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Penang Bridge International Marathon

Penang bridge international marathon is being held annually since 1985 when the bridge was first opened to the public.

Back then it was called the Penang Bridge Run. Spanning over 8 kilometers over the sea, it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge is part of the network of PLUS highway, the backbone for the road transportation in Malaysia. Even before the bridge was being built, some portion of it became a running track to the people of Penang, including me, when I was a young teenage athlete training for field hockey.

Penang bridge marathon logo
The logo of 2008 Penang Bridge International Marathon
on the screen of the main stage.

After the bridge was officially opened, the lanes became off-limit except for the motorists. However, on one day each year, from 6 a.m. to 10.00 a.m., it is open again for people to walk or run the span of the bridge for the Penang bridge international marathon. That is one of the attractions for people to participate in this international event.

The Penang bridge is not far from my house and I get to see it daily from my balcony. At night, it is beautifully lit, together with the lights from the vehicles, it looks quite festive. The bridge is built in such a way that tall ships still can pass underneath, the middle of the span is very high, relative to the sea level. So, it is quite a challenge to run up to the pinnacle and then down again - twice.

In 2008, the event was organized solely by the Penang state government, compared to the previous years when it was organized with the co-operation from the federal government of Malaysia. The date chosen was 16th November 2008, which happened to be my 39th birthday.  I have marked the calendar to go there early, as participants set off as early as 6.00 a.m., depending on the categories of the events they partook.

penang international marathon runners
Runners breaking away towards the finishing line
wearing t-shirts of their sponsors.

There were around 16000 runners, mostly locals, from all walks of life and levels of fitness. There were also foreign professional athletes who were invited to participate, to make the challenge even harder.

As usual, attractive prizes were being offered, including a car as a lucky draw prize. Runners who managed to complete the run within certain time limits were given medals and also certificates of participation. The categories were extensive too, there were marathon for men and women, half marathon for men, women, veterans and juniors (youths), 10 km for men or women and also 10 km fun run.

However, on that day, despite good intention, I only left the house around 8.30 a.m. Cars were being parked in my neighborhood, since no vehicles were allowed in the Queensbay Mall area, where the tents and a stage were set up. I soon came by runners who had finished the race, they were returning to their cars, these fit runners had the medals and certificates in their hands already.

I also came across a group of African athletes already in their tracksuits and high-fiving each other, I had no idea what they were talking about but from the look of it they were congratulating each other for winning top spots in the Penang Bridge International Marathon. I walked further across the overhead bridge and saw below several big groups of people walking leisurely towards the finishing line.

rebana ubi, malay traditional drums
Rebana Ubi - traditional Malay giant drums 

These groups seem to be enjoying themselves for an early morning walk. When I got to the main stage area, Chingay and Malay giant drums performers (rebana ubi) had finished their show. The stage was already broadcasting unofficial results of the Penang Bridge International Marathon.

resting runners
Runners resting after the race under the shade.

DIGI chingay flag DIGI mascot
A chingay flag and a mascot bearing DIGI company logo. 

It was interesting to watch the behavior of the people around me. Some of them were relaxing while some were nursing all sorts of minor injuries, and some were even limping after the exertion. Yes, for these athletes no pain, no gain. There is a well organized first aid station, as well as paramedics on bicycles scouting for casualties of the race.

		aid ambulance
First aid station at the finishing line

I shot some photos, lingered for a while to watch some cultural show on the stage and then left. Even after almost 10.00 a.m. there were still people just reaching the finishing line.

Thousands pairs of NIKE, PUMA and ADIDAS shoes were used for this event. These branded shoes companies must be laughing all the way to the banks because most of the shoes bought were used once for this event only.

For the main marathon and half-marathon events, all foreign athletes bagged the top three positions, except for the woman category, a female Malaysian runner made the country proud by winning the first place.

It was a good event, it helped to promote some health awareness of exercising among the people because they have to train for it. Maybe one day I would sign up too. Oh yes, here is the web site for you to sign up for the following year event. So, unearth those trainers from your storage and let's get sweaty to prepare for the Penang Bridge International Marathon!

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