Sweat dripped down my cheek, my legs wobbled and relief started to fill my body as the finish line suddenly materialised. Smiling with all the energy I had left, I crossed the line with arms outstretched, ready to receive high fives from the M.C. and grab the elaborate medal.
Two hours and twenty-five minutes after the starting claxon rang it had ended. Disbelief took over, I’d managed a 12km trail run in the scorching sun and hilly countryside surrounding Kota Kinabalu. 12km may sound miniature in comparison to the 100km some competitors completed but it felt equivalent to the punishing (and incredibly boring) half-marathon I ran in Edinburgh a couple of years ago.
Borneo Ultra Trail Run: monstrous, muddy hills; vertical downhills; tree roots interrupting every turn, it was an arduous task yet one I relished as my damp, muddy trainers stumbled across the line.
Monotonous road runs have dominated my Strava activity for a few years, this was the first trail run to feature. A bit of peer pressure and ‘argh i’m thirty-one’ got my name on the application form and I am honestly delighted that I did it.
As with the majority of races, we were up in the dark before sunrise, having not slept a wink and wearily climbed aboard cramped, organised buses to take us to the busy starting line. Nervous 12km runners, my group, were last to start so unfortunately the sun had risen… just what you need scorching Malaysian sunshine for immediate uphill running, argh!
Covered in insect repellent and suncream, the air filled with muscle spray (this seems to be a key feature of Malaysian runs) I set off, not knowing what to expect. Quickly the tarmacked road turned into rough ground and steep inclines. The jungle covered trail was crowded with friendly runners, excited and anxious voices briefly chatted before their breath was lost, ‘where are you from?, ‘are you on holiday?’, ‘oh look you’re not Malaysian, what are you doing here?!’
A particular moment still sparkles in my mind, I emerged out of a section of shaded tree cover and into a wide clearing, I paused, turned around and stood mesmerised by the vast and magnificent Kiulu Valley which seemed to roll indefinitely before my eyes. Seriously awe struck I had to snap a photo, just one before my legs gave in. My mind had been focused on putting one foot in front of the other, dragging myself up and over endless hills, I hadn’t stopped to breathe and take in this glorious place, utterly spectacular.
Goosebumps travelled up my arms, my eyes watered, in that second the pain and exhaustion was unquestionably worth it, just for this, unspoilt, glorious Sabah.
Take on a challenge.
Borneo Ultra Trail run, just do it.