An exciting muddy 10km race that will make you an experienced dung-dodging runner.
Date of run: 30 Sep 2012
The Salomon X-Trail Run held at Universiti Putra Malaysia last Sunday was my first off-road race. While the course is not the most technical of trails, it still posed some challenges but not so much that it takes the fun out of running.
The campus in Serdang carries family nostalgia for me because my parents worked there for years. I’ve never had a chance to visit the vast fields that are home to the cows bred there (it was the agriculture university of the nation after all), so entering this race was a homecoming of sorts for me, especially since I grew up drinking milk from UPM!
The race started promptly at 7am with the men’s flag-off first, which was a big relief for us ladies. Some women are intimidated by the idea of men bulldozing their way from behind, especially since guys are less likely to care if they graze you without so much as a nod or apology. I experience this at most races and I suppose this is because men are naturally so competitive and gung-ho at the start.
The women’s gun-off was 15 minutes later and because it was free of men (almost – there were a few late male runners) it was one of the most peaceful race send-offs I’ve ever gone through. But that’s not to say I didn’t eat the dust of the faster women!
The first 1km of the route had us running from the UPM Stadium towards the tarmac road which led us to the field area. But even before we entered the green parts of UPM, the organizer made us wade through a pit path filled with muddy water! There was no way around it as they blocked off the sides with some boards, so whether we liked it or not it was shoes in water for everyone (unless you were good at walking on your hands!).
I grit my teeth and hopelessly ran through the water, as there was no alternative. I was frustrated initially because I knew with wet socks and shoes I was bound to get blisters. Then I took a deep breath and took it in stride, as this was part of the whole experience of running the X-Trail. Making lemonade out of lemons.
My green Saucony Progrid Peregrines went “squish squish” as my socks expanded in them, but after a while my feet warmed up, got used to the dampness and just continued to trod on, blisters be damned. Tall grass blades, prickly overgrowths and muddy tracks became our friends as we ran through the fields. Runners in yellow shirts dotted the landscape as we ran past lakes, an adjacent highway as well as cows staring at us aloof! At various points elevation picked up, slowing our paces some but as soon as the ground leveled again or descended we continued to run. After just a few kilometers a lot of us had ‘redesigned’ the rear part of our running shirts with all the mud we were kicking up!
This X-Trail run also makes you a careful runner, thanks in part to the dung bombs left behind by the cows! It was not uncommon to see runners with their eyes glued on the ground – I sure was one of them! After about 5 kilometers I wondered why my legs felt so heavy so I looked down and saw how much mud my soles had accumulated. Although I was careful not to step in animal poo, there’s no telling what exactly is underneath my shoes.
Kilometer 7 was super slippery as the mud got even softer and it became almost impossible to run without looking like a clown trying to slip on a banana peel for cheap laughs, so I gingerly walked the route for a bit before feeling confident that the ground was again solid. I am glad I had proper trail shoes on and they worked marvelously. Runners who were gambling with regular road shoes were slipping and sliding, some even lost their soles. Don’t mess with mother nature with shallow shoe threads!
At some point I was handed a pink ribbon bracelet by a race marshal which I wore on my right wrist, marking me as one of the first 1,500 runners to run more than halfway through. These “top” runners were guaranteed to get a free Salomon cap, which apparently was the motivation factor for some of us to complete the run in decent time (hehe). What simpletons we are.
The last kilometers of the route saw us running back on some of the same parts of the trail to make a big loop, which eventually meant we had to go back to where we began – through the muddy water pit near the trail entrance! But by this time our shoes were already so dirty and caked with mud that going through the water served as an act of cleansing. So in we went again, splash!
I plodded my way into the stadium with newly wet shoes for the second time. I was tired but as usual made it a point to finish strong. I entered the stadium, ran alongside and past runners who looked like they had just gotten out of jungle combat, sprinted the last 50m and ended my self-measured run of 11.48km in 1 hour 29 minutes. I really need to learn how to cut around the corners more, I overshot the official distance by more than 1km!
A lady at the finish line handed me my cert and medal in a plastic bag, as well as the much sought-after Salomon cap. Met up with friends, made new friends and discovered food coupons in the bag. The tau foo fa line was horrendously long, but it was worth the wait. I scarfed down my nasi lemak like I hadn’t seen food in days.
At the shoe wash station, people were drenching their footwear and running pants under the gushing water of the pipes. I didn’t bother taking my shoes off and instead just stood under the tap. As I’m trying to balance on one leg to rub the dirt off the other, a fellow runner behind me kindly asked if he could hold my cert bag for me since I needed to use both hands. I thought that was very nice of him.
I also noticed a group of Filipinos talking boisterously while we were in line, they kept saying “sepatu sepatu,” which made me curious. After a casual chat with one Pinay, she confirmed to me that the Tagalog word for shoe is sepatu, just like how the Indonesians refer to it. I tweeted about it, and then later online friends (one Indonesian, one Filipino) confirmed that the original word “zapato” is of Portuguese and Spanish origin, for Indonesia and the Philippines respectively.
After washing up and eating, we hit the Salomon booth where generous discounts were being offered for their running gear. I couldn’t resist getting a few items as the deals were too good to pass up. Now that I run with a credit card to races, shopping’s a cinch!
In conclusion, here’s what I liked about this event:
- New route for me, scenic and challenging
- Men’s flag-off first! Leaving the ladies worry-free
- The weather was cool, it rained heavily the night before
- The UPM representative who spoke to us before the flag-off was funny. He spoke about the campus with passion, encouraged us to take photos of the scenery and of the cows, and reminded runners to leave the area just as how they had found it: litter-free (but I suppose he didn’t mean the water stations – that’s like Litter Central!).
- Ample water at the water stations every 3km. The last water station served Gatorade which was a nice sugar pick-me-up
- Useful and nice-looking Salomon cap freebie
- Ample food and drinks for runners all around
- Wash station for us to rinse off the mud off our shoes
- They setup a Salomon booth with awesome discounts that made even the most hardcore shoppers weak at the knees (yours truly included – and the knees were already weak from running, OK?)
Here’s what I wish was different:
- Option for runners to not wade through the muddy water in the beginning of the race. Some of us don’t like running with wet feet and are more blister-prone than others.
- Include a timing-chip – this was the first 10k run I did that didn’t have it
Would I run this again? You betcha! Who wants to join me maneuvering around the manure next year?
- Tristupe’s Salomon X Trail 2012 Route writeup
- Tristupe’s X-Trail Marshalling Report 2012
- Lina: Do Your Own Laundry Today (race recap)
- Nannoor’s Salomon X-Trail Run 2012 (race recap)
- Penonton’s race recap of the Salomon X-Trail
- VIDEO: Watch how runners were dodging the water pit in whatever way they can!