Tribal Warrior Challenge builds bonds in SarawakBy Sanjay Surana
28 Aug 2017
Standing ready at the starting line of my first ever obstacle-course race, or OCR as it’s commonly called, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Completing an OCR was on my bucket list, but I was unsure what surprises the three-kilometre, five-obstacle run held in store.
I had come to Kuching, in Malaysian Borneo, in mid-August to take part in the Tribal Warrior Challenge (TWC) and to witness first-hand how it could serve as a platform for team-building and fostering a sense of community.
The TWC is the first OCR to be held in Kuching, organised by locally based firm Borneo Tru Events in partnership with Viper Challenge (the team behind Asia’s largest obstacle race and also based in Malaysia), endorsed by the Sarawak Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth & Sports, and supported by the Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB).
“It is good for Kuching,” says Jonathan Soon, senior communications executive for SCB. “It puts us on the map and shows the world that we are capable of staging events like this.”
Setting up TWC, which had three categories ranging from 3km-10km, and 5-20 obstacles respectively, was a daunting logistical ordeal, “a challenge bigger than jumping 20 obstacles itself,” remarks Edmund Ignatius, project manager for TWC, yet one that further burnished Kuching’s capability for arranging large-scale, complex, multi-faceted events.
One particularly demanding aspect was to transport three 30-foot shipping containers—which housed the various set-up items for the obstacles—from West Malaysia to Kuching by boat, and then to the Sarawak Stadium, where the race took place.
The stadium seemed like an unexpected choice of venue for a race that organisers hope will grow and become globally renowned, especially given the abundant nature around Kuching. “With TWC being in its infant stage, our strategy is to first build the local fan base,” says Rose Bruce of Borneo Tru Events.
“The majority of our participants are first-timers in an OCR, we wanted them to overcome the feats in an urban environment before sending them on much bolder terrain such as a jungle. The planning of TWC 2018 is already in the works and there is a great possibility that Warriors will have to truly step out of their comfort zone next year.”
As it happens, being a newcomer to OCRs, I was thankful for the predictability of the stadium setting. As participants congregated at the start on the steps of Stadium Negeri, there was a sense of anticipation, waves of excitement pulsing through the crowd.
More deep than the exhilaration though were the concepts of community and unity, that we were all in this together not as a racers battling to win or lose but comrades bound by a challenge that we could overcome as one. After the starting signal, people filtered into the stadium for the first obstacle, three two-metre walls.
As I approached, I noticed race volunteers cheering, sometimes helping racers over with a leg-up or via words of support. The route left the stadium and out toward the grassy flats between Stadium Negeri and Sarawak Stadium. Smiling, upbeat volunteers offered cups of water and encouragement to runners.
A group of us entered Sarawak Stadium and the precise details of the rest of the race began to blur, though I remember propelling myself up and down some handrail-type rig, and sliding through a contraption made of car tyres, before tackling the final two obstacles, a giant ladder-like climbing frame, and a fiendish vertical net wrapped around a steel-framed box.
The last obstacle, Diamond Cube, was the most taxing, but I, like most participants that day, was buoyed by the unflagging enthusiasm and reassurance of fellow competitors. There was always someone nearby—whether it be a friend or a stranger—to lend a hand and help you to believe that the seemingly unimaginable is completely doable.
At the finishing line I was met with whoops and cheers from spectators and other racers that I didn’t recognise, but that didn’t matter. If the TWC had taught me one thing, it was that building bonds doesn’t need to take a lifetime.