Going the extra mile

Fadhil Yunus

Marathons are considered one of the earliest events in the family of athletics that can be traced back during the wartime era.

Long-distance running covers a series of events including those of 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres, which have been popularised by Brunei Darussalam’s national athletes in previous decades.

The history of long-distance running and marathons in Brunei Darussalam can be traced back to the ‘70s and the ‘80s, with the first races being held during the Sumbiling Marathon and SIA Marathon.

The Sumbiling Marathon saw running enthusiasts assembled at 4am in Pekan Muara where the route would take them to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan, and included passing through Sungai Besar.

It was during this period that Brunei would witness the emergence of a local long-distance running icon – Roslan Baha.

Roslan was known for his fleetness in the 5,000-metre domestically and internationally, leaving fellow countrymen in his shadows.

Meanwhile, marathons in Brunei reached a significant milestone with the establishment of the SIA Marathon in 1987 before the event became widespread on the domestic scene.

With the existence of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), International Association of Ultrarunners and the Association of International Marathons and Distances, Brunei Darussalam was invited to compete in overseas competitions including Norway and Argentina.

Nevertheless, the organisations required athletes to meet qualifying standards which proved to be an obstacle.

Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games also serves as an opportunity to gain representation in long-distance running events.

Aspiring Brunei athletes must strive to work hard towards selection; and the association provides assistance to help them further their career.

There are also numerous regional and international competitions but qualification is paramount for any athlete to make the cut in major sporting events.

In the regional or international level, the country’s representation in long-distance running was seen during the 1985 SEA Games in Bangkok, Thailand.

A number of local runners have also impressed in the international arena with Sefli anak Ahar as a prime example, having crossed the line with a sub-three hour mark in the marathon event.

Another notable figure who contributed to the progress of long-distance running is Zulkifli Liman. The specialist, whose statistics were recorded by a global governing body IAAF (now World Athletics), has also enjoyed an illustrious career with races in Nairobi, Delhi, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Currently, the Brunei Darussalam Athletics Federation (BDAF), as one of the members of the Development Commission of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) Commission, is looking to revive long-distance running in the scene to complement the short distance running which recently caught the headlines with numerous achievements.

A SEA medal has remained elusive in the long-distance event. And the quest continues, to follow in the footsteps of athletes who, through jumping, throwing and relay events, have managed to earn the chance to stand at the podium.