Monday, 10 March 2014

Brooks Half Marathon 2014 - Race Report

Bukit Jalil 21km

The Haze Factor 


Are we going to run?

Firstly, my thoughts and prayers goes out to the passengers and crew, and the families of those on MH370. Heard the tragic news from my aunt as I was collecting my race pack from Bukit Jalil early Saturday morning. At this time nothing concrete is known about the missing plane. Lets all hope for the best. Back to running we go. The big issue for all us runners was the haze in Kuala Lumpur. Everyone was constantly monitoring the API (Air Pollutant Index). Since it kept on jumping around it made things uncertain whether the run would be called off. In fact the organisers did release a statement saying that in the event the race was cancelled due to unhealthy API, the runners would get their medals and finisher t-shirts. I for one wanted to run Brooks Half Marathon for the second year running since I needed it as an LSD run for the upcoming Malaysia Women Marathon with MBF. It would be her second FM after River Jungle Marathon.

Yours truly is partial to yellow. After yellow I like orange. After orange I like red. In fact I even like pink. I just like bright colours. I call them happy colours. I reserve the dark colours for when I am feasting on food with lots of gravy, like Sarawak laksa, so that I can hide the splash stains. Of course I had never planned to wear the yellow running singlet during race day. In fact I was going to wear the KMA running t-shirt. Had even brought 3 t-shirts for my friends from Sabah who would be running BHM too. The trio had also signed up to run the inaugural Kuching Marathon. Jason Ku, Donna Shui and Erin Gray Ahmug would be running the 21km. Erin was no stranger to the distance having done it at last year's PBIM. It would be Jason and Donna's first official HM. Signed up for this run in part because they were running it, and also in part because I needed a run after TITI Ultra to boost my confidence going into MWM. Remember running is also a mental sport.

The bad news for me was that I still had a bit of the flu. Will call it Flu 2, as I had recovered from the one that plagued me at TITI Ultra. The tickling cough, as I like to call it was still there. Worst still was that upon reaching my hotel I discovered I had a major nose bleed. Blood has never phased me out, especially my own. The stories I could tell, but won't. Have not had a nose bleed in years. Blamed it on many factors. Tops amongst them was the hot weather and foul air of KL.  Did try many things to lessen the damage - from drinking lots of water to drinking bitter tasting herbal concoctions. That seemed to work for me. What continued to worry us was still the API readings. Going to bed that night I was still wondering that the race would be cancelled. Got the hotel to wake me up. That always works for me. Was good to go and waiting for my gang at 4am. Taxis from Plaza Rakyat to Bukit Jalil never come cheap. After some minor haggling, we settled on our ride.

L-R: Jason. me, Donna and Erin

Josh and Lexx, running buddies from Kuching

All of wore our true colours. I honestly felt very 1Borneo. This wasn't a political thing, all right? It was just four runners from the island of Borneo who felt bonded by the fact that we all came from the same island. As the above photo shows, we all looked like we were promoting the upcoming Kuching Marathon, which we in fact were. Did bring another t-shirt. It was for that special someone from Singapore, who had also signed up for KM. More on that Kenyaporean later. What all of us did was wait for the official announcement that the race would be cancelled or not. There were even plans to run it even if it was cancelled, but just in the name of fun. Yes, even serious runners can run 21km for fun. Think I do that sort of thing most of the time. Had intended to LSD it anyways. Jason and the the girls wanted to run it too. Like me, they wanted to 'earn' their medals and finisher t-shirt.

The Run is On!

There were many happy runners when it was announced that we would be running. Yes the air did feel hazy, but the readings showed that the API was still moderate. (For those who like actual numbers, the API readings for the Cheras area from midnight to 10am, at hourly intervals are as follows: 74, 77, 80, 82, 84, 86, 90, 92, 91, 91, 91). Even for me, in my condition, I still managed to run it comfortably. It helps of course if I run the first third of the race with Mohan Marathon. He was there yet again, phwetting away with that whistle of his. The man runs, blows on his whistle, and chats and encourages everyone around him. He even introduces me to all his friends. I think telling them I am Yahya isn't as effecting as saying that I am Fat Old Man Running. One of the photographers, called me Old Man when he recognised me. It wasn't Tey Eng Tiong, all right, he doesn't call me that. Tey was there as usual snapping away.

Erin, who is always so light on her feet, took the lead. I was behind her. Billy Wong was there running with his friends. Had first run with him at TITI Ultra. Knew Jason and Donna were behind somewhere. Jason was supporting his wife on this run, so would run at her pace.  Winnie Wong, who always continues to amaze me with her super efficient running style was running with two HMVs. They didn't know how lucky they were. She has run more FMs and ultras than nearly all the men in the 21km field that day, except Mohan of course. Have learned a thing or two from her, and it has helped me tremendously in my runs. Yes it felt hazy, but it wasn't something that bothered my lungs. It was nice to see so much 100 Plus at the water stations this year. Always drink a combo or water and isotonic drinks whenever I can. It's more of a half and half mix. In fact I prefer the non-carbonated ones. 

As with all runs for me, the more often I run it, the easier it gets. Was never going to go fast, and had in fact planned to run it in 3 hours. So I was happy to finish in 2:56. Erin finish 3 minutes ahead of me. Billy said I powered pass him. Guess I must have done so since I finished ahead of him. What to do, since I could smell the finish line. The good thing about walking from the LRT to the run site the previous day to collect the race pack is that I get to gauge the actual distance. So when I run the last few meters I actually know how far am really running. Always nice getting a bottle of mineral water at the finish line. Then it was the ever so long queue to get the goody bag, medal and finisher t-shirt. Since I had packed light for the trip it would be what I had to wear on my ride home. Wonder what would have happened if I didn't get it. Most probably would have to get a cheap t-shirt from Chinatown before I checked out of my hotel.

Meeting friends

The nice thing about running in KL is I get to meet so many running buddies. Some I have previously run with, others who know me through reading this blog. Am glad that they approached this Fat Old Man Running.  Always like hearing from my constant runners. A big thank you to the thirty-something runner who called this uncle a champion for doing what I do. It's not hard. I just put out one leg at a time and go from there. Just don't call me uncle so loud next time please. The secret as always is to have fun doing so. If you enjoy it, it is always easier. Must say I would later discover that my 2XL finisher t-shirt was one size too big for me. However I wore it on my trip home all the same. The medal was rather plain, but it was shiny. What I liked best was getting to eat the watermelon! That's as good as it gets for me. Don't care much for the other stuff, though they did give out tauhu fa and ABC and Milo and even more 100 Plus. What I targeted after that was the Malta. 

Me with a constant runner

Billy and me running together again

Selfie time Mohan style, me with Erin

Taking a selfie of the master himself!

Mohan, Auntie Teresa and me

We did it!

Me and Edwin Tiong, my TITI Ultra buddy

Me and someone looking for a former fat man

Me with Nantha Kumar Mathavan and Anas Hamka

The Famous (and not so Famous) Five!


Have read the comments on the run posted on Facebook. Don't know the organisers personally, though some of them are friends on Facebook. In this day and age we can be friends on Facebook but not in real life. As runners we should know what we are getting ourselves into. I train for full marathons and now ultras. A half marathon is not a problem for me. It is something I can do on a regular basis several times a week if I had too. Of course my old legs and feet would hate me terribly if I did that all the time. What I am saying is I know what my body is capable of. I know the warning signs. I know when to slow down or speed up if I have too. It's not always about running for time for me. Yes I have a set game plan. Yes I know what pace I have to run to achieve my goals. However at the first sign of trouble I am prepared to adjust it. As much as I love running I won't do anything that will permanently jeopardize my health while doing so.

This haze issue is a tricky one. The organisers cannot please everyone. Wholeheartedly believe they have our best interest at heart. If they cancelled it, then I would have accepted that fact. Whether I would have run it as a fun run would have depended on how I felt the air was at that point in time. I am not the gung-ho sort. I am too old for that nonsense. My health comes first. I always want to run again another day. Am happy that everything went according to plan. Will be the first to admit that this year's edition of the Brooks Half Marathon was much better in many ways than last years. Yes I know all about the complaints. Everything from the medal design to the high registration fees. Yet in the end it felt all worth it. It's always nice to see runners tackle the half marathon for the first time. All those happy faces don't lie.

I saw those who cramped up and were injured. Yes I wish I could help them, but I am not a trained medical personnel. Yes I know there were issues about this too. Like in other races, they cannot be everywhere all the time. On our bib there is a number to call in case of emergency. I run with my handphone. I am sure many of you do too. If a runner needed help, I would gladly make the call for them. Am saddened by the recent death in the marathon at Singapore. Many of my friends ran it, and ran their PBs too. Do please go for a complete physical and make sure your heart is in tip top shape if you plan to run long. Blaming the organiser when things go wrong is the easy way out. However do first look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you are healthy enough to run the distance.  The air is one thing. Your heart and lungs are another thing. The haze will always be with us. We have to live with it, like it or not. If the organisers say you can run based on the API, then it is up to you if you want to or not. I have said a mouthful, haven't I?

At the end of the day signing up and running BHM was worth it for me. I got to meet my gang again. We all had a good run. Half marathons like this give runners a chance to test themselves. These runs can be stepping stones to full marathons and later to ultras. The Bukit Jalil Running Club and the people at Brooks should be congratulated for putting together another wonderful running experience. Will I run BHM again? That is left to be seen since the running landscape is changing in Malaysia. Now new runs keep on popping up every week. With so many runs to choose the possibility of having to DNS is very high. To think last year I was worried about DNF-ing. This year I have DNS a couple of times already. We run what races we can. Now my main worry is whether the haze will continue because I still have to conquer the FM route at Shah Alam come this weekend. The Brooks people said it best, so lets run happy!


  1. Hi Yahya,
    Been a keen follower of your blog, didnt know you was there, else would have look out for you, to say Hello.
    Overall is a good organized event, though the fee is on the high side, I felt it's worth it, from water station to finishing area food & drinks.
    It's a tough route, my GPS track elevation of 413m, almost the height of KL tower. Naturally, many will suffer if not used it. Did see many cramp and fell down cases, at least 5-6 cases.
    The crowd was too big for 21km. May be organizer can consider to have 2 different starting time for 21km, challenger (fast runner) start 10mins earlier for example.
    Good move by organizer to bring forward 10km starting time, so the most of the 21km runners wont crush into 10km crowd.

    Just one point on the medal though, if I only get to see it at finishing point, I would be fine with it. When the photo leak out earlier, and organizer refuse to comment on it is simply unprofessional.


  2. Thanks and very appreciate for brother Yahya. U are my inspiration motivator (about weight and ages). Hope we can see again on running event, after i back from Umrah (on 20th mac until 2th Apr). All runner are Brotherhoods. Salams #prayformh370 #pray4mh370 #doauntukmh370

  3. Thanks for the write was nice to meet you the man are truly an inspirational to many of us....i'm a keen follower of your blogs....
    Hoping to see more in future events....