IT WAS the best week of his life one that delivered Brunei's half marathon man a gold and 'bronze'.
Having won gold at the 3rd Borneo Games on Thursday (Dec 3) Sefli Ahar flew to Singapore the next day for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. Despite not having enough rest the Bruneian finished on the podium again in the city state last Sunday just two days after winning the half marathon at home.
It was no easy feat but Sefli used his determination and mental strength to put the Sultanate on the map.
"It was the best week of my running career but most importantly I did it for my country," said Sefli during an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.
Having set the target of a podium finish for the Singapore event, Sefli recorded a time of 1:15:08 to clinch third in the city state. Richard Mutua Mutisya of Kenya won the race with a time of 1:11:24 while Singapore's Muniandy Ramadass finished second in 1:14:33.
"I practised a lot twice a day daily but it was worth it. I'm glad to make my country proud once again after finishing on the podium (in Singapore)," said a delighted Sefli when met at the Balapan Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas.
The national runner, however, felt that he could have done better if he had had more rest.
"I was still a bit tired on race day. My body had not fully recovered (after the half marathon in the Borneo Games) for the race and my legs were still stiff as well," said the 35-year-old athlete.
"To make matters worse I also missed breakfast (last Sunday)," added Sefli, the eldest of three siblings, who are all runners.
However, Sefli was still satisfied with the time he set in Singapore.
"I tried my best to improve on my personal best, but I'm still satisfied with my time in Singapore. To finish in the 1:15:00 which is the standard IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) time for world class runners is not too bad," said Sefli.
"The time was a lot better than the one I did at home during the Borneo Games. I had been conserving my body and energy for the Singapore race as it was too close to the Games," said Sefli, who set his best time during the 2005 Arafura Games clocking 1:12:00.
Sefli also didn't manage to get any warm up prior to the race as he arrived late. "I got to the starting point just seven minutes before the race so I couldn't do any warm up," said the Temburong native.
But Sefli also had good memories of the race.
"I stuck behind the leaders for the first 10 kilometres and decided to forget about the Kenyan (in first place) as he was too far ahead. Just as we got to the halfway mark at around 11km I was still in fourth place," recalled the runner, who joined the national team in 1998.
"I then overtook the runner in front of me to go third after the 16km mark.
"I got a lot of support from the crowd who chanted 'Go Brunei!'. This motivated me to push all the way," added Sefli.
The Bruneian said the weather as well as fumes from vehicles had slowed him down during the Games, but he didn't have that problem in Singapore.
"The weather was good (in Singapore) ... it was not as hot as in Brunei. There were many buildings there and most of the areas were shaded," said Sefli, who serves in the Royal Brunei Police Force. "They also closed all the roads for the race, thus there were no cars. It was a lot easier to breathe," added Sefli.
The 35-year-old runner will now prepare for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong half-marathon in February.
"I'm hoping to improve on my personal best and finish on the podium once again. This will help me celebrate the 20th anniversary of my running career in style," said Sefli.
Asked whether he planned to compete in the 42km full marathon, the Bruneian replied: "I'm thinking about it for next year but I will have to work even harder for the full marathon. It is a lot more difficult compared to half marathons."
Courtesy from Brunei Times