Running date: 16 April 2011
The (notorious) Energizer Night Run of 2011 was my maiden attempt in joining organized running events. Fueled by curiosity to see if I could withstand a so-called “fun run” that was 5.5km long, I signed up, excited and intimidated at the same time. Excited because the endeavor was new, intimidated because for as long as I can remember, running was never my strong suit.
The idea to join this night run was largely inspired by a friend who in January declared to me he wanted to give it a shot as he had started running a few KMs a week. Ironically, he ended up not running the thing.
What made the night run even cooler was its venue, the Sepang F1 Circuit! The concept was uberly appealing – I mean, how often can you say you’ve literally run the course of a F1 circuit where world-renowned race car drivers have zoomed on and left their indelible tire marks? Unless of course you work there, but still, I bet no one’s really run the whole loop on purpose.
At this point in my life, my running stamina was relatively low. But because I was fitter than I had ever been in a while, I felt confident that I could break through the endurance barrier, maybe just enough to make me finish a 5.5km without keeling over and vomiting out lung matter.
With that in mind I decided to train 2x a week at the park (and throw in a couple of cross training sessions in between) until April came around. But due to vacation and unforeseen bumps along the road (read: laziness) I didn’t put much effort into actually running (I did the other stuff) until mid-March, which left me about 1 month really to pick up the pace.
On the big day, M drove us to Sepang and I was amazed to see the amount of people who had signed up to run. I could feel the high charge buzz in the air and it was both exhilarating and intoxicating. It was then that I knew this run wouldn’t be my last event.
The first order of the day was to collect our head lamp gear that we would have to wear to light up our dark path. However the logistics of that was totally screwed because the organizers decided to mainly pass those out at the end of the first underground tunnel that takes you underneath the race tracks to get to the other side. As a result, the tunnel got overcrowded, so M took us to another tunnel where there were less people. We luckily had managed to pick up our head lamps at another location that was less smothering.
As we waited to be flagged off, I milled around the area and could see some big projector screens for non-runners to watch movies on while they waited for their friends and relatives to complete the run (they were showing Transformers if I remember correctly). We also met an acquaintance and his girlfriend, they were busying themselves with the baggage drop facility where there was a ridiculously long line snaking as well. I took note to not bring bags with me for future runs if I didn’t have someone waiting for me, it was just too much of a hassle trying to leave it at the designated lockers.
Runners who ran the longer distances of 42km, 21km and 11km were given opportunity to run first in predetermined blocks of advanced timing to ensure that all runners will complete at around the same time. However even as a newbie I knew that it was a bit weird that the folks running 11km were given a head start of only 15 minutes before the 5.5km runners.
With loud music blaring and a rowdy MC yammering away on the PA system, the starting line area felt like a party circuit rather than a running one that evening, if only our pumps, tight skimpy shorts and sleeveless tops were not a dead give away (but who’s to say that is not the accepted uniform of clubbers?).
I watched the 11km folks (which made up the most number of runners) get flagged off first and from where I stood it thought it was the most magnificent sight ever. Everyone was instructed to set their head lights to red first, then to fluorescent white when they started running. Witnessing this scene was akin to watching a spill of light move forward like a tidal wave of fireflies.
Video: Like fireflies, the 11km runners jet off
Soon enough, it was my category’s turn to get flagged off. I was in the crowd, perspiring with anticipation and anxious to get going. As soon as the horn blared we moved forward in unison, some more quickly than others (it gets pretty hard to run properly when you’re mushed up in a crowd). The run was on!
I learned quickly that running in an event with so many others will elicit the spirit of competitiveness, fast and hard. I felt myself wanting to keep up the pace with some runners as I didn’t want to be left behind. As a result, I lost my running partner whom I had promised to pace together (I got an earful at the finish line later). It didn’t help that we were running amongst so many people and that we were moving in semi-darkness!
Running with the head lamp on my forehead didn’t deter me so much, in fact it proved to be quite handy. The first 1-2 km was going OK but my newbie self was getting a little tired come the 3rd KM. I also realized that I wasn’t quite the only new runner around: At one corner of the track some people had decided to cut through the grass instead of sticking on course. Why there were no race marshals or barrier tape put up there was anybody’s guess. I felt there was no honor in cheating through the race course if you were a true runner.
After running for about 2km+ I was ready for a sip of water and I knew there was a water station coming up. However as I approached the table there were only empty bottles and cups strewn all around the area, not a drop to be spared. 🙁 I decided to push and just continue till I reached the 2nd and last water station in my distance.
Reaching the 2nd water station was a mayhem in its own class: the volunteers couldn’t pour water out fast enough into the cups so some runners took it upon themselves to chug down liquid directly from 1.5 litre bottles before chucking them aside, still nearly full. Quite a waste really. I managed to swallow 1 cup of water plus some Gatorade before leaving that rather bizarre scene.
I couldn’t wait to finish as my heart was beating faster than you can say ‘marathon.’ As I approached the last kilometre, one runner (or running photographer) equipped with a DSLR camera began running backwards and pointing his lens toward the oncoming traffic. I was not really keen to be photographed in that messy and sweaty state I was in, so I tried dodging the shutterbug and stayed my course.
And then I did it, I crossed the finish line! I took more than 40 minutes to run that whole darn circuit. There were already countless finishers before me just lazing around the area. The welcome I got at the finish line was totally non-existent, I was half-expecting some people to be there greeting us with congratulatory thumbs-up while passing out our goodie bags, however there were none. I found out later this was to be one of the organizer’s flaws for this race.
While there were so many other incidents that marred the Energizer Night Run that evening (slow giving out of the goodie bags was the major one, it took us longer to queue for them than to actually run the 5.5km course!), I was happy that I got to finish the run. I didn’t get my finisher’s medal till more than a month later in the mail (and it’s a pretty cute one at that), and I even got my registration fee back as a way for the organizers to say sorry they screwed up.
Every story has a beginning, and this night run was mine to my running chapter.