The ninth edition of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) took place yesterday at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, with close to 36,000 runners from 52 countries and 75 nationalities taking part in the event. And out of these, 8,000 runners had taken part in the Full Marathon category.
SCKLM establishes Malaysia on the global running calendar
Firmly establishing Malaysia on the global running calendar, the 2017 edition of the SCKLM saw Standard Charted Bank Malaysia returning as title sponsors, along with a host of returning and new sponsors including Honda, Seiko, Brooks, Lucozade and Pacific Regency. The event is owned and organised by Dirigo Events with co-organiser Dewan Bandaraya KL.
There were four different distances for adults at yesterday’s SCKLM. These were the 42.195km Full Marathon, 21.1km Half Marathon, 10km Competitive Run and the 5km Fun Run. For children under the age of 12, there are also Kids Dash categories to inspire them to take up running from a young age.
And as well, there were also sub-categories such as the Corporate Challenge, Media Challenge, Universities Challenge and Ministries Challenge to either raise money or to provide friendly competition and bragging rights to the eventual winners.
Race Entry Pack Collection Expo
SCKLM Race Day had been preceded by the Race Entry Pack Collection Expo, which took place from 18 to 20 May and was a bigger affair this year, with the inclusion of the Prudential Healthy Life Expo as well as the Friendship Run and Pasta Breakfast on 20 May which saw Full Marathon runners from Malaysia and around the world gather for a warm-up run and mingle together in a more social setting.
For me, the Race Entry Pack Collection had been a fuss-free and well organised affair and went very smoothly. I picked up my pack last Saturday afternoon and the queue was only about four to five people long. So I managed to collect my pack within about five to ten minutes and spent the rest of the time looking around the booths at the expo and at the same time, chatting to a couple of friends there too.
There had been quite a few booths set up by both local Malaysian and regional brands, including those by Lucozade, Run Singapore, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon and Jeri Chua’s Red Dot Running Company.
Took part in the Half Marathon
For SCKLM, I had participated in the 21.1km Half Marathon category, which had flagged off at 5.30am in the morning. Despite a lack of sleep and finding it quite hard to wake up on race morning, I had managed to reach the race site with roughly about an hour to spare.
One of the first things I had noticed at the SCKLM race village was that there were plenty of portable toilets at the race site, but these were all located at one area of the race village. And due to the barricades at the area, participants had to make a large loop to get from the toilets to the starting pens. I thought this was a bit inconvenient; I thought it would have helped if more portable toilets could have been scattered at other areas of the race village as well.
Subsequently, I decided to take the time to look around the race village and take a couple of pictures before heading into my start pen, which runners had been required to nominate during registration based on estimated finishing times. I met a few of my friends in the start pen who were also running in the Half Marathon.
Race started on time
The race had itself started quite promptly. At the start, bearing in mind that this would be a hilly and challenging race around the KL and the surrounding area, I had focused on keeping my heart rate in my Easy zone at the beginning and at the same time, keeping my pace quite slow. After all, the last thing that I had wanted to do was to burn out and end up walking in the dying stages of the run.
The first kilometre or so was okay, but somewhere around the 2.5km to 3km mark, we started hitting some slopes. As I ran uphill, I had continued to focus on my heart rate, keeping it in the Easy and Steady zones, whilst telling myself that I was not going to start pushing till after the halfway point at least.
Due to the early hour, it was also quite dark and as a result, there wasn’t much KL sightseeing that I could really do during my running, so I focused on my pace instead and distracted my mind with listening to my music too.
Lots of hydration
The first hydration station was around the 5km mark. I had thought that this was a bit far, and for a moment, it left me wondering if I may have missed one hydration point. But from that point onwards though, the rest of the hydration stations were a couple of kilometres apart, which was good, because hydration is always important when running in hot and humid climates such as KL and Singapore. More importantly too, the hydration tasted ice-cold, regardless of whether it had been the water or the Lucozade.
Added Prakesh Ramasamy, 26, an IT software engineer, “The route and race hydration was awesome. Every 2km they had hydration.”
As well, many volunteers were trying to hand out the drinks to runners at the hydration stations, rather than having runners crowd around the tables to grab the drinks on their own. But in spite of that though, I still did see quite a lot of runners hoarding the drink tables in order to hydrate themselves. So as such, I got bumped into a few times when I was trying to get my hydration.
Elevation and Slopes
The next ten kilometres of the half marathon were not flat in terms of the elevation, with some gentle slopes but nothing that was too challenging at this point. It probably helped that I do hill training regularly at Singapore’s Botanic Gardens. But nevertheless, I had been constantly mindful of my heart rate throughout and did not let it get too high as I conquered each slope. If I did, I knew that I would probably not be able to get my heart rate back down, unless I stopped and walked.
These slopes though, had posed a problem for Jason Tan Wen Long. Said the 24 year old customer service officer in the telecommunications industry, “From the start to the end, the hills were challenging. The race was more slopey than I had expected. I work and run in Singapore and Singapore is flat compared to Malaysia.”
Route was well marked
Throughout the race, there had also been kilometre signages at every kilometre and these were pretty well positioned in terms of their accuracy, based on the readings from Garmin watch. At the same time there were clear markers pointing out when to make a turn or whether to go straight, and the volunteers also did a great job in terms of directing the runners where to go, so that we did not get lost along the way. Though some had been partially and not fully closed, the roads also seemed to be wide enough to prevent any bottleneck issues.
Said Prakesh, “the route was very easy to run. There was no disturbance and it was a very well organised road race.”
Ignoring leg cramps
I had been feeling a little bit of leg cramp just after the halfway point of the race, but I had managed to ignore these, push up my pace, and continue. Seeing the large balloon of one of the 2hours 30minute pacers had helped too; I started chasing them down and actually forgot about my cramps for a bit, until I overtook them probably about a kilometre later. But I did feel that I might have run a bit too fast at this point, but then again, I think that I had managed to dial back the pace in time, before it had been able to destroy my race completely.
After that I focused on telling myself that I had completed half of the race already, and I had used this thought, in order to keep myself pushing on.
But the most challenging part of the race though, came around at the 17km to 18km mark, due to the long slopes and inclines around the Parliament Road area. My legs were already a bit tired, but I knew that if I had walked up, I would probably end up walking for the rest of the race already. So I jogged up the slope and allowed myself to catch a breather as I then let the gravity propel my body back down again and then continued running on till the very end.
Said Clare McCulloch, 41, a fitness trainer and marketeer, “The last few kilometres were challenging because of the steep inclines so I really had to dig deep.”
But I must admit though that it had felt quite shiok to see runners walking all around me, possibly exhausted and spent, after running up all of the earlier slopes too fast. And then here I was, running past them, still with the energy and stamina left to keep on going strong. This feeling had also helped me to forget the slight cramps in my legs which fortunately, didn’t get any worse.
Finishing the Race
Seeing the 20km and the 21km markers were especially motivating; so at that point, I increased my pace again and completed the race strongly, happy to see the finish line up ahead. Overall even though it was not a personal best timing, I am happy with my race strategy despite the slopes, and that I did not lose steam in the final kilometres of the run.
Upon finishing, I took some photos at the finish line before heading into the entitlements area to pick up my race medal. I also received a banana, a can of Lucozade and a bottle of water.
And I had liked the idea that the SCKLM organiser had thought of giving runners a green cloth bag for us to put our runner entitlements into, so that we won’t have to carry them in our hands and risk losing something as a result.
A well organised race
Overall SCKLM had been a very well organised race and I had a pleasant running experience despite the challenging terrain.
Other runners also had similar thoughts. Said Clare, “I live in KL and have done lots of races but this is my first SCKLM half marathon. I was impressed. It’s really well organised and everything was excellent. The only improvement that I can think of, is that I had wanted to find my friends at the finishing line, but they blocked us off.”
Agreed Jason, “Can I say that I liked everything about the race? If I had to pick one thing, though, perhaps it is the hospitality. There were lots of volunteers to cheer us on and that really helped me to push forward when the going got tough. The support and motivation was great. But… there should not be so much hills! It should have been more flat.”
Their sentiments were also shared by Lim Boon Kheng, 43, a coffee tasting consultant. He said “The run was very good. The route was very smooth, and more than met my expectations. Overall everything was well done and there were no negatives I can think of, except maybe that there could have been more parking available near the race site.”
Organisers are happy with the race
The organisers themselves are also happy with the ninth edition of Malaysia’s iconic running event. Said Rainer Biemans, Project Director of SCKLM and Director of Dirigo Events, “We are extremely pleased to have pulled off SCKLM without any major hiccups and we hope that all of our runners had a memorable race overall.”
He added, “It is gratifying to receive such support from the local and international running fraternity and we are committed to continually improve on all aspects of this event and look forward to welcoming all of you for our tenth anniversary in 2018. We hope to continue to get bigger and better each year.”
Standard Chartered Bank is happy to play a part in the SCKLM
His views were also echoed by Mahendra Gurshani, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of title sponsor Standard Chartered Bank. He said “As title sponsor, we are delighted to be able to play a part in empowering people from all walks of life to make a difference through this amazing event. There are inspiring stories everywhere today and this is a testament to the power of the Marathon.”
This was exemplified by more than 30 visually impaired runners who took part in the 5km Fun Run, along with volunteer running buddies from Standard Chartered Bank. 20 autistic children from Permata Kurnia and over 100 underprivileged kids from Sivanandha Home and Care2Run also took part in the race across various categories.
The SCKLM’s Run For A Reason charity initiative remains an integral part of the event, channeling funds raised to deserving charities that asset underprivileged communities in Malaysia and those in dire need. This year’s participating beneficiaries were Standard Chartered Foundation, National Cancer Society of Malaysia, Dignity for Children Foundation and Hospis Malaysia.