This is the 1st session in the Nike We Run KL training series
In preparation for We Run KL 10K this year, Nike offered three free training sessions (one a week) for all runners leading up to race day, regardless if one was a participant or not in what was labeled the fastest-selling road race in Malaysia this year (allegedly 10,000 bibs were sold off online in a mere 6 hours, causing much outcry). All you had to do was be one of the first 350 people to register on the Nike Malaysia website and show up on the date specified.
The first training was held at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa in KL on Saturday, 22nd September, and since I have only ever been there to attend a tennis clinic and not to run, I thought it’d be good to check out a new running venue and unlearn-relearn a thing or two.
When we arrived at the meeting point (Astaka) it was just a little bit after 5pm on a slightly overcast day and a good sizeable crowd was there. A small black stage was setup and upbeat music was blaring loudly from giant speakers (Nike people love “Party Anthem” it seems). I saw a group of runners dressed up in the same blue Nike sleeveless tops and deduced that they were the pacers. Then I noticed a familiar face among them, it was Karen Siah – a personal trainer whom I had met a few weeks earlier at 1Utama when signing up for the Live Great Eastern Run. She recognized me too and we exchanged pleasantries.
Just as a side note, Karen once told me that the Nike running program is actually geared towards developing younger people (e.g. college-aged and below) to develop running as a healthy pastime, which is why 80% of the allocation for We Run Nike is reserved for them. That is all great and dandy, however the older folks are feeling unloved in that department. But that is not to say you couldn’t join the trainings or the race, it’s just that priority is given to the younger ‘uns.
After registering at the counter we were given a paper wristband to wear that said “Nike Run Club.” Then I saw another line forming at an adjacent table; people were queuing to swap their current trainers for a pair of trial Nike LunarGlide4+ shoes. I thought that was pretty neat, though at this particular training session I decided to keep my Kinvaras on.
Once everyone was ready with his or her shoes, we crowded before the stage. The emcee introduced Karen who went around with a microphone and asked a couple of people why they ran, just to share with the group. Most people gave the standard answer of health and fitness, which is great, however when Karen approached me, I cheekily answered “So I can eat!”, eliciting laughter from the crowd. Karen replies, “Me too!” I guess great minds think, eat and run alike!
Before we warmed up a few people in the blue Nike tops came up stage to speak about their running experience. A skinny but muscular fellow named Idan spoke about his first full marathon experience in Singapore last year when he ran in honor of his late mother who died of cancer. A guy named Wan also gave a brief “101” on the different types of foot and pronation and the need to wear the right type of running shoes; according to him women typically have high arches due to constant high heel usage but I digress. Finally, Karen took the lead and warmed us up through an intensive heart-pounding muscle-loosening routine, which included high knees and butt-kicks (not my most favorite things in the world!).
The purpose of this particular training was to introduce (or reacquaint) everyone to the concept of tempo running. I don’t quite remember how the Nike trainers described it, but the definition that sticks to me is Coach Jenny Hadfield’s: a tempo run is like a sandwich, the bread is the beginning and ending (short and easy) and the middle is the meat (long and faster) where you push it at a steady pace and higher intensity.
The Nike pacers decided to split us into 4 speed groups: fast (able to run 10k in 45 minutes), moderate (60 minutes), slow (90 minutes) and newbies (unknown). According to these classifications I am between moderate and slow, so I chose to join the slow group, led by a pacer named Boon who had a darker blue Nike t-shirt with a mean-looking bunny cartoon character on it.
The target of the evening was to complete a 4.5km tempo run around the park, and so we bonded with our groups and gathered around the start line for a group photo. I chose to squat at the front and unintentionally bumped into a petite girl next to me. She looked familiar too, I thought – and later I asked her if she was Evie, a lady whom I had traveled with to Phuket with in a sports car convoy. It turned out she was! I didn’t recognize her without her glasses. She lamented that she hadn’t run in ages and asked when was the last time I ran. I answered 2 days ago and she blushed; her last session was back in February, some 7 months ago! Well, it’s never too late to restart, I said. She grinned bashfully.
The fast group started out first. The moderate group, led by Karen, was next, then my group ran third and lastly the newbies. However after a while everyone sort of got mixed up together and it was difficult to remember who was in which group, so we just ran at our own paces. People who were spending leisure time at the park with their young families were taken aback as we rampaged through the jogging lanes in large groups. Sales people who were on the side selling Herbalife products were also a bit amazed.
Running at Titiwangsa was alright, the place is shady with plenty of tall trees, there is a huge lake in the middle and at some points you can enjoy the landscape scenery of KLCC Twin Towers and the KL Tower in a distance. Occasionally I would get a whiff of food being fried by resident food vendors! I thought to myself, I’d never get hungry here because street snack options were plentiful, enough to derail anyone’s diet in a hurry.
Along the running route volunteers from Nike would stand with signboards that said motivational things like “Ignore the pain!” and “Finish strong!” After completing 1 round around the park, we stopped and got into our groups to do a few strengthening exercises like lunges and squats. I saw one group (Karen’s) doing the plank and thought we were lucky to not have to do that, I wasn’t in the mood to get intimate with loose sand and gravel on the tiled ground. Then we continued with the 2nd round, completing almost a 4k run in total. Everyone ended by running through a finish line banner, which was a nice touch.
After that we got into a post-run group photo mode, then had water and bananas, followed by a burpee challenge (who could do the most number of burpees in a minute). Two girls and two guys played, the girl who won did something like 27 burpees whilst the guy winner did 37. What did they get? A Nike bag each. That was not to say the rest of us went back empty-handed either; we were given a token pin from Nike that says “There is no finish line.”
That concludes my recap of the first Nike training session this year. I must say even though I did not know most of the people there save for a few, it was nice to see a bunch of like-minded strangers gathering and just run for the sake of running. And I think that is the spirit of a true runner.
Some photos courtesy of runwitme (thank you!)