Balloon saves runner's life from lightning at Penang Bridge marathon

Balloon saves runner's life from lightning at Penang Bridge marathon
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

PETALING JAYA - A pacer’s balloon saved him from being struck by lightning during the Penang Bridge International Marathon on Sunday (Nov 25).

Cheng Kean Wee cheated death when the lightning hit his pacer balloon instead, immediately destroying it and melting part of the strap.

Cheng, who was a pacer for the full marathon, recalled that the incident happened  some 3km away from the (42km) finishing line, while he and other runners were running through a heavy thunderstorm.

"We started the full marathon at about 1.30am. It started raining heavily at about KM31, and we could hear thunder and see lightning around the race course, " he said.

The 32-year-old Penangite, who was carrying the "four hour and 30 minute" pacer balloon, and the other runners, decided to complete the run quickly.

"As the runners and I were heading towards the finishing line, we saw bright lights and heard a very loud bang.

"I felt my back was a little lighter. One of the runners pointed out that the pacer balloon which I was carrying had burst," he said, adding that he was shocked as these balloons are usually made of sturdy material.

Cheng added that while he had ran under strong winds and heavy rains before, he had rarely run in a thunderstorm as bad as the one this morning.

"I once ran through a thunderstorm during the Putrajaya Night Run… which was cancelled halfway as the weather was really bad," he told The Star.

Cheng, who works as an account executive in Penang, was a little shaken by the incident, but is relieved that he is still alive.

As the cherry on the cake, Cheng managed to complete the 42km event in four hours and 29 minutes.

After Cheng shared pictures of himself with the deflated balloon on his Facebook account, his friends told him they were thankful and relieved he managed to complete the event safely.

While the full and half marathons went on as planned, Penang Bridge International Marathon organisers had to cancel the 10km run due to the heavy thunderstorm.

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