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Kasumigaura Marathon Race Report

Up till last November, plans for returning to Japan was not in the works. I truly missed the country and some friends thought I was going bonkers from all that pining! Having run Nagano (race report here) during the same period in 2014, as a tune-up to my first PR in Gold Coast, I thought I’d replicate the same approach and training formula again this year, and mix in a few days of sightseeing in Tokyo. While I’ve covered a number of wards in Tokyo over the course of the 2012 marathon, there are still plenty of exploration to be done in a far less strenuous mode. Poking around the Internet late November ’15, I found a spring marathon which was still open for entries, a rare phenomena in marathon-mad Japan! After getting the much appreciated blessings from the wife, I quickly threw together a rough itinerary and finalized the flight and hotel arrangements by January. It would be a short visit since the family won’t be able to come along due to the kids’ schooling.

Tsuchiura is a small town of 141,098 located in the Ibaraki Prefecture next to Lake Kasumigaura, the 2nd largest lake in Japan. Hitachi has its roots in Ibaraki and the area is also well known for its lotus roots and curry! Located a 45-minute train ride away, to the North East direction of downtown Tokyo, the town hosts the popular Kasumigaura Marathon (KM) which also incorporates the International Blind Marathon every April. While KM is lesser known to runners from Malaysia, it’s really quite a well-spoken off race in Japan which sees approximately 20,000 runners.

Location of Tsuchiura in relation to Tokyo

Marathon superhero Yuki Kawauchi won the 2012 edition in his personal worst timing when the event was the 3rd largest marathon in Japan then. Incidentally, KM would be the 6th marathon courses after NYC, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagano, and GCAM, that both of us have run (not always the same edition, and definitely not in the same class!). The event has many charities tagged to it and is very much a community event for the townfolk. The 2016 edition would also be the trials for the visually-impaired athletes for the Paralympic Games. Kasumigaura Marathon is run basically on an out-and-back course, with just a small switchback unlike most Japanese races.

Also unlike other major marathons in Japan, there are other shorter distances such as the 10-Miler and 5K. The start is from the narrow strip of road sandwiched between the JR Tsuchiura Station and the Athletics Stadium in Kawaguchi Athletic Park where the race finishes. The course is front-loaded, with several climbs (the longest approximately at the 16K mark) before settling down to a flat final 21K close to the lake. The organizers even provide several vessels to ferry the supporters out for cheering duties. If one is sufficiently prepared, a smart pacing strategy early on should ensure freshness in the legs ready to exploit the “easier” second half for a negative split race. As mentioned earlier, I went into KM with the same mindset as for Nagano which meant adopting it as a training run. I started Kasumigaura with slightly more consistent training than Nagano, but the mileage logged was nowhere close to something that would bring about a breakthrough performance. Plus, nearly all of the running since December had been at a pace a full minute slower per km than my goal marathon pace! In short, I had no speed and endurance toeing the line. I don’t race often, and the mind and body had been at rest marathon distance-wise since GCAM15, and they needed some jolting if I wanted to fare well this July.

Other than a handful of friends, I kept things hush-hush. The main event was, after all, GCAM. I left my favorite Kinvara 7 at home and instead brought along just the Breakthru. Due to my on-going battle with PF, I swapped out the Breakthru’s sockliner with the softer Ride’s. This time around, I based myself in Ueno, an older part of Tokyo, away from the madness of Shinjuku and Shibuya. I’d have preferred somewhere near Ikebukuro but Ueno is excellent for this trip’s objectives due to its direct connection to/from Narita and to Tsuchiura. As with most parts of Japan, it’s easy to love Ueno. There are the museums, the famous park, zoo (next time with the kids!), Ameyoko-cho and runnable distance to Senso-ji in Asakusa, and Skytree.

After a very pleasant flight on-board ANA (A first for me! Cost RM1,200 all-in), I touched down in Narita (also a first!) on Friday and hopped onto the Keisei Skyliner (did I mention it was my first time? ¥4,300 return) directly to Ueno.

Thanks to Google Streetview and some prior homework, I managed to stumble my way to the New Izu Hotel (RM1,165 for 5 nights) not too far away. Don’t be fooled by the name though, because the establishment isn’t new :D . Bathroom and toilet were on shared basis, in line with keeping my budget low. The convenience and privacy of a room made things easier what with the race gear to lay out. I was famished  by then but nothing a hot bowl of yuzu udon couldn’t satiate.

Saturday started with a shakedown run towards the Sumida River, right up to the Azumabashi and Komagatabashi bridges with their distinct red and blue paint jobs respectively. Since I was already close to the Kaminari-mon I decided to extend the exploratory run a little before heading the same way back.

With Tsuchiura just a little journey out of Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea to have a recce of the area. A one way ticket isn’t that cheap at ¥1140 (cost of a good meal), but I still wanted to be sure of the place.

I’m one who want as little surprises as possible leading up to a race, so I decided to proceed. The journey was smooth and after an hour, I found myself in the small town who will be hosting about 16,000 runners the next day. The race precinct was easy to locate, just 7 minutes’ walk from the train station. The site was being prepped. There, I met a couple of runners from Wisconsin, Marie and Jaime. We chatted a bit and Marie warned me of strong winds the next day, something which I regrettably didn’t pay enough attention to.

Comfortable with the site orientation, I decided to check out the Kasumigaura Comprehensive Park (I don’t know who comes up with such names! ) a 15-minute bus ride away. The park was truly beautiful with the signature tulips and windmill, a large park where families were seen enjoying the outdoors, and patient anglers by the waterfront trying to land a catch or two. There was even a helicopter ride for those who were willing to pay for it. The skies were overcast throughout but a few seconds of sunshine peeked through and I was lucky enough to be well-positioned to take the following shot.

A few hours later, I was back at the hotel after a simple pasta dinner and proceeded to lay out all the gear. I had no trouble sleeping early that night since I had been pretty deprived of it the last 2 nights. At 5:30am the next morning, I made the short walk to Ueno Station. It was surprisingly bright by then.

I was very early just the way I like it, and there were plenty of seats available on the train which departed right on time at 6:04am. Along the way, I made some new friends from Thailand.

With fellow runners from Thailand en route to Tsuchiura on race morning. That’s the Saucony Nomad jacket I had on – lightweight yet offers much protection.

From the station platform to the race precinct.

To the race pick-up tent (for foreigners).

When Marie told me about the strong winds, I had no sense about how strong a 46km/h wind would feel like. The strongest I’ve felt was on the slopes of Hong Kong’s many hills during my DNF in TNF HKG. After collecting my race pack (KM is one of the Japanese races when foreigners get to pick up their race numbers only on race morning), I had trouble finding a sheltered spot to get ready and change into my race gear before depositing the bag. It was increasingly blustery but thankfully not too cold. I cast an eye to the skies to see the gathering of dark clouds. Weather forecast had predicted rain in the afternoon but I wasn’t too concerned since the rains I encountered over the years in Japan were nothing like the thunderstorms back home. My gear for the day was a disposable tee over the Saucony Endorphin singlet which in turn was over a short sleeve compression top. And I had a thrash bag over everything else. I had the Saucony DryLete thermal arm sleeves on but no gloves. The plan was to stash the sleeves into the race belt once I warmed up along the course.

You can choose to stash your baggage in lockers or at volunteer-manned booths. Either option will cost you ¥100. I went with the booth as I didn’t like the idea of wearing the keychain on my wrist.

With 90 minutes to go, I scurried to the pier-side to warm up with some strides and stretching before joining a queue for the Family Mart toilets. The KM organizers got it right this time by providing plenty of porta-potties but Family Mart was the nearest to where I waited. Plus, it was warm inside!

Before the flag off, I needed a second visit to the loo having guzzled down a bottle of sports drink prior. I was definitely well hydrated. The sugar rush must’ve got to my brain because I started off with the masses only to realize that it was the 10-mile race! Luckily I “woke up” in time and sheepishly made my way back to the marathoners who were still waiting! Had I crossed the starting line, I was sure to have been DQ’d. Sharp 10am, the fireworks were lit and we were finally released.

The start was crowded but with fresh legs, everyone was going the same pace. The congestion lasted only a Km and the roads gradually opened up. The next 5K taking us gradually away from the town center. For a comparatively small population to, say Tokyo or Osaka, the level of support from the folks were fantastic. Everyone was so eager for a high-five, from kids to the old folks!

Hitachi employees have always come out in full support of the runners. Photo of the 2015 edition from the event website.

Things were always great the early stages of a marathon and there’s really nothing to report other than I’m still able to keep to a consistent pacing, the enjoyable running and good crowd support. Even the PF was behaving. At the same time I was under no allusions that I will not suffer eventually. Nevertheless, I averaged 5:23 in the early stages and the trouble with the early inclines didn’t materialize. I stuck to my trusted fueling plan of a gel every 25 minutes and a cup of water/sports drink at alternating stations. At the 22K mark, a pee break was so well executed (I spotted a row of toilets and as I approached, the first door open and I ran straight in!) that I lost only 20 seconds that K.

Meanwhile the skies remained dark and gloomy and as we cleared the suburbs and reached the wide expanse of lotus root plantations and the lake beyond, the first drops of rain came down. It was so light that I thought it would help in keeping us cool. That thought may have somehow angered the Gods, because not long after that, the winds started building up several notches. It was as if someone was toying with the intensity knob, ratcheting it up little by little just to spite us. The runners gamely fought on, thinking things won’t get any worse. But it did.

At 33K, it stopped being a race and more of getting myself to the finish line. The menacing weather decided it was tired of playing with us and finally unleashed its pent-up fury. The wind coming in from the lake whipping up wavelets on the plantations, driving the rain sideways. We were buffeted from the left where there was nothing to block us save for a shed or two located far apart. It was all either headwind or from the side. The 60kg me had to run at an angle and with my head down. A dude running next to me then had his palm covering his ear to prevent rainwater from entering while I was more concerned about the race bib being ripped off my vest.

White-out

Exposed!

Puddles formed along the coastal country road which we were running/walking and my shoes had been soaked for some time so I no longer cared. I was more concerned about the feeling of nausea that had cropped up. Never before had I encountered this over the course of a race but it was bad enough that I felt like blacking out. Breathing deeply, I fought hard to maintain my focus and not to lose consciousness. An ambulance parked by the side tempted me for a moment but I didn’t come this far to DNF. And with the unwavering support of the locals, young and old, despite the weather conditions, no one would throw in the towel. So we slogged on and having walked like 10 minutes or so, the nausea wore off and I resumed my shuffling to maintain my core temperature. Because my gaze were fixed downwards, I saw plenty of road kills on the road – frogs! The paddy field-like plantations must be home to many of these amphibians.

The battle with the elements continued for the next 7K and for some reason, the ambulance sirens were only heard as I neared the town center. By then, I had wolfed down 2 delicious anpans (red bean buns), and 2 cups of hot tea from an ad-hoc kiosk manned by concerned supporters in view of the weather. They even kept a fire going to warm us up! Just wonderful. I would’ve stayed longer had there been no race to complete! A 5:40 pace for the next 7K would’ve snuck me under 4 hours but it was useless trying to fight the wind. At that point, I just laughed at the whole thing rather than being depressed. In fact, I attracted some stares when I “woo hoo’d” as the wind continued to rachet up that close to the finish. I was a little concern that power lines could be brought down and remembered praying that the potty that I was in won’t be blown over, as I hurried on with my business!

I eventually finished my 30th marathon in pretty dramatic weather conditions. Unlike most marathons, there are no finisher medals, towels for Kasumigaura. An event tee, a banana, a bottle of water and a pack of lotus root noodles were what awaited finishers. And also an on-the-spot certificate. While I went into Kasumigaura as a training run, I’d lie that I wasn’t a little disappointed at not being to keep the sub-4 streak going. Yet, at 4:15:05 it was 3 minutes quicker than Nagano prior to a 20-minute difference logged in GCAM the same year. Whether I’m able to run 3:45 in GCAM16 will depend largely on these final 2 months. The marathon is a fantastic event where one needs to have a blend of speed and stamina to nail it. I already have the sense of pacing and locked down fueling strategy. What remains is the cultivation of the right blend of training needed to get the job done, and so we shall see.

Website: https://www.kasumigaura-marathon.jp/
Entries: Opens sometime in November, capping off at 15,000 runners.
Race Fees: ¥6,000 (approx RM220)
Cutoff: 6 hours.
Entitlements: Short sleeved event tee, a pack of lotus root noodles, instant race certificate, post-race banana and drinks
Description: The inclines weren’t too much of a concern and with a flat 2nd half, this can be a PR course. Small town vibes with plenty of countryside farming scenery. No complains on the organization and the team improved on the many feedback on the lack of toilets. Love the town folks’ support.
Weather: Hard to predict Spring weather. Monitor the weather constantly.
Quirks: Overseas participants can only collect their race kits on race morning between 7:30am to 9am! ¥100 baggage deposit.
Challenges: Frustrating search for accommodation in Tsuchiura, with only 2 hotels in Booking.com within reasonable distance to the start/finish. In my walkabouts, I did see a few smaller ones which weren’t found on the booking website. Consolation is that the race starts at 10am, and it’s about an hour from Ueno. Post-race commute back to Tokyo will be arduous.
Good: Small town vibes, post-race runners’ village with plenty of food stalls.
Bad: I don’t think there’s any, just some quirks (see above).

Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara 7

My experience with the Kinvara dates back to version 1 (ViziPro version), the 3, and 2 pairs of the 5 (the Runshield as well as the regular version). You can say that I’ve a pretty good idea on how far the K has come since the early 2000s. Since major changes are put into the odd numbered (1, 3, 5) Kinvaras, I’m in a unique position to have experienced the enhanced editions. Since I’ve ran my best marathons in the 5s, I’ve a soft spot for the Kinvara.

The K5 weighs 7.5oz while the 7 has a slight increase. Do note that the K5 has a substantial mileage logged and the wear and tear is sure to have shaved off some weight. Taking that into consideration, I’d say an increase of 0.3oz on the K7 would be a reasonable guess.

The Kinvara has always been positioned as a low drop (4mm), conventionally stacked (23/19mm) lightweight trainer/racer. Its DNA have been that of simplicity, although the shoe has seen its ride qualities alternating between soft and firm. When v7 was announced last year, I was already enthused, bugging Frank when the release dates would be. The thought of a new midsole material, new upper and a rocking look only added to the impatience! Having used the Ride 8 as a slow-burn trainer, and the Zealot ISO the ultra versatile shod, I was eager to bed in the K7 quickly in preparation for the 3 marathons I’ve committed to this year. Through the help of a friend, I secured the Tokyo edition (¥9000) and promptly got down to seasoning it. The brand had a large presence at the Tokyo Marathon expo, from the looks of the photos here.

Medial side. Moderate toe spring.

Lateral side.

The aglets have the Tokyo identity as well.

Aside from the Sakura-motifs, the Tokyo edition certainly lives up to the visual aesthetics of Toshikazu Nosaka, a pro skateboarder and artist. There’s a bit of Zen in the understated black and white colorway punctuated by the green Saucony logo. It’s been awhile since I wore a shoe with this much white and I’m torn between dirtying it and giving the shoe its due (i.e. putting many miles and getting them dirty and soiled)! #firstworldissues. A consolation is that the entire range of K7’s are lookers themselves, and replacing this pair eventually will not be as painful a thought. The regular colorways that we will see in Malaysia (3 for men, 2 for the women) will no doubt appeal to many, what with the anything-but-boring dark-to-light cues. The Boston Green Line edition which is due out in time for the world’s second oldest marathon has a simpler all-green take.

K7 Boston edition. Photos released by Saucony.

The upper is an improvement over the K5 in several ways, from the greater use of Flexfilm overlays. The sleeker logo, relocated to a more forward position, is now a thin strip which means it no longer presses down onto the top lateral side of the forefoot when flexed at push-off. The mesh looked ever more refined on the K7 as well. Apparently the position of the Pro-lock has been moved back a little for better midfoot support, but the feature isn’t something I particularly needed.

From top: K7, K5, K5 Runshield

Moisture-wicking RunDry lining continues to be used on the sockliner and collar. The padding around the collar is just nice as on the tongue.  The tongue is semi-gusseted which means sliding will be kept to a minimum. What would be nice though, is for the Kinvaras to have a slightly longer tongue – just 2cm extra just so that the laces have a bit more room to secure over.

Removable sockliner is awesomely detailed as well. No Everun foam on the topsole. It lays deeper within the midsole.

The left shot shows the medial construction. Notice that it bulges out slightly, giving the Kinvara a touch of stability. Conversely, the lateral side has a curved indent, promoting a nice transition to the toe-off.

Gone are the reflective strips on the lateral side of the midsole, outsole. All that remains that is shiny is the teensy triangle with the logo. This shot shows clearly the concave lateral and convex/bulging medial sides of the midsole.

Moving along to the SSL EVA midsole, there are changes to be had as well. There are now horizontal grooves on the medial side and a concave impression on the lateral side, possibly to promote a smoother transition. The use of Everun isn’t visible in the case of the K7, unlike the Hurricane and Triumph ISO 2 where the molded PU material can be seen on the topsole as well as in the heel section. Instead, the implementation is much subtler for the K7, with the Everun layer inserted into the heel.

Comparing the outsole of the K7 (foreground) against the K5.

Tri-Flex configuration for the outsole replaces the triangular lugs. While this may seem like a design decision, I notice a subtle change in how the shoe feels. More of that when I cover the wear experience. There are sufficient IBR+ material used to ensure durability doesn’t take a drastic hit. I’ve worn enough shoes over the last 10 years to state that IBR+ is the most durable blown rubber material I’ve experienced. The heel plug remains the dependable XT-900 carbon rubber variety.

I’ve logged close to 80K in the K7 and thus have a better idea on how the shoe rides. Runningwarehouse rate the K7 as firm and responsive, and that would be pretty much my take as well. It has a performance feel to the toe-off phase, not hard but more of a fast and firm bounce, resulting in a very engaging experience. The Tri-Flex configuration makes the midfoot to toeoff transition snappier and urgent than before – I can’t explain how or why, just that it feels that way! Heel cushioning is there but it’s not what anyone would call plush (for that, look to the Ride 8 or Triumph ISO 2) since the Everun layer is placed deeper into the midsole. I like the furrow in the midsole, which extends from the heel to the midfoot area. Besides being a weight-saving move, the longitudinal groove will provide some “center-of-the-pressure” cushioning during the impact-loading phase.

The ride characteristics change as you put in the miles in the K7. Having inched closer to the century mark, I notice a mild midsole softening which should stay the same for the life of the shoe. The wear and tear signs are not as pronounced as expected, a sign that version 7 will most likely outlast my ageing K5 :) . The traction offered by the K7 is exceptional, which is surprising, given the understated appearance of the outsole. The K7’s hold on the wet tiled and brick surfaces felt superbly assured as I ran at pace during one rainy day.

Narrower? Same?

So what of the supposed narrower toebox? I don’t notice it at all, maybe because my choice of socks tend to be that of thinner material. The upper is still a little stretchy, no different from the previous version. That said, if your favorite socks are as thick as those traditional Thor-Lo’s, you may want to first try out the shoes in the stores before committing to a size.

You can surmise then, that the K7 is more suited for uptempo sessions than long easy runs, at least for me. For the most parts, the Kinvara 7 continues its tradition of providing a fast and lightweight ride. The fit remains true and if you’ve been a Kinvara faithful over the years, you’ll recognize it the moment you slip the it on. The slight bump in the weight department doesn’t slow the shoe down. The converse is, in fact, true. An enhanced midsole and a re-tweaked outsole config ensures that all you need to worry about is whether you can keep up with it.

The Saucony Kinvara 7 is available from today at Running Lab – Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and selected Royal Sporting House outlets, and retails at RM429.00.


Thinking of running your best marathon on a scenic and flat course? Well, entries for the 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon is now open and early bird rates valid till April 28! With public holidays slated at that time of the year, join a record number of Malaysians and I in Gold Coast this July where you and your family can run and then enjoy what the world-famous holiday destination can offer. For details, please refer to my blog post here where I’ve shared some important info for you to plan your travel and race!

Press Release: Standard Chartered KL Marathon Elevates Competition and Improves Running Experience

 

 

 

 

 


KUALA LUMPUR, 9th March 2016
: Race owner and organiser of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2016 (SCKLM), Dirigo Events announced today that runner’s registration will begin from Tuesday, 15th March 2016. This year marks SCKLM’s eighth installation and will take place on Sunday, 7th August at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.

A new staggered registration system will be introduced to ensure a better registration experience for runners as it simplifies the online registration process and lessens the chances of web-traffic congestion.

In addition, participants of SCKLM 2015 will be given priority to register for the 2016 event due to last year’s race cancellation caused by the haze. Further details of the staggered registrations can be found on www.kl-marathon.com or the Standard Chartered KL Marathon Facebook page.

Apart from the staggered registration system, the official cut-off time of the full marathon has been extended to 7 hours to reduce route congestion. A checkpoint system, commonly practised in international marathons, will also be implemented this year. Runners will need to reach each checkpoint within a designated time or will be shuttled back to Dataran Merdeka.

Other initiatives to look forward to this year include the Friendship Run and Pasta Party, which will be held on the eve of the race. Opened only to Full Marathon participants, the event aims to foster camaraderie amongst runners from around the world.

“The Standard Chartered KL Marathon has grown to become Malaysia’s premier running event that draws thousands of local and international runners to navigate a route covering beautiful and historical landmarks around the city of Kuala Lumpur” said Rainer Biemans, Director of Dirigo Events. “We hope that these additions will not only improve participant and fan experience but elevates the Marathon’s level of competition”.

Mahendra Gursahani, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia adds, “We are proud to return as title sponsors of such an iconic sporting event. The marathon, along with its additions, showcases a perfect example of Standard Chartered’s dedication to sporting brilliance. This devotion is displayed in the Bank’s dedication to building trust through continuity, credibility, competence and skill in the field of sports”.

This year’s participating beneficiaries for Run For A Reason are Standard Chartered Foundation (SCF), Hospis Malaysia, Yayasan Sejahtera and IJN Foundation.

The 2016 Standard Chartered KL Marathon is once again made possible by title sponsor Standard Chartered Bank, and along with event owner and organiser, Dirigo Events Sdn. Bhd. and co-organiser Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur.

For more information and updates on SCKLM, please visit:

Facebook       : http://www.facebook.com/SCKLmarathon
Twitter            : www.twitter.com/SCKLmarathon
Instagram       : https://instagram.com/SCKLmarathon
Website          : www.kl-marathon.com

For more information, please contact:

David Joshua Lau | 03.7493.5588 | david@my-essence.com
Jacqueline Khoo | 03.7493.5588 | jacqueline@my-essence.com

For more information on Standard Chartered KL Marathon:

Gloria Ng | 603.7887.4717 | 2015@kl-marathon.com

For more information on Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad:

Nimmi Kamal | 03.2117.7770 | nimmi.kamal@sc.com
Geraldine Tan | 03.2117.7821 | geraldine.tan@sc.com

### End ###

About the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2016
Back for the eighth year, the Standard Chartered KL Marathon is scheduled to take place on 7 August 2016. The marathon will open to 35,000 participants, ranging from elite athletes to first-time distance runners. A truly international event, the Standard Chartered KL Marathon boasts participants from all over Malaysia and over 48 countries. The Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2016 continues as Malaysia’s premier running event with top runners competing for a total of USD 125,000 prize money.

For more information on the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon, please refer to:  http://www.kl-marathon.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/SCKLmarathon.

About Standard Chartered
We are a leading international banking group, with more than 90,000 employees and a 150-year history in some of the world’s most dynamic markets. We bank the people and companies driving investment, trade and the creation of wealth across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our heritage and values are expressed in our brand promise, Here for good.

Standard Chartered PLC is listed on the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges as well as the Bombay and National Stock Exchanges in India.

For more information, please visit www.sc.com. Explore our insights and comment on our blog, BeyondBorders. Follow Standard Chartered on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

About Standard Chartered in Malaysia
Standard Chartered Bank, a member of the Standard Chartered Group was established in Malaysia in 1875 and incorporated as Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad in 1984. As Malaysia’s first bank, Standard Chartered leads the way through product innovation, consistent and strong growth performance and sustainability initiatives. The Bank provides a comprehensive range of financial products and services to corporates, institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises and individuals through its network of over 40 branches across Malaysia.

In 2001, Standard Chartered PLC established its third global technology & operations centre, Scope International, in Malaysia – the first international bank to do so in the country. Scope International provides software development, banking operations, IT support services and customer service capabilities to the Bank in up to 70 countries. It now houses the biggest software development company in the country, International Software Centre Malaysia (ISCM) and has a total workforce of more than 3,200 people.

Price Solutions Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered PLC is also located in Malaysia. The company promotes and markets Standard Chartered’s financial products in Malaysia through a network of direct sales agents.

Standard Chartered Saadiq Berhad (Saadiq), Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia’s Islamic Banking subsidiary was established in November 2008. It offers a full suite of Syariah-compliant products and services to individuals and corporates through its dedicated branches. In 2012, Saadiq established Kuala Lumpur as its global hub for Islamic consumer banking.

Standard Chartered employs close to 7,000 employees in all its Malaysian operations.

About the Event Owner and Organiser
The Standard Chartered KL Marathon is owned by Dirigo Events Sdn. Bhd, an award-winning event management company founded in 2011 by Rainer Biemans and Gloria Ng. The event has attracted not only Malaysian runners, but runners from 48 countries.

Standard Chartered KL Marathon was awarded the Platinum award in the Kuala Lumpur Mayor’s Tourism award in 2014 for attracting tourists to Kuala Lumpur. The award is a demonstration to Rainer Biemans’ and Gloria Ng’s combined experience of over 48 years in executing and creating world-class and impactful events for international clients around the world such as Europe, Brunei, India and Singapore.

For more information on Dirigo Events, please contact +603 7887 1717 or email dirigo@dirigo.com.my

Shoe Review: Saucony Ride 8

Every shoe company out there has one or two designated work horses that are durable enough for daily use. For Saucony, the role is filled by more than 2 actually – Triumph ISO 2, Hurricane ISO 2, Ride 8, Guide 9 and Zealot – with the Triumph, Ride and Zealot serving those with neutral gait. Let’s take a look at what the Ride 8 (R8) brings to the table. R8 takes over from the well-received 7 as the brand’s midrange neutral offering. I wanted something with a little bit more structure yet softer than the Zealot, which I love for those speedier sessions, for the long and easy days as my PF heals up completely.

The Ride and I didn’t quite start off on the right footing. I found the ride stiff and firm the first 30Ks but as the shoe gradually broke-in, the greater my liking for it. With 120K logged, it’s definitely the one for those long fat-burning runs and recovery days. Weighing 10.55 oz (301 grams) and with a  26mm/18mm (heel/forefoot) stackheight, for a 8mm offset, the R8 isn’t exactly what you’d call a performance trainer. In fact, it feels clunky coming off something like the Kinvara. However as mentioned, the out-of-the-box feel isn’t a finality. Put some miles in them and the midsole softens up.

#FTT marked on the upper to support a departed friend when he was fighting cancer.

 

Use of FlexFilm takes over from the thicker strips.

 

Plush tongue and collar padding.

 

The upper isn’t overly-engineered unlike how a typical high mileage trainer is. Other than a few PU strips on both sides of the lateral and medial side panels and in front of the toebox, the upper has a number of thin FlexFilm welded overlays. Unless and until an ISO version is released in the future, wearers will have to contend with this traditional setup. Not that it’s an issue, mind you. The mesh design on the R8 is a little more refined compared to the 7, at least visually. I’ve yet to develop any hotspots from running in them and neither have I ended any runs wearing sweaty socks, which can only mean that the upper’s breathability is good. Toebox roominess isn’t as spacious as that of the Zealot’s but still provides adequate wiggle room for the toes. As can be expected of a cushy trainer, the Ride’s tongue and collar are very well-padded. I found myself lacing up tighter to get a snugger fit. Even with the greater all-round padding and bulk of the shoe, the fit of the Ride 8 surpasses that of the other shoe in the same category, adidas Supernova Glide Boost 7 in that it hugs my better. Needless to say, it fits true to size.

One large reflective patch on the back

 

The XT-900 used on the heel is tough-wearing. This is after 120K.

 

The blown rubber looks to be pretty durable too.

 

The yellow parts of the outsole are made of iBR+, Saucony’s blown rubber.

 

Saucony relied on the usual sandwich combo for the midsole. The ingredients? PowerGrid layer and EVA with a dash of softer Special Rebound Compound (SRC) on the lateral heel side. The new Everun compound will only make its appearance on the Ride 9 sometime end of 2016. The full-contact outsole is holding up well at this point with scuff marks on the XT-900 carbon rubber and mild wear on the iBR+ blown rubber on the forefoot. Do note that I’m not the most efficient of runners so I reckon this pair can easily go 600K, more if you’re a “glider” :) .

As mentioned, the initial feel of the shoe felt a little off but once they’re broken in, they felt great. So much so that I find myself reaching out for it a couple of times a week. For a neutral shoe, the Ride 8 feels remarkably stable and smooth even towards  the end of my recent 29K. Unsurprisingly, running quick miles in them poses a challenge somewhat (that’s where the Zealot and Kinvara come in), what with it built like a tank. You will feel the weight after some miles. That said, at 10.55oz, the R8 is still lighter than the Asics Cumulus 17 (11.5oz), adidas Glide Boost 7 (11.25oz), Brooks Ghost 8 (11oz) and even the adidas Ultra Boost. Make no mistake about it. The Ride 8 is and remains an utility shoe. It can do most of the tasks out there and do it pretty well. There’s no single element that stands out or define the shoe. Rather, it’s a sum of many things that work well together. It may not be the lightest nor responsive Saucony out there but at RM399, the Ride 8 is a darn value-for-money utility shoe for the long haul.


Thinking of running your best marathon on a scenic and flat course? Well, entries for the 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon is now open! With public holidays slated at that time of the year, join many fellow Malaysians and I in Gold Coast this July where you and your family can run and then enjoy what the world-famous holiday destination can offer. For details, please refer to my blog post here where I’ve shared some important info for you to plan your travel and race!

Press Release: Saucony® Unveils Game-Changing Technology- EVERUN™

 


Delivering Continuous Cushioning to Runners, No Matter How Long the Run

The All New EVERUN Technology
Global performance running footwear and apparel brand Saucony pulls no punches in writing the next chapter of its performance innovation success story. Maintaining its relentless commitment to elevating the running experience through innovation, the brand announced today the launch of Saucony EVERUN™, its most advanced technology to date. Brand-new for Spring 2016, EVERUN represents a new era of cushioning innovation, delivering a continuous cushioning experience to runners, no matter how long the run.

 

First launched at the New York City Marathon, Saucony’s Triumph ISO 2 and Guide 9 are the first models is the Saucony line-up to be powered by EVERUN. The technology will later be incorporated into the newHurricane ISO 2, Kinvara 7 and Peregrine 6 which is set to be available in Malaysia February 2016. EVERUN will be supported by the brand’s biggest marketing launch to date and will coincide with the retail launch of the Triumph ISO 2 and Guide 9 at the New York City Marathon.

 

“EVERUN is not only a game-changer for us but for the industry as well,” said Patrick O’Malley, senior vice president of global product for Saucony. “Runners are once again responding to the benefits of cushioning, including increased energy return and underfoot comfort. One of the primary objectives in the development of EVERUN was to deliver a continuous cushioning experience to runners, combining smoother landings in the heel with reduced pressure in the forefoot.

 

“Our designers came up with a fundamentally new approach we call Topsole™, a breakthrough construction process that positions our best cushioning material closer to the foot. The result is that EVERUN delivers the same plush feel in mile one as mile twenty, continuously giving back to runners, especially at the end of the run when they need it most,” added O’Malley.

 

EVERUN Delivers Two Key Benefits
Lowers Peak Pressures:
EVERUN’s patent-pending Topsole construction process positions a 3mm layer of Saucony’s revolutionary EVERUN foam material closer to the foot, directly under the sockliner, instead of embedding it in the midsole below a layer of rigid cement. This construction process distributes propulsion force over more area, reducing local peak pressures while delivering a dramatically more lively and responsive ride.

 

Absorbs Impact:
The EVERUN Landing Zone and heel insert provide remarkable impact protection, maintaining cushioning properties three times longer than standard EVAs while returning 83% of the energy absorbed, according to research in the Saucony Human Performance and Innovation Lab.

 

Typical EVA foam heats up, getting softer the longer the run just when the body fatigues and needs impact protection the most. The EVERUN technology addresses this breakdown of cushioning and consequently, joint protection, in running shoes during the course of a run.
————————————————————————————-
Introducing Max And Miles
The Saucony EVERUN Series of performance running shoes will be supported by the biggest marketing launch in the company’s history.

 

“Not only is EVERUN a breakthrough in cushioning and construction technologies, but this is also the first time that Saucony is using video animation in a marketing campaign,” said Mary O’Brien, vice president of global marketing for Saucony. “We’re always looking for the best way to tell our story. We knew that video animation would not only be entertaining and fun, but it would make a rather intricate technology story clear and meaningful to runners everywhere.”

 

The launch campaign focuses on the ground-breaking idea behind EVERUN, occurring in a secret laboratory in an undisclosed location. The new multichannel global marketing campaign features an animated video starring fictional lab technicians Max and Miles, the purported inventors of EVERUN.

 

The conversation between Max and Miles provides a unique and amusing take on their eagerness to share their newly-discovered continuous cushioning technology with runners everywhere. While Max delivers a serious high-tech explanation of EVERUN’s myriad benefits, Miles eagerly gives his own perspective of EVERUN in excitably unscientific terms: “There’s this stuff we came up with … amazing stuff! You should see the stuff this stuff can do!”

The EVERUN Product Lineup
Triumph ISO 2
The new Triumph ISO 2, the successor to the Triumph ISO (named “Editor’s Choice” by Runner’s World; Spring 2015 Shoe Guide), is the brand’s super-plush neutral trainer now featuring a full-length EVERUN Topsole and EVERUN Landing Zone, TRI-FLEX outsole and ISOFIT upper.
RRP: RM 529

 

Guide 9
The lightest Guide ever (9.7 ounces in men’s size 9) has been completely updated for Spring 2016. With an SRC Landing Zone in the heel, a Dual Density medial post and a full-length EVERUN Topsole, the Guide 9 provides an efficient stride while also delivering a lively, resilient ride. A new TRI-FLEX outsole helps prevent late-stage pronation while a seam-free toe box provides comfort and allows the toes to splay during the latter phase of the gait cycle.
RRP: RM 469

 

Hurricane ISO 2
The Hurricane ISO 2, heir to the Hurricane ISO (named “Best Update” by Runner’s World; Summer 2015 Shoe Guide), blends the benefits of a premium stability shoe with unparalleled cushioning. An EVERUN Topsole and EVERUN Landing Zone along with a PWRGRID+ platform provide shock attenuation and set the foot up for an efficient transition. The ISOFIT saddle is engineered to provide additional stabilizing support. A Dual Density medial post offers superb guidance while a lightweight Support Frame secures the heel upon foot strike.
RRP: RM 529

 

Kinvara 7
Lockdown fit, a quick, resilient ride, and a great underfoot feeling are the calling cards of the awardwinning Kinvara running experience. The latest edition gets an EVERUN Heel Insert for cushioning where it’s needed most, while the sleek, FLEXFILM-infused upper supports the foot with every stride. A new outsole configuration that includes TRI-FLEX and wider lugs delivers more ground contact and increased flexibility and durability.
RRP: RM 429

 

Peregrine 6
With a protected upper, heel and forefoot rock plates, and a new PWRTRAC outsole, the Peregrine 6 gives runners the means to conquer any terrain. EVERUN in the heel delivers shock-dampening cushioning, while the highly flexible midsole allows runners to adapt and react to uneven surfaces.
RRP: RM 429

 

For more information on EVERUN, visit: www.saucony.com/everun | https://www.facebook.com/saucony.my/

 

————————————————————————————-
About Saucony: 
Saucony, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, is a leading global running lifestyle brand that fuses performance, innovation and style to create compelling footwear and apparel with its widely recognized brands Saucony and Saucony Originals. Founded in 1898, Saucony continues to inspire runners everywhere with its award winning innovations, including EVERUN™, ISOFIT™, Geometry of Strong™, PWRGRID+™, and the Total Run System™ apparel line. At Saucony, a good day is when we get to run. A great day is when we inspire someone else to run. For more information, go to www.saucony.com.

 

About RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd
RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd is a subsidiary of RSH Limited., which is the leading Pan Asian marketer, distributor and retailer for sports, golf, active lifestyle and fashion products; with over 60 international brand names and a wide distribution network. RSH Limited has a over 420 free-standing stores and 570 shops-in-shop in 11 countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, United Arab Emirates, Australia and New Zealand.

 

For more information, please visit www.rshlimited.com, www.facebook.com/RSHMY.
For more information contact:
Advertising and Promotions Department
Tel: 03-5123 2668 Fax: 03-5637 0531
Yi Xuan Lai, Executive Advertising & Promotions │yixuanlai@rsh.com.my
Kiki Lee, Manager Advertising & Promotions │kikilee@rsh.com.my

Chiang Mai Half Marathon

Those who know me will tell you that I’m a stickler for race packing when it comes to overseas events. My bag will be ready to go 2 weeks to the race. This time around though, I was still throwing things into the luggage the morning of my flight out. This year would be my 2nd trip to the northern Thai city, with the first about a year ago for the same event. Another difference other than the distance I’d be running was the fact that my wife would be accompanying me for a getaway.

Since I couldn’t get great rates at the Amora Tapae where I put up in 2014, I opted for the Rom Po Boutique Hotel off Tapae Road which in hindsight was a nice rustic place to stay. Located in between the popular Walking Street and the Night Bazaar, heading out in both directions was quite easy.

Race pack pick up was a little haphazardly organized for a 10-year old event. I was given a non-personalized bib but the goodie bag stuffing consisted of things we could actually use instead of vouchers and sample cream. After the race pack collection, we went off in search of a very late breakfast along the walking street but nearly all eateries we passed weren’t opened. So we settled for a plate of mango sticky rice for 60 Baht and a large fried chicken drumstick.

I needed to get some bread, sports drinks and canned coffee for next morning which resulted in a 6K shopping walkabout. Before retiring to the hotel, we paid a visit to a nearby massage parlor (a massage joint is always nearby wherever you are in Chiang Mai!) to help loosened some tight joints and muscles. I can’t remember when the last time I visited such an establishment so you can be sure it was a painful experience. After an early dinner I was ready to call it a night.

The alarm buzzed at 4:10am and I rolled out of bed feeling very glad to have registered just for the half. 3 bites of a dry corn bun and a small can of black coffee later I was out into the cool morning. I had an old tee over my vest but once I started my jog to Tapae Gate merely 400 meters away, I was already warmed up. Some marathoners were still running past the section, having been flagged off at 4 earlier and there appeared to be a cozy crowd for the half.

Proceeded with some dynamic stretching before heading to the start which was just in front of Top North Hotel. As mentioned, the crowd wasn’t that large, probably a thousand or so. Considering a weekly mileage of 30K with a smattering of 16Ks on weekends, I was in two minds on how to run the race – do I go out hard or take it slow and finish in 1:59? I wanted to run in honor of a friend back home. A few seconds later, I had my decision. I knew that the only way to honor anyone or a cause will be to do my best in whatever circumstances. When the gun went off and the race started to the energetic beat of traditional drums, I was mentally fully engaged in the race. Instantly, a plan started forming in my mind – keep things under control until I exit the Old City for the suburbs and go on from there depending on feel.

Whatever pain the massage brought about, it certainly prepped the legs and hips. They felt loose and my strides were smooth and efficient. The only niggles were the shoulders which were still sore. First K was a relaxed 5:31 but it gradually lowered from there. As we headed out of the Old City, I found myself in a pack of 3 runners, and an annoying guy running fartleks. Fartlek guy sped up each time we passed him and then slowed down only to be caught. The other 2 guys, one of whom was in a tri top, were moving the same pace and chatting amongst themselves. Having some folks to anchor myself to made things easier and a little more interesting in a race. I was able to tap into the group’s energy and I thought that if I maintain control over my pace, I could actually test my fitness and see how fast I can push things after the halfway point.

By the 7K mark, the pace had quickened, averaging 5:20 with a surge here and there. As the race progressed, I dared to be a little more adventurous. Somewhere along the highway, after a typically quick grab at a cup of water, I surged ahead to clear the 4 runners around me and after 100 meters of so, I expected the duo to reel me in but they didn’t. I kept the pace and was game for a good race the more ground I covered. The elites were already on the way back and it was pretty thrilling that they were within arm’s length had I reached out. In Chiang Mai, the roads weren’t fully closed to the traffic and the returning runners were actually just half a lane apart from the slower ones.

I was feeling really good but wanted to hold back at least until the u-turn before kicking things up. However, seeing that I was still on course to run a decent race despite not having done the training was just too tempting. With 12K covered, I threw caution to the wind and just had a go. The pace averaged 5:05 the next 5K as I tried to press down the overall average as much as I can. When it hurt, I kept the thought of my friend even stronger in my mind. The town was just starting to wake up and get busy as I closed down the remaining miles in low 5s and 4:51s. When I re-entered the Old City perimeter, I was in another “battle” with 2 other runners but just couldn’t find another gear, managing just to drop one and let the other go. The 2015 finish line was moved back to the original location near Tapae Gate which I very much prefer as the runners have a longer straight to kick after rounding the final corner. I crossed the line in 1:51:00 ecstatic inside with my effort and after being handed the post-race pack (McD’s never tasted so good), I kept the thought of my friend in mind as I walked back to the hotel to freshen up. At that time the 10K runners were still awaiting flag off, so I could’ve  run in 2 categories had I registered!

Photo credit: Jimrunner

My wife and I would return to the race site in 30 minutes to partake in the street food the organizers had laid out for us runners. To not redeem the food vouchers would’ve been a waste! Plus the ice-cream and herbal drink were heaven sent. We took the opportunity to hang around the area to cheer the incoming runners before walking another 4K to check out the Central Mall.

Dedicated photogs.

Finishing gantry.

 

The race wasn’t my best by 4 minutes, but it was the very best I could muster with no significant running done prior to the race. I was engaged in the race, in my thoughts and in my heart, and if that’s how I race my future races, I wouldn’t have any reasons to be dissatisfied about. The only downer was my result wasn’t captured and published despite my emails to the race director. No responses either. Looking at the results, my age-group position would be 27.

Would I run Chiang Mai again? I think so, although I’m not sure when. It’s a nice laid back place to visit to cap off the year. It’s reasonably cool in the AM and night, and close enough where the wife and I could escape to without the kids and the massage worked wonders! I’ve never run Chiang Mai for timing, so this year’s misstep by the organizers is not something to scream the head off about.

Footnote: My friend passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve, after I got home. We ran with him for the final time on the day of his funeral. He had had run an extraordinary race.

Skechers GOrun Ride 5 Review

Just when I thought 2015 was a wrap, along came a text from Skechers Malaysia announcing that the GOrun Ride 5 (GRR5) just hit their warehouse. The news was a huge surprise since I was expecting the updated versions of the GOMeb Speed or GOTrail. Fellow shoe geek and GCAM Alumni Nick was kind enough to help with the pick-up and within a few days, I was already logging some miles in them. If you’re expecting the GRR5 to be yet another  same old shoe, you’re in for a surprise.

Old and new.

The GRR5 retains the 6mm drop with the sockliner and 4mm without the sockliner.

If the GRR4 saw a brighter colorway, the GRR5 upped that factor a bit more. Some may opine that the look is anything but exciting but I quite like the snazzy looks of the 5. The next thing you’ll notice will be the somewhat tapered look of the updated version. I’ve always found the GRR4’s fit to be somewhat sloppy in the forefoot. There’s just too much space up front and my toes had acres to spare even when compared with the Altra Torin. I’m happy to report that version 5 has the forefoot fit issue corrected by trimming excess areas. Visually, the GRR5 looks to have a constricted fit up front but fret not – your toes won’t be packed together like sardines with this one. How did they do it? The answers can be found in the photo below.

  1. Move the first row of the laces backwards -
  2. Widen the gap between the laces – nearly 50% more across
  3. Remove the 2 rows of stitching on the vamp

These tweaks ensure that while a narrower last may have been adopted, the shoe remains adequately roomy.

The GRR5 has a more tapered forefoot but with several smart tweaks, the area is still roomy enough. Without the sloppiness.

Elsewhere on the upper, 3D printed overlays are now widely used and an additional lace eyelet was added, increasing the count to 7. Be advised that you’ll find the laces too short to fully secure all the 7 eyelets through double-knotting. Nevertheless I find the added set of eyelets to be redundant personally. If that addition is important to you, you may need to swap out the stock laces for a longer variety.  The Quick-Fit Portal (QFP) is not only retained but it appears to be 50% larger on the GRR5. The downer is that the 2 large reflective strips on either side of it have been dropped, making the empty spaces appear rather awkward.

The Quick-Fit Portal is retained but the reflective strip is reduced to a little thread.

The changes are also extended to the Resalyte midsole. Firstly, the squishy feel of the earlier versions is gone, replaced with a firmly-tuned foam. The firmness is very obvious as you press down on the external midsole area with your fingers. It almost felt like the GOMeb Speed 3. The 3D design elements on the lateral side is a matter of preference, though. I thought it looks pretty neat, flashy even.

Moving on to the outsole, the GRR5 now bears an uncanny resemblance to the GOrun 4 (GR4), right down to the the midfoot cluster. Just like in the GR4, the lugs are deeper with 14 rubber plugs (the GRR4 had 11) adding a bit more durability to the high wear areas. Elsewhere, you can expect the exposed foam to wear out just as quickly. I can spot several nooks and crannies that will snag some small rocks. Have a look at the next 2 photos where you can see how different GRR5 is from the previous version and the similarities it shares with the GR4.

The GRR4’s outsole design (above) looks entirely different from the 5. Also notice the much wider forefoot of the 4.

GR4 on the left. Notice the similarities between the 2?

As a result of the tweaks, the GRR5 now wears a different persona. It now has an palpable performance feel to it even if the weight sees a nudge upwards (GRR4’s 8.65 oz vs GRR5’s 8.80 oz ). The denser midsole foam and the closer fit both conspire to change the character of the shoe. It still offers a cushioned ride except that it’s much more responsive than pillowy. I’d go as far as calling it a cushier version of the GOMeb Speed 3, instead of a cushier option to the GOrun. Needless to say, the GRR5 now feels great for uptempo sessions and Half Marathons. Efficient runners will be able to take it all the way to the Marathon distance.

A tinge heavier than the GRR4 but still under 9oz

I’ve not logged many miles in the GRR5 as I’m nursing a stubborn PF brought about by the Adios Boost. A smattering of 5 to 8Ks are all I can manage in firmer shoes for now as my base building continues. But as I wrap up this quick review, I wonder that with the new firmer take on a cushioned model, where is Skechers going with this series? There’s very little that separates the GR4, GRR5 and GOMeb now and the shopper would be advised to give all 3 a try at the stores before deciding. Give each a good skip-around in the store and let your feet be the judge.

Disclosure: The Skechers GOrun Ride 5 is a media sample provided by Skechers Malaysia. The GRR5 will be available very soon in Skechers stores in the country and retails for RM439 and RM399 for the men and women models respectively.

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