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Tuaran, March 19: Running enthusiasts have flocked to the picturesque Kiulu countryside to participate in the much-anticipated two-day Borneo Ultra Trail Marathon (BUTM).
The first day of the marathon race saw 345 people competing in two categories.
State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister cum Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai flagged off the race, which started at 5am for the 100km and 7am for the 50km.
While the 30km and 9km race categories will take place on Sunday.
In the event, marathoners race past Kiulu villages, along the river, and through the forested terrain trails.
This year’s BUTM has attracted 700 Malaysian and international runners between the ages of 10 and 65, with young marathoners permitted to compete in the 9km division.
One of the first-time participants was Holly Anderson from the United States, who came with two friends from England and Sweden.
They are Kuala Lumpur-based expatriates and have taken part in the 50km challenge.
“We have joined a couple of races, but this is our first time joining BUTM and taking part in a race in Sabah.
“I visited the state in December last year and found Sabah to be an interesting destination.
I’m glad to be back, and this time, I have the opportunity to explore Kiulu through this race. It’s a lovely rural area, and the atmosphere is quite peaceful,” she said.
The ultra-trail marathon event also drew a group of 11 running buddies from Penang.
They also signed up for the 50km race.
For Felix Tan, a first-time marathon runner, it was the encouragement of his friends that spurred him on to sign up.
“We are not just here to join a race. I’ve heard about the beautiful scenery of Kiulu, and being here, I get to experience the fresh air and nature myself,” the Penangite said.
Meanwhile, Bangkuai stated that Sabah has the potential to be a venue for international sporting race events based on previous organisations that drew a large number of foreign participants.
Certain sporting events, he added, can be held in the countryside to benefit rural communities and boost rural tourism.
“For instance, Kiulu is a destination of choice for adventure seekers because it serves as a hub for eco-adventure activities.
“Kiulu had previously hosted a variety of adventure challenges, including running, mountain biking, and traditional sports. With that said, we will look into reviving the Kiulu 4M Challenge,” he said.
The 4M Challenge focuses on the traditional Kadazandusun sporting games, namely ‘manangkus’ (running), ‘mamangkar’ (bamboo rafting), ‘manampatau’ (swimming with the aid of bamboo pole), and ‘mamarampanau‘ (walking on bamboo stilt).
In the past, the event had attracted locals and foreign tourists to Kiulu.
It was last held 10 years ago.
Bangkuai said promoting traditional sporting games is one way to encourage people to visit rural destinations, allowing them to experience activities of the indigenous people and learn their culture up close.
With the reopening of the international border soon and the revival of tourism activities, he added Sabah needs to offer unique products and events that pique the interest of foreign tourists.
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