My first podium placement.
On July 7th, while everybody else was busy running NTV7 Feel Good Run, Seremban Half Marathon or doing the Port Dickson triathlon, I was at a quaint little race called Rise & Run 2.0 in Bandar Sri Damansara.
Organized by the students of the private school of Sekolah Sri Bestari, I was invited by Dr. Liza whose daughter Aida had graduated from last year. Coincidentally Aida was the 1st project manager for Rise & Run 1.0 and, like her mother, was a runner herself. The run was organized to raise funds for two charities, Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES), a NGO that was also promoting Taman Warisan Negeri Selangor, and the ‘Persatuan Kanak-Kanak Istimewa’ (a charity for special children).
Most of the people who signed up to race were the students of the school themselves, however there was some participation from the public. There were 3 categories: the fun run of 3km, and the competitive 5km and 7km. I was not expecting much from the race but it turned out to be one of the best races I had ever joined.
Welcome and warming up
The race was to start at 7:30am so I agreed to meet Liza at 7am on the school grounds. Gai and Jeli – my other friends from Gaited Community – were already there to run in the fun 3km run with their young sons, aged 9 and 7 respectively. There was a man giving a welcoming speech on the stage near where everyone else was congregating. It turned out to be the Deputy Minister of Education and Higher Learning II, YB P. Kamalanathan a/l P. Panchanathan. Wow, this school sure went all out to make this event a high profile one.
Liza handed me a race bib number and told me that the person who was supposed to run couldn’t. The bib was colored blue, indicating a male runner’s but Liza told me not to worry about it. After pinning the bib onto my fuel belt, we made our way to the school field where a physical education teacher ran us through a warm-up session with a few students as his sidekicks. Say what you will about these mass warm-up sessions, it does really help you to focus on safely elevating your heart rate and warming up your muscles for the long run ahead. Whenever I go for a race and there is such a session, I make sure to participate because warming up alone is never as much fun.
After about 15 minutes, we were all pumped and warmed up, and were then asked to move to the basketball court. It was already a little past 7:30am, and Liza and I chuckled at the tardiness. Since the 7km runners were the first group to start, we were asked to follow a group leader out to the middle of the field. Apparently that was the start line!
All right then, we poised ourselves and waited for the flag-off. A student who was part of the race committee took a PA speaker and started to tell us how to run out of the school. Apparently about 50 meters ahead there is a flight of stairs that we needed to overcome to get out of the school gate. I personally thought that was a potential safety hazard with so many running and trampling their way through so I told myself not to be hasty and take every step with caution.
A whistle was blown and then we were off! Everyone ran helter skelter and started to crowd the staircase that was ahead of us. Of course with most participants being young students, the energy level around me was particularly high. Some didn’t even bother going up the stairs and instead ran up the grassy hill beside the concrete stairs! I was tempted to do the same but decided to be patient and used the stairs. Pretty soon we were out of the school gate and onto the public streets of Bandar Sri Damansara.
The race route was designed through a residential area, so we passed by a lot of high rises in particular. About 1.5km into the run I was a bit confused and didn’t know whether to run straight or turn right at a zebra crossing as some runners had. A volunteer showed me to turn right and I did so blindly, assuming it was the 7km route. Not convinced, I asked a lean Chinese lady who was running solidly ahead if this was the 7km course. She looked at me and confidently told me it was the 5km route! Not satisfied I sought a second opinion from a few other runners and confirmed that I was running on the right track and the Chinese lady wasn’t. I took the liberty of informing her as I wheezed her by, and she had to turn back and correct her course. (Despite this little error, she went on to win first place in her category!)
About halfway through the 7km route, it started getting hillier and more challenging so I shortened my strides and kept my chin up along the undulating terrain. Young boys were tearing past me of course. We passed by a few food stalls, which were just operating and serving breakfast. Somehow the scent of nasi lemak and curry in the morning while running isn’t exactly the best sensation, especially if you’re hungry.
After about 3km we came across the first water station but the kids manning it were more concerned about passing us all a rubber band checkpoint marker to wear. Ok then, so perhaps the water was not meant for us. I pushed on till there was a second water station where we got a second rubber band and much deserved water. While I was running I notice two motorcycles mounted by young teenagers who were riding without helmets. I couldn’t tell whether they were cheering or jeering at the runners. Either way I thought it was dangerous for them to ride without head protection, but you know, boys will be boys.
In the last kilometer of the run, I passed by an ambulance that was stationed to help out anyone who was already running out of steam. I ran past more houses and rolling hills till we reached the entrance to the school. At this point I had already run 7km within the time I had allocated myself, but there was another 250m to go to get to the finish line, which was really some tables setup underneath some tents with volunteers waiting to hand out your medal.
The sun was already high as I sprinted to the tents and finished. I held out my hand expecting to receive a finisher’s medal, but instead, I was asked to leave my name with a girl handling the list of top finishers. The girl chirped, “Wow you guys finished fast!” I was a bit taken aback, but nonetheless I gave the girl a grin. As I had my name written down, the girl gave me a green card that said “3” on it. I finished top 3 in the women’s category, apparently, which amused me greatly. At the same time I was a bit concerned because the bib I had ran with was one from the men’s category. Would it matter?
Pretty soon Liza finished her 7km as well, and I sheepishly showed her my green card. She was happy for me, of course – and couldn’t wait to show me off to Gai and Jeli.
While waiting for the prize giving ceremony, we lined up for goodie bags (I was impressed with this – even secondary school races were giving them out). At the TrEES booth I drew on a leaf-shaped piece of paper to show my support for the natural park preservation of Taman Warisan Negeri Selangor. Meanwhile, the students were putting up some singing shows and even an illusion performance by two boys aspiring to be part-time street magicians. I have to say these kids at Sri Bestari are a motivated and creative lot.
The win that almost wasn’t
Finally it was time to give away prizes to the top finishers of the race. Liza’s daughter Aida had finished 3rd in her 7km category so we were all shouting, whistling and clapping furiously for her. When it came to my category, I held my breath and was ready to head up stage as they mentioned the name of the 3rd placement for the Women’s Open 7km. But then my heart and footsteps stopped as the emcee announced a name. It wasn’t mine! Another lady went up stage to receive the 3rd placement prize. Oh. No.
I started to get dizzy with embarrassment. My heart sunk to my shoes. My ears started to turn red. Could I have been disqualified because I wore a guy’s bib?
Just when I thought I was out of the game for sure, the emcee announced the 2nd placement – finally, it was my name! I have no idea how I got bumped up one position in the category, and for sure my bib type didn’t matter to the organizers. Rebounding from my temporary disappointment and quickly becoming elated, I went up on stage to receive my award from the school principal, Dr. Steven Baptist. He put not one but two medals around my neck (one finisher, one for 2nd place), then gave me a little plant in a pot and a small goodie bag (filled with two facial cleansers from the sponsors).
It was one of the proudest moments in my life. Heck, sure it was a small race but the feeling of recognition was beyond words to me at that point. I was one happy runner.
Kudos and thanks
As for the organizing committee of Rise & Run 2.0, I have to say I was very impressed with quality of service and teamwork that was shown on race day. There was thought put into everything and as a runner I truly appreciated their efforts to ensure the race ran smoothly and safely. Kudos to all of them for putting together a race worth remembering and recommending! If the future of Malaysia lies with considerate young folks like them, then truly we are heading in the right direction.
And to Dr. Liza, thank you for offering me the race bib that turned out to be my first podium placement. It was truly one proud moment for one ridiculously amateur runner.
Photo credit: Gai & Liza