Date: 13 March 2011
Venue: Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Distance: 5km (Garmin: 5.41km)
Timing: 25:30 minutes or 4:43 min/km pace
This was an event that ranks pretty much at the bottom of the stairs in my books – this coming from someone who has generally been tolerant of most things including the overcrowding at the Army Half Marathon and Singapore Marathon and muddy fields (yes, including the ill-fated FTAAA Cross Country Run 2011). The event was poorly managed from bib collection to route design and post-race traffic management. I did not set out to scathing review of the event and it has been tough putting together things I like/enjoy about the race. There were a couple of better reviews from Jamie and Frank so if anyone would like to skip my ranting, please head over here and here. BTW, these guys are a great bunch and I have nothing but the greatest admiration for them; and perhaps the half marathon was better managed.
Let’s move on to the run proper. The race started early (by KL standards) at 5:30 am for the half marathon, moving to 6:30 am for the quarter and 6:40 am for the 5km – score! This means we still have the better part of Sunday to ourselves. (Phua) Hui Qin spotted and called out to me at the start - I knew that the race was a foregone conclusion then so I was kind of surprised when she came in second. It looks like the shorter distances are now the noveau and the in-thing; consider this: 10km was dotted by our national runner Shaharuddin and speedier runners e.g. Michele Tan, Jessica Tang, Agnes Tee while the 5km was populated by Jasni, Chen (Pong Pong), Meyya, Suresh, Kei Ming, Hui Qin, Kalamani (one of the junior runners) etc. This bunch was out of sight by the first 100m. I caught up with and passed KK at 500m and then Sylvia at km1 – I called out to her to follow me; the intention was to finish the race with no particular target since I had already run the previous day and I did not know how much I could push.
Mid way, I spotted Kei Ming – insert major surprise here a.k.a. “Home Alone” wide-eyed look here since I knew he had intended to PR the course. Apparently his calf was giving him trouble and hence the slower pace. He offered to pace me (bless him…and double blessings if you know what he had to endure; see one of the “not-so-great” points below for full story) and I gladly accepted. We caught up with Suresh who was pacing Kalamani who went on to up their pace when they spotted us closing in. Kei Ming thought we could overtake them but I thought otherwise - my heart and legs might not survive the rest of the journey. So the plan was to maintain the pace since we figured I had already placed. Somewhere before the turning into the road with the bus terminal, Kei Ming and Suresh pressed ahead and for one reason or another, I found myself ahead of Kalamani (see this proves my theory – brain cells do not function well under duress! Which probably explains why most of my run experiences and journeys are a blur – still figuring out how some peeps can give a km-by-km review but I digress).
It was also after “tackling” the slope (it was very mild compared to the previous weekend’s Carcosa climb. Really. I cannot even term it a slope.) in front of the bus terminal that the 5km-ers and 10km-ers split with the former heading right towards the end point at the stadium and the latter to the left. But NO ONE told us so!!! I was chugging along the slope and turned to Kalamani to ask where the end point was and she was just as clueless. At the end of the road, we finally heard someone shouting for the 5km-ers to turn right. It was also here the nightmare of having to weave in-and-out and dodging the slower 10km-ers ended – anyway, if anyone was hoping to make up for lost time, it was too late since the end point was just under 500m away.
Result: 3rd placing (photo credits to Moey)
a) Online registration.
b) Post race grub – Gardenia bun (I grabbed 2 and then went back for another one much later), cendol, bean curd/tau foo far (only stuff I could stomach post run), red bean dessert soup, watermelons.
c) Shout out to the volunteer managing the end point for the 5km and 10km who directed everyone through the water station towards the first post race grub a.k.a. Gardenia bun.
d) Early start and finish which meant I even had time to put in a short cardio cool down at the gym (way) before lunch.
e) Plentiful parking and patrolled parking to boot! On hindsight, I should have slept in a bit or do the Buteyko before leaving the house. In the end, I snoozed a good 40 minutes in the car.
f) Uncle Sonny was managing the race bib and vest pick up and handed me mine in a jiffy! This was welcomed after the boo boo queuing system (see below).
Bad (sorry, I really did try to find more aspects of the event that I like):
a) Race bib pick up was a mess in my view. I don’t know if I’m more rankled about having to queue up 3 times (one each for (1) to obtain your race bib number and receipt number; (2) to pick up the receipt cum reporting card; (3) finally to pick up the race bib and vest) or for the lack of signage telling us which counter to proceed to first. Yeah, I wasted 10 minutes at the second counter.
Now tell me this, I would have thought having an online registration was for convenience (for runners), immediate capturing of data a.k.a. having runners do the data entry instead of someone keying in multiple information for thousands of runners and going paperless. And why can’t the receipt be provided online? And if runners do really need a hard copy (I think most of us don’t), wouldn’t it be easier for them to request for it e.g. at point of registration or email the organizers? Ok, here’s how it could be better managed:
• Single counter where runners can provide their ID and once the information has been retrieved, someone heads to the back to pick up the race bib and vest. That has been how it has been managed at all the races I have been to – SCSM, Run Nike, AHM etc.
• Separate counter for those collecting multiple race bibs; I had to endure a 15-minute wait because the girl in front of me was collecting for 5 of her friends!
• The reporting card can be a detachable card on the race bib; saves having to queue nummer zwei for it.
• And if 3 queues are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, have signages to indicate which one to proceed to first!
b) Road closures are a perennial peeve and it is something I cannot emphasize enough. Why would it be possible for cities like Singapore to cordon off roads in the city for a smaller event e.g. NTUC Health U-Run 2011 (only half the number of runners) or even KL for the prior day’s Larian 1WP 2011 but organizers of a bigger event (numbers wise – 5000) and on the outskirts of the city cannot do (or maybe refuse to?) the same? I will only comment on the 5km route. This is what we were dished: emergency lanes or at most, half of a lane. Oh c’mon…and 80% of the route was with the 10km-ers. I was roadkill for no less than 10 times! I wonder how Kei Ming could have endured running on my right i.e. being 2 inches away from the vehicles passing by. Do you know that in Singapore, they actually put up railings on the boundary of the closed road, not some flimsy cones every 500m?
Since the 5km-ers started after the 10km-ers, we were running into walls of slower runners who were taking a Sunday stroll/dating, holding hands and walking 5 abreast. There was no way anyone could have overtaken them without having to “encroach” onto the non-closed road.
If cordoning traffic from roads is that big a deal, couldn’t the organizers have done a better job with route planning? Have it on side or ancillary roads? And what’s the story of having to run by the bus terminal? Now this is one road which can’t be cordoned off and it’s not fun playing American football with the buses!
c) Speaking of slower runners…it is good etiquette to keep to the left if you are walking or slower and let faster runners pass you on the right…within the “supposedly closed lane to traffic”. I have zero problems with slower runners (heck I have even walked a couple of times) and while it is every runner’s personal responsibility, I do think the organizers could have done something. In the runner’s guide, runners were encouraged to wear the race vest (nummer eins!); they could also have slotted something along the lines of “keep left” (pretty usual in guides for overseas runs). I thought the announcer at NTUC Health U-Run 2011 did a good job when he told slower runners to start at the back and keep left and those who are faster to come up front. The shorter distances (5 and 10km) tend to have the most runners and newbies, so a gentle reminder would be great.
d) The gun off for the 5km challenge was 10 minutes after the 10km. Two things: (1) the gun off times were different from that on the Marathon Shop’s website and the runner’s guide and (2) 10 minutes is too short a time for the 10km crowd to disperse. The 6:50 am (from the runner’s guide) would have given everyone a space or alternatively, have a different route (unfortunately, a logistical nightmare).
e) Traffic management at the end point could have been better thought-out. While the initial traffic flow was great: finish placing card> drop off card> water> Gardenia bun and there were volunteers to direct you through these stations but it kind of stops there. I found out later (Julie was announcing) that there were other post race grub and even a mini race expo in the adjacent square. Again, the queue for the cendol was snaking through across the entrance and everyone had to weave their way to grab the other stuff. Perhaps the organizers can take a que from Pacesetters and the great organization of the foodie section at the Malakoff Run?
On a whole, I would rate this a very low B.