At 3:00 am on May 6th, 2012, in Likas Stadium, Malaysia, the gun for the Borneo International Marathon went off. Just over 2,000 runners began the first steps of 26.2 miles around the track, out of the arena, and into the steamy night of Kota Kinabalu.
As the crowds thinned out, Nick, his mustache, and I ran together while Ron put on headphones and fell into his own stride, already thinking about the peanut butter sandwiches he’d stashed along the course.
An hour into the race, we ran through downtown, just in time to see the last barflies staggering out of clubs and into taxi cabs. Aid stations and cheering volunteers gave hoots and high fives as the sky showed the slightest shades of dawn.
Two hours into the race, we looped back by the stadium and began the second lasso of the figure-eight course. Feeling pretty good, we picked up our pace.
Suddenly, the fastest man alive – and then another – and another – flew by at mind-blowing speeds. Turns out the half-marathoners had hit the course and, naturally, the Ethiopians were taking the race by storm.
In admiration, we watched them fly by on their way to the Finish, as the three-hour mark rolled by and the second loop essed back towards the stadium. At the final aid station, Nick scarfed a banana and a gel pack. I eyed the bananas but couldn’t muster the strength – I can’t stand them, no matter how much of a powerfood they’re considered to be.
Besides not eating anything the entire race, I also hadn’t wanted to step off the course to use the restroom yet, so, reluctantly, I waved Nick on and ran for the trees along the highway. He looked a bit confused but kept going, and I didn’t see him again till I crossed the Finish Line 40 minutes later.
The last quarter of the race was amazing. The sun was about to come over the mountains, and, as I neared the stadium, the growing crowds sent a surge of energy into my burning lungs. Channeling the power of the Ethiopians I’d seen an hour and half before, I flew past runners and rounded the corner into the open stadium. As my feet hit the track, I heard Nick’s familiar whistle encouraging me on.
Turns out he made his goal by finishing at exactly 03:59.11: barely under four hours!!!
My legs went to Jello as soon as I crossed the Finish Line at 04:07. I hardly noticed as a laniard was placed around my neck gracing the number 3. After the fog in my head cleared up and I could drink water again, I held it in my hand wondering what it could mean.
We stayed on the field long enough to see Ron come in a strong finish at just under five hours!
We shared chocolate milk and worked our way to the bleachers for the awards ceremony. It soon became clear that not only was I the third woman overall to cross the Finish Line, but I’d actually come in First Place in the Non-Malaysian category! Overwhelmed, I worked my way up to the platform and was led to stand on the First Place podium! A nice lady handed me a trophy, massive novelty check for $300 US Dollars, and a bag of swag that included instant coffee, cereal, and 2XU compression tights! I’d actually won the first marathon I ever ran. Unbelievable!
After photos and reveling our accomplishments, we flagged a cab and took our broken bodies back to the hostel and slept the rest of the day.
The next morning, we boarded a bus for the base of Mount Kinabalu. After a quick night of rest, we trekked to the top of this highest point in Southeast Asia at 13,435 feet. On the summit, we celebrated the immense view of ocean and canopy of rainforest spreading below us. As we moved on to reminiscences of the marathon and our epic months of travel, rain moved in, of course. We slipped our way down the slick granite as new waterfalls began plunging towards the jungle below.
That night after a hot shower and cup of tea, I felt completely exhausted and might have experienced the best sleep in history.