SCKLM Preparation & WAMC Lake Gwelup Race

Lake Gwelup
Lake Gwelup

So now that all the hooha has died down over the change of date and re-change of date for the SCKL Marathon, the countdown to the race has begun. Only four weeks to go! Coincidentally I am going to be in KL with a friend that weekend as it’s school holidays and our respective spouses are taking our six children camping and we would rather pull our teeth out than sleep in a tent that doesn’t have ensuite facilities. In fact what we’d really rather do is stay at a five star hotel with ensuite facilities, and toilets where there are no snakes or deadly spiders lurking, and staff that open doors, and pour coffee, and carry your bags. We’d also rather have much-needed pedicures, and eyebrow threading, do no cooking or cleaning  – well you get the picture. We’re going to KL for a taste of the good life and now it turns out, I’m going to race.

Don't let the blue sky fool you - it was cold at race registration!
Don’t let the blue sky fool you – it was cold at race registration!

Last week, I was offered a media bib at SCKLM and it took me exactly zero seconds to say ‘yes please’ and only another few seconds to allow sense to prevail and choose the 10km race. Given the temperature and humidity, trying to race any further could be a disaster. Even when I lived and trained in Malaysia, the heat and humidity ruined many a race attempt so 10km on Oct 4th will be more than plenty thank you very much. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be returning to my old stomping ground, the place where I first fell in love with running, and to hopefully get to see many familiar, friendly faces in the KL running community.

So, this morning, in preparation for this tropical race which is no big deal, no big deal at all, I ran a local 10km race here in Perth. When I say in preparation I mean mental prep rather than physical. Bar running while wrapped in cling film and a heated body suit, there is little I can do to prepare for the conditions in KL. But I need to train my brain to push though the 5-6km mark slump and stay strong to the finish line, so this morning’s race was a stab at cognitive therapy if you like.

It was the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) Lake Gwelup 10km. It was 7ºC when I left the house and only a few degrees warmer at the start line. So, it was totally unlike any start line in Malaysia ever! It also turned out to be a multi-terrain course which was more challenging than I had expected but at least it wasn’t as hilly as last weekend’s City to Surf 12km for which my legs are still not thanking me.

FullSizeRenderI think I was the 9th female across the line which was very pleasing as the standard is really high here and I’m pretty old. Yes, I am. The winner of the 5km race this morning is 12 years old.12! Not even a teenager! She ran the course in sub-20. To be fair, she has probably been running longer than I have but I don’t think that’s the reason she’s so much faster! Bar placing little rockets in my shoes, I will never attain the racing speed of a fast teenager. Oh, that’s a bit depressing. Still, I should be grateful to be able to run at all I suppose, and I am! And I’m even more grateful to be able to return to KL, have an affordable pedicure, and run there. (Though perhaps I should run, then have the pedi?).

Now, I wonder where I can bulk buy cling film and find a heated body suit…

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.