Friday, 17 October 2014

StanChart KL Marathon and other news

Long-distance running was a sport I took seriously in my schooldays. It was partly symbolic. I wanted to run away from the parochial small town I grew up in, run away from its people and their prejudices and small minds. Running was a form of escape. I mellowed a good deal in my adult years and developed many other sporting interests, so running took a backseat. In the last 10 years, I have only ever run in road races to raise funds for charitable causes.

I haven't run a half marathon since 2005 or 2006. It was a terrible experience, with pieces of my tattered Converse sneakers flying off at each kilometre until I was practically running in socks. I didn't even qualify for a certificate, so all my pain and ruined sneakers were for naught.

This year, I decided to sign up for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) and run in the half-marathon to raise funds for the Malaysian Nature Society under their Run for A Cause category. I managed to raise RM652 for the MNS, which surpassed my target of RM500, so now the MNS can continue to call me up in the middle of the workday to ask for last-minute volunteer help and free legal advice, ha!

On the day of the run, RapidKL had very kindly provided free rail services to the event grounds, and the LRT stations were a sea of blues and greens. It was very heartening to see so many people excited about running. We arrived at Dataran Merdeka right after the flag-off for the half marathon, so I ran to the very back of the queue of what seemed like 20,000 runners knowing I'll never catch up but I was not too upset about it since I am no world-beater at marathons.

The first 3 kilometres were the hardest. I had been suffering from cough, flu and asthma attacks since August and have had zero training. The last time I actually ran for more than 10 minutes was during the MYCAT Run for Tiger Conservation last November, 11 months ago. On the morning of the half-marathon, I was sleep-deprived, exhausted and wheezy, and wearing my mother's hand-me-down trainers that were scuffed and had lost most of their impact cushioning properties. After the first 15 minutes or so, however, I started to develop my own rhythm and pace and could jog comfortably without thinking "I'm too old for this shit" or "I should have stayed home and slept in.

The KLCC Petronas Twin Towers seen from Jalan Yap Kwan Seng at 6.30 a.m. The SCKLM is a very well-organised event and the roads were closed off for the safety of the runners, so there was no traffic, unlike during the NTV7 Feel Good Run last year.

We ran past my favourite building in the whole world right now, the Rubber Research Institute building in Jalan Ampang. It was designed by my favourite architect, A.O. Coltman, and constructed in 1936 - 1937 just when the rubber industry was bringing economic opportunities to Malaysia.

Look at all those gorgeous Art Deco design elements -- the flat roof, the set of 3 horizontal bands on the frame, the futuristic geometric columns. I actually strayed a little off-course from my run just to take these photos with my phone.

It was around 7.30 a.m. by now and we had to run up the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (AKLEH). All the other sloths like me slowed down when we had to go uphill. I took this photo because you couldn't tell at all that there is a race going on, what with everyone walking like they were out on a leisurely stroll.

Made it to the finish line within 2 hours and 52 minutes! I was quite pleased with my performance as my goal was to hit the finish line within 3 hours. I managed to do this despite starting off over 10 minutes later than the flag-off time.

My friends were absolute turbo boost enabled running machines who reached the finish line way ahead of me. Julia did the full marathon and ran 42 km in 3 hours and 53 minutes, yet all she could say was that she was sad that she had to go to the bathroom and lost precious minutes and couldn't complete it within 3 hours and 30 minutes. Amazing.

I am very impressed with how the SCKLM was coordinated, and it was clear that safety and comfort were priorities for the organisers. There were porta-loos, First Aid stations and water stations at EVERY kilometre. Volunteers and passersby cheered us on from the sides of the road, which was very heartwarming. Live bands played near the starting and finishing lines. Seiko Pacers with their balloons led the way and kept us motivated to keep up with them. The post-race loot was low-waste, consisting of bottled water, an isotonic drink, our Finishers' Medal and a banana and Chinese pear each for our raw vegan breakfast.

I love how inclusive the entire event was. Everyone felt good to have participated, whether one is a professional runner or a sedentary midlifer taking up running again for a healthier cardiovascular system. The volunteers and 'cheerers' all made us feel as though each one of us is a winner. I don't recall ever getting such a high from running. I will most definitely participate again next year and persuade my non-running friends to give it a try as well.

This Week's Photodump:

Aravind and I were at a food court in Puchong when I spotted this snack stall selling retro snacks from our childhood. How can one not recall the taste of iced gems, Choco Balls, Apollo wafer sticks, swirly pops and curry-flavoured crackers without a twinge of fond nostalgia?

Volunteered with the Buddhist Tzu-Chi Merit Society at the community recycling centre on Tuesday night after work. It was my turn to bring a snack, and everyone was happy with the steamed edamame beans I brought to share. These are the steel cans I had to clean out, sort, stack and bag up. People in this neighbourhood sure do consume a lot of biscuits!

... And now to sort the paper for recycling into 3 boxes -- cardboard, black-and-white and coloured/glossy/scrap.

... Next, we had to crush the PET bottles and separate the bottle tops.

... And all the plastic items for recycling were sorted according to their code/grade. I love volunteering with the Buddhist Tzu-Chi and making friends with people who share my love for volunteering and the environment and commitment to walking the talk.

Treating myself to a hot dinner on a rainy night. Baked penne pasta with mushrooms and pumpkin, washed down with a lime-mint-lychee frosty drink, at Delicious Restaurant in Bangsar.

Pumpkins galore for Halloween, at Village Grocer.

I picked out over 40 items, including soft toys that were given as wedding favours, toys and writing supplies inside event door gift goodie bags and novelty erasers from my own collection, to make up a Happy Bag for my friend Reita, for when her NGO (Gerai OA) next visited the indigenous community in Gua Musang. The children will love these tiny but new toys and school supplies. The bonus is that I got to declutter my storage boxes.

Physalis, also known as Lantern Fruit. I didn't know they were edible before. I had always thought they were ornamental. They have a sweet fragrance to them, like a cross between mango and passionfruit. The fruits are sweet and mildly tart, like a cross between cherries and mango plums.

The older part of Rawang Town, all lit up for Deepavali.

No tricks, just treats. These were so, so good. I will never need to eat a confection containing eggs or dairy again.

I forgot I had a meeting at work and wore casual wear (and koala socks) by mistake. Ultimately, it didn't matter because most of the others were in casual wear, too.

Even more feared than a Zombie Apocalypse is the Zombie Apocalypso! I have a tonne of work to clear, but if I go a few days without drawing or creating something, my soul starts to die.

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