“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The idea of winning a race with your buddy together sounds incredible and unbelievable.
It was a dream come true for avid runner Azwan Bunjing, famously known as Awan Run, and national athlete Haziq Junaidy, who took third and second place, respectively, at the 2022 SEA Games National Selection Race for Duathlon Standard Distance.
After battling a 10km run, 40km bike, and 5km run, the best friend duo was able to celebrate together on the podium.
How did the idea of training and taking part in a race together come about?
Ziq: We decided to train together when Awan had an injury on his plantar two years ago. He started cycling after getting a bike as cycling is a low-impact exercise compared to running.
So, we started cycling and saw the potential in him. We decided to train duathlon for the National Championships back in 2019. We went for the selection but Awan did not get to be on the list. But that did not stop him from working harder on his bike up until today. Then, we went for Duathlon Standard Distance. Awan managed to secure 3rd place and I got 2nd! Can you see the difference he made in two years’ time?
Awan: We were training for running and during that time, our friend Fadzil – who was a SEA Games 2017 silver medalist, thought it would be fun if all of us could make it to the Hanoi SEA Games, so we could call our journey “From Titiwangsa to Hanoi”. And, here we are!
Do you feel it helps with your personal goals when you train together?
Ziq: Definitely! He will always be the person who pushes me, asks me to train together. Sometimes, one of us will create a training plan. If one of us doesn’t show up, you will be the one feeling guilty. So, both of us end up showing up for the training! That’s a great thing about having someone to train together.
Awan: Definitely! When you’re aiming for a bigger goal like this, having a strong support system is important to cushion the mental and emotional fatigue. For the physical aspect, we can push each other during training to get to the fitness level we want.
You’ve transitioned from running to duathlon, what are the challenges faced during training?
Awan: Cycling is so much more technical and tactical. There’s a lot more to learn and train for me. I have to work on my race craft while improving my cycling fitness.
How does a training partner help you improve your weaker discipline?
Ziq: Running will always be the discipline I need to improve. Just so you know Awan is a talented and more experienced runner, he will always be the person I look for to seek advice, tips, and more.
Awan: Cycling is my weaker discipline. The group ride that we do really helped me to train more often and my training group really pushed me to help my cycling.
SEA Games National Selection Race is crucial for the participants fighting to obtain a qualification to SEA Games, how do you motivate each other?
Ziq: It is not easy as people see. The preparation consumed a lot of sacrifices, time, consistency, and most importantly, focus on the goals that we both wanted to achieve. I believe, 7 – 8 years of knowing each other helps to ease the pain and the bonding that we have helped as well in this journey.
Awan: We keep telling ourselves to stay focused and hungry towards the goal.
How did it feel celebrating on the podium together?
Ziq: Something that I didn’t expect was that we both managed to be on top of the podium together. Sweats and tears we had together, and we celebrated it with joy at the end. The feeling was superb.
Awan: I was happy to see Ziq taking second place. I was worried if he bonked in during the second run and would lose the qualification spot. I know how hard he worked for this. Standing on the podium together was simply satisfying.
We know we are the best duo in the game. We both work in day time and train in the evening. I was really proud of what we achieved. We proved that working-class athletes can stand on the podium too.
You represented Malaysia at the 2019 SEA Games, what are the challenges faced and how do you cope during the 2022 edition?
Ziq: 2019 – 2021 was very tough and challenging for me, not only myself but also my family and businesses out there. I got retrenched from the company I worked. I started up a new coffee pop-up business.
I have been having a tough time training as this sport is really time-consuming. I need long hours to prepare, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Find a way and solution. When I’m feeling low, I remind myself of my goals and work harder, no matter what. I will always make sure I’m doing what I love.
You have qualified for the 2022 SEA Games which will be taking place in Hanoi, share with us your feeling and your preparation for the Games.
Ziq: Should I feel happy? Or should I feel the other way around? Malaysia is definitely going to put hope in all athletes who will be representing the country. What if we didn’t bring back any medals?