Bidor Half Marathon 2013

It’s almost ironical that in a year of little running pursuit, I finally had the opportunity to participate in the Bidor Half Marathon. Bidor is a small little town situated 1.5 hours from KL but unlike Radiator Springs (those who watches Pixar animation would know), Bidor sees a bit more life than the one off Route 66, in that it’s home to the famous (some say overrated) Herbal Duck Noodles, best Hong Kong Chee Cheong Fun in the country and a few other hawker-fare.

As such, it’s a popular stop for the traffic plying the North-South Highway. Thankfully, the small town charm hasn’t deserted it and after a year’s hiatus, the Half Marathon is back.

The plan was made early with Frank to make the trip up and the accommodation was promptly secured – the Grand Kampar Hotel located 30 minutes away in another small town further north was to be our home for a night. Kampar, a former bustling tin-mining town, is another charming spot in the Peninsula though nowadays it hosts more students of a local university than miners. I’ve stayed at the nice hotel some years ago when RunnersMalaysia helped a local community kicked start their fun run initiative.

The posse consisted of Roy, Cham, Frank and I. It would be a bit unusual as in our case, the driver was the woman. The drive up was smooth and we headed to the race pack collection at the community hall. Bidor is basically served by 2 main roads and thus the venue was easy to locate. The day was turning into a scorcher and by the time we were through with the haphazardly organized collection, we hunted for an eatery for a late lunch. Alas there was non to be found and we had to settle for Pun Chun. Only that we didn’t order the famous herbal duck noodles. Everyone unanimously agreed that the dish is overrated. The guys ordered mix rice which was great value but the womenfolk’s wantan noodles were poor.

The stomachs somewhat satiated, it was time to continue with the journey northward to Kampar, to check into the Grand Kampar Hotel. It wasn’t my first time there having stayed there with the family some years ago. The Family Suite was perfect for the 4 of us. The plan was to put in a short run around the scenic lake/mining pool but the weather was so hot, I hopped onto the treadmill instead for a 30-minute easy jog. The 6:00 pace was so pedestrian that I thought I could be a little aggressive on race day.

3-Comrades Marathon bound. I felt out of place.

 

 

Once Francis was checked in, the group headed out to look for dinner and what else to eat but claypot chicken rice, a dish Kampar is famous for. By now, you’d have detected a trend about this trip – mostly about caloric intake. The hot weather called for something icy, so the group chilled out over dessert for awhile at a nearby cafe near the hotel. As the area is mostly populated with university students, I remarked that I suddenly felt very old. Back at the hotel, the usual pre-race rituals took place – every one slunk into their own corner laying out their gear. Then it was lights out for me at 10pm.

2 Samsung Galaxy Notes provided alarm services the next morning and my “breakfast” was a Clif Bar and bottled water, before the 30-minute drive to Bidor. At 6:20am, the area was already teeming with cars and runners. We were lucky to have found a car park close to the race start. Nothing is ever too far away in Bidor. Unknown to nearly everyone, I was testing out 2 pieces of gear that morning – Yurbuds Inspire Duro and the asics Hyperspeed 5. I’m usually not a fan of listening to music at the races but thought that the half would provide a tough test. However, I would caution against wearing new gear in a race.

7am and we, the half marathoners, were let off. The crowd was just nice and the narrow streets posed no problems. After a kilometer or so, we found ourselves heading out of the town and into the outskirts. The residents were out, observing us quietly. It’s done well to progress from a tiny community event to something a little more international. Some Caucasions and most certainly some Singaporeans were observed to be in the crowd. In this first section of the race, I found myself zeroed in on Uncle Fila (a familiar road racing vet) but he was slowly but surely putting pedal to the metal. My pace was sub 5:30 and felt very easy. The sun was already up and warming the countryside air. There were a few hints of what’s to come i.e. rolling hills in the 2nd part of the course. An early climb was easily tackled and I thoroughly enjoyed the brisk yet comfy pace. I fell into pacing with Wind Fong from the 3rd K up to around the 6th K and that gave me something to focus on. I was cautious not to follow him too closely as he’s a habit of taking off rather quickly. Needed to conserve for what’s to come.

Pacing with Wind Fong. Photo courtesy of Dannie Choong.

One K after the 1st u-turn I was surprised to find myself running alone. The sun was getting warmer and warmer and the trees on both sides of the road would soon be unable to provide much shade. Exiting the 1st section of the course and heading into the waterfall section, runners found themselves having to squint into the sun. I rebuked myself for deciding against wearing the sunglasses. I duly got to the undulating and twisty sections and my pace began fluctuating – my legs were fine but the heat was slowly but surely getting to me. Having not raced a half marathon this late (Brooks started much earlier and therefore was over earlier too) for sometime, I was so not conditioned for running in the heat. Tried to refocus and successfully brought my pace back down for a few Ks until the final climb over a ramp which I walked up, sapped dry by the sun. With just 2Ks to go I caught back to Roy and Frank and we finished close together in 1:58.16.

No longer smiling. Notice the strong shadows?
Hanging on Frank and Roy’s coattails. 2 other ultra runners have finished way ahead. There’s something about these fellas. Photo courtesy of Jason Tan.

What followed after the race was more eating before heading back to KL, to wrap up a nice road trip. A word of “Thanks!” go out from me to the organizers and volunteers of Bidor Runners for putting up this race. I hope they can start earlier – the route is nice and should be very pleasant to run when it’s cool and early. I’m grateful too to the many photographers who were present on course for capturing memories for us runners. They too, had to deal with the heat. I’m now more confident to be a little more aggressive in attacking the next 2 races i.e. Standard Chartered KL Marathon and the Gold Coast (Half) Marathon.

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