A FORTNIGHT ago, KL witnessed its largest running event – the ninth edition of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon.
About 36,000 running enthusiasts participated in this race. Close to 1,700 were tourists from 52 countries. There were 75 nationalities and together, everyone made SCKLM a truly international event.
Months before the race, I had been busy making plans to meet up with some of these runners and also recommending hotels to them. Once again, I was signed up as an official marathon pacer – a job I have taken on since 2011.
The media event for the introduction of pacers was held three months prior to the race day. In April, we attended two compulsory training sessions with Coach Mark Williams. Both At both sessions, we were asked to run a few loops, 2.7km, around Bukit Jalil Park. At the second session, we were not allowed to wear our watches and had to run at our intended marathon pace. Then, our time was taken, as assessment. That is how serious the function of a pacer is.
Then dawned the marathon weekend of May 19-21. Excitement filled the air at the Race Expo in KL Convention Centre as runners collected their bibs. Queues formed at the huge hall and it took some two to three hours just to collect the bibs.
On a big poster outside the hall with the letters SCKLM anyone who had signed up for the Full Marathon category could find his or her name on it.
FRIENDSHIP RUN AND BREAKFAST
I suggested the friendship run concept to the organisers in 2014. This is similar to the Breakfast Runs, Shake-out Runs and Friendship Runs I have experienced in the New York City, Paris, Tokyo, Chicago and Berlin Marathons.
This is an additional activity for the running enthusiasts from abroad on the eve of the marathon. It is a warm-up run of a short distance, usually not more 5km. Participants are meant to have fun and usually will wear their own country’s colours.
The SCKLM Friendship Run started last year and it is only open to Full Marathoners at an additional fee of RM40, which is quite a steal considering the buffet breakfast includes yogurt, pastries, fruit, roti canai, egg, juice, coffee, tea and pasta.
I was so excited that I got up at 4am on Saturday morning. It started raining at 5am. Our meet-up was at 6.45am in Dataran Merdeka. The rain was down to a drizzle by 6.30am.
We waited till 7.20am for the start and it was a 5km run through Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Kuching, Jalan Parlimen, and turning into Lake Gardens. Then we came back via the National Mosque and Bukit Aman tunnel. We were fully escorted by the police and led by no other than our Race Director on his Vespa. Talk about being hands-on.
The 5-hour 30-minute full marathon pacer team members, of which I was one, were dressed like the villagers of Kelantan or Pattani, a tribute to the East Coast of Malaysia and Southern Thailand.
After the run and breakfast, our team took photos in the field. As we were shirtless, it drew a lot of attention from the tourists. It was all in the name of fun and camaraderie.
This year, I met Englishman Andy Dukes who had ridden a bike all the way from England to Asia. He plans to run a marathon in each continent in the next few months. He chose KL to be the first leg. You can read about his adventures at his blog The Marathon Ride (https://themarathonride.com)
The full marathon event started at 4am the following morning. All pacers had to report at 2.45am for a briefing with Coach Mark, who also led a warm-up session. Pacers then collected their balloons, each measuring 60cm in diameter, and tied it to their waists. This can really drag a runner down. Therefore, we chose to pace at least half an hour slower than our usual marathon time.
My team gathered at the starting pen at 3.30am. The crowd cheered as we entered and we felt like rock stars. The atmosphere was electric. There were 8,000 runners, given the total number for full marathon registrants was 8,500. We took photos with the Run For Indonesia team, a contingent of 97 runners this year.
The Negaraku was played before the start and it gave us goose-bumps. At 4am sharp, the marathon was flagged off with much fanfare. We started racing down Jalan Raja Laut. I had informed my followers via social media that our theme was The Music Men and asked for song requests.
In front of the City Hall building when the music of the Dataran could no longer be heard, I switched on my Bluetooth speaker placed in my hydration bag. The speaker was connected to my phone which had a playlist of 120 songs, mainly Top 40s and some hits of yesteryear.
The most memorable moment was at KM4 when we reached Prince Court Medical Centre. Bruno Mars was singing his latest songs - 24K Magic and That’s What I Like.
Then as we turned into Jalan Ampang, his legendary Just The Way You Are played and I found myself singing with 30 runners. How beautiful that was. And with Grenade next, it was a bonus.
I remember singing Adele’s fast numbers with a few runners. I entertained the Honda cheering team on the AKLEH Highway with some Justin Timberlake and they loved the songs.
Gaga was playing before we exited the AKLEH and I was surprised that so many people knew Bad Romance.
Then when we climbed up to the Duke Highway at the halfway point of the marathon, there were a couple of songs by Coldplay. The sun came up when we were singing Yellow. There were many buskers along this highway; I always switch off my speakers when there is live music.
We took a photo at the 30km gantry like we did last year before exiting Duke Highway and went along Jalan Kuching. The sun was shining but we persevered. There was another climb into the Segambut roundabout before going into Kenny Hills. A couple of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Selena Gomez songs were played.
We truly appreciated the many freelance photographers at the entrance of Kenny Hills and the coconut water sponsored by the Bare With Me running group.
We merged with the Half Marathoners at Jalan Parlimen. The Lucozade Cheering-cum-Music Zone was also there. I switched off my music and was literally in the “zone”. This year, we made a turn towards Jalan Semantan and U-turned to KL Sentral via the new DBKL beautifully tiled tunnel. In fact, the sound quality from my speaker was the most beautiful there.
It rained a little as we exited the tunnel and I put on my bandana to cover my head. This has been the first time it has rained in my 12 years of running the KL Marathon.
There was another flyover before Majestic Hotel and I ran slower just so I could listen to my songs better. We then passed the iconic KL Railway Station and Dayabumi. After that we saw the 500m-to-go gantry and we decided to savour the moment. We crossed the finish in 5 hours, 28 minutes and 42 seconds.
We were high from the adrenaline. The pacer team, formed three years ago, had run together and finished yet another marathon through teamwork. These guys even put up with my requests for all kinds of costume add-ons. My heart-felt appreciation to my team members.
FUNKY SCKLM 2017 FACTS
Number of bananas consumed: 52,125
Number of pears distributed: 18,256
Number of apple distributed: 9,108
Number of sponges used for cooling down: 43,000
Total length tables on route: 700 metres (It’s longer than Dataran Merdeka )
Total bins on route: 538
Amount of drinking water: 68,356 litres
Amount of Lucozade isotonic drinks: 22,775 litres
Numbers of cups: 650,000
Full marathon: 8388 Entered, 6,663 Finished
Half marathon: 9936 Entered, 8557 Finished
10km: 14,641 Entered, 12,195 Finished
Finishing Time of Full Marathon:
Sub three hours: 37 runners (one per cent)
Three to four hours: 262 runners (3.9 per cent)
Four to five hours: 1,265 runners (19 per cent)
Five to six hours: 2,301 runners (34.5 per cent)
Six to seven hours: 2,427 runners (36.4 per cent)
Above seven hours: 371 runners (5.7 per cent)