Running with 15,000 people simultaneously is no walk in the park.
Nike’s We Run KL race holds special meaning for me because last year’s event spurred me to start writing about my running experiences on this blog. Since that first entry I’ve went on to pen 27 articles to date, which is an average of about 3 a month. Even during my myindo.com days I was never this active in writing – which goes to show how much I love my current active lifestyle.
Signing up for this race online this year was a frustrating feat. It took me 3 hours just to get through the registration form because 1) people were jamming the website since it opened at 9am (server load balancing was non-existent), and 2) the form initially had a bug that wouldn’t allow folks above age 25 to register! And then boom! 6 hours later all race slots had been taken up. Some of my friends gave up trying in the first 2 hours because it was just too time-consuming and a large portion of the online running community started to curse the race for practicing favoritism of the younger runners (because apparently college students had been physically recruited on campus first to join). The Nike run was indeed targeted towards the younger generation because it is a development program to mold new runners, according to Karen.
The 10k race this year is unique in that it flags off at 5:30pm so there was little worry about having to be groggy in the wee hours of the morning. Since I was going to be in KL that Saturday afternoon I decided to kill two birds with one stone and slip in an errand before arriving at the race venue.
Timing my departure from home a few hours before the race, I headed out to Wisma Olympic Council Malaysia (OCM) to pick up my race kit for Putrajaya Night Marathon. It took me a while to find the building as I walked through Chinatown, feeling more lost than a tourist, but eventually I got there.
After collecting and stuffing my bib and race vest into my drawstring bag, I planned to drop off my belongings at the baggage trucks which Nike had arranged to bring our things from start line to finish line (they were at different points), praying that I wouldn’t lose my race kit. We reached the Bukit Nanas LRT station and took the long escalator to the top of the entrance, when who whizzed by on the adjacent staircase but Karen herself. “You guys, take the stairs, warm up!” she exclaimed as she sped up the steps with her heavy duffle bag in tow. I grinned and waved at her, feeling a little bit guilty. Once a personal trainer, always a personal trainer!
On our way to the start line I stopped at a bus stop to retie my shoelaces. I saw scraps of what was left of the D-tag paper, a group of runners must have stopped there to affix their timing chip on their shoes but did not throw their rubbish away properly, which was poor in taste I thought. C’mon folks, we’re better than that!
We were walking in the opposite direction of the start line and were overwhelmed at what we saw – tens and thousands of runners! My heart started to beat faster not because I was anxious to run but I was worried about being mangled and suffocating in the crowd. 😛 We managed to find our way to the luggage trucks and my heart sank when I saw the super long queues! It was ridiculous; there was no way we could drop our stuff off in time. And pretty soon it was pointless to queue up; the Nike volunteers told us that they could no longer stuff anything onto the trucks because they were full! So, I had no choice, we had to run with our things, jacket, bag and all. Apparently we were not the only ones, many others also ran with bag packs on their backs, some of them looked mighty heavy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had laptops in them!
Flag-off & running
There was still about 20 minutes left to wait for the flag off and boy, was it stuffy. Being crammed with 15,000 runners is not comfortable, however everyone was well behaved and shoving was kept to a minimum, thank God. Then it was time to run, and the crowd started to move forward. However it took a full 8 minutes for me to pass the start line!
The start of the race had us running from Zouk Club on Jalan P. Ramlee, then we headed down and exited the road into the Ampang KL Elevated Highway, on which most of the distance was. We passed by a cemetery on the right side and me, being the superstitious child that I was raised, paid my respect by silently giving the ‘residents’ a greeting and seeking permission to pass. The LRT railway was on our left and passengers peeked out from their windows and waved at us, the driver even blared his horn a few times in show of support!
Because there were so many runners at this race, I found the experience a little bit frustrating. A lot of people got tired quickly in the first 2-3 km of the race, so a lot of them were walking way too early. I think it was a blessing that we ran with our stuff because we also had water on us – we didn’t even think about stopping at the water stations because the hold-up was too much and would lead to time wastage.
Along the route Nike setup stages for street dancers to perform for us, so that made for interesting entertainment instead of the usual drummers and marching bands. The weather was cool that evening as it had rained earlier so weather-wise condition was ideal. We saw a short and rather portly aunty-aunty zoomed us by, we marveled at how fast she was compared to us or even the other younger runners!
I also noticed something occurring a lot more in this race than in any other that I’ve attended: many runners were losing their shoe soles! I couldn’t begin to tell you how many rubber soles I saw lying on the tarmac, looking lost and forlorn. One guy’s shoe practically disintegrated right in front of my eyes as the bottom part ripped off. I really couldn’t explain the phenomenon, people were either using unsuitable shoes for the run or they’ve had the shoes for a while and hadn’t exposed them to rigorous activity such as running before. Bizarre!
I was one water station away from the finishing line and decided to grab a cup of isotonic. I saw Khong, and between huffs and puffs we grunted a hello. I pressed on and reached the finish line with a time of 1h 15m. I was happy, but that soon turned upside down as a traffic jam formed as we were entering Padang Merbok to pick up our water, bananas and finisher’s tee. The excessive raining from earlier that day had turned the field into a marshy area! Suddenly memories of running through the water trench at Salomon X-Trail flooded my mind. Everyone groaned because our road shoes were soaked and caked with mud, I especially pitied people who were running with brand new shoes. Later on at home, the mud proved to be difficult to wash off from my white Kinvaras.
After picking up our goodies, I went to the stage area where more performances were being held; it was real a party atmosphere. I managed to finally meet Ruby, a fellow runner from the IndoRunners group and we hung out to watch the concert and winners for the race being announced (victor of the men’s closed category was none other than Coach Din, of course!). Because a lot of college students made up the race participants, there were also best college awards to be given out.
Here is a summary of what I thought Nike could have done better this year:
- Registration could have been better executed.
- Flag-off: Men and women should have been gunned off at different times to ease flow. However I understand if they had done this, it would have been difficult to fairly award the much coveted and limited medals for the first top 100 finishers.
- Because many runners were (I assume) new, running ethics were few and far between. Slow runners hogged the right side, so I really had to weave my way around them.
- Bigger water stations – there were just too many people for us to stop for a drink without being worried about losing time. In large races like this I think it’s wise to bring your own hydration.
- Better luggage logistics – I mean seriously, 15,000 people – that’s some heavy numbers, and they only had trucks that could barely accommodate for less than half that number? I’ve heard horror stories of people losing their things or having their bags being tossed around like rotten sacks of potatoes. So moral of the story is, don’t bring your bags with you or leave them at alternative paid lockers.
Aside from those issues, I enjoyed running this race, it was scenic, the weather was cool, the excitement was exhilarating, a nice practical change to receive a finisher’s tee instead of a medal, and I got a good work out. But the questions remains: would I run We Run KL again next year?
Well, I’m going to have to think hard about it, it’s most likely going to get bigger again (it grew from 10,000 last year) and get harder to register for. Unless they make changes to the format, I would probably want to skip it in favor of other less populated races. I have done it twice now after all; let others toe the line for this one.