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Monday, October 31, 2011

PJ Half Marathon a dangerous disgrace, let's hope Penang will be better

PJ Half Marathon a dangerous disgrace, let's hope Penang will be better

The PJ half-marathon is a much beloved race of PJ and KL residents in particular, as well as many runners from around Malaysia. It went missing for three years from 2008 until 2010 and the announcement that it would return this year was greeted with loud cheers from the running community. Including, of course, I, who, to be honest, have been missing from the running world for longer than the PJ Half.

Picking up my T-shirt and running number a few days before the run, I was handed what was described as a ‘goodie’ bag. The ‘goodies’ turned out to be a very small bag of peanuts, a tiny tissue pack, shower foam (mini-version),and various other odds and ends, some of unheard of brands, which I dumped into the nearest dustbin. The organizers appears to have accepted whatever samples they were given by ‘sponsors’ and handed it out to unsuspecting runners for testing purposes. For the RM60 registration fee I got an unbranded T-shirt (though the design wasn’t bad) and a race number.

Flag-off

I was at the PJ Stadium a half hour before the flag-off time of 6.30 am. This is way too late to start a half-marathon in Malaysia. The correct starting time would be 5.30 am. The original starting time had been published as 6 am. Let’s hope the starting time wasn’t changed so that some inconsiderate politician could sleep in.

The mood was great, the runners were enthusiastic and the bright lights of the stadium lent a festive air to the morning’s atmosphere. Before we knew it, the gun went off, and everybody was running towards the old Airport road. From there we turned into Federal Highway and were directed to the motorcycle lane. This is what happened when we ran on the Federal Highway itself, a great wave of runners who owned the roads, once a year on Sunday mornings. The lane was congested and increased the risk of falling.

Just before the Motorola junction we had to run through a short tunnel. Unbelievably it was pitch dark and you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet. What on earth was going on? Was it some secret plan to maim and injure a few unassuming runners? Who was behind it-Dr.Evil? Or just an uncaring organizer? The main organizers of the run this year, for what it’s worth, are The Star and MBPJ. I’d like to blame it on The Star, since they’re a spineless mouthpiece for the BN; but MBPJ is just as responsible.

And then we were whipping around the overhead suspension bridge and headed back to the old Airport road. Plodding around the bridge, in my case. The danger from passing cars was no different throughout the rest of the route, not a single main lane was closed off, most of the time. One mistake and a truck could have plunged through twenty of us.

Refreshments not well organized

The refreshment stations were way too small. Two or three tables where you needed ten. And you couldn’t tell which was 100plus and which was water. Some runners can’t drink 100plus when they’re running, so this is important, in case you’re wondering what difference it makes.

By the time I reached the 16th kilometer, it was burning, blazing hot. Development has come to the old airport road. The rows of trees had been replaced by housing estates or had just been cleared. There was no shade at all. And incredibly, the refreshment station that was supposed to be at the 16th kilometer mark was missing. Just like that. Runners were at serious risk of heatstroke from having to run seven kilometres with no water under a desert-like sun. The organizers were criminally irresponsible for this unexplainable mistake. Heatstroke, for their information, can kill. The last five kilometres, for me, was a nightmare.

As I passed the finish line at the PJ stadium, I noticed that the group of officials there ignored us, engrossed in their own discussion, perhaps on what to have for breakfast. No smiles, or high fives, or congratulations. Very different from the superbly organized race and friendly staff of the Putrajaya Night Marathon, which I had run and reported on 2 weeks ago.

I won’t be running the PJ Half next year, of course, certainly not if it starts so late. And the organizers have a lot of explaining to do on their careless indifference to participant safety.

Meanwhile, next stop, Penang Bridge Marathon!

Malaysia Chronicle

2 comments:

  1. Surprisingly what described here - a dangerous disgrace -still applies a year later to PJ Half Marathon 2012. The only change is the starting time an hour earlier at 5.30am. I would not participate next year even if my company sponsor me again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 2014 is even worstt...staring time 5.30 am , but late 20 mins

    ReplyDelete

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