Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Mountain Diaries

Ok updates. Spent the weekend at Mt. Kinabalu. Four a.m wake up calls and chill factor aside, it was pretty fun. This is my second year at the Climbathon and I have to admit it’s one of my favourite events to organize. The environment isn’t too controlled and we have free reign of our responsibilities. Basically, just make sure you have your head screwed on right and you know what you’re supposed to do. No room for incompetence.

Anyway, we made our way up to the mountains on Friday afternoon. It was drizzling so hell yeah, it was colder than expected when got up there. Half the team arrived the night before so the Secretariat was already set up. Some runners were still registering for the race so we were still busy attending to that. My main duty is to take care of the media, both foreign and local, and making sure they’ve got all the information they need. It’s quite easy dealing with the media because most of them are my friends (recap: I used to be a reporter). Dealing with the foreign media can prove to be a wee bit trickier. Sometimes they have the strangest requests. For example, TWI (Trans World International – an international sports channel) from London wanted to take shots of the surrounding villages and market after the event. A few phone calls here, a bit of coordination there and it’s a done deal. Another thing I enjoy about the Climbathon is meeting the athletes themselves. I mean, anyone who can RUN up and down 4095.2m of granite in three hours pretty much gets my respect. For those not in the know, regular climbers usually take a leisurely two days to climb Mount Kinabalu (they spend a night at the halfway point, Laban Rata and proceed to the peak at 2am). Professional mountain runners take an average of 3 hours. THREE freakin’ hours. Not days, mind you. HOURS.

In a nutshell, here’s what the Climbathon is all about:

The Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon has made its reputation as “The World’s Toughest Mountain Race”. It is a true challenge to the spirit of human endurance. The race involves running up and down Mt. Kinabalu (4095.2m), a total distance of 21 KM for both Men and Women category.

The Climbathon first started in 1987 where its origin can be traced to the Sabah Parks’ intention to acquire rapid rescue squad – a team of rangers who can bring down injured climbers fast (this is especially useful during bad weather when helicopters cannot be used.) It was an all-Malaysian affair for a year until it was opened for international participants. Sabah Tourism Board took over to organize the event in 1995.

The Climbathon is now popular among European mountain runners who form the majority of the members of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), whose patron is the International Amateur Athletic Federations (IAAF).

For the past 3 years, the Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon was included in the World Skyrunning Championship circuit by the World Federation of Sports at Altitude (FSA) base in Italy. Again in 2005, it will be in their final circuit. Top runners from around the globe will meet in the Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon to compete to win the championship.

I love the cut and paste feature, don’t you?

Back to my weekend… We stayed at Kinabalu Lodge, a large cabin within the national park. In the evening after dinner, it was time to whip out the whisky (hey, we need to warm up somehow) and guitar. I was bundled up in three layers of clothing, as usual, but after a few glasses of Chivas and several renditions of Deep Blue Something’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, I warmed up pretty fast. The second night we had a barbeque, which would have been fun if not for the fact that the pit is outdoors and it’s c-c-c-cold. I took the task of tending the fireplace while the boys played chef at the BBQ pit. Me smart, no?

During the prize presentation, I took the opportunity to get the autographs of the Men’s and Women’s Champion, Ricardo Mejia from Mexico (my favourite runner) and Anna Pichtrova of Czechoslavakia (she’s also an Olympian. I think she took the 28th placing at the recent Olympic’s marathon event). I’ve been a fan of Ricardo for a while. Compared to the other athletes, he’s smaller built. Back in Mexico, I was told that he’s someone’s chauffeur and I think a part time mechanic. But here on the mountain, he is THE MAN. I just like his humility and determination to win. He can’t afford to participate in the race by himself so he actually gets sponsors from all around. Looks like he turned out to be worthwhile investment after all. Oh and get this: Anna Pichtrova gave me her Buff Sky Running Champion trophy! I kid you not. She said it was too heavy to carry back and eventhough I offered for our company to send it via post, she refused. Heh, how about that?

Ok peeps. I will let the photos tell the rest of the story.

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