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Kasumigaura Marathon 2016

When \\\\\\\"blustery\\\\\\\" wasn\\\\\\\'t even the right word. Read the race report here!

31st Marathon and my 6th Consecutive GCAM. Race report here.

 

Race Report (and Rants): Energizer Night Race

Just when I thought we’ve seen the last of poorly run races [read my old post of July 7th 2009 and also my parody of the Ipoh International Run 2004], here comes an event from an  organizer hell-bent on getting into my honour roll of Proven Disorganized Races. Heck the event even has 2 websites to its name  (http://www.energizernightrace.com.my/ and http://www.energizernightrun.com.my/). Very schizo and this duality was all the more apparent in how the marketing campaign and the race execution were managed.

I’d wanted to substitute the title sponsor of this race with “A Race That Shalt Not Be Named” as not to give the brand any publicity but after some consideration I decided to stick to publishing the name all the same based on the following reasoning:

  1. It’s already been widely publicized, so there’s no point in being coy about the whole thing.
  2. I wanted the search engines to pick up the key words so that everyone would know. With close to 200,000 hits a month, I hope this site can contribute to spreading the word far and wide.
  3. Credit should be given for a job well done but brickbats must be dished in huge dollops for screw ups as major as this.
  4. This post is to log down the progress of my Gold Coast training.

Let’s get it going. Saturday started out very early for me, 5am in fact, due to a technical cutover that I was part of. Thankfully, it went very smoothly and though I sneaked myself back into bed at 5:45am, I just couldn’t get back to sleep. Before I knew it, it was the start to yet another full day. I made sure that I fuelled up consistently throughout the day. Breakfast was very satisfying with oats, chia seed and honey, washed down with brewed coffee. Late lunch at 2:30pm was mom-styled stir-fried angel hair pasta with tuna, olives and spices. Then another small bowl of oats, chia seed and honey at 3:15pm before showering and drop off by the family for a car-pooled ride with Frank. Then we linked up with Yim at Subway Carrefour where I had another 6″ sub and spent an hour relaxing in the nice air-cond. The rain had stopped and the sun peeked out from under the still heavy cloud cover.

The drive to Sepang was smooth and the first shocker came when we were asked for RM10 for parking. RM2 wouldn’t have been an issue but RM10 was cutthroat. Even though some cars just drove in with nary a thought, Frank decided to just pay up so as not be marked for car break-ins. The car park was an unlit one so there remained some apprehension on our part as to the safety of the vehicles. No point worrying at this stage, and the 3 of us promptly geared up. I took the opportunity to distribute the Gold Coast Marathon pamphlets too :) .

The walk to the staging area was long and while it was good to stretch the legs, getting back to the car post race would be a pain. Other than some posters at the entrance of the massive complex, there wasn’t any directional signages to where runners were supposed to head. What to do but to submit to the herd instinct. And the herd was heading into a narrow stairway which took us down into the belly of the structure. We found ourselves among hundreds (and soon thousands) or runners in a long tunnel. I twisted my left ankle when I stepped into the uncovered drain. Other than the whitewashed walls and ceiling, and tiled floor, every other aspect of the tunnel was reminiscent of the ratholes used by the Viet Congs. Hot, stuffy and thankfully no one broke wind. We were like wilderbeests waiting to cross a croc-infested river in the Masai Mara. Except that there was no river. We were apparently herded to an unseen desk distributing headlamps, which brought us to shocker number 2. Why weren’t the damn headlamps distributed along with the bib collection? Then I realized that this was done to ensure that runners turn up for the event (thus ensuring the motives of the organizer and Energizer are protected which was to secure an entry into the Malaysian Book of Records).

Naturally things degenerated into a survival of the fittest. The crowd surged towards the hapless volunteers (I believe only 2) who were unsurprisingly overwhelmed. Yim, Frank, Sim and I got out by squirming between those queuing and headed out into the open and fresh air. I later saw some people carrying boxes of the lamps out from the distribution area. Apparently some smart alec decided it was a brilliant idea to channel the masses into a bottleneck to hand out the stuff than to have it in the open.

While waiting for the start, I commented on how quiet the place was for an event this size. The pre-race atmosphere just didn’t feel happening for all the promotional hype. No announcements on where to deposit your baggage. Some blogs reported that the baggage handling was also a free for all with the 2 volunteers unable to cope with the volume. Runners had to tag their own bags and were shouted upon. I had no baggage to deposit so I sat down and rested the legs after catching up with familiar faces like Sim, Mohan, David, Lynn, Saya and Shih Ming. A short while later, the marathoners were asked to follow a tribal drum troupe (see, my wilderbeest migration analogy is pretty apt right?) towards the start. I felt rather uncomfortable as we were led through a huge crowd of wide-eyed and gawky teens. I was pretty sure words like “crazy” and “insane” went through their Bieberish minds.

The start was a little livelier with the MC hamming things up but some VIP gave an obligatory speech no one cared about. I also thought it was silly to not have the race countdown lights turned on. As we were released, the air horn wasn’t even sounded on time! The track was obviously very wide but runners, I mean wilderbeests, were again funneled into a narrow section to step onto the limited number of timing mats. Note that other than the race registration and parking fees, everything else was limited from the number of volunteers to technical expertise and experience to post-race packs.

Right from the start I ran steadily and Frank was close by. A few short turns and we’re were out of the complex onto the main road. The 6-hour rain prior made things slightly easier and I clipped along smoothly. A long downhill and a left later brought us to the start of the dark section of the course. I skipped the first 2 water stations as I had my small bottle of Gatorade. Frank was surging and pulling back periodically but I largely kept to my pace. My goal was to run as close to 5:23 pace (target marathon pace and my recent half marathon pace) as long as possible. Post-race analyses showed that I was 30 seconds off pace for the most part, something I’ve to remedy in training. Running a PR wasn’t the intention – it’s too soon to peak anyway as there are still some weeks to go. Marathoners had to cover 5 external loops and 1 internal loop around the race track. Running loops are both good and bad. The benefits are of course you already know the course and will be able to pace yourselves over the undulating terrain and water stations. The downside is the boredom, which in my case set in after the 2nd loop. Focusing on the race and pace helped kept the negative thoughts at bay rather succesfully and I found myself rather enjoying the external loops.

Along the way, shockers number 3, 4 and 5 were encountered. The water stations were very inadequately manned and very race unready. When I got to several of them, I grabbed empty cups! The management of the water stations were poor to say the least. There are easier and more efficient ways to handle the distribution. Next was the complete absence of the promised sponging station. Then there were the ribbon folks – 3 of them (the number I spotted) to be precise. When the race registration opened some months ago, I shot the organizers my concern about publishing this control measure but was assured that it wouldn’t be a problem. In a typical race, there would usually be 5 to 6 volunteers tasked with ribbon distribution but with only 3 persons managing the passing of the lap ribbons, you can expect rightly that it was screwed up. Instead of 5 ribbons, nearly all of us would only end up with 2. Runners without GPS watches lost count of the number of laps they had ran and officials were no better off too. I’m sure cheaters had a field day.

Having completed my 5 laps, I was relieved to be able head back into the complex and race track. It was nice of  those who had completed their shorter runs to cheer us as we were heading in. When we reached the track, the confusion became worse. Were we expected to turn left or right? Shih Ming was thankfully there to point me to the right but as I turned to head down the stretch, I was a little shocked. The track was dark and totally devoid of runners as far as the eyes can see! I only came across a forlorn lone teen directing the runners about 1.5KM down the track. My race dropped several notches after that. My lower back and shoulder ached like crazy and I slowed to a walk.

A couple of hooks and turns later, I was pleasantly surprised by Kenny Tan from behind. We exchanged some greetings and he steamed ahead. I was about to walk for the second time when I looked back and spotted Tay Poh Chye about 150m behind. That was incentive for me to start shuffling again! I checked frenquently to see if he was gaining up on me but PC was obviously struggling and he’d lost more ground. Duly encouraged, I dug deep and covered as quickly as I could, the second last straight before turning left towards the finish line. Well within 4 hours at 3:51, I was pretty happy and all smiles, even though the 39.42K was severely under-distanced and I walked a little. Upon crossing the finish line, I realized that other than the time takers, there were no one from the organizing team nor medical personnel in sight. There wasn’t any drinks, finisher pack and medal either. Ms Leong was kind enough to hand me a bottle of water as I rested and chatted with friends while cheering those returning. I couldn’t locate Frank after seeing him cross the line, so I decided to head back to the car along with Vince and his wife. It turned out to be a good call as Frank was already at his car. We exchanged race stories, changed and decided to just head for home.

I won’t repeat what had been widely reported and posted on the Internet and YouTube. You can check them out yourselves. One thing’s for sure. All effort was put into the hype and marketing but the actual execution was almost an afterthought. Now the finger pointing has begun while both the brand owner, organizer and runners mulled on what hit them.

The hammering of Expose and Energizer, in my opinion, are fully justified. While I’ve no complains of the roads and traffic control, both Expose and Energizer showed a lack of respect, behaved arrogantly (when they sought runners’ feedback) and failed to provide an experience befitting the price we paid. The whole affair almost felt like a scam with the sole purpose of the perpetrators’ to get into the record books. They may have gotten their Malaysian Book of Records entry for the largest night run but at what price to the brand, sales, franchise and reputation?

Where you can read up about the fiasco. For scenes of the police intervention, head on to YouTube.
The Star | Try Athlete | The Backpackr | Places and Foods | Runnerz Circle | Petaling Runner | Facebook

Note: A word of thanks to Frank for his help with bib collection and transport to and from the race. Energizer Malaysia has released an official statement yesterday apologizing to the participants and mentioned that a refund process will be announced on the Facebook event page. The content of the statement clearly put the blame on Expose but in my opinion, it takes both hands to clap.

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