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Monday, August 4, 2014

Kuching Marathon Route Report

“Lets run the Kuching marathon route”

Well we started at 3am from Padang Merdeka. It was dark, people were just going home from bars and we were a strange race in headlamps, hydration packs, compression socks and running shoes. Tourists asked to take pictures with us. A car slowed down and asked what we were doing.

What, you never saw anyone preparing for a spontaneous marathon before? Haha, famous last words.

This is the view from the road between the post office and Plaza Merdeka. I assume this is where the start pens are going to be. In front of us on the right is Central Padang, which we have to run around. We ran on the actual padang itself to avoid cars. It was 3am and we were worried about drunk and sleepy drivers.

Then you turn left into a lorong...there are two lorongs here, so I am not sure which one will be used. The first one, Jalan Masjid, will take you past the Jalan Masjid polyclinic and another one, Jalan Khoo Hu Yeang, will go by the central police station. You will end up at more or less the same place, just wondering which road will be used. Anyway, we ran on the polyclinic road as its closer. This will take you past Gurdwara Sikh temple on your left and end up at a roundabout with the central Mosque. There you take the second exit into Jalan Datuk Ajibah Abol.

The first 10km or so of the marathon is through sleepy Malay kampungs. It is flat, quiet and drowsy, especially at 3am! You’re running on the road itself and there are streetlights. There's a small ramp uphill crossing over Satok bridge at around km4, but its incline is not scary (more on this later).After that bridge, its more sleepy Malay kampung roads, Jalan Muhibbah and Jalan Kulas. Nothing much to look out for, except some of the roads are really dark, and we were wearing headlamps! It’s advisable to be wearing some form of reflective clothing or lights; since we start so early to beat the sun. 

I didn't bother taking photos of the kampung, because it'll be dark and everything will look the same. But anyway, here's Satok bridge. We took a bit of liberty with this part, running on the pavement and up and down the stairs. On the actual day I think we'll be running on the road itself.

Cars here are pretty considerate and don't drive too fast, which is good. Once you get to Satok bridge there’s pavement on the side. Hope they'll still close half the road off though, cos we were cheered (quite aggressively) by a couple of guys on motorcycles. Maybe they meant to be encouraging, but it gets a bit scary.

After this bridge its more kampung roads, its pretty flat and dark. This is quite a longish stretch, about 3km; lots of quaint kampung houses to look at though. You run through the back road, which is called Jalan Merdeka. Its nice and cool here as this area is next to the river. You run right to the very end of Jalan Merdeka, at which point you will come to a T-junction. You turn left here, into Jalan Kassim Jaafar. The end of this road is another T-junction, where you will turn right into Jalan Astana. At the end of Jalan Astana is a slight hill, after you crest the hill go straight and you will hit this roundabout.

think this road is called Jalan Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Muhammad Salehuddin; at least thats what the blue sign says. Anyway you'll see a roundabout with a lighted up hornbill in the middle. Excuse my lousy photograhy skills here, using my phone camera.

At this roundabout you take the second exit and run to another roundabout. This next roundabout has a big fountain in the middle, and no I didnt take a picture because its dark.

By this time you'll be at km9-10. You take the first exit here and will run past the State Library and State Mosque on your right. This is Jalan Tun Abdul Rahman.

The road here is pitch black, as we were running on the parallel bike path and not under the street lamps, so luckily we had our headlamps. I hope this road will be closed for the race, as the bike path is winding and really not possible to run at 3-4am. There's not much of a shoulder to the road either, so you'll be running on the actual street itself.

At the end of this road is another roundabout (surprise, surprise) but you turn right into the first exit into Jalan Samariang. You'll run past a building on a hill which looks like a shuttlecock; this is the Kuching North City Hall and home to the Cat Museum. This is about km13. Keep running straight till you get to a crossroad with traffic lights.

At the traffic light, turn right into Jalan Sultan Tengah. This is a pretty long stretch, about 5+ km. There is an insidious hill here which just creeps up on you slowly and suddenly gets a bit steep. This whole road will be slightly uphill, perfect to run if your coach tells you to train on rolling hills. Run on the road here, as the shoulder of the road is wide. There is a pavement, although at one point the pavement ends suddenly at a huge storm drain.

At the end of this road is km20 and another huge roundabout, where you go straight into another long road called Jalan Protokal. I took this shot in the daytime when I was running it once, so hopefully when you get here it'll still be dark and the temperature cool. Its lovingly referred to as the “6km of hell” by a few local runners. 

Thats because there's nothing to look at to distract you here. Its a long stretch of just you and road, not even a pothole to keep things interesting. This is a good place to start writing that song you always wanted, compose your Academy award acceptance speech, have a little existential crisis or just zone out. Anyway, at the end of this road is another slight hill.

After Jalan Protokal, you'll reach this roundabout. I took this photo in the daytime, in order to point out a very vital landmark. If you look straight ahead, there is a 24-hour KFC! Perfect to have your mid-race snack plate! However, if you insist on continuing the run, you turn into the road on your left. This is Jalan Bako. Once you're here, its about km25. You're more than half-way through your marathon!

Another nice long stretch of road, a bit less than 5km.

The nice thing about Jalan Bako is its lined with trees on both sides, offering a bit of shade. A genius from the City Council also decided to plant jasmine trees along this road, so you get a nice cool flowery fragrance as you run. Jalan Bako is a main road and little roads branch off of it, so do watch out for cars and motorcycles entering and exiting, even from the other side of the road! 

This bridge is almost at the end of Jalan Bako, and has a nice view of Sarawak river.

I saw this huge sawmill and another big factory.
“Isn't that the Gold Coin Factory?” my friend asked.
“What do they make?”
Thaaaaaaat's niiiiiccceeeeeeeee.

This sign is across the road; entering Demak Laut Industrial Park at km30.

Well they call it a park...but its a pretty dusty road with a few large industrial vehicles. Its not the most pleasant of roads to run. 

Reaching this traffic light, you turn right into an industrial road; Jalan Keruing.

I particularly hate this portion of the road as its really dusty and dirty, there's lots of roadkill, and motorcyclists and cars and lorries don't seem to see you at all. I hope they close it for the race for safety reasons. You'll crest a steep hill at this road, which is a bridge going over the Kuching barrage. Cars drive here at breakneck speed, and as you can see, there's no pavement and hardly any space on the shoulder of the road. Be alert and be prepared to make an emergency bail out onto the grass, as I had to a few times. This entire stretch of road is a about 3km.

At the end of that road, you'll see this building on your left at km33. The Borneo Convention Center looks like a leaf or something from the top, but you'll be seeing the back of the building first.

Turn left at the traffic light and you'll run around BCCK into another roundabout.
You run into this road and see the Sarawak Energy building.

Run straight and you will be turning uphill over another bridge on your left. This is the Isthmus bridge. Congratulations! You have now run 35 km of your marathon! This is probably the longest long run you have done, but the good news is you can start counting down the last 7 km.

I'm told by organizers that there will be a wet sponge station somewhere at this point, and by this time the
sun should be up. So unless you run a marathon in less than 3 hours, this will be a relief!

From this point, it will be pretty hot going as there's no tree cover, and the ramp over Isthmus is a small hill. I stuffed a cap in my hydration pack, and at this point, its a good idea to have some form of sun protection, either a hat or sunglasses.

After Isthmus bridge, there will be a large cross road with traffic lights. You will turn right at this point, run straight until hit another set of traffic lights. Then you will turn left into Jalan Pending.

Now this is where it starts to get interesting. 

Ta-DAHHHH! Hills! And a couple of steep ones!

How nice of the organizers to have it after km38 when you're good and tired!
When I got to this hill, I realised that I was running at the same speed that I walk. So I walked. Its only about 2km though, and you’ll love the downhills! Avoid stomping down the hills even if you’re excited, because this can lead to high impact on your knees and possible injury.

At the end of this merciless road, you'll turn left and head for Jalan Padungan. 

You'll pass this building, which is the Kuching South City Hall, when you’re almost at km40. You'll be looking from afar, though, not as close as this.

By the time you see the white cat at the end of Padungan, you have 2km left to go! Padungan is the Chinatown of Kuching, lots to see when you run past but lots of aggressive flower-buying aunties and breakfasting-families-in-minivans too. I don't know if they'll close this road since its so popular on weekends. I hope they will control traffic here, though it may incur ire from non-running Kuching-ites!

Anyway, gather yourself and be vigilant from here, since the city roads have a couple of potholes and loose tiles and manhole covers. It would be a shame to trip here and get a DNF!

From Jalan Padungan, its straight along the Kuching waterfront and Gambier street. When you see UOB bank at the left corner, you turn left and should see the finish line in front of you!

There will be lots of photographers here I reckon, so pick up your step and SMILE! You make running a marathon look easy!

For those of you who love stats and figures, heres a graph of the elevation profile along the 42km.

Report by:- Stephanie Chan

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