At the age of 63, Matnarudin Ibrahim’s (Haji Dyn) passion for long distance running is stronger than ever. He is also looking to continue to compete in ultra-marathon events while also hope to inspire many more Bruneians to enjoy running.
The former general manager of DST Group Subsidiaries and Customer Service has participated in numerous Ultra Road and Ultra Trail Marathon races.
It’s not an easy feat, he had to fight off fatigue and endured harsh weather as well as unfamiliar environments to cross the finish line.
He was awarded as the oldest Bruneian to participate and finish in the 200-km TiTi Ultra road run on March 19, 2019 by the Brunei Book of Records. Haji Dyn was also recognised as Asia Trail Master (ATM) Grandmaster as well as the oldest Bruneian to compete and finish in the most number of Ultra Marathons with distances of between 50 and 200km.
“If someone asks me, what type of runner I am, I will say I am an ultra-endurance runner,” shared Haji Dyn.
Recalling when his passion for running began, he said, “I started running quite late, probably when I was 45 doing short distances of five to 10km. At the same time, my love for hiking began to grow where I would usually go to Bukit Shahbandar and Tasek Lama since these were the two places available during those times. There was no Bukit Silat, no Bukit Sipatir and no Bukit Sarubing.
“From there, my passion for running or hiking grew. I started to join running and trail events especially those associated to charity,” he continued. “My first ultra-distance event then was the SMARTER Chairman’s Big Walk from Kuala Belait to Rimba Point in Brunei-Muara, covering a distance of 107km. Only four completed the challenge. My first official full marathon (42.2km) was the Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) Charity Marathon for ALAF. I was very fortunate to be selected as one of the runners. Alhamdulillah, I have completed these two events and have managed to raise a small fund for charities.”
His interest in running continued to grow further as he joined and finished full road marathons in Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Jakarta, and Manila.
“I then started Ultra Endurance Running in both road and trail categories with finishing one 200km ultra road marathon, a few 100 miles road and trail ultras and a few 100km road and trail ultras,” he said, adding that this passion continues to this day, and that he would love to invite, guide, share knowledge and experience with other runners or those who want to be one.
Some of his achievements in his Ultra Marathon running journey include: the Titi Ultra 2019 200km; Selangor Malaysia Road Ultra Route 68 Challenge 2018 168km; Gombak Selangor Titi Ultra 2017 100km; Road Ultra Jesselton 107 2017 107km; Malaysia Road Ultra Jesselton 107 2018 107km; Malaysia Road Ultra Kuching Ultra Marathon 2018 100km; Sarawak Malaysia Road Ultra, Kuching Ultra Marathon 2017 70km; Sarawak Malaysia Road Ultra, Mejawa Ultra 2020 12hrs 54km; Brunei Road Ultra Endurance; Ultra Trail Marathon (Butm) 2020 100 Miles; Sabah Malaysia Trail Ultra, Ultra Trail Panaromic (Utp) 2019 100 Miles; Pai, Mae Hg Son Thailand Trail Ultra, Beacons Way Ultra 2019 100 Miles; Wales, United Kingdom Trail Ultra Ultra Trail Panaromic (Utp) 2017 100 Miles; and Mae H Son – Pai Thailand Trail Ultra.
Some of the Ultra Marathons that he has completed include eight Physical Ultra Road Marathons comprising one 200km, one 168km, two 107km, two 100km, one 70km, and one 54km. He has also completed 27 Physical Ultra Trail Marathons comprising distances of four 100 miles, 15 of 100km, one 84km, one 75km, one 70km, three 60km and two 50km. This means that he has participated in a minimum total of 35 Ultra Marathons (Real/Physical (Non-Virtual) Ultra Marathons) with varying distances of 50km to 200km.
However, he was also forced to stop half-way in several ultra-marathons due to the unbearable trail conditions, such as high altitude or extreme weather. “You must know when to stop at your limit. Don’t over exert yourself. That could bring injuries or even worse – death,” he said.
During the pandemic, Haji Dyn also took part in virtual ultra marathon races, though he acknowledged that they are not as fun as the real events.
He also shared some valuable tips for runners, especially on preparation before a race. “It is vital to know what lies ahead in the race by studying and listing out the challenges, whether it is hilly or a 100-per-cent covered road. We should also consider whether the trail runs through Orang Asli villages with mostly no road lights or lampposts. It is always good to be ready for any two loops of 100km, a distance that covers two nights and two days, lack of sleep, unpredictable weather, dehydration, drop bags at 50km/150km (half and three-quarter distances) and 100km/200km (start/finish). So, you have four drop bags, two at each location, and it is important to label your drop bags and others.”
He said that once preparations are complete, one needs to develop the training as well as running and pacing strategies on facing these challenges to finish the race.
Haji Dyn also spoke on doing Long Slow Distance (LSD), and Long Moving Time (LMT), five to 10 hours in one go. “Do not pause your watch (keep it running). Remember rest is part of your race, so rest is also part of your training. Train together with your running friends or, better still, with your running buddy who will be participating in the same event.
“Weather plays a very important part which affects your performance on any road ultra race. Be prepared for rain or shine. Train at night, to include coping with sleep deprivation, and during the day, to include heat tolerance. Apart from the long distance and hilly roads, the two major challenges at TITI Ultra 200KM are sleepiness and heat exhaustion.”
As for road ultra, most of one’s training should be on similar kinds of routes, with roads including hills, while for TITI Ultra the route is always hilly with a long climb and long descent.
“You need to find the highest and the longest hills possible for your training. Finding these in Brunei are difficult, so compromise; find the tallest and longest hills and do hill repeats. For ultra endurance races, speed is not the essence here; it is more of LMT through jogging, walking up, jogging and walking down the hills. TITI Ultra 200km routes are nearly 100 per cent tarmac. The weather is usually hot during the day so train for your LSD and LMT under the heat.”
Another advice is to carry mandatory equipment, a medical kit, food and drinks during all these trainings in a suitable and comfortable vest. This is for one to get used to running with a vest of similar weight during the race. He said one should use the food and drink they carry to refuel and replenish energy, and for hydration.
They should also get used to eating and drinking what they carry while they run, and remember not to feel exhausted.
He reminded not to ever try wearing or using new kits, and rather to wear those that are used during one’s training and are proven be comfortable even after doing one’s LSD and LMT. “Carry spare socks all the time to prevent blisters. Change your socks if they get wet.
When you begin to feel you are developing hot spots on your feet, do not wait until you have blisters.”
Haji Dyn also shared about calorie loading, where about three days before the actual race is the time for one to store glycogen in their muscles and body to fuel their race, with suitable food intake. The types of food and fuel will be different from one runner to the other, but this must be tried and tested pre-race during training.
“It may be best to take those food, fuel and supplements that can be taken before, during and after race. I call this a three-in-one supplement for energy, endurance, and recovery.
“Most runners tend to train hard in the last few days. This is to be avoided. Never do any hard training on the final days. The last few days are for us to ensure our body is ready for the race; – the real challenge. Just do short distance jogs and run or walk at a very low pace.
“Get yourself mentally ready. Ultra-endurance running requires higher mental strength than physical strength, in the ratio of 80 per cent to 20 per cent. These may be quite difficult to develop, and can only be achieved through smart training, and gaining experience by doing a few ultra-events. Patience is key.”
During a race, he advised for runners to have a race and spacing strategy.
“These include your strategy on calorie consumption, re-fuelling, hydration, rest, running buddy or buddies, food to carry, food and changing kits (shoes, socks, shorts, tops, hats, buff) at drop bag points.”
He explained that one of the main strategies is to still feel quite fresh (semi-tired but not exhausted) at quarter-way, half-way and three-quarter way points. By doing this, he said one will be in the best position to complete a race within one’s planned strategy, or probably even better.
It would be best to start from the back of the group, sticking to one’s pacing strategy. “We are not elite, so let the elite occupy the front of the pack. If we are in front, we tend to start at a faster pace and thus not follow our running and pacing strategy. This is one of the main reasons why most runners tend to be exhausted in the first 50km. Stick to your own planned pace. The real race is not at the start – it is in the last 50km, and where you need your energy and strength most. The real race is in the last 20km to the finishing line.”
He said that at the finish line, be grateful, be thankful. “Enjoy the moment. Celebrate. Then it will be toward recovery by having a recovery meal to replenish calories, repair muscles, full rest, sports massage and short breaks. Try not to do a ‘recovery run’ of 20km. Chill, take it easy, and be kind to your body and yourself. Be patient.”
Once fully rested, runners will feel the eagerness to register for a new challenge or challenges. “It is now time to plan your next and future ultras. Also at the same time, review the race to find out in what ways you can improve your performance in the race.”
Haji Dyn said, “I am not a certified coach, nor an expert in running, but I believe the experience that I have gained and gone through, and knowledge I have gathered through my running journey are worth sharing.
“It may be a good time now for me to share with you all these experiences. It is my great hope that these could provide you as guides and be useful in your own running journey.”
He expressed hope that sharing his vast experience and journey can further inspire more people in the country to join long distance running activities.