Date of run: 26 June 2011
I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for the 10.6 km run in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM). Perhaps the increased level of endorphin in my body clouded my judgement and made me develop delusional optimism. But there was no turning back, I was to voluntarily run the longest distance I had ever attempted in my whole life at that point. Did I already mention on purpose?
After I ran the 5.5km night run at Sepang 2 months earlier, I got hooked on wanting to join another event. There was so much buzz amongst local runners about the upcoming SCKLM, which is one of the most well-known ones in Malaysia. I ‘upgraded’ and chose to do 10km because firstly, I wanted to try it, and secondly and rather trivially, I wanted a category that would see me wear a D-tag time tracking chip on my shoe. Distances below 10km generally don’t track runs in such high tech fashion.
Double the distance meant having double the endurance, and ideally double the training but of course no such thing happened because I can only sanely run during the weekends. I did however managed to twice finish a 10,000m trial around the park. It took me around 2 hours each time, to no surprise. And that was also the first time I sustained an injury, a rather discomforting sensation in my right shin just below my knee that felt like my nerves and muscles were being pinched. I later learned that this syndrome was called the “terrible too’s” of new runners: too much, too soon, too fast. My legs were not able to cope with the extra strain and longer distance that I was putting them through because I was new to longer distance running and I really don’t train as many days as I would like to. The pain eventually wore out as I developed stronger legs and they behaved after a few more practice sessions, albeit at slightly shorter distances.
But preparations aside, let me take you through the actual day.
The 10.6 km flagoff was at 7am, which meant I should be at the starting line of Padang Merbok by 6:45am latest. The organizer offered free bus services directly to the venue, provided you could get to a participating LRT station. So there we were at the ungodly hour of 5AM at Kelana Jaya station, waiting with a large crowd of runners in the official green vests. It felt like going to a school sports day.
As we’re waiting, you could tell some people were still sleepy and docile, and some were excited and chattier than a sugar-high telemarketer. A handful was still trying to afix their infrared D-tags to their shoelaces and others were helping friends pin on their race bibs. I like being proactive (plus I read somewhere it helps to reduce pre-race anxiety) so I made sure all the things I needed were done the night before.
The first 2 buses arrived and got filled up pretty quickly. Sardine-packed was an understatement; a few passengers’ faces were literally kissing the glass doors of the buses like a sick pre-dawn version of rush hour. Later on, it became evident that a 3rd bus would not come around because the jam at Chow Kit area had demobilized our transport. We had to ditch the bus idea and instead take the LRT to Masjid Jamek station where we would then have to brisk walk another 10 minutes to get to the exact venue. It was during this chaotic rush to KL that I befriended a young mother whom I shall refer to now as Nina (I forgot her real name).
I had noticed Nina earlier, when her husband had dropped her off at the station. He lingered until he was sure that his wife had gotten on a bus safely. But since the buses were no longer making their way back to Kelana Jaya for pickups, Nina decided to hop on a train with us and make the mad dash into the city centre.
I asked Nina if she was a regular runner. She said she tried to be, between juggling being a wife and mother. I also found out she lived just a stone’s throw away from where I did. And we small talked about wanting to go run together one day. But you know how it is with small talk with strangers sometimes. Activities get concocted and never happen.
Inside the train with us were other SCKLM runners, high with excitement as they talked non-stop to Masjid Jamek. I couldn’t help overhear a crowd of Filipino runners as they chatted rather boisterously in Tagalog. There was all manner of color and creed on that train, notably and mostly of the young adult variety. Upon reaching the final destination station we just followed the gang of green heading towards Padang Merbok. We passed by a few cheerleaders with their pom poms shrieking, “You can do it, you can do it!” I smiled at their enthusiasm, but frankly speaking I was more nervous than excited.
At the start line, folks were revving up to be flagged off and pretty soon our time came. A loud horn blared and the crowd whooped in response. At this point, to get to the official starting line requires nothing more than a casual stroll really – you can’t really run until then because of how tightly packed everyone is. It’s only when you step onto the start line detector that your D-tag chip registers the start time of your run. And that’s when you really should start running like a maniac.
I came extra-prepared and ran with a bottle of water in one hand, which was not really necessary but I felt psychologically comforted knowing I had hydration with me at all times. I ran the first 3km quite comfortably and although I was not fast, I worked to remain consistent. Breathe in, breathe out, I kept telling myself. Some people forget to breathe properly when they’re conducting some sort of physical activity, especially running.
By this point Nina was also keeping up with me. As we’re turning into Little India, she made a remark that had me looking at her as though she had just accused me of stealing. She said something along the lines of, “You lari maintain jugak eh?” I gasped, shocked but flattered. Obviously her benchmark for good running must not be very high because I think I am absolutely rubbish at it, but nonetheless I gave her a polite but confused smile. Nina’s odd remark actually motivated me to continue running with my head held up high, lest my new friend thinks I’m a wuss. Oh it’s amazing how other people’s perception of you can make you lift the world onto your shoulders. Or rather in this case, continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As we ran through Little India and made our way to Federal Highway, I remembered U2’s Vertigo song coming into play on my iPod, and I felt that the melody and upbeat tempo of the song was super suitable given my mood. Then I saw our first water station in sight – praise God! Although I had water on me, a dash of isotonic refresher never hurt anyone. While some people grabbed cups and continued running while gulping (insert also dramatic action of tossing empty cups to the road side when done), I chose to take a minute or two to drink in peace and to catch my breath. And then it was off I go again.
As we reached KM7, the elevation of the route started to increase and I felt pretty pressed at this point. We passed by the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station in huffs and puffs after tackling a flyover that seemed to point towards the sky. In what seemed like an eternity, we finally reached Pertama Complex which was an indication that the finish line was not too far off, 1-2km at most. As we entered Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the green Sogo building loomed in sight, but fatigue and the bright morning rays were blinding me. I was tired by now and all I desperately wanted to see was the finish line of this darn race. Really, 10km, what was I thinking?
And there it was… an elaborate arch of balloons, visible at a distance. Finish line! we cried in unison. However we were fooled. It turned out to be just the start point for the 5km participants. D’oh! It was another roughly 200m to go from there on. Suddenly the knee joints start to ache a lot more than I remembered them to be. I was determined to finish strong so I mustered whatever strength I had left and made it through the finish line. It was a monumental moment for me as I completed the 10.6km route in 1 hour and 24 minutes. I was just happy to finish it!
With jelly legs we made our way to the collection area where we were given a goody bag that had the simplest of contents: a finisher’s medal, a bottle of water and a banana. The pickup was fast and effortless, just the way a race goody pickup process should be. I started peeling my banana with sweaty hands, only to have it break halfway and fall to the ground.
Bummer, even my banana was tired.
I somehow managed to secure a replacement fruit and away I munched to regain some of the energy which I had exerted. It was also then that my legs cramped up. Oops, I guess I should have done some stretches to cool down after the run, ey? Another valuable lesson learned.
So there you have it – my first 10km running experience. I have to say running through the streets of KL gave me a better appreciation of my country’s capital city, and it was refreshing to see it from a runner’s point of view. I don’t normally take much time to soak in the scenes from the road, especially when I’m driving through the city. Running has taught me to closely observe and appreciate what beauty our surroundings have to offer – all while riding this thing called the runner’s high and feeling free. And that essentially is when I feel most alive. My heart rate monitor watch can attest to this!