Suck it Up Runners or #SCKLM4October

I have never participated in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon event though I do have one unused half marathon bib (due to injury) from 2013. I no longer live in Kuala Lumpur and I have not registered for this year’s marathon. All of this makes me perfectly qualified to post a detached and well-reasoned post on the decision, announced yesterday, to move the race day back a week to Oct 10, 2015. Yet, I can’t, because even here in Perth, I find myself getting angry over the obvious disdain this decision shows towards runners, towards 35,000 runners who have committed their money, time and training to an event long-scheduled for Oct 4.

The change of date (and day, from Sunday to Saturday) is a political one, to allow the international event to coincide with the newly conceived National Sports Day run by the Malaysian Ministry of Youth & Sport. The National Sports Day has amongst its objectives: ‘promoting unity, stimulating economic growth, growing sporting knowledge and recognising sporting talent.’ Well congratulations, Dirigo Events, you’ve certainly managed to promote unity; unity of anger of thousands of SCKLM registrants who have taken to Facebook, Twitter and blogs to voice their outrage over the mixing of sport with politics with little apparent consideration for the people without whom the event couldn’t exist.

I’m astounded that Standard Chartered Bank would allow their brand to be tarnished by such shoddy treatment of race registrants, surprised that event organisers Dirigo didn’t anticipate the backlash, and very glad that I personally didn’t book flights and accommodation for KL for the race. I feel very bad for those that did.

There have been many reasoned comments made online about the consequences for overseas runners, including many Malaysians who have already booked travel from Sabah and Sarawak. Many commentators have also rightly voiced their dismay over allowing a politically-neutral sporting event to be hijacked for political purposes. There’s also the worrying issue of staging such a major event on a Saturday, a working day in KL, and the fact that the new date clashes with several other running events. How any of this serves to promote ‘economic growth, growing sporting knowledge and recognising sporting talent’ is beyond me!

What bugs me most is the apparent disdain SCKLM organisers have for the commitment made by runners to their event. It’s like organising a secular wedding then, once thousands of loyal friends have bought their outfits, booked their hotels and organised a babysitter, changing the date to suit one wealthy, but distant, acquaintance who is insisting on a Church service to help promote their parish. Well, stuff your wedding I’d say – and don’t bother inviting me at all next time!

There are plenty of races in Asia for those who want to travel. Plenty of races in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam that, as far as I am aware, value their runners and don’t flip flop over things as fundamental as race dates. There are plenty of races around KL for those who don’t travel too. Since 2009, SCKLM has been considered the premier running event in Malaysia, adhering to international standards that runners could rely on, and other event organisers could aspire to. Dismissing the commitment of 35,000 runners to keep politicians happy, as SCKLM has done this week, was a misguided move and one from which the event’s (and main sponsor’s) reputation will fail to fully recover. Unless of course, thousands of runners voicing their opinions online get their way and the original date is restored. Everyone can mistakes. The trick is in recognising and rectifying them.

UPDATE: July 16, 2015

Over the past three days there has been no statement from the organisers of SCKLM while runners continued to lobby on social media for the marathon to be returned to its original date of Oct 4. This afternoon, the Malaysian Minister for Youth & Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, released a statement on his Facebook page announcing that the event would indeed revert to Oct 4. So, common sense prevails, the power of social media seem unassailable and Dirigo Events have been peculiarly mute throughout the whole debacle. Perhaps, silence in this case, speaks a thousand words.

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.

Reclaiming My Runner’s Joy

Last night, after a nine (9!!) week break, I returned to my running club. It was the best evening I’ve had, well, in nine weeks (not counting of course my nights on the sofa watching Breaking Bad).

It was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that despite what I thought were ominous pains in my foot last week, the foot didn’t hurt (while I ran). Funnily enough, it was sore beforehand, when I arrived at Lake Gardens for the running clinic. An hour poised over the brake (mostly the brake) and the accelerator of a car on what in light traffic is a 12-minute journey is bound to make anyone’s foot complain. Right?

Last week, having found Nemo and discovered a rare Irish fish in the sea off the Gili Islands in Indonesia (see photos), I ran 7 km at 5min/km pace on the hotel treadmill. I didn’t ice the foot afterwards as I was too lazy to walk to the bar and ask for some. My foot really hurt. Despite rolling my arch several times a day on a tennis ball and being really attentive to my running form, it hurt. I worried, and dispensed with any intention of running again last week.

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Clownfish off the Gili Islands, Indonesia.

Now while, the downside of living in Kuala Lumpur may be the traffic, one of the many upsides is affordable healthcare. It costs me Rm85 (27 USD/ 20 Euros) for a physiotherapy session that often lasts an hour. On my return from Indonesia, I went for my rehab session expecting bad news. But there was none.

The amazing Akmal released the tension in my arch and toes, and spend a lot of time stretching out my calves and hips. There was no re-injury, just scar tissue which he will continue to work on over the coming weeks while I diligently do my prescribed exercises at home. Ok, well maybe not diligently but sometimes, when I remember, at least. He recommends I see him three times a week. On a per-week basis that’s cheaper than a facial (even in Kuala Lumpur). Sure, it makes me high maintenance, but given the fact that I never actually have facials (or manicures or massages), and that physiotherapy is in fact maintenance, I’m happy to oblige. One woman’s rehab is another’s pampering.

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Irish Buttfish (who appears to be trying to run?!)

So back to last night’s running clinic. We did 8 x 500s, the same exercise we did nine weeks ago. As expected, I’d lost fitness, so my average 500 m time dropped from 1.59 mins to 2.03 but still. I was happy! I managed to complete the 8 ‘sprints’. I had a lot of fun with the other runners. I got great advice on pulling my shoulders back and keeping my chin up when I run. My foot felt fine and I experienced a real post-run high which I can only describe as joyous.

I’m thinking of running the 2XU Compression 15 km race on Sunday as I need to get in a long training run and that’s about as long as I should be doing at this stage of recovery. There will be no PB but after an unplanned five month break from racing, it’s time to be brace and pin on a bib. (And get up at some Godforsaken hour to eat breakfast, drive and find a parking space, go to the loo, to be ready for the start whistle at 6 AM).

As a competitive person, who daily has unrealistic expectations of herself, my instinct is not to run when I’m not at my peak fitness but the rational side of me knows that there is still a lot to be gained from participating even when a PB is out of the question. The atmosphere at races here is always very positive and the race is an opportunity to catch up with a lot of runners I haven’t seen in ages. The route is very hilly so it will be an excellent training opportunity. If I have to run 15 km anyway, I may as well do it in company. And, at the end of the day, even competitive old me has to remember that running isn’t always about racing, even when you’re racing.

On Sunday, I’m going to try run joyously, and celebrate the fact that after injury, just being able to run is a gift. A finisher’s medal will of course make the ‘comeback’ all the sweeter.