The One Where I Get a Tattoo

Tattoos have many purposes including acting as a distraction from the state of one's hair.
Tattoos have many purposes including acting as a distraction from the state of one’s hair.

I never wanted a tattoo, so it has come as a bit of a surprise that I now have one on my left shoulder. As my daughter put it: ‘I still can’t believe that you got one. I thought it was just an idea but you really did it!’

The idea emerged after our January trip to Thailand. Walking past a series of tattoo parlours, one of my kids joked that we should get tattoos. ‘Oh but your dad hates tattoos,’ I said. ‘Well, I dunno, maybe a little one might be nice,’ the tattoo loather said. Huh? So the seed was sown.

A couple of weeks later, a friend put ‘I’m getting a tattoo’ on her Facebook status. ‘I’m thinking of getting one too!’ I responded, amazed at the coincidence. It turned out that she had no intention whatsoever of getting a tattoo but was participating in some Facebook meme. Too late! I’d outed my vague idea and proceeded to discuss it online as if it were a concrete idea. Designs were discussed. Tattooists were recommended. Hitherto unknown (to me) tattoos were revealed. It was hard not to get carried away on other people’s enthusiasm for permanently dying a portion of my skin.

Every Thursday, I run with my friend KC. She has three tattoos, though I didn’t know this until I expressed my own vague idea, now concrete idea, now ‘let’s make an appointment’ idea. She offered to go with me to look at designs. I knew where I wanted it – on my shoulder so that it would be visible in my running tops – but I wasn’t so sure of the design. By the way, I’m certain that if I hadn’t taken up running, I’d never have considered getting a tattoo. I’m not altogether sure why that is.


After a bit of thought, I planned on getting a Chinese symbol related to running which is why, of course, I ended up with a Celtic Butterfly. The Chinese symbol was to signify my time in Malaysia as well as my newfound passion for running but then I realised that there are probably people in Europe, who’ve never been to Asia, sporting Chinese tattoos so I reverted to my Celtic roots. Not being religious at all, I wasn’t into a Celtic cross and a shamrock was well TOO Celtic so I found a butterfly online and liked the look of it. KC loved it, the tattoo artist, Lina, thought it would work, so an appointment was made, a deposit was paid, and I didn’t tell my husband as he was in Australia and it slipped my mind.

Unsurprisingly, Tattoo Artist Lina loves tattoos. She plans to eventually cover her arms in ink.

This is the most amazing thing about this whole tattoo experience. I am a control freak, with chronic anxiety, who does nothing lightly, worries constantly, and is rarely spontaneous. Yet, the prospect of getting the tattoo didn’t bother me at all. There were no nervous trips to the loo as I waited with KC in the waiting room, no fidgeting, no agitation. I was as calm as I am capable of being, sober. I was bothered much about the pain, as I knew it would be fleeting. I’m sure some of this uncharacteristic zen-like feeling was due to the fact that KC was with me and that Lina is really a lot of fun and I trusted her completely (don’t ask why, I just did). For once I surrendered control and it was a very pleasant experience indeed.

Tattoo complete but the skin is still inflamed.
Tattoo complete but the skin is still inflamed.

KC held my sweaty hand throughout the process and the three of us chatted about everything from childbirth to jobs and of course tattoos. I asked Lina if people had ever left in the middle of a tattoo as they couldn’t’ bear the pain. Plenty have apparently. After thirteen years, Lina still remembers the first tattoo she inked, and does three or four clients a day. The inking process was mildly uncomfortable at times but nothing compared to the pain of Shock Wave Therapy on my foot. There was a scratching sensation but little more. Afterwards, I felt like I had a little bit of sunburn on my shoulder.

But I didn’t. I had a Celtic Butterfly which I’ve decided symbolises my provenance, combined with metamorphosis and change. We’re all changing all the time, nothing remains the same, but I’m also living a life that requires massive change and upheaval every few years, so the butterfly symbolises that reinvention. Clever eh? Yes, phew, as I only came up with that after the permanent mark had been inked on my skin. I chose the butterfly because I liked the look of it and was too lazy to do much more research!

So it’s there for good, a souvenir of Malaysia, a badge to display when I run, and a reminder of a rare episode of calm. Luckily my husband, who I did tell before the appointment, pronounced the tattoo ‘very nice’ and ‘elegant’. KC says I’ll definitely want another one. I can’t contradict her. But for goodness sake don’t tell anyone I said that as sometimes, a few loose words about vague ideas can develop into full-blown actions, and I wouldn’t want to make a habit of such rash behaviour!

On Friday, I wrote a post about my tattoo which I planned to upload on Saturday. Then on Saturday morning, news came through of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, and it seemed inappropriate to be flippant. I know that tragedies occur everywhere, everyday, but living in Kuala Lumpur, travelling regularly out of KLIA, and as a frequent flyer with Malaysia Airlines, this particular event is close to home. It has also brought the world media spotlight to Malaysia.


I don’t pray, but I am constantly thinking about the people who had loved ones on that plane and who still (mid-morning Monday) have no idea where the plane is. If I blog about a tattoo tomorrow, it doesn’t mean that I’m any less concerned with the fate of MH370, but as I’m not in a position to add constructively to any discussion on the issue, or even console anyone affected by the event, I will stick to writing about what I know.  

Rationing & Running

Well four days since the start of systematic water disruptions, our kitchen tap has not yet run dry. Apparently, as it is connected directly to the mains, this indicates that my neighbourhood has so far escaped water rationing. Maybe we’ve just been lucky, forgotten about or someone on my street is very well-connected, as most people I know here have had their water cut-off as per the SYABAS schedule. And drivers continue to wash fleets of cars as if water just fell out of the sky on a daily basis. Well it doesn’t, not anymore. We did have some rain on Monday which was, according to local media, a result of cloud seeding as the government attempts to affect some refilling of the depleted reservoirs. The drivers I challenged on Monday about water wastage seemed to think that as long as their hoses produced water, there was no need to worry. Aargh! It’s enough to make me want to run!

And I have run a little despite the unhealthy level of pollution. I won’t even go there. Google ‘KL Haze’ if you don’t live here and haven’t experienced the smog first-hand. Yes, I’ve run a little, but way less than usual, as my PTT is definitely back.  Already this week, I’ve had two rounds of deep massage on my foot, and much stretching, thanks to my wonderful physio. I’m meant to be doing the Malaysia Women Half Marathon in 10 days time but at the moment I’m just taking it one day at a time, hoping that my injury doesn’t escalate from a niggle to full-blown pain.

Speaking of pain, I’m sitting in a cafe, in my running gear, waiting for my friend, who is accompanying me to get a tattoo.  The running gear is so I can be sure that the tattoo is visible while I run – and of course, it may also come in handy, if I find the pain unbearable and literally do a runner. On this, I will definitely keep you posted!

NM Galaxy Race 12km- Secret Results & Phantom Prizes

Apology posted on Facebook by the organisers of the NM Galaxy Race Series 12km run which took place this past Sunday at Lake Titiwangsa.

If you ran the race, you’re very much aware of the NM Galaxy 12km run’s deficiencies – lighting, toilets, loudspeaker, legible distance markers, inaccurate route distance, not to mention the endurance event that was race bib collection! Plenty of people have been voicing complaints and suggestions on these issues, an others, on the NM Galaxy Facebook page so if you didn’t run, but are considering joining the next NM Galaxy race in May – there is a planned series of four races with interconnecting medals – or you’re just curious with some time on your hands, pop over there and have a look. (By the way, I’m sick to death of people going on Facebook after races – not just yesterday’s event, it seems to happen after every race here – complaining about goody bags. You sign up for a race to run for goodness sake, not to get free mouthwash samples and cartons of Milo.) That said, most of the online complaints have been very valid. And to give credit where it’s due, the organisers have not been defensive in their response. In fact, they’ve been downright apologetic promising to do better next time (very like a child who knows they’ve done wrong).

NM Galaxy 12 km (11.5km) route recorded on my Garmin watch.

My biggest reservation in signing up for this race was the route along a very busy highway, Jalan Tun Razak, in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. However, thanks to traffic police and placement of cones, I felt pretty safe throughout the race on a route that proved to be very pleasant with only a few small inclines. I imagine though that as traffic got heavier, this was not the case for all runners. The route doubled back on itself twice which meant that there were runners running on either side of the central reservation which was actually nice as people could cheer friends along when they passed in opposite directions. (And thank you to the people who shouted ‘Go Expat Runner’ – you really spurred me on to keep going).

Now, cheating is unacceptable but a route with two u-turns does lend itself to such behaviour for the deviants who engage in it. At the first u-turn there were volunteers writing down bib numbers of the leading runners, and at the second there was a timing mat. I really hope there weren’t any participants taking shortcuts and then collecting Finisher Medals. At the end of the day, such people are cheating themselves as much as undermining the efforts of the folk who push their limits to complete a race. And to the person on Strava who only ran 8km of the route? Maybe you weren’t registered and just went along for the ride. Hopefully you didn’t collect medal. I’m looking forward to your response 🙂

Is this the finish line? Confidence in the organisation being a bit low, and my watch being 500m short of 12km, I had to ask.

Back to me. Since coming back from my PTT injury, I’ve aspired to run a 10 or 12 km race at 5 min/km pace and on Sunday I managed 4.58min/km so I am really, really pleased. I’ve come a long way from the person who moaned and complained and cursed their way around a route as I’ve realised that a positive mental attitude when you’re hurting is everything. I can’t blame the shin splints I suffered for the first 3 km or the side stitch I had for the final 8km on the organiser unfortunately; these were all my own fault, but I managed to run through them thankfully. However, the debacle at the finish certainly was the organisers’ fault, and as no one has yet to mention it on Facebook, I would like to suggest improvements here.

Now I know it took a bit of effort to figure out the event rules, regulations and prize details, as no handbook was provided at bib collection, but being a pedant, I had searched out this information on the event’s Facebook page. Clearly, the lady operating the laptop with the timing information at the finish line had not read the handbook. Or maybe she didn’t like the look of me, or perhaps she’s always rude. Whatever. It is the norm here to place tags around the necks of the placed athletes who cross the line. It hasn’t happened to me often, but when it does, I tend to cry. There were no tears this time, because there were no tags. I knew that there weren’t a lot of women in front of me so I thought I might have been placed but I was only guessing. So I approached the laptop lady to politely ask if she could check my placing. I suggested that place tags at the finish line would be useful but was told quite definitively that this is too confusing. Huh? I was certainly confused.

Laptop lady initially refused to check my placing but I explained that I wanted to know whether I could go home or not, so she relented and tapped her keyboard to check. She showed me four fingers. ‘Fourth?’ I clarified. ‘Yes, but I don’t know how many prizes there are,’ she said dismissively. Thanks to the fact that there were several races on Sunday, and some of the ladies who are faster than me took their chances with other events, I had come 4th place in the Women’s Veteran Category. I’d read the information so I knew this meant some sort of prize. I think I came 5th or 6th overall, but as the organiser is so secretive about the results, I can’t tell you that for a fact. Again, I’m only guessing.

Mea Culpa picture posted on Facebook by the NM Galaxy Race Series organisers.

Two hours after I crossed the finish line, two hours in which no information was provided to participants and no placings were posted, two hours of listening to dodgy music and the results of some prize draw (in Malay so I can’t tell you if I won anything or not, or indeed whether I had even entered), and five hours after I’d got out of bed to come to the event, I was called to the stage to collect my Rm150 prize.

Except it wasn’t my prize; it was a letter telling me to go to some other part of KL to collect my prize! Yes, I ran for 57 minutes on Sunday, faster than it took to collect my bib, way, way faster than it took to not collect my prize, and no doubt faster than it will take me to drive across town and back to find the organisers office to get 150 Rm. God help me but if they give me a cheque that requires that I queue up in the bank, I will lose my cool altogether.

Having started this post endeavouring to keep calm and carry on as they say, I’ve ended up ranting after all. And only because I won something. I know, poor me! Time for a run.

On the home stretch, running, which is what it is all about.

At the end of the day, no one was hurt that I know of, and the NM Galaxy race series is a welcome addition to the local racing scene. The more people who are encouraged to run and train, the healthier, stronger (and happier) this nation will become. Yes folks, I really do believe that running is that powerful! I personally had a great run and am grateful to the volunteers as always who gave up their time to facilitate that. I’m sure the lighting, toilets, distance markers, start-line loudspeaker, start-line chaos, protracted bib collection, over-sized t-shirts, finish-line logistics, and unpleasant demeanour of stressed personnel at the start and finish line, and other issues now being aired online, will be improved for the next race, a 15km, on May 18. They had better be, as I’ve already signed up!

Race photo links:

Maszuari Muhamad

Running Malaysia Magazine

RFF Team

UPDATE: Tuesday evening: The results of the NM Galaxy 12km Run are now on the event’s Facebook page here.

D-Day Minus 4 months

Moving sucks. And it doesn’t get easier emotionally (nor practically). And even when you know from experience that things usually work out, that children adjust to new schools, that new houses can be turned into new homes, that the nuances of every traffic system/shopping mall/currency/phone/culture/kitchen can be learned, and even new friends (and in this instance old friends too) await, it is done with a heavy heart. And tears. As a chronic weeper, there will, over the next few months, be lots of tears. 

The trick is to stay positive, look forward not back, though not too far forward as that can be scary when you think about the fact that you’ve no clue of what your address will be in six months, and embrace change. And cry in private. Yes, wish me luck with that. We haven’t in fact got confirmed places for the children in school in Perth, so as yet no flights will be booked. Still, I have to start conceding to myself at least that our time in Malaysia is coming to a close. Yep, tears. We’ve only got four months left.

For months I’ve been convinced that my running habit, picked up in Malaysia, would make moving easier, as it would allow me not only to keep exercising while between gym memberships, but it would also give me a tool for meeting new people in Perth. And as lots of people tell me, Perth is a fabulous place for running, so I know I’m fortunate that it’s there we’re going and not back to Manila (or Jakarta or umpteen other cities where running could be a challenge).

What I’m now realizing though is that my love of running developed here and the fabulous sense of community it offers will make the leave-taking harder. There is the list too of races that I can only see through until June. The familiar routes that I love and hate with equal passion. The familiar faces whose names I will never know but with whom I always exchange greetings on those weekend LSDs.

I have three half marathons, a 12km and a 15km to do before we go. If the Mizuno Wave Run is before June 13, I will sign up for that too. I need to stay injury-free, so having been lax with my physio since my parents arrived for a visit, I head back to rehab on Friday with a new ache in my knee (which might be due to a very high mileage week last week, or a need for new shoes). My PTT foot is complaining a little too so hopefully Akmal can knead the scar tissue out of it. I’m going to try not let nerves get the better of me at any of these races – the first, the NW Galaxy 12km, is this weekend – and do my best to enjoy the opportunity to race amongst friends (and within sight of those icons of the KL cityscape, the Petronas Towers).

Moving sucks but our nomadic lifestyle also brings privilege. I’m very aware of that. Leaving Norway four years ago was very painful, but I would never have missed out on the experience we’ve had in Malaysia, and I can’t have it both ways. So bear with me over the coming months. Keep moving forward, with no more than the odd glance over your shoulder, acknowledge the places you’ve been, without losing touch with where you have come from, stay strong mentally, talk to yourself if need be, push through the pain, and savour every moment. Running? Living? For the next few months, the same rules will apply.

I’m going to Run this Year

Being a European, raised predominantly after the advent of metrification, I have no concept of miles. Whereas I have a pretty good feel for pace if someone tells me that they run a 6min kilometer, I am clueless about whether this is faster or slower than an 8min mile. I mean I could figure it out I guess but I haven’t got an automatic feel for miles.

However, thanks to the Run This Year website, I now know that I ran 150.84 miles in January.

Run This Year is ‘an online community focused on a year-long challenge to run a lot of miles’. I’m all for moral support and encouragement, and am a big fan of tangible goals, so I signed up to run 2014 miles in 2014. That’s an average of 168 miles a month so I’m already behind but hey it’s early days. Logically, as long as I stay healthy, I expect to get stronger and clock up more miles per week as the year progresses. To be honest, I was only initially aiming for 2014 kilometers this year but now I think, what the heck, why not change the goal to miles instead. It will mean making my week day runs longer but given my need for endurance training, I should be doing this anyway. And of course, there’s that planned mid-year move to Australia to think about. Having a mileage goal while in transition when I don’t expect to be able to sign up for any races will be very important.

Run This Year is organised by a lady in the US called Tiffany Henness who goes by the pseudonym Hutch, or @RunningHutch. She invites runners to log their mileage (or kilometerage), which she very kindly collates, with the intention of publishing a monthly mileage report. The monthly report for January has just been uploaded here.

It’s not too late to join. And there is no pressure to clock up 2014 kilometres or miles this year. Just set a goal that works for you and, excuse the pun, run with it.

Gong Xi Fa Cai


A rare sight in KL, a cloudless sky (no filter). The dead tree is probably less rare!
A rare sight in KL, a cloudless sky (no filter). The dead tree is probably less rare!

There has been much talk of it being the coldest Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur in decades. There’s no denying that the weather is unusually balmy, and for the past couple of days we’ve had clear blue skies and noticeably lower humidity, topped off by a light breeze. Apparently this ‘cold’ weather is being sent over from China. Well thank you China. Let’s just hope that you’re not sending anything else with the wind. Yesterday, the thermometer in my car never went above 26 °C which is really, really unusual. So it’s perfect running weather. Which is why I haven’t run today. Too much wine last night – it was Chinese New Year’s Eve – makes today seem like an ideal rest day. Tomorrow I’ll do my LSD and properly welcome in the Year of the Horse. Let’s hope this ‘chilly’ weather sent from China holds 🙂

lion dance1 lion dance2

Happy New Year!

An art installation in Publika shopping centre to mark the start of the Year of the Horse.
An art installation in Publika shopping centre to mark the start of the Year of the Horse.



I don’t often tread the tourist path in KL, but my parents are in town, so a trip to Chinatown was in order. I hadn’t been in a couple of years and as this was the first time since I started running, it was the first time I noticed all the running gear for sale. Now, I’d personally never risk my arches nor my ankles with counterfeit running shoes, even if there were fake Brooks on offer which I don’t think there was, but I thought I’d share photos of the apparel on display for which presumably there is some sort of market. ( I have on occasion risked my shoulder with a Mulberry tote but shh don’t tell anyone I’m carrying a genuine fake).

Every time I’ve wandered along the streets of stalls hawking genuine fake handbags, soccer strips and beats by Dr. Dre headphones, I’ve been struck by how friendly the sellers are. Sure they try and lure you into their little stall to show the latest in top quality genuine fake handbags, and they insist then on putting a cigarette lighter flame to the surface of their wares to ‘prove’ that what they are selling is ‘real leather’ – and saying ‘no thank you’ ten times in 20 seconds gets a bit tedious – but these guys and gals are good-natured about polite refusals. As the daughter of a shopkeeper I know this is a tough way to make a living. If you’re in KL, head to Chinatown before 11.00, bargain hard and take all claims of authenticity with a boulder of salt. And if you’re a runner, don’t risk the running shoes. I really don’t think it could be worth it. The handbags on the other hand, well be my guest.

Mr Tng sells an array of sports caps, every colour, every brand.
Mr Tng sells an array of sports caps, every colour, every brand.

IMG_0144IMG_5655 IMG_0146 IMG_0145

The Beach – on the tourist treadmill in Thailand

Back in 2000, Leonardo Di Caprio starred in ‘The Beach’, a movie based on the book of the same name by Alex Garland. Much of the movie was filmed on Maya Beach, Ko Phi Phi Lee Island.
This is the ‘The Beach’ today, or more accurately, this was it yesterday. I haven’t seen a stretch of sand this crowded since a trip to the Canary Islands in 2007 when Norwegians lay jowl to jowl, saddle bag to saddle bag, soaking up the winter sun.
But there was no sun bathing on Maya Beach yesterday.


We landed on the strand, our boat parking alongside at least 30 more tourist-laden vessels, as part of an island tour. We were like tourists on a treadmill, with water and cola included in the deal, except of course there was no actual running done because on Maya Beach there was barely space to walk. The sand was silken, and if you could photoshop the boats and people out of the experience as easily as a newspaper can for a photo, it would certainly feel like paradise. But yesterday, paradise was reduced to a photo bombing opportunity. I envisage hundreds of Facebook profile photos updated last night with images of tourists against a backdrop of, well, hundreds of other tourists taking new Facebook profile shots.

Years from now, anthropologists viewing these scenes, will be able to examine the aspirations and behaviour of middle-class travellers in 2014. Today, ecologists must be crying. Yesterday, I almost was.


Speed Vs Aerobic Endurance

An article from the Competitor Running website showed up in my Facebook feed today and I thought I’d share it as it’s something that resonated more than the other 50 running things I’ve glanced at today. I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a problem with endurance. I find 21 km races very challenging and am a long way from attempting a marathon. Yet, since I returned from injury in October I’ve been doing weekly speed workouts with the F1 Running Club and I’m faster than I thought. I’m fast for very short distances. My 12 km race last weekend went well and I ran at my best race pace yet, though for the last 2 km I felt nauseous, though I was only maintaining my pace not increasing it. In previous long races I’ve blamed the nausea at 10km onwards on gels, but I’ve given up gels so what caused the nausea on Sunday? Well, after reading this article, my latest theory is that the nausea is an indication of my poor aerobic endurance. The solution I think is to do more frequent and longer tempo runs. I think. I have until mid-March until I attempt another half marathon so I’m going to work hard in the next two months on pushing up my aerobic endurance. Tonight though, I’m off to my running club to do 5 x 1km. Yep, that can make me feel nauseous too. If only I could run without my belly!

Here’s the link to the Competitor Running article: Speed Vs Aerobic Endurance