Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sundown Marathon 2012

Sundown 2012 is likely my last full marathon run but I did not set any target for it, to save me from disappointment if I didn't manage to achieve it - if any, I was hoping to come under 5 hours.

The race was scheduled on 26 May, Saturday and flag-off for 21km and 42km runners was at 00.30 past midnight.  For the first time, the venue has changed to Nicoll Highway site with some part of the route covering the city area and into the East Coast Park before ending at Nicoll Highway. 

Some of my running kakis, Kate, Hee Ling, Dora, CK, Long Chua and Kent (who took over Winnie's 21km tag) will be participating in 21km and 42km and we arranged to meet at Nicoll Highway Station, exit B at 11.30 pm.  We took some pictures (as expected, Hee Ling brought along her camera which is typical of her), did some warm-up and gave each other encouragement and at about 12 midnight, we made our way to the start line.

As we were making our way to the start line, Chua told me he will go on own and by the time, we reached the start line which was already very crowded, only Hee Ling and Kate were still with me and the rest was nowhere to be seen.  We inched our way to the front as much as possible, led by Hee Ling.  By my reckoning (I didn't bring my watch), we should have less than half an hour to the flag-off and I could hardly hear the announcement made by the MC.  The sound system was too soft.  I did hear, rather softly that more than 17,000 runners had registered for this event.  Personally, I do not think packing all 21km and 42km runners in one flag-off is a good idea as some part of the route could be choke-a-block. 

At 0030 hrs past midnight, we were finally flagged-off and almost immediately I lost sight of Hee Ling and a short while later, Kate too.  We were running the entire stretch of Nicoll Highway before turning back to the city.  The weather was fine though there was rain earlier in the day.  We were running to the direction of MBS, heading to Marina Barrage.  I kept to my normal pace, slightly above 6 mins per km.  When we reached somewhere near MBS, we had to make a U-turn into a narrow path.  There was a slight jam and I was wondering already, how could they suggest such a narrow path (fit for two persons to walk through) for more than 10,000 runners squeezing through. 

It was a long run to Marina Barrage from MBS, cutting through those construction sites and it was about at the 10km mark, I managed to catch up with the 4 hours 30 mins pacer team.  I knew if I finish side by side with them, I should come under 4 hours 30 mins as they were lined up way infront of me at the start line.  When we reached Marina Barrage, it was almost 15km and that is where 21km and 42km runners will split.  We had to run through the forested path which is normally not opened to public, save for this run to get to East Coast Park.  The 4 hrs 30 mins pacers were still near me but I was not too sure how long I could maintain the pace as at some point, I will hit the wall.  I did not feel fatigue or cramps and I kept to the 6mins plus per km pace. 

When I reached the start of East Coast Park, I have a sudden feel of relief as this is my usual training route prior to this run.  I know the landmarks well and therefore I was able to time my pace.  At every water point, I would chance upon a cup or two of 100 plus.  I was still feeling good at 21km mark and I was pleased that the 4hrs 30 mins pacers were still near me.  After the U-turn near Sunset Bar (already more than 21km, halfway mark) and a short later, I heard Dora and CK from the opposite side shouting for me.  I waved back at them.  They were doing good time too, reckoned they were probably 2km behind me only at halfway mark.  It was a good run but it started to rain.  It followed later with some rumbling sound and flashes too.  No choice, we had to carry on. 

When I reached the end of East Coast Park, we had already covered 31km and I was even more surprised that I could carry on without stopping.  Normally, I could have hit the wall and by then, I will have to fight hard to manage the cramps and the fatigue.  I was still feeling good, save for the slight pain on the right hip and numbness on the right shoulder (the latter could be the way I swing my right arm while running, definitely need to work on the run technique).  The pacers too, they were not to be seen either.  I had left them all behind.

With only 11 km left, I must keep going I told myself.  It is the same path that connects to East Coast Park and this time, it is the opposite direction heading to Nicoll Highway for the finish.  One step at a time, slow & steady and I just kept going and going.  The ground was wet and it was still drizzling.  On whole, it is still better than Stanchart run which will get hotter once first day breaks. 

By the time, I reached the final stretch on Nicoll Highway, I had only 2km left.  I increased my pace a little and before I ran past the finishing line, I took a quick glance on the gun time and it showed 4 hours 28 mins plus.  I knew I have come under 4 hours 30 mins and barring no further surprises, I should clock a net time of 4 hours 20 mins or about.  It is my personal best and I am likely to end my full marathon campaign on the high.  I credit the multiple of events, the Kuantan 160km cycling event and the Mt Kinabalu climb, among others that I have participated in this year for a great finish, a fantastic run.  Hip, hip, hip...hooray (3x) to all my friends who did the 21km and 42km!

Friday, May 04, 2012

NST admits and regrets ‘anti-Islam’ report against Oz Senator

My take: Deliberate or not, Malaysia's NST has to apologise to an Australia politician for the wrong reporting which put this politician in bad light.  That, as far as I am concerned is manipulation of news to misled the general public by a trusted national media and on this note, I take comfort that our S.T. though owned by GLC will never stoop so low to cast aspersions of sorts for political gains. 
By Clara Chooi
The Malaysian Insider
May 03, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — The New Straits Times (NST) has admitted to falsely reporting that Australian Senator Nicholas Xenophon had criticised Islam in 2009, saying today it regrets the mistake and will take steps to make amends.

In a three-paragraph statement to The Malaysian Insider, the Umno-owned daily said that Xenophon, a known associate of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had not called Islam a “criminal organisation” as reported in its article yesterday but had instead used the label to criticise “Scientology”.

The remarks issued by Xenophon were purportedly made during the latter’s adjournment speech in Australia’s Parliament in 2009.

NST also pledged to publish an “appropriate statement” on the issue in both its print and online editions, adding its regret to any distress the incident may have caused the independent Australian Senator.

The NST’s response, in verbatim, is as follows:
“We refer to the news regarding Mr Nicholas Xenophon’s complaint in respect of the article entitled ‘Observer Under Scrutiny’ with a sub-title ‘Impartiality Questioned: Anti-Islam Australian Lawmaker Comes Under Fire’, which appeared in the May 2, 2012 edition of the New Straits Times published by us.

“We regret that the article attributes certain statements to Xenophon, particularly the use of the word ‘Islam’ which he did not make in a parliamentary speech in November 2009. We are taking steps to make amends including publishing an appropriate statement in our newspaper and its online version to address the issue.

“We truly and sincerely regret that Xenophon has suffered any distress and embarrassment arising from the article and we honestly believe that that steps we are taking to make amends will resolve the matter.”

Earlier today, NST head Abdul Jalil Hamid confirmed that the paper was investigating claims that it had misreported Xenophon’s three-year-old speech, which had effectively painted the Senator as anti-Islam.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) today, the independent senator is fuming from the “extraordinary attack” against his impartiality and is contemplating legal action against the NST, which had carried the article yesterday.

Xenophon also told the Australian newspaper that NST’s alleged use of the word “Islam” to replace the actual term “Scientology”, which he had criticised in his 2009 speech, was “an example of the kind of dirty tricks the ruling party employs and had used against the Opposition Leader Anwar”.

The NST has since removed the article from its website, but cached copies can still be found of the offending story.

In the NST article, Xenophon was not only accused of insulting Islam during his 2009 adjournment speech in Australia’s Parliament, but was also said to have expressed strong support for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

The NST’s extract of the speech quoted the senator as saying: “What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality. On the body of evidence, this is not happening by accident; it is happening by design. Islam is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”

But in the excerpt from the Australian Parliament’s Hansard, cited in the SMH, Xenophon had actually said: “What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality. On the body of evidence, this is not happening by accident; it is happening by design. Scientology is not a religious organisation. It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs.”

A cached version of the article can be accessed here: (

According to the NST, Xenophon had also appeared to express support for same-sex marriages in the same adjournment speech, purportedly claiming that other lawmakers agreed with him and such unions would eventually be allowed by law.

The paper quoted PKR-turned-independent MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim as criticising Xenophon for his words, saying that the latter was not only outspoken against Islam but also supportive of the LGBTs.

“Should we let someone like Xenophon influence our culture and moral values through politics? By confiding in Xenophon, is Anwar also supporting the LGBT movement?” he asked, according to the NST.

SMH, however, did not dispute the NST’s report over Xenophon’s alleged support for homosexuality.

But the paper claimed that the NST had refused to comment on the issue last night.

Xenophon was among the team of international observers or the “pre-election assessment team” invited into Kuala Lumpur by Anwar to look into the country’s electoral reform attempts.

The team was on a six-day mission from April 25 and was tasked to interview local government and political leaders, before compiling its recommendations on how Malaysia could have a clean and fair polls process, which the country’s opposition leaders have insisted does not exist here.

They had also observed last Saturday’s rally for free and fair elections by Bersih and in an immediate response to the event, Xenophon had insisted that the rally-goers were well-behaved and even festive, instead of unruly as claimed by government leaders.

As a result, Xenophon has come under fire for his allegedly blinkered support for Anwar, with questions raised over his independence and impartiality.