Saturday, April 1, 2006

Looking Back - Xiamen Int'l Marathon 2006 (Eve)

This year, I wanted to maintain my 2005 record of taking part in 6 marathons. The 1st of the marathons was the Xiamen International Marathon, which was highly recommended by my friend Jason. He had been singing praises of the Xiamen Marathon as the running route was very scenic and he also felt that I would enjoy the nice weather. I booked my airfare to Xiamen as early as late January. However, I kept delaying reading up on Xiamen and did not planned out a proper itinerary. Also, I knew this would be more of a running trip rather than a sight-seeing trip so I thought I could leave it till the last minute. I flew out on Fri morning and would return by Sun afternoon.

On 23 Mar, I finally collected my airticket from my travel agent Mia, who also booked for my hotel stay in Xiamen. However, the tour operator in Xiamen had not gotten back on the name of the hotel so I had to leave for Xiamen on 24 Mar, without knowing exactly where I would be staying. Upon reaching Xiamen, my worse fear was confirmed. The operator in Xiamen was still holding out for a better deal for me! I almost fainted upon hearing the news from Mia. She assured me that she would settled the matter soon and advised me to wait for her call at the airport. However, as I decided not to waste anytime wondering around the airport which has nothing much to see, I left the airport to visit the famous Xiamen University, which was founded by Mr Tan Kah Kee. This was recommended by Tiwazz.

I took a cab from the airport and the lady driver was amazed that I travelled to Xiamen just to take part in the marathon. She wished me all the best after reaching Xiamen University and prayed that the weather would be better as it had been raining for the last few days. I ventured a distance into the University and took some photos of the founder, as well as the statue of Lu Xun. All these while, I also sms to Brokie and my office clerk, Kumar, to get an update from Mia. After spending about 1-hour in the university compound, I decided that it was time to collect my Bib as it began to drizzle. I flagged down another cab and off we went in the direction of the Xiamen International Convention and Exhibition Centre, which was also the start / end of the marathon. Upon 1km from reaching the Centre, the driver pointed out the series of running statues along the side of the road leading to the Convention Centre. It was built to inspire the marathon runners to give themselves one last push as the end of the marathon was near. It was an awesome sight and I secretly wished they could have the same impact on me for my run the next day.

Upon reaching the Convention Centre, I realised that the Bib collection centre was not situated there. It was situated at the Sports Centre, approximately 20mins drive from the Convention Centre. Since I was already there, I took visited the Sports Goods Exhibition. There was also performance of belly-dancings. I took some great photos of the dancers. They were very flexible and could dance very well.

After the show, I went to the Sports Centre by cab. I approached a lady to enquire where I should queue up to collect my Bib. She directed me accordingly. The entire process took about 30mins as there was quite a queue. People were pushing around each other and the instructions were not very clear. However, the volunteers were all very helpful (especially to the overseas runners) and tried their best to facilitate. After collecting my goodie bag, shirt and stuff, I approached the lady again and enquired if she knew if I could still get a hotel at such a late hour. She remembered there were a few hotels nearby and called to enquire the rates! I was extremely grateful of her actions. After I had decided which hotel to stay, she offered me to use the official phone to make reservation and even gave me specific instructions on how to get to the hotel by bus!

Before I left the Sports Centre, Mia also sms me the hotel which her tour operator had just updated her. The hotel is slightly nearer to the Convention Centre but further away from the airport. It was also more pricey. I decided to stay at the Ramada Hotel instead since there was a direct bus to the Convention Centre. When I reached the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised that they had arranged for me to stay at the Executive Floor! I secretly hoped that I had not hear wrongly about the rate/night! After washing up, I went to their Chinese Restaurant for my carbo-loading dinner (see below). I then returned to my room to prepare and rest early for tomorrow's event.

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