Run 114 : Brunei – Bandar Seri Begawan

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Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 31st July, 2017

Time :  1h 02’42”

Total distance run to date : 1140 km

Run map and details :

Media: ;

A dinner party at a friend’s house followed by a final night cap at the legendary Studio 54 to say farewell to Brian and Emma (departing London for the Suffolk wilds).

Not a night for driving home. Which meant that the next morning I had a nice little cobweb clearer of a run to collect the car. Except that my knee hurt – and I didn’t seem to be able to run it off.

To my disgruntled surprise, the pain was still there the next morning.

Things continued to deteriorate and 48 hours later I realised I’d better do something about it if I was going to make my upcoming trip to Brunei and beyond.

A visit to my GP, an x ray, a consultation and an MRI later, I discovered that I had a macerated meniscus. (Macerated being, I think, a hybrid of ‘lacerated’ and ‘mashed up’ ; meniscus being the shock absorbing cartilage in the knee.) I also had some sort ganglia but apparently that wasn’t a pressing issue.

Here’s a picture of my knee. Interesting isn’t it… And, no, I don’t know how they can tell anything from that either.

Knee 1.bmp

The immediate problem was that, by now, it was Wednesday evening and I was due to fly out on Sunday morning. Dr Ade, who is also club doctor at Saracens Rugby Club (my local rugby team and champions of Europe for those who don’t follow these matters), explained my options.

There was no time for an operation or a course of physio. If I wanted to run in Brunei, I’d need a steroid injection in my knee.

In some ways I wasn’t that keen on the idea. The media is full of stories of football and rugby players who played on for years with the help of pain killing injections and can now hardly walk.

On the other hand, it was quite nice to be treated like an elite athlete (which, and this may surprise you, isn’t always the case). And it would mean that I could manage the 20 hour journey to Brunei and, more importantly, meet and run with a lot of great people once I got there.

Those good enough to make it to the start of the run included Maya and Ambassador Richard Lindsay from the British Embassy ; Zeti, the founder of BruActiv – – and her team ; and Esther with a group of runners from Total (pic below).

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There were also a number of people who’d seen Zeti’s ad for the run on social media (pic below).

RTW Brunei 1

All in all, there were almost 50 of us (pic at the top of the blog) and the video below which, if you ignore my jet lagged and slightly incoherent words to camera, is worth watching :

After a warm up, numerous photos, a couple of interviews, and a welcome speech, we all set off from the national stadium.

rtw brunei 6

Most of us ran at a reasonably sensible pace which suited my knee perfectly. It also meant that I got to talk to a lot of runners.

And this brings me to what is always the trickiest part of these blogs. This is my 114th blog and, by now, regular readers are, frankly, a lot more interested in hearing about the countries I visit than the minutiae of my runs.

However, I’m always paranoid about writing something ill-informed or offensive about the country in question and upsetting my hosts who have gone to so much effort to support Run the World. As ever, I guess all I can do is try to be as accurate, interesting and positive as possible and ask my hosts to shout if there’s anything they think needs changing.

So here goes. The first thing you notice about Brunei is that it’s a rich country (Forbes apparently ranks it as the fifth-richest country in the world based on its petroleum and natural gas fields). And it showed in the area we ran in (around the national stadium) which was full of impressive architecture and what looked like first class sporting facilities.

Secondly, everyone I talked to during the run – expats and locals alike – seemed united in their appreciation of life in Brunei. A fine place to live by all accounts with many volunteering that it was a peaceful and ideal ideal for families.

rtw brunei 4

Thirdly, Brunei is a monarchy with a Sharia penal code (please see Facts & Stats below for more detail). While one of my key lessons from running with people all over the world is how much we all share, this does mean there are genuine and important differences between the West and Brunei in areas such as sexual behaviour, the consumption of alcohol and the importance of democracy.

Of course, much of Brunei’s Sharia law only applies to Muslims and not to its Christian citizens or to expats. And everyone I talked to emphasised that Brunei was tolerant of diferent cultures and, in its own small way, the run seemed to encapsulate this.

For example, the start time was set so that we wouldn’t be running during evening prayers. But it wasn’t as if everyone felt obliged to stop everything and pray at the relevant time. The aim was to be respectful by not actually exercising during prayers. Equally, there were a lot of women runners about and I saw some who covered their hair – and some who didn’t. (The expats wore what anyone in the west would run in on a warm evening.)

I hope I have managed to give you some small sense of what Brunei is like (there’s lot more information in the Facts & Stats below) – now back to the run!

The time of 1h 02’ 42” was over my usual self-imposed 1 hour time limit but, thanks to the company, it was as enjoyable as these runs get. My knee, strapped in a knee brace and slathered with some ointment that Dr Ade had recommended, just about held out. I hope everyone else had as positive an experience. (Esther later told me in an email that the run was ‘tiresome’. I’m really hoping she meant ‘tiring’….)

Thank you Maya, Ambassador Lindsay, Zeti and Esther for all the help and support organising the run – greatly appreciated. And special thanks to Zeti and her team for the meal out (those chicken tendon satays will stay long in the memory!) and the tour of the city and the beautiful central mosque (pic below.)  I had a wonderful time in Brunei.

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Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Brunei officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea, the country is completely surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is separated into two parts by the Sarawak district of Limbang. Brunei is the only sovereign state completely on the island of Borneo; the remainder of the island’s territory is divided between the nations of Malaysia and IndonesiaBrunei’s population was 408,786 in July 2012.

At the peak of the Bruneian EmpireSultan Bolkiah (reigned 1485–1528) is alleged to have had control over most regions of Borneo. During the 19th century, the Bruneian Empire began to decline. The Sultanate ceded Sarawak (Kuching) to James Brooke and installed him as the White Rajah, and it ceded Sabah to the British North Borneo Chartered Company. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British residentas colonial manager in 1906. After the Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small armed rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British.

Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984. Economic growth during the 1990s and 2000s, with the GDP increasing 56% from 1999 to 2008, transformed Brunei into an industrialised country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asian nations, after Singapore, and is classified as a “developed country“. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brunei is ranked fifth in the world by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. The IMF estimated in 2011 that Brunei was one of two countries (the other being Libya) with a public debt at 0% of the national GDP.

Brunei’s political system is governed by the constitution and the national tradition of the Malay Islamic Monarchy, the concept of Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB). The three components of MIB cover Malay culture, Islamic religion, and the political framework under the monarchy. It has a legal system based on English common law, although Islamic shariah law supersedes this in some cases. Brunei has a parliament but there are no elections; the last election was held in 1962.

Under Brunei’s 1959 constitution, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah is the head of state with full executive authority. Since 1962, this authority has included emergency powers, which are renewed every two years. Brunei has technically been under martial law since the Brunei Revolt of 1962. Hassanal Bolkiah also serves as the state’s Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defence Minister. The Royal family retains a venerated status within Brunei.

In October 2013, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced his intention to impose Sharia law on the country’s Muslims, which take up roughly two thirds of the country’s population. This would be implemented in three phases, culminating in 2016, and making Brunei the first and only country in East Asia to introduce Sharia law into its penal code. The move attracted international criticism, the United Nations expressing “deep concern”.

Brunei’s revised penal code came into force on 22 April 2014, stipulating the death penalty for numerous offenses (both violent and non-violent), such insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, robbery, rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims and murder. Stoning to death was the specified “method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature.”

Religious rights

Upon adopting sharia, the Sultan banned Christmas decorations in public places such as shopping malls, believing that it might interfere with the practise of Islam. However, local and foreign Christians are still allowed to celebrate Christmas as usual. On 25 December 2015, 4,000 out of 18,000 estimated local Catholics attended the mass of Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

“To be quite honest there has been no change for us this year; no new restrictions have been laid down, although we fully respect and adhere to the existing regulations that our celebrations and worship be [confined] to the compounds of the church and private residences,” according to Bishop Cornelius Sim, head of the Catholic Church in Brunei.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for Brunei – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP                                               $11.4 bn    2016       $6.00 bn    2000

Population                                   423 k          2016       333  k         2000

Primary school enrolment*     108%          2015       111%         2000

% below poverty line**             No data

Life expectancy at birth            79.0 yrs      2015      75.3 yrs     2000

GNI per capita                            $38520       2016       $14680      2000

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)

Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Brunei performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – no points scored

Per Capita Cup – didn’t place

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.



About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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1 Response to Run 114 : Brunei – Bandar Seri Begawan

  1. Pingback: Run 115 : Australia – Darwin | dansgoldchallenge

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