I’m pretty sure that the first time I ran in Perth, some time last winter (summer if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere), I ran past at least one person wearing an HBF Run for a Reason t-shirt. It seems that over the past nine months, those blue t-shirts have been EVERYWHERE (on runners). I haven’t yet spotted them in a shopping mall. Well, since Sunday, there are a further 31,700 HBF Run for a Reason t-shirts in circulation. Even I now have one.
The HBF Run for a Reason is one of Perth’s largest fundraising community runs which attracts runners, walkers, strollers and the odd elite. This year there were three distances on offer: 4km, 12km, and the new 21.1km. I opted for the 12km as I’d already registered for a half marathon in May and I’m trying to be sensible in my old age. This also meant an extra 90 minutes in bed which is not to be sniffed at at any age.
I have nothing but good to say about this year’s Run for a Reason. Over $1,257,466 was raised through runner fundraising and donations at registration for charities such as the Cancer Council, Diabetes WA, Lifeline WA, and the Heart Foundation WA. Many runners had specific reasons for running such as raising money in memory of a loved one or for a charity for which they had a close affinity. My reasons were fun, celebrating the Yes victory in the Irish marriage Equality Referendum, and gratitude for being healthy enough, and having the freedom, to run in this great city. Crossing the line in under 60 mins was a vague hope but not a deal breaker.
As with many major events in Perth, extra public transport services were provided, free of charge to participants. There were plenty of clean empty, portaloos in the CBD near the race start site which in my book is a kind of victory in itself. The start line was very well managed, with lots of clear signage for different start waves depending on participants anticipated race time. The atmosphere before, during and after the run was fabulous – Perth was teaming with happy people on Sunday morning. The 12km race started bang on time. The route was populated by enthusiastic volunteers and music and well-wishers. My shins were killing me for the first 8km but I soldiered on and crossed the line in 58:11 mins, dry-heaving over the line. Next time, I’ll take a gel 40 mins into the race to stave off this inglorious race finish action.
Finishers received isotonic drinks, water and bananas as they completed their run/walk in Gloucester Park. A timing mat on the way to the exit allowed runners to check their chip race time, something I’ve never seen at any other race but which really is a great idea. Bags dropped off the previous day at Perth Arena were ready for collection after the run, an essential for those like me who are totally intolerant of the cold. Shuttle buses worked efficiently in ferrying finishers back to the CBD to catch free public transport home again. Or in my case to a soccer game.
The only quibble I’d have is that it would be nice to give all finishers, not just the 21.1km runners, a medal. I’d much rather a medal than a t-shirt I’ll never wear as I only run in singlets. Still, from the main sponsor, HBF’s, point of view, I can see that the t-shirt is a better marketing tool. Did I mention that they are EVERYWHERE?
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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).
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
I wasn’t even racing, just training, so I’m astounded to discover that I ranked 14th by gun time out of 928 women in Sunday’s race. What a great morale boost! My net time was 1:25:44. You can see that it took me almost 2 mins to reach the start line after the gun went off.