Rizan Latif is Talking Trail Running

On 28 February 2016, Beach Bunch will host the first major trail running race in Brunei, one of three countries on the large island of Borneo. The President of the environmental NGO is also the main organiser of the event, which will be the second points scoring race in the 2016 Asia Trail Master series. Mr Rizan Latif is himself an enthusiastic runner and therefore a great guest in our Talking Trail Running series. 

Q: Mr Latif, first, could you please tell us in a few words what Beach Bunch stands for, and what was the reason you launched this project.

RL: Beach Bunch is a registered Non-Government Organization who's objective is aimed at protecting Brunei's beaches from waste pollution. Our vision is to keep them clean and enjoyable to all including its coastal wildlife.

Our natural beaches have been pristine up until the last decade, especially so with the emergence of plastic waste. Something had to be done. In 2010, a group of friends and I gathered for a cleanup at Tungku and the rest is history. Now, we've done 31 cleanups and have had up to nearly 4,400 volunteers and have collected a not so great; waste collection of 16 tonnes. 

Q: Had the situation on Tungku Beach or in Brunei in general become so bad?

We've done lots of cleanups on various beaches in Brunei and the cleanliness varies from slightly dirty to OMG it's a dump situation. Tungku beach is the latter, it has and still requires a lot of TLC, not just from cleanliness end but waste management as well. It's chaotic on any given Sunday with the combination of food vendors on the beach and beach visitors.

Q: Where does the majority of the pollution come from?

The majority of the pollution is generated locally by visitors to the beach. This is mainly due to a lack of rubbish collection and disposal in designated areas.

Q: Beach Bunch aims to keep the beaches clean for humans and for wildlife. What kind of wildlife is there?

Wildlife that we've encountered on the coast are the sea turtles, mainly Olive Ridleys & Hawksbill as  well as seabirds where most of them are on the endangered and protected list. Dugongs and dolphins are also seen but they are more towards the marine coastline. We are doing conservation programs on the sea turtles in Brunei which includes youth camps and doing nightly night watches for sea turtle landing during the nesting period.

Q: Is there still a lot of cleaning-up work to be done?

Yes indeed. When Beach Bunch started getting into groove of things, we soon realized that no matter how many cleanups we do, the rubbish will come back again. We decided to take a different approach. Our cleanups are now more educational which involves the community; from schools, organisations and families, to get them down to the beach and be apart of that 'feel good' feeling.

Q: Why did you start with the organisation of a 21km half marathon trail run?

I was looking at how we could connect fitness and health with the beach environment, a healthy activity where people could enjoy the beautiful scenery of the beach. Running was the first activity that came to mind. I wanted it slightly challenging and to introduce locals to  long distance trail running. With that set in my mind, I started looking (running) around the beaches here and found the spot. A 21km loop going through 3 beaches; Empire, Tungku and Berakas Forest Reserve. 

Q: Do you also organise other types of events to raise funds or awareness for Beach Bunch?

Yes, I have led numerous beach cleanups, the largest being of 1,000 volunteers as well as a river and island cleanup. I've brought several groups of volunteers at night to the beach for sea turtle landing during the nesting season here.

Q: Is running a popular leisure activity in Brunei?

Open road running has been a popular leisure activity for the last 2 decades. This goes to short distance trail running too. Long distance road running came up over the  last decade or so and the 1st competitive full road marathon started back in 2005. To date, Brunei has only done 4 full road marathons and our event will not only be the fifth full marathon but also the first of its kind as a long distance trail run.

Q: What is the most popular sport in Brunei?

Like any Asian country, football has been the most popular sport in Brunei. Nuff said.

Q: You will be organising a workshop on the day before the race. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

Yes I'll be organizing a workshop for the 2 days prior to the race. I'm working on bringing in a professional international trail runner and not will not be forgetting the local flavor because we too have elite runners, the only difference is not being under the professional category. The aim of these workshops is to educate the runners on long distance trail running as well as to promote trail running. Most of the runners are local Bruneians who range from 2 extremes; from experienced long distance trail runners, road marathoners, ironmen to the other extreme where it would be their first ever marathon and on top of that, on trail!

Trail running has long been established here in Brunei due to our jungle and hilly terrain. Most of the local competitive trail events are of short distance. Long distance trail running is still new here and this will be the inaugural event to do so.

Q: Are you an active runner yourself, and if yes, what have been your main achievements

Yes. Back in the day I used to play football like any local in Brunei. I got into running back in 2012 and like most runners, I started off with a 5km run. To date, I've now done 3 full road marathons and 3 ultra marathons both local and international; the latest one was Sabah's The Most Beautiful Thing 50k category. I managed to finish it and grab first for the Bruneian 50k category.

Q: Do you have any specific trail running ambition yourself?

I'm now looking forward to the TNF's 100k in Australia which will be in May 2016. In terms of ambition, to me it's more about fun... serious fun and not forgetting the pain and suffering that comes with that fun. LOL

Q: The race course of the BB Trail Challenge looks very varied with several very distinct sections. What type of runner has the best chances of winning in your opinion? 

An experienced long distance road runner with a knowledge of the local terrain and weather will be able to win this. With the right strategy on pacing and nutrition/ hydration, this runner will be able to blaze through the course. This is due to route being relatively flat on the beaches and the elevation is of hilly variance rather than mountainous compared to normal ultra trail environment. 

Q: On the website we read that the temperatures in February are scorching, humidity is high and there is a high chance of rain. Should participants be afraid of the natural elements?

They SHOULDN'T be afraid of it but EMBRACE it like any natural outdoor loving person. Coming into the race with a well prepared body and mind through proper training regimen, and well equipped gear through the mandatory kit, participants should be enjoying the weather and the race.

Q: Hydration will be very important during the race. How many water stations are you planning, and what recommendations would you have for runners traveling in from colder climates? 

There will be 5 water stations throughout the route. Runners who are not acclimatized to the high humidity and temperature of Brunei, please adhere to the 1.5 liter current capacity of your hydration as part of your mandatory kit.

Q: Who do you regard as a favourite to win the races in the men's and women's categories? 

As a local brethren, I'm supporting our local elite long distance runners to win the race in both categories since the participants compromise 75% locals. But of course, the international elite runners will be a running for their money for the top spot! It will be exciting from start to finish!

Beach Bunch's Trail Challenge is open for registration. Careful: standard registration with a full gift package closes on 15 December. Click here to sign up for this great new addition to the Asian trail running scene.