To mark a year’s anniversary (thereabouts) of my first Half Marathon which was, incidentally, at the Malaysia Women Marathon last year, I signed up for the 21K at MWM15. If anything, it would be good to run the route without the haze that was enveloping the course, which was the bane of all runners last March!
I got there early enough to get good parking*, and to catch the Full Marathoners running past the blue mosque right after their start. I was really sleepy, and was happy for the short walk in the crisp morning air towards the Dataran Kemerdekaan where the Start line was. *A small aside: Here’s one of the added ‘perks’ of 21Ks (and longer) in major races, which became clear after moving to 21Ks from 10Ks – you get better parking spots and you get to beat the crowd! 😉
It was easy to find the Start area, which was looking quite festive, with MWM-themed photo backdrops, balloons and even a shopping area (too bad, or rather, fortunately, I didn’t bring enough cash to buy any running skirts! :D). However, as I had not gotten much rest the day before, pounding music and MCs’ antics weren’t waking me up sufficiently, so I shuffled towards the PowerBar tent and bought a Vanilla Crisp-flavoured bar. When I returned to the concourse, the MCs were rattling off a long list of names; they were names of runners whose 21K that day would be their maiden one, and all their names were scrolling up the slide projection. What a nice touch that was!
I felt better after munching down the PowerBar, but still was a tad blur, so I decided to join in the Celebrity Fitness group warm-up. Some prancing around seemed to do the job of getting the endorphins going, and I then shuffled my way to the Start line after high-fives with my long-suffering carpool mate Wendy, who would wait an hour more for her 10K start! (Thanks again, Wendy, for having to wake way too early to accompany me *and* many thanks also to dear friend (and fellow blog contributor) Cris who gave us wake-up calls all the way from Singapore!)
And off we went at 5:30am. Unlike last year’s trudge up the State Secretariat compounds, there were no large spikes in elevation this year (mercifully!). The course remained constantly undulating – Shah Alam is a hilly area after all – and the mundane surroundings of factory and residential areas were compensated by the fact that the road conditions were good and well-lit, and the major thoroughfares were pleasantly lined with trees. And like 2014, there was a fire engine stationed at the bridge near Plaza Perangsang that was spraying water to cool down runners. If I wasn’t awake yet earlier on, I was certainly awake by then!
For the most part, the route was properly staffed by helpful marshalls and police, save surprisingly for the last stretch along Persiaran Masjid after the Kayangan Roundabout towards Concorde Hotel, where there suddenly seemed to be a notable absence of police to direct traffic. The MWM organisers took note of runners’ feedback on road safety and the absence of police and, at the time of this post, stated on social media that they have called for a meeting with the authorities to look into the matter. (Another little aside from someone who takes on some social media admin duties at work, I was pleased to see the announcement and I felt it to be a laudable act of pro-activeness on the part of the organisers. With 170 likes and only 1 comment left in response to this post after 24 hours and a notable cessation of grievances in previous posts, this seemed to have quelled a potential further offloading of grievances).
There were water stations every 2+km, and if I’m not mistaken, all stations had water and isotonic drinks, and later on in the route, salt water too. All liquids were very well-stocked at the times that I ran by. The signages were clear for the 21K (other than an accidental swap of the 11km and 13km signages which was more of a conversation point than an annoyance), which I was also thankful for as most of Shah Alam is largely unfamiliar territory to me.
Like last year, there was a final little annexe at the last kilometre of the route where runners would need to make a U-turn before heading down the final straight into the Finish. Knowing what to expect, the so-called ‘detour’ (a.k.a. ‘Eh! the Finish Line is the other direction!‘) didn’t hit me mentally as hard as it did last year 😉
The Finish line was crowded, and I had to dodge a few stationary people in the middle of the road to leap over the timing mats, but I was done! I punched the pause button on the Suunto and looked up.
The event area was in a carnival mood. Some volunteers were giving out roses but I think was a little too dazed to receive one. As I got my bearings, someone behind me suddenly asked me for the time, sounding rather urgent – I guess she didn’t have her own timing device – and I think I said, still in a semi-dazed stupor, “Hang on a sec, my watch isn’t showing the time just yet.. need to press more buttons…”
When I did eventually get to the time screen, I was pleased to see it was only 8:15am.
It’s time for breakfast!
I located the tents for the finisher items, bumping into some friends along the way, some who had just completed their first 10K, and all in high spirits. It was nice that the finisher tents weren’t crowded at all.. and neither was the Maggi mee stall dishing out delicious-looking samples of curry flavoured instant noodles (at that point, anything would have looked delicious to me!) The only queue was for Milo, which I decided I would pass; I headed for the Revive isotonic drink tables instead.
There was something I had not encountered at a race event – live singing – not a pop artiste, but a male and a female voice were singing a duet and the female voice was familiar.. I couldn’t see where the singers were, and I only realised much later while browsing the photographs of the event that the singer was soprano Doreen Tang, a friend from the classical singing scene.
What a nice way it was to spend a Sunday morning (although I had to take a 2-hour nap by the time I got home), and, incidentally, International Women’s Day, which really was the central theme of the MWM – a celebration of women’s achievements; alongside their male counterparts the “Most Wanted Men” official pacers in skirts, of course!
I loved the finisher items – the ‘medal’ was in dog-tag style, and for the 21K finishers there was an awesome headbuff – I am not normally a fan of headwear, but I think I’ve been converted – I think MWM have outdone themselves in the finisher-item department. Kudos, organisers!
Finally, a note to my friends who ran the Full Marathon – you’re all awesome and crazy; two loops of the 21K route would have been too mental for me! BUT.. I think I might just be crazy (and hopefully awesome) enough to join you all next year! 🙂
(AND I have to remember to look up the next MWM Mentoring Group on Facebook. I found and joined the group rather late this year – when everyone would have been tapering, ha ha – but there was clearly a lot of positivity and encouragement going on and sharing by experienced as well as new runners, in addition of course to the training runs that were organised.)