Date of run: 4 December 2011
The Selangor Agrofest Run (or Larian SAF) that was held recently in Shah Alam was my first attempt at a government body-organized event. Its rather low barrier entry fee of RM10 per person was attractive, so I paid for 2 other friends to join me. Plus, I thought it’d be kinda cool to run in the capital city of my birth state, Selangor.
For the price, the race kit offering was obviously modest. The race t-shirt was a non-brand cotton and loud yellow, not quite the type I’d like to run in because I prefer tops that don’t actually drape around me like a kaftan (that was a size S, the smallest, by the way). I did not wear the garish t-shirt lest it served me as a parachute and slowed me down – plus cotton isn’t exactly known for its wicking properties. We received a pair of running bibs each (one was for a lucky draw pool), printed on material that reminded me of the kind you’d use to print street banners on, with graphics in the lowest resolution possible such that I could not even make out who the sponsors were. Ah yes, what RM10 can buy for you. Not Photoshop skills, for sure.
Because it was a community-based run, family and people in wheelchair categories were setup so that was a considerate and inclusive touch. The run ranged from 3, 5, 7 and 10km, so of course we partook in the longest route for the most challenge and bang for buck. The flag off was at 7:30am, a bit later than I would’ve liked it because it gets pretty hot by around 8-ish. As we were poised in position with about 2,500 other runners, the emcee starts giving us directions of the route (e.g. “when you get to this roundabout, turn right, and then further up you go straight on till you see bla bla bla…”). My heart sank and we started looking at each other in a daze – did this race not have markers? Why is the announcer giving us directions that made absolutely no sense to us? Can we remember it all? We’re not Shah Alam natives, so by this time we were utterly confused and concerned.
In the end, we paid no attention to the senseless garble that was supposedly to be our route directions and decided to keep up with the crowd and follow them instead. And then there was a loud bang! We were gunned off! Everyone scrambles to start running and there we were. As I left the starting line, my stomach began making demands on me, which was annoying. Why is it that when I start running I always have to use the bathroom?!
Luckily for me, around 200m away was a Petronas petrol station so I decided to drop by there to take care of nature’s call. And it was a good thing I went there too, because throughout the course of the 10km run, there were absolutely no porta-johns! What happens if you had to go? Do you go up to someone’s house and knock on their doors to seek permission to use their loos? Unbelievable.
The first 5-6km for me was rather consistent, albeit a few points in the course where the roads started to elevate and made me fumble (found out that Shah Alam is a rather hilly area). Although there were police traffic on hand to help control cars, I stayed on high alert when maneuvering the roundabouts and traffic light intersections as I don’t fully trust my fellow Malaysian drivers. I was always faced with the dilemma of wanting to run on the pavement for better safety, however the unevenness of the pavement tiles and loose stones sometime posed as a potential risk to my moving feet. Running on the road, while smoother, was another risk on its own as some parts of the road were unmanned by police. So in an effort to get the best of both worlds, I interlaced my course between road and pavement.
One of the highlights of running Shah Alam is their iconic blue mosque, the Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah. The 2nd largest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia’s Istiqlal, it is a thing of marvel and beauty so once I had a chance to run beside it, I made sure I visually savored it as much as I could. The last time I had been physically in the mosque area was a good 16 years ago when I brought an American friend to visit. While I was taking in the view, I saw a Chinese couple running towards me in the opposite direction, looking exasperated. At the same time I saw a policeman attending to them, the poor couple was obviously lost and annoyed. As I passed the trio, I overheard the lady saying they were supposed to be following the 7km route but somehow ended up following the 10km one. This little incident further confirmed that the race had rather questionable markers.
The sun was getting higher in the air and by KM 7 all I could think of was wanting a drink of water. We had been running all the while and no water stations were to be seen! I was so parched I could hardly think, and I didn’t bring any water with me (time for me to start thinking about getting a fuel belt!). I couldn’t believe it, typically most private running events have water stations positioned every 2-3 km. I was so desperate at this time that I began keeping an eye out for a shop so that I could run in and purchase a bottle of water, but alas, just when you need it nothing seemed to come along the way. I practically didn’t come across the only water station in the race until an hour into my run. When I saw it I raced there like I just saw an oasis. I gulped down two cups of 100Plus easily. I would’ve probably splashed it on my face if it wouldn’t leave a sticky residue – so I didn’t. Then I carried on, relieved, if only for a while.
It was hot the last few km of my run and traffic was getting heavier. Exhaust smoke from cars was getting thicker, making breathing a challenge, and to top it off I was getting thirsty again. There were no more water stations until the finish line. I tried my best to continue keeping up an acceptable pace, so much so that I tripped and fell down on an unpaved sidewalk on some stones and grazed my right shin on loose gravel. My left ankle was twisted briefly as I tried to brace for landing, but thankfully my ankle has grown stronger since I started keeping fit so the damage was kept to a minimum. I hobbled back up and continued to run my course.
There was no way this was a 10km run, it sure didn’t feel like it, I thought to myself as I tried to manhandle the last roundabout safely in the course (again, no police there). The stadium was coming into view and by that time I met up with Evi who helped me back on track by pacing me and throwing me encouragements. Amidst confusion from the heat and fatigue, we managed to find the finish line and we happily sped through it as some volunteers stood at the end to hand out our much deserved finishers medals and certificates. We then cried happy tears at the sight of isotonic water bottles and fidgeted with sweaty hands to unpin our bibs to throw into the lucky draw box.
Later on I found out the race distance for the 10km course was actually around 11.16km, give or take a few meters. It may not seem like much more, but it sure made a huge difference in expectations at the time. When you’re tired, every bloody inch counts.
What have I learned from this run?
- You get what you paid for – always.
- People in Shah Alam don’t use or walk on their pavements, obviously – judging from their conditions.
- Shah Alam has a lot of roundabouts. A lot a lot. That is so ’80s.
- Shah Alam is the original Bangi (according to Bangi girl Mims).
- Bring your own water, especially when the online map does not clearly indicate location of water stations.
- Try not to enter runs that start later than 7am. The earlier, the better – less exposure to sun and heat!
- I need to practice more incline runs and improve on speed work. (Thanks to my uncalled bathroom break and little fall, my finishing time was 1 hour 40 mins.)
- Try to stay nearby your friends if you wish to take a nap during the lucky draw and prize giving ceremony – at least you can trust them to wake you up in time when your number is being called!
- Never ever underestimate the power of being lucky in a lucky draw contest. 🙁
Sweet, sweaty success
Read also: Mims’ take on Larian SAF
Feature photo courtesy of Mims