A personal recap of the media publicity for Malaysia’s 1st women marathon.
When Lini Kazim announced that she was going to attend the Nestle Fitnesse Malaysia Women Marathon press conference, I just knew I absolutely had to come too. I immediately wrote Karen Loh – the race director – and asked if I could come and cover the press release on my blog. Karen responded positively, which made my heart flutter with excitement.
Right after lunch on Tuesday, 5th of February, I headed straight to i-City in Shah Alam where the press conference was scheduled to take place. I caught up with Lini at the car park and we both walked together to the venue. Upon arriving I was pleased to see my name in the registered list of attendees. I shook hands with fellow blogger Max Lim of Runwitme and then waved to Karen who was busy shuffling around, getting ready to start the PC. This was my first time meeting Karen and my first impression of her was how sweet and stylishly casual she appeared. Having a runner’s physique and lanky legs also didn’t hurt!
It was about 3:30pm when everyone finally settled down and the PC began; the ceremony was emceed by Julie Wong. There were many media guests, corporate sponsors and dignitaries who graced the event. Among them included representatives from the Selangor Tourism board, Pacesetters, Nestle (main sponsor), New Balance, Raw Food, Energizer group, Air Asia, Capital FM (a women’s radio station) as well as journalists from the print media and TV – and not forgetting fellow bloggers and supportive friends!
Julie then passed the podium over to Karen who introduced herself as an avid runner and mother to two children. Karen also recently completed the Vibram 100km ultra-marathon in Hong Kong. She walked us through what many of us enthusiastic female runners already know about the women marathon event itself (surely from countless sleepless nights of obsessively stalking the MWM Facebook page), from who will flag off the race (legendary American lady runner Kathrine Switzer who paved way for women to run road races when she became the first woman to run Boston Marathon in 1967 – when females were still not allowed to run) to what kind of goodies we’ll get from signing up (pareo instead of running vests, pendants instead of medals).
Below are some key points that I selectively remembered from the press conference – garnished with a little bit of my own research.
- Karen mooted the idea of a women’s marathon in Malaysia and Ironman Malaysia is the organizer behind it. The official race date has been set on Sunday, 7 April 2013, starting point: i-City in Shah Alam, Selangor. The Malaysia Women Marathon project is indeed a first of its kind in the region. Only Japan has 2 women marathon events annually and they are very competitive. To qualify to enter the Nagoya Women’s Marathon for example, one needs to achieve a qualifying time of 3:15 or faster at another certified marathon. Hence, outside of Japan, there is no other full marathon event dedicated solely to women in Asia. Statistically majority of running women in Malaysia favor such distances as the 10-12km range, however not many will join the full marathon distance of 42.195km. To turn that around, MWM aims to make running a marathon attractive to us ladies by providing support systems, pre-events and experiences that we will enjoy and appreciate. The best part? No qualifying time required to enter.
- There will be pre-event workshops and dialogue sessions happening before race day, which will be conducted by Kathrine Switzer, Barbara Oravetz (an American lady runner based in Singapore whom Helen Susanto has fondly referred to as “the guardian angel of runners”) and a Thai Muslim ultra-runner, Thida Sonjaroen (her furthest event being a grueling 160km!) who wears the tudung – so that would be an interesting perspective to listen to, especially for women who run with their heads covered.
This video of Kathrine Switzer was shown in the beginning of the press conference.
- The logo – Karen asked the crowd what the MWM logo reminded everyone of. No one said anything, so I spoke up and loudly declared, “Bikini!” The audience chuckled and Karen affirmed my statement. “Yes, bikini!” Anyone with a sharp eye can quickly figure out that the “bikini” is a clever visual play of the initials of MWM. But do you know who designed the logo? Karen Loh’s husband, Fred Liew – who was also present.
I asked Karen two questions: how many slots are allocated for the MWM. She answered: 500 for full marathon, 1,000 for half marathon and 1,000 for the 8km fun run. My second question: why was MWM not made into a women-only run, why allow the men to join? Karen’s response: because Couple on the Run (a husband-wife runner pair from Melbourne) are also invited guest speakers for MWM, therefore limited allowances for male pacers have been made to reflect the practices and preaches of their guest speakers. Just for trivia sake: 100 slots for each FM and HM categories are reserved for male runners to pace their lady friends. However these guys must finish the run together with their partner.
- There will be a pasta party, too! Now personally for me that’s a first I’ve heard happening in Malaysia – so that will be exciting.
- There will be lots of shopping offerings for the ladies at the event – who says sports wear has to be boring? Everything from skorts (i.e. skirts + shorts) to flowery tops. I am looking forward to seeing some of the clothing line they’ll showcase. Also, MWM will be selling t-shirts, hoodies and even mobile phone covers with their branding! I definitely want to get my hands on a t-shirt and a hoodie. 🙂
- Did you know that the pendant, which you will earn after completing the full and half marathons, was designed so that you could wear it even when you’re out and about? It’s really a doggy tag (like the ones army guys wear – so I suppose that’s what the guys will call it). Now tell me a time where you’ve ever gone out clubbing with your Standard Chartered marathon medal around your neck? Or heaven forbid, your Condura Skyway Marathon medal (have you seen the size of those things? Bigger than a Blackberry!). Exactly. With MWM pendants – piece of cake, discreet and stylish! Not to mention a great brag and party conversation piece.
- Running vests are commonly given out in race kits – but not in MWM. Everyone participating will receive a pareo instead. Karen jokingly suggested the men to wear it during the run, ala local runner Yimmy the Sarong Man. Personally I’m not much of a pareo person and can’t think for the life of me what to do with it save for wear it like a scarf. Or as a towel.
- I-city is a theme park in Shah Alam that prides itself with its grand light displays – which will be left turned on the entire night leading to the race morning! OK so it’s not entirely green and environmentally friendly move. But you have to admit, it will make for a memorable and picturesque night run indeed with all the colorful lights on full blast.
- Max Lim asked Karen how she managed to get Kathrine Switzer to flag off the marathon at MWM. Karen said you can thank Maggie Yeo (and another lady, I forget her name) for this. Since Ms. Switzer spends half the year in New Zealand, Maggie’s affiliation with an Auckland running group afforded her the opportunity to approach the veteran runner and bring her on board with MWM.What’s even more utterly cool is that right after MWM, Ms. Switzer will fly back to the States where she will make an appearance at the Boston Marathon for her 46th consecutive year, starting April 12th!
- I’ve ran through some parts of Shah Alam in my first SAF Run (11km) back in December 2011, and the only landmark I could remember seeing was the city’s famous blue mosque. Well if you run the whole full marathon distance at MWM, you’ll be starting from i-city, and passing through countless roundabouts (it is Shah Alam after all!) and around 3 universities, the lake park, the blue mosque, the state museum and theatre with their distinctive Minangkabau architectures, as well as the Sultan Selangor’s Palace. Selangor Tourism board is definitely taking advantage of this running event to fully promote the capital city. Even for me as a Selangorian, I would probably not know half of where these structures were it not for this running event. But since I’m doing only a half marathon, I will definitely see only about half of the attractions. 🙂
- There are miles named after sponsors and Kathrine Switzer herself, as well as dedicated cheering stations, apparently to be populated by males. One station is called Be Fit with Nestle Fitness, which Karen Loh promised to fill with hot 6-pack-ab guys. Lini joked that this particular station is bound to jeopardize any lady’s attempt at a personal best. Mm-hmm.
After the press conference was over, we tucked into some food and mingled. I can honestly say I loved socializing and networking with the folks there, there was just a wealth of experience, knowledge and information to tap into. I also managed to get to know Jolene Hong from Athlete’s Circle, a gracious woman with all ears open to the feedback I had to give her about her business establishment. At the end I could not resist a mug shot with these inspiring ladies.
All I can say now after attending this press conference is: I CAN’T WAIT for MWM! Will you join me? Register here!
Let’s make “herstory” together!
- Malaysia Women Marathon official website
- Kathrine Switzer official website
- Karen Loh interview on New Straits Times