It’s raining today; how I miss this weather and I want to shove on my trainers and get out in it, get soaked through, feel that fresh and salty wash down my face and enjoy the cooling effects. But there will be no running in the rain today. The rain is torrential and my windscreen wipers barely blink fast enough to keep visibility up. Then comes the thunder, loud enough to crack park benches and then too, comes the fizzle of lightening- so severe that there are warning sirens sounding, telling people to get inside and particularly away from open spaces. No, the rain will not be a running friend for me over here. In other news, the weather is normally too hot to go without sunblock Factor 30 (bearing in mind, I’m not exactly Scottish blue-skinned, having earned my sock n vest lines on the West coast last year). The humidity makes consuming Oxygen very tough and I run with a gawping fish mouth, valiantly sucking at air but gaining little for my efforts. Its anoxic exercise at best and completely knackering at worst.
And the efforts have been monumental. Try three miles in 32 degC with your heart-rate hammering at 181 bpm! Now I’m not the fittest person out there but, for context, a sub-8 minute mile back in the UK requires the same effort as a 10+ minute mile in Brunei going on heart-rate comparison. Not that really worries me. It’s to be expected and I will get better as I acclimate.
But there are other things that nag me. Apart from the SPF, there’s insect repellent to wear – DEET on any available flesh and remember, don’t wipe your forehead with your hand once the rivers of perspiration start- as that’ll clean the DEET off and will sting your eyes once the sweat carries the chemical there. So running vests are great for keeping as cool as possible but also highly likely to return two outcomes- sunburn and/or insect bites. I’ve experienced a couple of sand-fly bites on each hand. I was bitten on the Monday evening but the bites didn’t swell until Wednesday lunchtime. My hand was puffed up and tight, pulsing red and white and the bite sites were yellow and puss-filled, requiring both anti-histamine and topical antibiotic cream. Prevention being less itchy….I am also swatting Buddhist principles to one side and if something flies, buzzes and could remotely bite me, I am squishing first and asking for forgiveness later. There are mosquito repellent plug-ins in the bedroom and living-room and the air-con is kept at goose-bump level. I sleep with full length pyjamas and my ears beneath the covers (even though it’s too hot), which I haven’t done since the farm days, when there would be ear-wigs in the bed room during summer. I will no longer laugh at (German) tourists who wear both socks and open toed sandals; keeping the feet protected from the sun and the biters, is essential. I wish I had brought more long sleeved tee-shirts.
But running continues- of course it does! From my fool-hardy 5K on that first Monday morning, wearing a too thick tee-shirt, buff over my head, out and back on the main road at 10:30 a.m. thinking to myself that if this was how it was going to be, that I would never manage……to starting out earlier and earlier or leaving the run until an hour before sundown and running the gauntlet with the Biters. That’s when people run, there are so many runners here, both ex-pat and local, 7 am or 5pm. The ex-pats Panaga club has a group called the Panas Runners who go for a beach run on Mondays and Fridays and also have a session on Wednesdays, although I don’t think you get to go to that until you can keep up with the main group on the beach-runs. The first Monday I ran up the beach for 1.5 miles and luckily had some buddies who were happy with a 10+ min/mile. The beach is compact and more importantly, flat with no camber issues although there is a varying degree of litter- both natural (logs, Shells, crabs and crab-mounds) and man-made (bottles, plastic tubs). There’s a light breeze as well which although not temperature cool, does have a cooling effect. To get off the beach there is a scramble up a steep concrete sea-wall, drop down on the otherside onto long grass near some nodding donkey oil-wells and then a fairly quick section along a sandy trail onto the Jalan Utara to avoid lingering in Biter territory near stagnant waters. The route continues down passed the Lapan Puluh apartment and onto the cycle-paths, which weave their way through the Shell housing camp and back towards the Panaga club. That route is about 4 miles and there is some shade on the return journey from the canopy which intersperses all the housing in sections F9 and beyond. The Friday runs are a variation on this by heading firstly down passed the school, onto the cycle-paths and down towards F1 and the roundabout towards the town of Kuala Belait (KB). Across through sector E1 and then onto the beach, this time running up towards the Panaga club – always with the sun behind you. The sun-sets are really beautiful here. The sun seems to set almost within minutes and the sea and beach turn from yellow to red and then it’s night. Like a light-switch. The mornings are the reverse, although I have only seen the sunrise once during the Brunei Half Marathon….seconds after lights-on, someone turns the heat on too and that murky bathwater feel becomes over-whelming, forcing blood to the surface of my skin and the heart-rate goes up and up and up. And that’s how running is now. Slower than normal but not the slowest I’ve ever been 😉 I have a new set of base-lines to improve upon and any previous times and efforts are not forgotten but are meaningless in this context. I still strive for fitness, for improvement and for running to be more fluid, easier on the lungs and not so exhausting. I am enjoying it despite these so-called frustrations and I look forward to chipping away at my pace, upping the mileage and lowering my heart-rate a beat at a time.
NEXT UP- The Borneo Half Marathon, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, which will now be run at midnight on 4th/5th May due to clashes with the local election voting!