Monday, December 21, 2015

International Melaka River Marathon of Melaka Historic City 2015...

Event: International Melaka River Marathon of Melaka Historic City 2015
Venue: A'Famosa Fort, Melaka
Date: 20 December 2015
Time: 4.00AM
Distance: 42.195KM (41.5KM by Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire)
Shoe: Saucony
By Frank

This is probably the longest name of a running event that I know of, so let's just call it Melaka River Marathon here. I signed up for this marathon not because I wanted to run it but rather I needed to run it. Despite deciding to give the fast Saucony Type A5 a go since it's been a while since I wore it, am not expecting a fast result from it for it's just 3 weeks after my 100KM at Putrajaya but rather as a long run as part of my ongoing training for my long one next year. Besides, I am going to run with my hydration vest which will weight me down. But it's something I needed to do for the long one will require this. And to explore Melaka on foot will be rather interesting since it's been many years since I last visited.

I actually booked the accommodation first before deciding to register for this event as Ken agreed to take part in the half marathon. Not many of our friends took part as the race was only announced a month before. However, due to the generous cash prize being given out, it attracted a pretty huge number of fast runners especially the Africans residing here.

Race pack with 2 "tasty" junk food.

Anyway, Ken volunteered to drive and we departed from Tropicana City Mall on Saturday morning. Drive was very smooth even after entering Melaka. It only took us less than 2 hours and we were already at the race pack collection site. Was a low key event with a short queue which didn't take too long. Once done here, we proceeded to Jonker Street for lunch at one of the chicken rice ball shop before checking into our hotel at Fenix Inn, just nearby to the A'Formosa Fort at Melaka Raya where the race start is. Was a rather clean and basic hotel with all the necessity. Nothing too fancy, and just enough for us to rest in. Rested and chill for a while before it's off to try out the so call first and original crepe at Nadeje which was just nearby.

No trip to Malacca is without chicken rice ball. Brown one is yam rice ball.

Ken's strawberry crepe at the background while mine was the chocolate banana.

Walked around Melaka Raya checking out the shopping malls and of course the race venue before heading back to rest up again. Dinner was pretty good at Fat Boy's Burger nearby. As per the Scottish pre-race tradition, bacon and beer is a must and that is what I included in my order. Hehehe.... However, the mood soon became somber when I received news back in KL that the condition of a running mate and friend who is fighting the big C has deteriorated.

Fat Basterd with pork, lamb, bacon and beet root. Not forgetting some "hydration".

Light were off at about 9PM as I tried to close my eyes which I think I managed to. Was up by around 1.15AM which gives me plenty of time to get ready since the race venue is just within walking distance. Ken was awake too though his race will start 2 hours after mine. Breakfast was simple mung bean bun with black coffee. However, the usual pre-race ritual didn't go very smoothly, probably due to the timing as it's been a while since a race started this early for me. I left the hotel at about 3.15AM but only to turn back as the "feeling" to visit the potty came. Was glad that came and the deposit was done which leaves me without any worry. Phew...

Anyway, a slight drizzle was felt as I arrived at the race venue. Soon it became a heavy downpour as everyone seek shelter under the organiser's canopy. And 1 thing I must point out was that as runners was seeking shelter under the canopy, some inconsiderate technical or committee members which are part of the organiser was smoking and vaping. For God's sake, this is a running event! What a shame!

As I waited, I thought of my friend as a second bib with the hashtag #FTT was hung on my waist. I also thought of my race strategy too and finally decided to actually run comfortably till the 25KM mark before using the run walk tactic to see if I can complete the run in 4.30 hours. The rain was reduced back to a drizzle with 15 minutes before the race start. Someone must been praying hard for it to stop! And I was glad too, to escape the second hand smoke as I went out to the open to meet up with some familiar faces like Cikgu Syed, Yim and Jeff.

There was a race briefing by the race director before the start, a first time I am seeing this for a road marathon. I guess the lack of information on the race website and also there was no race pamphlet or e-mail given out contributed to this. And apparently, there is a slight change of route near to the finish. I was joking with Cikgu Syed about the final distance being reduced and it was overheard by the race director in where he assured it will remain the same after some adjustment. All right, we took his words for it but let's see.

The race started 7 minutes late at 4.07AM according to my watch as less than 300 marathon runners took to the Melaka Roads. Honestly speaking, I don't really know where I am running at hence I need to apologies in advance for lack of race blog info and experience. And this is really going to be my shortest race report.

The first 10KM or so was ran within Melaka Raya and city center which takes runners around famous places like Jonker Street, Stadthyus, Eye of Melaka, Melaka River and also the museum. Although it was dark, the lights emitted from the Christmas decoration did help to brighten the surroundings a little and also to showcase what Melaka has to offer. As for me, I had to keep my eyes on the road to navigate through the puddle of waters as I settled into my comfortable running pace. Legs were a little heavy but other than that, everything was actually in fact fine. The first water station at the 5KM mark and as expected, only water was served. I was all right with it as I do not take isotonic drinks during marathon distance, but I foresee complains from the majority of runners.

After a quarter of the distance done, I spotted Cikgu Syed talking a walk and tried to pull him along. Not sure if he did to try as I did not look back and continue my exit from the city center into even darker places heading towards the outskirts. I was cruising along comfortably but yet at the same time being aware of my surroundings as although there were not many cars yet, some drivers was spotted beating the traffic lights and some ignoring instructions from the enforcers. Truly Malaysians!

The distance was passing rather very slowly for me probably due to runners around me. There was none ahead and none behind. I was indeed lonely but the thoughts of my friend reminded me something else as I continued on my journey to the finish heading towards Klebang if not mistaken.

Fast forwarding to the 25KM mark where I successfully arrived on the dot at 2:30 hours, I switch to the run walk tactic as per intended despite legs still feeling not too bad. If not mistaken, I think I am somewhere near the coastal road at where the Straits of Malacca is as I began run walking as I remembered it was long straight stretch. And as expected, it was the walking part that slowed me down as I am not a good walker. In fact, my walking is too slow that my leg muscles will slowly become stiff. I really need to put some effort in trying to improve on this for Minty did mention that a huge part of success for the long one will require the runner to walk fast.

29KM is where the day began to break as I remember I stop to help a guy whose toe nail is starting to drop off due to shoe tightness. He stopped at a Malay food stall munching on a curry puff by the street while another runner was buying curry puff too for breakfast. I was offered too but had to politely decline. The traffic began to grow heavier too. With lots of road works, road dividers and barricades were set up which leaves minimal space for me. Though most drivers were considerate, there will me one or two who will be monsters as a Johorean car came really close to me near Semabok area.

Passed the Malacca Hospital and a short stint on a highway before arriving at Banda Hilir near to Ujong Pasir. Traffic was already very heavy as I got here but still similar to my early stage of the run. There was nobody ahead nor behind me. The first glimpse of runners only came when I arrived the the junction heading towards the Malacca Straits Mosque. But they were not marathon runners, but instead from the half, quarter and fun distance.

Made my u-turn at the end and soon spotted Jeff on the opposite side as I continued on towards Melaka Raya. Traffic was very heavy as after all Malacca is a tourist state. There were traffic enforcers here but sadly their reaction was unlike those earlier for they are slow. I had to rely on myself to navigate safely through the junctions and street crossings to avoid appearing on tomorrow's newspaper stating a runner was knockdown by a car at Malacca.

But anyhow, eventually I managed to successfully arrive back to where I first started the run earlier. Happily running towards the finish gantry when I took a sneak peak on my watch to realised that the distance is in fact under distance! It was almost 1KM short. Well, so much for the assurance from the race director earlier in the morning and I was gad I did not choose this as a Comrades qualifier. Anyhow, a satisfying training long run it is as I completed it in 4:41:16 hours with a position of 25 out of 46 for the men's international category. There was in fact a men's local category. And most importantly, I dedicate this run to a true fighter, someone I call my friend. #FTT


Linger around the finish area and soon met up with Ken who was directed the wrong way for his half marathon where he ended up running about 2KM extra. On our walk back to the hotel, we passed McDonalds which was the most convenient recovery and hence stop for a meal before continuing back to clean up and rest for a moment. We maximised our check out time to rest up for the drive back later but that will be before our tasty Peranakan lunch at Nyonya Manis Sayang. And thanks a bunch to Ken for volunteering to drive for this trip. It may only be a couple of hours drive, but am sure he was tired himself too.

Personally for myself, though I was "late" for 11 minutes, maybe even close to 20 minutes considering it is under distance, I can't ask for more since I know this isn't intended to be fast run or one to break records. But at least I managed to identify my problem of walking fast, especially with a hydration very that weights me down. It will be challenge to improve this area but it's one that needs to be done over the next 5 or 6 months. Therefore, most of you will be seeing me running and walking with a hydration vest on me in the next few months, even at shorter distance too.

Anyway, despite announcing and opening registration only for a month, the event managed to draw a fairly reasonably well number of runners especially the stronger ones, probably due to the cash prizes too. And in terms of the quality, I think they actually managed to pull off a surprise here as I thought they actually did fine. Not exactly good, but not bad and with certainly rooms for improvements. The organising committee will need to do a fair post mortem on this edition and hopefully can turn "Not bad" to "Good" or even "Great" for the third edition. But anyway, here are my thoughts:

- To announce and open registration at least 3 months before race day.
- Be more informative on website and answer to queries on social media. Facebook site seems almost dead and most queries were left unanswered.
- 5KM for refreshment stations is too far apart for novice runners. Perhaps 3KM will be ideal, or max at 4KM as it may take up to an hour at walking pace just to cover 5KM considering sore legs. Sponging stations can be combined with refreshment stations and need not be given at each stations too.
- Don't recall seeing any post race food except for RO water being served at finish area. Can consider providing light snacks and drinks such as fruits like banana.
- Excellent distance markers at every refreshment and sponging stations. Occasionally distance can be seen on the road too via chalk/spray which is a good thing.
- Traffic enforcers were excellent and friendly, at least most of them. I tried to thank everyone as I crossed each intersections, junctions or places where the are manning and most actually acknowledged! And I must say they are pretty smartly dressed too.
- To have medical personnel moving around the race route for faster response time in case of any mishaps since runners were running on open roads with vehicles coming really close.
- To improve on traffic control by placing cones or barricades at "hot spots" area. May be a challenge since Malacca is known for traffic problems but nobody wants to wait for action until something unwanted happens.
- To ban smoking and vaping at the run area including refreshment stations along the way for it's a running event, a sport that is towards promoting an active healthy lifestyle. Besides, smoking is ban within Jonker Street so I don't see this is hard to implement. Just some education needed for these inconsiderate people.
- To maintain the 5 hours cut-off time for marathon instead of secretly giving a bonus 1 hour. That's what I heard about the secret bonus. Personally, 5 hours cut off is the way it should be. If runners complain, they should train for it. Don't take the distance, organisers and volunteers for granted. But just in case if you read me wrong, I am not discouraging runners especially the novice not to attempt the marathon distance at all. In fact, if one does sign up for it, do train well and for those who don't or those unfortunate to be faced with some unforeseen circumstances, do be prepared to be call to withdraw from the race at a certain distance or be swept by the sweeper bus. Ego aside, just take it as a training run.

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