Champs for the third time at the Penang Bridge marathon

ARMY man Nik Fakaruddin Ismail, 33, and tax consultant Loh Chooi Fern, 26, emerged as the best Malaysian men’s and women’s finishers respectively at the Penang Bridge International Marathon today.

With today’s victory, both coincidentally won the title three times each. Nik Fakaruddin clinched a hattrick from 2016 to 2018 while Loh came out tops in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Loh finished second in 2016.

“My consistent training paid off,” said Nik Fakaruddin, who is a corporal attached with the Kem Pusat Cemerlang Olahraga Tentera Darat in Sungai Besi.

“When it rained in the evening, I switched my training to night time. I tried not to miss a single training session every day. Sometimes, my training includes gym workouts.”

Yeoh posing with the three best Malaysian women’s full marathoners – first runner-up Noor Amelia (left), champion Loh (second from left) and Tho (right) after presenting the prizes to them.

Nik Fakaruddin proved he is one of the top marathoners in the country earlier in September when he won the Terengganu Marathon.

In today’s Penang race, the last four kilometres were “tough” for Nik Fakaruddin as he ran against strong winds and in the rain. Yet, he managed to clock 2 hours 45 minutes 54 seconds to be the best Malaysian men’s finisher, ahead of Mohamad Helmi Azri (2:46.12) and Ow Yong Jin Kuang (3:03.06).

Nik Fakaruddin’s personal best was 2:40:03 which he achieved in 2016 at the Penang Bridge International Marathon. The win earned him RM5,000 apart from the RM1,000 for finishing ninth overall.

Loh clocked 3:17:30 for her personal best, bettering her winning time of 3:18:44 set in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon this year. Noor Amelia Musa, who is the wife of Nik Fakaruddin, came second in 3:24:57 while Tho Siaw Khim was third in 3:27:03.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia Muhammd Bakhtiar Wan Chik posing with the top three Malaysian men’s full marathoners – champion Nik Fakaruddin (left), first runner-up Mohamad Helmi (second from left) and Ow (right) after the prize presentation.

“But I felt like vomiting in today’s race, especially with 5km to go when running against a strong headwind. I’m happy with the victory,” said Loh, who said she would use the RM5,000 top prize for her ACCA studies. While she was the best local women’s runner, she finished seventh overall.

For Noor Amelia, 32, it was her first attempt at a full marathon after having carved her name in the half marathon races.

“My husband encouraged me to switch to full marathon,” said Noor Amelia, a corporal attached to Pulapol. “It’s tiring but it’s worth it.”

Noor Amelia won RM3,000 for finishing second and another RM1,000 for finishing eighth overall. She and Nik Fakaruddin headed back to Kelantan to pick up their one-and-a-half year daughter, Nik Irdina Auliya, from her mother who helped to babysit for two weeks so that “we could focus on our marathon training.”

The Men’s Open and Women’s Open full marathon events were as expected dominated by foreign runners.

James Cherutich Tallam of Kenya captured the Men’s Open event in 2:24.23, followed by Anouar El Ghouz of Morocco (2:26:10) and Stephen Mungathia Mugambi of Kenya (2:27:59).

Kenyan athletes swept all the top six places in the Women’s Open full marathon with Peninah Kigen winning the event in 2:46:54, followed by Margaret Njuguna (2:47:19) and Edinah Jeruto (2:48:11).

Tallam and Kigen pocketed RM22,000 each for their victories.

The half marathon event was also run smoothly but the 10km event, according to the Penang Bridge International Marathon organising chairman Yeoh Soon Hin, had to be cancelled for the safety of the athletes because of bad weather conditions.

Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Alissala Thian
Video by Darwina Mohd Daud