At 5:00am, on any day of the week, men and women line the roads from George Town to Batu Ferringhi wearing high-visibility vests and faces of concentration as they sneak in a quick jog before the sun comes up, and the world demands their attention. Those running are going through a process of mental and physical awakening; either planning the day ahead or merely pumping enough blood around the body fast enough to shake the coils of lethargy. Those watching – drivers, for example – often wonder why they do it because that monotonously slow plod, seemingly without direction – are they starting or finishing… heavy breathing and pendulous arms signal an effort that most are not willing to commit too. It seems to be something private, lonely, an action that invariably traps you within one’s own mind and forces you to confront yourself in the most honest way.
There are those that relish that kind of brutal introspection – people who like the sound of their own voice, or who at least like the sound of their own ideas – and why not? An island like Penang, with its dense population, often makes isolation a rare commodity. Finding inner peace through one’s own company, whether it be running or meditating, is becoming harder of late, considering close living conditions and technological connectivity. Inner peace and focused communication is often ignored at one’s very real peril.
Yet, exercising in a social environment can not only be a benchmark for fitness but also aid the kind of focused communication lacking in the multi-level phenomenon of sitting at a table while on whatsapp, while on email, and with that addictive, colourful game just a screen touch away. Anyone who has pushed themselves to the limit while still trying to hold a conversation or play a sport will realise the fitter you are the easier it is to think, make decisions and make better instinctive reactions while exerting yourself. Arguably, communicating while exercising is a purer form of interaction due to the necessary lack of smartphones to distract attention from the people you are physically with. Not to mention that an idea can expand, become more creative, more dynamic and often arrive at a resolution quicker when shared with others.
Luckily, Penang is full of groups to join for reaping the benefits of this kind of socio-exercise. A large number of these are found traipsing around Penang’s ancient jungle hills, following paths, climbing ridges or pushing through untouched foliage. Linking up with any number of the affiliated Hash Harrier groups is a great networking tool as well as a weekly running or walking ‘tour’ of parts of the island usually hidden by nature. Anakhutan, is a well-established gathering of social hikers group that meets every Sunday for a walk, often up Penang Hill from Air Itam. Getting back to our natural state – walking cross-country – will also give hikers a better indication of the island’s geography, ecology and topography, a useful tool to have when attempting to navigate the island without Google Maps.
Too easy? Looking for a more adrenaline-packed vocation? Why not try one of the mountain biking clubs? With tracks sometimes overlapping hiking paths, Penang’s hills are chocked with biking trails complete with jumps, ramps, ditches and are all off-road. Penang MTB Club, Penang TYB Cycling Club and Penang All Mountain Bike Riders (PAMBR) are a number of experienced mountain biking clubs that can steer you through some of Penang’s toughest and most exciting off-road routes. If you want to start your own group, or just go it alone, alltrails.com is the only website you need to get acquainted with Penang’s jungle tracks.
If the jungle strikes you as an ominous, claustrophobic, mosquito-riddled hellhole then there is plenty to do in the open at sea level. Body fitness groups like Warrior Fitness and Adventure aims to raise fitness with a mixture of military training and modern sports conditioning by full-time trainers and health professionals. It is the perfect group to prepare you for one of Penang’s many runs such as: Warrior 10km Run & Obstacle Charity Challenge, Hike for Happiness Carnival 2017, Save Our Rainforest Race, Rock To Rock Run 2017, Lion Dash, Penang’s Viper Challenge to name a few. If a more competitive challenge piques your fancy, then you could even prepare for the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2017 or the Penang International Triathlon & Duathlon 2017 (PGITD).
Road cycling is also an option with clubs like Team Vista, Bukit Jelutong Cycling Club or g Club: Penang Cyclists open to professionals and amateurs alike for round the island cycle rides.
Lastly, there is an avid sporting scene hidden away on Penang’s padangs and sport pitches. The most public sport – much the same as the world over – is football, and Penang holds a weekly amateur football league open to all. International teams such as the Penang Wanderers are open to visitors and inhabitants of Penang, locals and foreigners alike. Most local teams have a cap on the number of foreign participants allowed, but they are usually excepting of people introduced first-hand. If you become a member of some of Penang’s clubs, or have a friend who belongs to one, the options open up exponentially. Hockey, cricket, lawn and court tennis, squash and badminton are all available at the Penang Sports Club, while for sports that are more technical the Penang Swimming Club and Chinese Swimming Club both offer a range of water sports including sailing, windsurfing and canoeing. And academies such as NSTE Tennis hold tournaments, and offer coaching for adults and children.
Hash – Harriets: 0164184141, firstname.lastname@example.org,
House Harriers (PH3): email@example.com
International Hash Hounds: 04-8901997/ 012-457-1714, firstname.lastname@example.org
Team Vista: www.teamvistapg1.blogspot.co.uk, facebook.com/teamvista.penang
Bukit Jelutong Cycling Club: facebook.com/groups/bjcyclist/
G Club Penang Cyclists: www.gclub.com.my
MTB Club: www.penangmtb.blogspot.co.uk, email@example.com
Penang TYB Cycling Club: facebook.com/tybcycling.com.my/
Penang All Mountain Bike Riders (PAMBR): facebook.com/groups/168897843444595/
Runs and Fitness:
Warrior Fitness and Adventure: +60 12-459 4728/+6018-2827567, info@warriorfitnes sadventure.com
Save Our Rainforest Race: +603-55133803, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.pekamalaysia.org
Rock To Rock Run 2017: 017- 4369488, email@example.com
Lion Dash: 012-4228666, firstname.lastname@example.org
Penang’s Viper Challenge: email@example.com, www.viperchallenge.com
Penang Bridge International Marathon: +604-6505136, www.penangmarathon.gov.my
Penang International Triathlon & Duathlon Club (PGITD): www.penangtri.com
Penang Wanderers: facebook.com/groups/152424558141387/
Penang Sports Club: +604-229 7834/+604-229 4376, firstname.lastname@example.org
Penang Swimming Club: +604-890 7370
Chinese Swimming Club: +60 4-899 0813
NSTE Tennis: +6016-464 5054