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19 July 2011

Gold Coast Airport Marathon – Dream Comes True

By Mohd Irwan Bin

Another dream came true for me upon hearing great news that I have won an all expenses paid trip by Air Asia to run in The Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

The story begins after I came back from an-all-well-envied trip of running in 2011′s Virgin London Marathon. It was a dream came true for me then after winning the ballot to run in one of the Big Five marathons.

In May 2011,Air Asia organized a blog competition titled ‘Blog Your Way to The Gold Coast Marathon (GCAM)’, offering the bloggers the opportunity to share their best marathon experience. Without hesitation, I entered the competition sharing my wonderful experience running in London (insert link of the entry). In the end, I won the competition, thanks to my Facebook friends who voted my entry.

The GCAM weekend finally arrived and I was all excited after being told by other runners who have run there before me, that Gold Coast would offer the best condition to run a marathon and has the flattest course which is perfect for runners to clock their Personal Best (PB) timing.

The Air Asia Runners Club members, along with me left for Gold Coast on the evening of Friday 1st July. There I met up with the other runners from the company. The 8 hours flight in the brand new A330 aircraft went by so smoothly and comfortably. It was a great experience, much better than I expected.

We arrived in Gold Coast on the morning of Saturday 2nd July. The cool winter weather greeted us with a bright sunny morning. We went straight to our hotel, Radisson Resort for check-in. Then all of us went to the Gold Coast Convention Centre to collect our race kit and visit the expo. On top of that, our group was the guests for the Air Asia X Legend luncheon. During the luncheon, Air Asia X’s CEO, Azran Osman-Rani gave a welcoming speech as a host of the luncheon. It followed by talks from the top runners in Australia, sharing their running tips with the guests.

The rest of the Saturday program was a free and easy session for everyone. Some decided to go back to the hotel and rest, some went to do some shopping at Carrara Market and I took the chance to walk around Gold Coast. Nana, another Malaysian runner friend, joined me walking along the Broad Beach until the world famous’ Surfers Paradise. The picturesque beach view was as scenic as portrayed in the postcards. It was such a wonderful view of the blue ocean, clean sandy beach with the sound of the waves hitting the shore and kids running around, making sand castles with their parents watching nearby despite the chilly weather. There were also few groups of new surfers having their surfing lessons, all suited up in their wet suits.

The Race Day
On the Sunday morning of the race day, the full marathoners left the hotel at 0530. Our starting time was at 0710. There were 7 full marathoners in the Air Asia team with 3 of them were doing it for the first time, Yvonne, Dzul and Daryl. Shariman and Juswill were the two experienced marathoners from the Air Asia staff group. The other two runners were Anand, the other blog winner and myself.

The rest of the teams were doing half marathons and they started earlier at 0600.

Nana and I aimed to achieve our PB in GCAM. Her best time was 4 hours and 53 minutes in which she clocked in Paris Marathon recently and my best time was 4 hours and 52 minutes which I clocked in this year’s Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

At the starting point I met many Malaysian runner friends who also travelled to Gold Coast for the marathon. Amongst them were runners from Pacesetters Malaysia Club (PACM) and Chap Ayam Runners (Asri, Azizi, Khairul, Zul, Lily and Irina). I also bumped into few friends from the local running scenes and made new friends along the way

I started the race comfortably with the moderate pacing of 6:30 min/km. Nana and I were aiming to finish between 4h30m and 4h45m. The condition was good as the sun rise and the course was flat which provided us with a perfect condition to run. We were pacing each other throughout and maintained the same pace until the end.

The route was scenic, running along the beaches passing by the row of service apartments. The breeze from the sea and the sound of the waves welcomed us with a warm sunny morning. Nana and I kept motivating each other by referring to our Garmin watch and eyes on the PB timing. Every time we mentioned the PB words, our eyes were gleaming with joy.

The supporters were very friendly along the course urging the runners to keep up their momentum. There were some kids handed some cut oranges along the way and some of them were hi-fiving with the passing runners. One notable scene for me was when I saw an elderly couple who were having breakfast on a complete table set up outside their home, watching us running. I even managed to greet them by saying ‘Have a good breakfast!’ and they replied with broad smiles whilst raising their tea cups.

There were times that I thought I was going too fast but I realized that I have to keep up the momentum in order to achieve the target time. Nana kept reminding me if I was getting faster, just to maintain our pacing until the end without tiring ourselves too soon.

The route was scenic, plenty of supporters along the course, abundance water stations and friendly volunteers.

Near to the finishing line, the rest of Air Asia team runners who completed their half marathons earlier gave us, the marathoners their big cheer for us, urging us to complete the last few hundred meters to the finishing line.

Nana and I raised the Malaysian flag in the last 500m of the race and received many cheers from the supporters. It was a truly euphoric feeling finishing the race along with a good friend with Jalur Gemilang in hands.

In the end Nana and I finished the race slightly over than our target with timing of 4 hours and 47 minutes. It was still PB timing for us.

Juswill finished his race with timing of 4h30m. Shariman finished his race in 5h10m with Jalur Gemilang in hand. The Air Asia’s virgin marathoners also finished their races with style and high spirit. Daryl finished soon after Shariman followed by Yvonne and Dzul. They finished with smiles on their faces despite just completing their maiden 42km race. I am sure every one of them has their own stories on completing their first marathon.

Special mention to our legendary Mohan Marathon who was running his 130th marathon after completing his Sundown 100km a week before the race weekend. His spirit and camaraderie in the running circle is highly regarded. He ran with his usual trademark, one hand with his handheld camera and the other with his whistle. He even helped few exhausted runners finishing their race in the last few hundred meters. A role model indeed in putting others’ interests first before his.

In the end, I have a thoroughly enjoyable trip with Air Asia. I made new friends with the Air Asia runners, ran my best marathon to date and visited the famous Gold Coast.

I would like to thank Air Asia team for the trip, my Facebook friends who voted for me which resulted to the winning entry and Nana for putting up with me in achieving our best result so far.

Would I come back to GCAM? Definitely!