on, and they went “SHOOOOPSS…”.

Into Cowie's Hill while munching on a potato.

Next, we exited the highway and into the first of big 5 hills, Cowie’s Hill we went. And just as we entered, the Potato Nation tent was there and I took the opportunity to grab half a salty potato and munch it down. Absolutely delicious! And further ahead, I spotted my very dear “pinkish” friend, Caroline! She was in her usual Morningside club top but had this pink wig on her in support of Pink Drive. Way to go, Caroline! I am not entirely sure the distance, but according to the result site, I arrived at Cowie’s Hill cut-off point of 17KM in 2:01:26 hours and am still awfully good!

Running on into Pinetown, I was busy searching for Susan Bold but to no avail. She mentioned she will be here at the club tent to support but I guess I must have missed it. There were just too many runners and supporters here. But the next challenge is to conquer the climb here to Fields Hill. And it won’t be easy as it’s a long way up. The road was still twisting and some places came into my mind from last year’s run. Nightmare of the down run, or reliving the experience again, I welcomed the latter. It’s Comrades after all.

In Pinetown.

And from Pinetown, next on the menu is the second of the big 5, Field’s Hill. This was rather steep and long too. And although still feeling strong, I took it easy still maintaining my “economy” mode, as the race generally “has not started yet”. There were already runners walking and the weather began to warm up. I finished my GU Roctane Brew here, later than expected as I had a few sachet of water earlier, so generally speaking for nutrition, everything was going on well.

And just before exiting Field’s Hill, I made a “small deposit” at the shaded bush by the road side. Must be the caffeine effect from the GU Roctane Brew kicking in. But no worries as I was still fresh and continued running being cheered by the supporters and locals. Some even sang, and to my favourite tune Shosholoza which entirely lifted the spirits of not only the runners but also the surrounding.

Next was the pretty shaded Winston Park. Though roads were still winding and we are still climbing hills, I was still having fun, well in a way running with the hundreds and perhaps thousands of other runners nearby. But I knew I had to focus for I know my family and friends are watching back home. My mission is at stake and the pressure I have is one thing that kept me going. Pressure does help in a way!

Awesome support!

But out of a sudden, I spotted Roy who was walking. Honestly speaking, I am not expecting to meet him during the run for I expected him to be far away at the front, even though if he have to walk. I quickly caught up with him to check it out. Apparently he was feeling tired and so I decided to accompany him here for a while. I do need to rest my legs a bit too I guess. Tried to pull him along by telling him that we shall start running upon arriving at a bus parked at the road side. And so we did, but he fell off soon and signalled to me to go ahead. Did not feel good to let him go, but I guess I had no other choice, hence I ran into Hillcrest.

Entering Hillcrest with a huge reminder of the first cut-off at Drummond.

And at Hillcrest, some 34KM into the run, for somehow, among the many runners, supporters and club tents, I managed to spot Chee Kong’s running club tent, the Fourway Road Runners! And just before arriving at it, I WAS SO HAPPY to see Cham and Khim! Always great to see familiar faces in tough runs like this. Waved to them and Cham spotted me and took some of my action photos! Thanks a lot! Told them about Roy before I carried on and spotted Mei-Ee and little Xi Ning just ahead.

Happily arriving at Hillcrest and spotting my fellow ladies supporters.

The third of the big 5 was next, Botha’s Hill. Another crazy climb under the hot and dry weather. Noon was approaching and the sun was burning through our skin.  I began to witness some runners beginning to fall, limp, twitch and even throwing up. This isn’t the game about distance and hills anymore. It’s about tackling Mother Nature, and who to blame but our ownselves for destroying the environment.

I managed to Botha’s Hill successfully with some walking. No signs of cramping nor fatigue yet so I guess system is still all “green”. A quick check on my watch, I was still on time for a bronze medal with a 15 minutes buffer. This was in fact the first time I check my watch! But without wasting time in time calculation, I just focused on my next destination, half-way point at the town of Drummond. And this is the place where the view and scenery began to look spectacular for the route now overlooks the Valley of 1,000 Hills. I’m glad we did the route tour ourselves 2 days ago as I guess runners can’t be really enjoying it while running. The pain will probably spoil the view.

The local Zulus were out to support too.

As it was a valley, the route from Botha’s Hill to Drummond is of a rolling downwards kind.  It wasn't really bad as it gave varieties to the poor legs. I guess that is the reason why it is call the Road to Recovery. The route here was pretty shaded but before we exited into the sun again, the GAME support station which was rather huge was rehydrating the runners and also in the meantime giving out stalk of flowers to be thrown at Arthur’s Seat just somewhere ahead. And so I grab one and shouldered on. And shortly in front, someone called my name from the distance front. I ran closer to her and I spotted Manette, a friend I made during my 6 days circuit race! Absolutely delighted to see her as she offered me lot of food and beverage before I carry on with my journey. I however just needed water hence that is what I got. Thanks Manette very much!

And finally, the Wall of Honour appeared as some runners ran toward it to remember their friends or to simply put a flower on their heroes wall plate. It’s not only a wall, but a place of inspiration and strength.  It’s a stronghold of many Comrades runners bind together!

The plate of Bill Rowan, the first champion back in year 1921 at the Wall of Honour.

Next stop, Arthur’s Seat, basically a small little hole dug out by Arthur Newton to have a rest many years ago. Many threw the flowers there, and so I threw mine too followed by a greeting “GOOD MORNING SIR”!. Now let’s hope for a blessing for legend says, that runners enjoy a stronger second half of the race if the correct ritual is performed.

Finally Drummond, half-way point at 43KM in 5:14:40 hours. And yes, the buffer is still on, but the next tackle was Inchanga, the steepest climb. Now I understand why the road to Drummond is call the Road to Recovery. It is to prepare the legs for this climb! And I believe this big hill is where most runners suffered “suspension” and “engine” failures. Never ending snake twisting climbs, it was really sore to the eyes but majestic at the same way too, looking it from a distance where runners in front filled the roads.

Rehydrating at Drummond.

And so like most others, my legs began to shown signs of failure. The first sign was twitching. I’ve now switched to the run walk technique. But sadly, I am not a good walker hence am really slow in this department. But when things started to turn, I spotted yet another friend, David from Singapore. We ran and walk together while chatting keeping our minds away from the pain and sore. It did really help as we managed a certain distance without much suffering.

Tackling Inchanga and cam-whoring with David.

Soon, Inchanga was conquered and was behind now as we took a slight plunge into Harrison Flats. Nope, this place isn’t flat. Instead there are small unnamed hills. Weather was getting really hot now and to make matters worse, there were strong head wind blowing towards the runners. Distance markers began to fall and dust began flying around. It even irritated my eyes even with my sunglasses on. That is how strong the wind is! And after so many years, this is where I suffered my first cramp reminding me how it felt like. It was on my left calf and I nearly took a tumble but managed to stay on foot. Stopped running and try reaching for my left calf to have it massage. I guess about 5 minutes was used here before the cramp subside. Off I went limping and hopping, hoping that it will better, and better it did. In fact, I ran faster for I remember the advise from my mentor Luc telling me to run a little fast to shake off the cramp. I guess it still works for me!

The sights of runner laying on the road side, throwing up or even hallucinating is really heart breaking. Support were given by the local supporters and the runners rescue bus (some sort of ambulance) is moving around swiftly. Even medical on bikes were on patrol.

Upon arrival at Cato Ridge at about 60KM into the race, the supporters group grew larger and this has really motivated tired runners to carry on. It’s not easy but some of us will find strength somewhere and somehow. And for me, I was still running, limping, huffing and puffing all I can. And when I grew wonky, I will look down on my purple shoe lace and also my purple ribbon to find my own strength.

Supporters from The Unlimited.

My strength faded, at least for a while when I suffered double cramps on my adductor (inner thighs). Both sides came at the same time and you as a reader, try imagining how I stood there. Funny sight I guess but painful for me. But the good thing was, I was very close to the next water station hence I grin my teeth together and limp towards it seeking ice. And when I got there, a very young lad kindly broke a cube of ice into smaller pieces as I used them to massage my adductor. It helped a lot and I am really thankful to him. And before I left, I gave him a high 5!

Looking forward to Camperdown for I know the support group will be the largest here. Along the jorney there, I bumped into Eric Economon, another friend from the 6 days circuit race. He was running his worse Comrads Marathon according to him. Honestly, he looked awful here. I walked and chatted with him for at least 500M or so before I continued on when my legs felt ready to run. And not far then, I heard the sounds of Camperdown. And this is where the Nedbank Green Mile is going to be at this year. And upon arrival there at 7:41:45 hours into the race, the support group did not disappoint. There was this gigantic big screen showing the runners and there was an emcee commentating. He did mentioned my name on my bib which was “Wei Siong” and he mentioned that I was from South Korea and that I will have known the Gangnam Style! I was stun to hear that. Do I look like a South Korean?

Thumbs up at Camperdown.

Huge support at the Nedbank Green Mile.

Anyway, if you look at my above arrival time at Camperdown where I still had 26KM to go, I’ve actually managed to increase my buffer for the bronze medal by another couple of minutes. Maybe it was the blessing from Arthur Newton, or perhaps the sheer pressure I had, but for some reason, I found my strength to run faster from Drummond despite cramping 3 times and with toes starting to blister. Amazing and this I give myself a pat on my own shoulder!

"BEWARE" the official photographers travelling along the race route.

Sadly, the above did not last as I struggled heading towards the highest point at Umlaas Road. Both my legs were twitching and that was the sign of cramping again. After suffering 3 times not too long ago, I will not want to experience it another time hence took good care of my legs. As for the others, runners began to drop to the road like flies being smack down! Just too many of them and most were local South Africans. I guess that they can’t take the scorching heat. And finally, I arrived at Umlaas Road  where the journey to Ashburton next is of a descend type.

The highest point at Umlaas Road.

Wind so strong it completely blew down and rip apart the distance marker from its frame.

Most runners ran. For myself, it was a mixture of run, walk, limp and hop for I am really not good with descend especially when the legs were already at this very sorry state. But I managed myself and finally arrived at the “appetiser” of the final big climb, the younger brother of the 2 Pollys, Little Pollys of of Ashburton. Steep but short climb, runners had the local by the roadside for motivational support. Some were soon braaing by the roadside, some were spraying water over the overheated runners, some were blowing their vuvuzelas, some were giving out food and drinks and some were coming out to us to offer any help they can give. Welcome to South Africa, welcome to the Comrades Marathon, I told myself, for it was a touching scene that I will remember.

Upon conquering Little Pollys, it was a short downhill dash to the foot of the next monster. Enter the monstrous  Polly Shortts, the last of the 5 big hills. 1.7KM worth of climbing when one has ran 78KM or so is no joke. At the foot of Polly Shortts, there was this local South African runner who is a 5 times Comrades finisher said to me “Here we go again”! I replied to him, “OH YEAH! Bring on Polly Shortts for the next will be the home stretch”. Sounds like a battle cry for us, but the funny thing is, we both walked. Hahaha… Polly Shortts is known to kill off both physical and mental strength of a Comrades runner hence I did not want to risk it for both my adductor (inner thighs), were twitching. Am being a slow walker, he just surged ahead walking. However, there were 2 local ladies from Mpumalanga, South Africa who came into the picture. It was both their back to back runs too and we shared our stories from last year’s run and also both our countries. This took our mind away from the climb. Sadly, we were so much into talking that I did not get their names.

After walking a third quarter of Polly Shortts, I began to run after hearing music being played. I am nearing the top! And so, I picked up my broken pieces and ran. Struggled did I, but I ran and soon, the space began to open up and finally, I was at the top of Polly Shortts in 10:30:35 hours with the emcee congratulating everyone “CONGRATZ FOR YOU HAVE SURVIVED POLLY SHORTTS”! Oh yeah! Survived did I, but did anyone mentioned that there are more unnamed small hills to run by? 7.7Km worth of that and this is what we call the home stretch? Indeed a do or die situation. ONWARD!

My assault on Polly Shortts.

The remaining 7.7KM was dramatic indeed. More and more runners fell, but more and more support came. “YOU ARE ALMOST THERE! DO NOT GIVE UP NOW”! I told a fellow local South African. He was experiencing difficulties standing up not to mention running. I stop by to support him, but I did not had any nutrition with me. Shortly, the 2 ladies from Mpumalanga arrived and gave him a sachet of energy gel. I dashed to a supporter by the roadside to ask for a cup of water and went back to the poor runner. He took the gel and washed it down his throat and told me “YOU WASTED ENOUGH TIME WITH ME, NOW GO”! The 2 ladies told me to continue on my journey too as they will watch over him. I obliged, gave them a hug and off I went.

Soon, I arrived at the traffic junction which I clearly remember. It was like the second or third final turn before we enter The Oval. And this is where the Pink Drive support station is. Pink Drive is South Africa most well-known Breast Cancer Foundation and I was really delighted to see the tremendous support given by them. Next was the outskirts of the Pietermaritzburg city. On the road were drawings of Rhino to support the anti-poaching move. From here, I saw the flood flights of a certain stadium. I thought it was The Oval but I was wrong. There was still another Kilometer to go and I swear that this must have been the longest Kilometer of my run.

Arriving soon just outside The Oval.

Caught at the entrance to The Oval.

Unlike the previous year, there was no sudden surge for me this year as I had enough time to complete the run. I took it easy, took out my last sachet of water and sprayed all over me to clear the salts on my body and clothings, and finally took out the Malaysia flag from my belt pocket and held it on my back as I finally entered The Oval. And the first person I saw was Pierre by the club tent at the entrance! I was ecstatic to see him but I continued for there is about another 400M or so. The environment here was electrifying for the supporters by the side was screaming, cheering and hitting the side board to help push us to the finish.

Taking the last bent in The Oval heading towards the finish.

Finally, I saw it. The finish gantry is just a bend away. I lifted the Malaysia flag proudly again and with emotional set at a record high, I crossed the finish line victoriously in 11:30:07 hours with my head, hands and Malaysia flag held high! I DID IT! I AM A BACK TO BACK COMRADES MARATHONER! WOOHOOO!!! I gave the Comrades grass a pat and saw Sian in the process. Went to here to thank her for being part of this and we chatted a little. She asked about the rest and I told her that there should be another 3 Malaysians coming in soon before I exited the finish gantry area for it was getting crowded.


Into the medal receiving area, the volunteers were all with smiles congratulating each and every runner. And when I exited this area, another volunteered pointed to me and ask me to get to him for the back to back medal awaits! I joked to him that it was painful as I limp my way there and he finally put the medal over my head and gave me a hug! And with it, I pose proudly with both my medals to the official photographers.

As I went to collect my refreshment which sadly ran out, I met up with a Chinese local, Wayne. Finally caught up with him after seeing him comment so much on Facebook. And out of a sudden, a local South African pass me a bottle of Energade. I was so thankful to him and I taught him the Chinese way of thanking.  And from here, I finally exited the finish area and into the waiting area.


My story was over, but not for 3 more friends of mine. It was a nail biting moment for 3 more Malaysians, Roy, Fook Seong and Kin Kok. I was really anxious as the time was slowly ticking away. It was about 15 minutes more when I suddenly head the commentator mentioned that a Malaysian just entered the Oval. I dashed to the international exit and waited but to no avail. As the clock ticks away, I was biting my nails when I suddenly saw Fook Seong on the big screen! I screamed “COME ON” for he had less than a minute to go. Then the countdown began. 10, 9, 8…. 3, 2 and 1, and Dave Dixon, the chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association fired the gun to signal the cut off time of 12 hours.

I waited anxiously and finally, Fook Seong appeared with 2 medals hung around his neck. I was relieved to know that he successfully completed the run with a dramatic 22 seconds to go! He did not feel well and proceeded to the international tent. I walked around and finally spotted the rest of the Malaysian which includes Roy. He apparently pulled out at 34KM at Botha’s Hill due to chest discomfort. It was really sad to know and I lost my words. Knowing that he trained so hard, it was a bitter blow. But I salute him for being brave enough to call it day when something is not right.

Together with Francis, we accompanied Fook Seong for a while for he was in a daze. There were other runners around too who didn't look too good themselves too. Some were throwing up while some others cramping.  But in their agony, I do however am able to see their happy and victorious feeling of being able to conquer the Comrades Marathon, well at least some of them. Met up with a few fellow runners which includes Bruce Hargreaves and congratulated each other. And when everything finally sets in and Fook Seong feeling much better, we made our way out to regroup with the others for story sharing and also photo session before we made our way back to Durban.

Waking up from a daze and also come minor cramps.

We came, we ran and we conquered the Comrades Marathon 2013.

Back at the hotel, it was certainly not easy to clean myself up as I was still cramping.  Mobility was rather minimal so yeah, it wasn't easy moving around. The rest was celebrating at Jiran CafĂ©, but I opt to stay back to rest and also to accompany Roy. Cham herself was also too tired and I salute and thank her for the awesome support given. An energy bar and hot chocolate was all I had before turning in for the night with bitter sweet dreams throughout my sleep. It’s the Comrades dream.

86.96KM of EPICNESS!

My official timing.

The Malaysian contingent official timing.

Comrades Marathon once again live up to its expectations of being the greatest road ultra marathon and one of the toughest to be. The distance may not be even 100KM, but the 5 big hills, many other unnamed smaller hills, tight cut off time, weather and the support will make one coming back for more. For me, I will for once after this back to back, my next journey will be the green number. But before looking to far ahead, here's sharing some moments during the race which wasn't mentioned above:

1) About 14,500 runners started the race with a drop out rate of 30%, the highest in 20 years as the temperature soared up to 32 Celcius.

2) Was trying really hard for bronze but had to let it go at Little Pollys although I still had some buffer time. Besides feeling horrible on the legs, another reason was to help support other fellow runners to reach the finish in time. The drama just after Polly Shortts was certainly rewarding enough. No bronze never mind. But knowing the bond we made with other runners is more than gold.

3) As I was running on the right side, I basically gave a "High 5" to each and every children from Ethembeni School of Handicap. Most had vision problem while some others albino. What they did was just to have their palms out and we runners will go and give them whatever support we can. And in return was a feeling like no other. And some say, the additional strength to surge ahead.

The kids at Ethembeni School of Handicap.

4) My race apparel was covered in salt as there were whitish spots all over. I used water from the sachets to clean myself off whenever I can find them. The water also help to cool my temperature down.

5) Had chaffing and irritation issues on my left ribs area and also both my thigs probably cause by some prawns I had a week earlier at Ocean Basket. Skin was a little torn and it was no fun running with them.

6) Suffered 1 cramp on left calf, 2 cramps on both adductor and 2 blisters on both big toes.

7) Not much weird names this time compared to previous year but was still called China, Jackie Chan and Korean with Gangam Style.

8) Finished all my energy gel, 2 GU Roctanes and 4 GU Energy Gel as planned but did not touch on the GU Chomps. Had solid food instead.

Close-up of the 2013 Vic Clapham medal and the Back to Back medal.

My dedication to CARIF and to everyone affected by cancer.

So yeah. There you have it. I hope I have been detailed enough about this entry to remember the Comrades Marathon 2013 in many years to come, well at least for me I hope. It has been an incredible journey heading to this epic race and though I am happy it's over, a part of me is sad to go into the waiting game again for the next edition. And as usual, before ending this super long entry and closing off the chapter for the Comrades Marathon 2013, I would like to sincerely thank the following (in no particular order):

- Professor Dr. Teo, Sook Yee, Jane, Amy and all others from CARIF who have supported me and also initiating the Be Frank campaign in helping not only my dream but also other’s in helping build a cancer free tomorrow.

- Kris and Jeannie of in helping out with the online portal for the Be Frank campaign.

- Bennie, Tatyana and Lyana for their sweat and hardwork on giving ideas and building the main website for the Be Frank campaign.

- Joanne and Sarah from Priority Communications for the all the public relation works for the Be Frank campaign.

- Chee Kong and Mei-Ee for their very warm hospitality once again in hosting me at beautiful South Africa.

- Roy, CP, Francis, Fook Seong and Kin Kok for the “Comrades”ship and friendship that bonded us so strongly together for this meaningful race. Together with Chee Kong, I am really proud of all of you!

- Khim and Cham for their absolutely great companionship during the holidays together and also for their great support during race day.

- My Malaysian friends Peter and Estee who are working in South Africa for a short but absolute great time together.

- My South  African and international friends consisting of Susan Hui, Celene, Caroline, Bruce Fordyce, Bruce Hargreaves, Barry, Anthony, Susan Bold, Allan, Pierre, Renee, Phillip, Johann, Moosa, Willie, Belinda, John, Ric, Manette, Spike, Goodwin, Mark, Mike and many more whom I have made along the way of this 17 days trip.

- The Comrades Marathon Association for believing in me in accepting me as the ambassador for Malaysia. And also not forgetting to finally meet up with Sian, Thami and Mbali.

- My friends back home like Susanah, Jason, Hong Lan, Yik Yee, Tey and many others more that has supported not only myself but also the rest of the contingent.

- My sponsors Saucony, GU Energy, Yurbuds, LifeStrength, Drymax and Optic Nerve for proving all the necessary training and race gear that powered me to this year’s achievement.

- And last but not least, to my parents for all the sacrifices made during the 6 months period of time from the day I officially started training to race day.

YOU ARE ALL ULTRAORDINARY!!! Till Comrades Marathon 2014!

* Photos are courtesy of Cham, Khim, Mei-Ee, Chee Kong, Sean Wong, David Wong, Claudia and Jetline Action Photo

* My journey is tracked by the Suunto Ambit and the date can be found on this MOVES.