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Army May 24, 2012
Race of a lifetime
IHAVE never run a marathon, let alone
an ultra marathon, but the inaugural
Special Forces 200km extreme ultra
marathon was an itch I just had to
Everyone around me said I was mad
for even contemplating it, but that just
inspired me more.
As a reservist and shameless adren-
aline junkie, I continuously seek to chal-
lenge myself physically and mentally; my
philosophy being, you never know what
you are capable of until you try.
After completing the Kokoda
Track earlier this year, the ultra mara-
thon, which retraced the route of the
Sandakan Death March in Borneo in
World War II, beckoned as an exciting
test of character and personal fitness.
Apart from the personal challenge,
this event also enabled me to pay trib-
ute to the 1800 Australian POWs who
perished during the Sandakan death
Organised by Sabah Adventure
Travel, Malaysia's first 200km ultra
marathon attracted nine of us (two
Australians, two Brits, four Malaysians
and one Singaporean).
The race commenced with great
fanfare and local media at Ranau on
April 29 and concluded 200km later in
Sandakan on May 2.
Day one had us run for 50km, fol-
lowed by 35km on day two, then 8km in
dense jungle on day three, followed by
35km on day four and finally, a massive
66.7km on the last day.
I was well read on the Sandakan
death marches so my thoughts during
the race often turned to the hapless
POWs who were cruelly murdered by
the Japanese when they became too
weak to serve as porters.
The agony the Aussie POWs
endured meant I never dared surrender
to the temptation of giving up in the face
of delirium-inducing fatigue, intense
muscular pain and the unrelenting,
It was national pride as much as
the knowledge that I would let myself
down if I didn't finish that kept me going
through 37-degree heat and suffocating
Ultimately, I finished fifth in a time of
39.5 hours, which wasn't too bad con-
sidering I was coming last on day one
after straining my right patellar tendon
and last again on day three when I got
lost in the jungle.
Day five was clearly the most gruel-
ling. The end was in sight, but after only
seven hours' rest from the 35km run the
day before, we set out at midnight for
the last 66.7km, which I completed in 13
hours, some three hours faster than the
last four competitors.
Strangely, I felt only mild relief at not
having failed this challenge, rather than
wild euphoria at having completed my
first ultra marathon.
Though my feet are still blistered and
my knees agonisingly sore and swollen,
I am searching for my next challenge,
the most appealing being a 250km ultra
marathon in Libya where my grandfather
fought Rommel's Afrika Korps.
It seems that mine is a journey
of self-discovery as much as a rare
opportunity to walk in the footsteps of
Defence news reporter Michael Brooke is a reservist who likes a challenge.
From April 29 to May 2 he took on the inaugural extreme ultra marathon in
Borneo and tells us his story.
Photo by George Chong
Photo by Rabini HM Ayub
ultra marathon in
39.5 hours. The
race took him from
Ranau to Sandakan
in Borneo and
retraced the route
of the Sandakan
death march in WWII
where over 1800
Photo by Rabini HM Ayub
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