Saturday, March 14

Malaysia Women Marathon 2015 - Woman's Way to Stand Up and Shine

My recent trip to Malaysia was more than just running a full marathon. It was one of my most memorable and meaningful travel among the many travels that I did in the past. More than being  reunited with many friends and gained few while I  enjoyed the local food, I was with Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM) on a  greater mission and that was to inspire women through my personal journey in life and running to go out and achieve their dreams.

Ultra running and high altitude expeditions are two things I never thought I will be doing. An interest that I never thought  I had,  thanks to the encouragements  and inspirations of my two good friends, Joy M and Mike W. I took the challenge 15 years ago,  right opportunity and right people came, and  here I am so passionate with it until now. I never thought time will come that I will be sharing my experience to others in a larger scale. I got invited to talk to small groups, opportunities to teach to those who wanted to start running or hiking but I never thought I will get a chance to share to an event as big as MWM.

Despite the geographical distance, MWM has always been close to my heart since its inaugural race. Aside from the fact that the  race organizer has been a good friend and an inspiration,  this is a race for women.  Since year 1, I may not had the chance to join, I had been following the race, its pre and post Facebook and webpage posts.

July of last year, I received an invitation to be one of the Guest Speaker for 2015's MWM. With the theme Stand Up and Shine, they decided to feature Asian Women to be part of the Expo event. Together with 3 more ladies of great achievements in running, Aida Othman from Malaysia who lives now in Dubai,  Kelly Lim and Jenap Said from Singapore, I accepted the invitation.

MWM is not just a race but a 3-day event of festivities celebrating women's life more so that this year's race falls exactly on International Women's Day. The two day Expo featured several international races, running gears most especially for women, some activities featuring Malaysian women  passionate on active and healthy lifestyle and the series of talks about running which I was a part of.

My Personal Highlights on 2015 MWM
Radio Interview
First stop was the radio interview at BFM 89.9. Featuring several women on different sports in celebration of the International Women's Month, they made MWM part of the program having me as one of the several runners interviewed. This was my very first radio interview experience ever. Excited and anxious gathering my thoughts as I waited at the main lobby at BFM's office, thanks to the company of Maggie Kim Hong Goh, she kept my mind occupied. Until BFM's team headed by Angeline Teh led me to the audio room. They were so natural that they made the interview so light and comfortable for me that I did not realize we reached more than an hour already. Listening  to the recorded result was such a nice feeling.

Link of the Radio Interview: Run Girl, Run!!!!

Expo Talk and Panel Discussion
This part I was really nervous. Though I already got a glimpse of how  the venue will be the night before my talk and I prepared what I am going to share even before I left Manila, still butterflies in my stomach cannot be avoided. I will be the very first speaker for the day followed by my room mate Aida Othman (at first night). I opted to stay in my room hours before my talk, to prepare myself, condition my mind and make sure that everything will be in order. The company of Aida lightened the day and took away my nervousness.

As Karen called my name, the stage was now all mine. I was trying to get comfortable by moving  here and there as I started. There were few guests seated on the chairs in front, few of my Malaysian  friends were there too despite the heavy traffic and rain outside (appreciate that a lot) but the four corners of the pavilion filled with exhibitors and runners interested on the Expo Event were also part of my audience.

Slowly I got comfortable that I even went down the stage when  I realized my slide presentation has not been played. Sharing my Inca Trail Marathon experience was the highlight of my talk, being the most difficult marathon in the world. I was amazed with how my talk turned out, and there I conquered the most challenging part of my trip as I enjoyed sharing my experience.

With that,  I hope I was able to inspire women to take the challenge, face the most difficult race in their lives, not necessarily running the most difficult marathon in the world but by starting what they find they love doing the most.

The following day was sharing my Badwater135 experience as Chief Crew to my friend Kelly Lim from Singapore, afterwhich was followed by a panel discussion on the topic: Do women perform better in ultra distance races? Thanks to Sarah Joyce, a Triathlete, Publisher and Editor of Women's Running Australia magazine who shared the result of her PhD research about the same topic. She said, "If men and women finishing the same time in a full marathon, in a longer distance (ultra distance) women will most likely finish ahead than men." Why is that? Because of the powerful hormone estrogen that is largely produced in women that helps women endure pain, such as endurance running.

Link: Can women run better on a longer distance than men.

Fashion Show by Ash Be Nimble
The show featured a local creation by the ever talented young lady, an active and outdoor person herself so passionate about fitness, Hui Mathews. She designed and produced various outfits dedicated to active ladies in healthy lifestyle, runners, gym lovers, yogi, etc.

I ran with her the day I arrived Malaysia on her playground at Bukit Kiara. Before we hit the trail,  she handed to me  a pair of  her creation, an aqua marine colored top and a purple running shorts. We were just having fun on the trail for 45 minutes while Karen has to meet the official photographer of MWM. And before we parted ways that day, she invited me to be part of few Malaysian gorgeous women who will show case her creation at the Expo. Of course I said yes without reservation, such an honor to be invited. Thank you Ash be Nimble.

Day 2 of the Expo, we had to rehearse before the actual fashion show. Wow. The ramp may just be that short but really it was inspiring to be with the rest of the women of various backgrounds and sizes too. They are all gorgeous. Some are real models, others are mothers, the rest are single ladies but all are passionate of being fit and healthy.

The Fashion Show was attended by few top personnel of Tourism Selangor. More people came and the show was festive. With the narration of Hui herself, it was really fun. Twenty women including Karen Loh and one gentle man were just enjoying the show. I thank Hui for giving me the opportunity to do this.

Pacers in Skirts
One feature of MWM (which I found unique) was having male pacers in colorful running skirts during the race. They were male runners who  dedicated their day to be part of the success on every woman's dream of finishing a race, more so a full marathon for the first timers. Some of them were so used to wearing skirts already while others were a bit shy of showing off there legs. It was so inspiring to see them support the event when in fact they could have done another longer race on the same date. I found them very encouraging as pacers, they kept me up with my pace but at the same time they made the road more colorful.

Each night at the Expo before the day ended they were being introduced, a parade at the four corners of the  pavilion before finally going to  the stage, and asked what their strategy be. One Pacer replied, we will come on skirt to support every woman on the race day, for it is not easy to train, runners who tirelessly find the time to train despite the challenges at home and at work. They were the Most Wanted Men of MWM.

The Food
I never got hungry in MWM. From the day I arrived, until I left, from the kitchen of Karen to the streets and restaurants of Malaysia. I tasted lots of food that I haven't tasted or enjoyed eating before. Karen and few more friends  brought me to several restaurants and got me some local foods like nasi kerabu, asam laksah, some roti tisu and thosai, some biryani bukhara kambing, the beef and chicken satay, the Chinese food as well. Thanks to a lot to all. It was a never ending eating for me. And I enjoy the food so much.

But one memorable food adventure was with Aida Othman the night before the full marathon race. Saturday, we decided to go to the race venue, where international runners claim their race bibs, few expo items still on display and the set up going on. Hot and humid, Karen was still on her highest of energy being on the 3rd day of this event. We told her we can be of help on whatever things still needed to be done.

She brought us in one mission, to set up the several parking signage on different parking areas. With signage on steel frames inside her car, two speakers and one race director went around the place. After the mission, still no breakfast and lunch for Karen we decided to go back to the hotel and accompany her at the restaurant. With no intention of really eating a full meal (it was still early for dinner for us) we were just there, until she got a phone call, she needed to leave. We were left at the table, not sure what to do we decided to just eat. Enjoying the food that we thought was just the same menu as breakfast, only to find out it was not, we were just taking our sweet time. Until one waiter came to us and said, "Mam, five more minutes and we will clean the buffet table." Aida negotiated, we have a full marathon to run early morning later and we need to eat. He said that's the rule but we can get whatever food we want  before they clear everything.

And guess what happened next? We were having ultra marathon picking food that we thought we want to eat without us realizing we had one table full of food and another two small plates at the other table. It took us more than an hour to attempt to finish everything even trying to strategize how we can possibly do it, ice cream and noddle  alternating for a  variation. Until we gave up. Just cannot finish everything. We went to our rooms really full.

2015 MWM Full Marathon
Woke up by 3am, tried to eat but only two buns of small bread, ready to go, we  walked to the race venue by 3:45am. As we  got closer we can hear the festive atmosphere, Kunan's voice echoing on the streets of Shah Alam and Karen as well. We wonder did she even got a sleep. Few more minutes of greeting runners around, taking photos with the pacers and our gun start came. 4:30am sharp. I toe the line with over 300 full marathon runners, almost 40% first timers. Was just so inspiring seeing everyone so ready for this day.

I felt good despite the fact that I was a little worried on my over eating the night before the race. I did not have much expectation on my finish time. Haven't really got a solid training the past months. My thoughts, I will just enjoy the race, will try my best to follow  the 4:30 pacer, and hopefully can go for sub 5:00 hours. Still dark, I was just enjoying my pace. Running side by side with all female runners, it was fun to see male pacers on colorful skirts with balloon ones in a while. I followed the 4:30 pacers at first.  Was doing well, my first 10km was 1:00:56, not bad. The runabouts were good as I can see runners on the other side. I did not have problem with signages either. Water stations were stocked with all the freezing cold variety of hydration and some power gels and bananas at some aid station,  1 special station with water melon, chocolates, marshmallows and candies. There were also stations with salt water, the first race I joined that served such. The bands and cheerers at some distances also gave encouragements to runners to push a little harder. The gradual uphills on few parts of the race course  were good to give variation of the terrain.

I tried to hydrate as much as possible and ate small bites in between. But before reaching 20km distance, I can feel my stomach is not too well, I can taste the food that I ate the night before. I tried to stop at one portalet (portable toilet) to at least let out the food but to no avail. I continued on, having in mind the watermelon that I saw on the first loop.

I reached 21km mark 13 minutes after 2 hours. Still not bad. Still dark, I continued now on the second loop of the course with 21km runners already out. The first few kilometers got crowded now, so full of gorgeous  runners. I love the atmosphere, its just that I had to be extra careful as I now ran at the right most side of the area with traffic cone lane closed to vehicles for runners with right most lane open to vehicles. A little further, the street again was left to the 42km runners. I got slower now that  4:30 pacers were no where to be found.

I felt really weak, seemed like I did not have  enough energy anymore even if I can feel that  I still have lots of food in my stomach. I wanted to hydrate and eat but can only do so little. Until the 5:00 hour pacer pass by me, Jeff asked if I am fine and offered some power gel. I had power gel with me but  I just cannot take anything. Still hoping that I can move a little faster, and go for sub 5:00 hours I was already dragging myself. I drop by another portalet and tried my luck for the second time but still to no avail. I decided to just run thinking I will just push to the finish line.

The sun already up and shining bright, humid and hot, I was about to finish my second loop and do the small loop towards the finish line. Looking at my watch, I know I will be short a little over 5 hours.  I finally return to where we started, finished  2 minutes over 5 hours but no regrets.  I cross the finish line with big wide smile on my face, seeing Suzie around and my dear friend Aida who was there more than an hour ago.

We just stayed near the finish line watching with joy seeing different expressions on the ladies faces as they finish the race. Such a beautiful sight to witness. And I salute to each one of them for taking that step and finishing what they started.

The Counter Is Already Closed

And I though my adventure in MWM ended the day after the race, as originally scheduled. Time to leave with Karen who brought me to the airport, we left early.  On our way, we decided to drop by  Putrajaya, the home of the  Putrajaya Night Marathon. She showed me around and I was just enjoying the view, the big buildings, different bridges, I went down and take photos at some areas. Until Karen realized, looks like we cannot make it to my flight. She drove in the highway like mad woman, in full speed trying our luck.

As we arrive KLIA bringing my things I ran to the counter, it has been closed 30 minutes ago. We tried to negotiate, Karen called the office of the airline, but the plane is about to leave.  My very first time to miss a flight, an international flight. But no regrets, I was meant to stay two more days on this beautiful country and enjoy.

Dance and Celebration

And since my stay got extended, I got a chance to attend the post celebration hosted by the gorgeous MWM Ladies. Lots of food, drinks, lots of stories, we danced and sing. And as we were about to leave with the loud music playing, Claudia, the lady from Chile took  my hand for a dance. I am not really a good dancer, I mean, I can dance but not the Tango or whatever Latin dance. She taught me how to do it until I got the rhythm and the timing. God,  it felt good and it was  just like running, make the feet do the job.

The Trails
With Hui Mathews, I got a taste of the trails on the hills of Bukit Kiara. Lovely playground full of trees, over looking the city that is only few minute drive from where they live. Lucky ladies, I wish Metro Manila has the same.

And on the day before my re-booked flight,  Allan Lee brought me to FRIM. Together with his running mates we explore the trails of the place. Four men, I know they run fast, I was just taking my time as I enjoy nature and do my recovery run. What a convenient playground for running enthusiasts to do the daily mileage needed. I am having fun despite the one leech bite that I got. Good remembrance.

The Wings Behind MWM
True to its name,  Malaysia Women Marathon is headed by a woman of great vision with so much energy. With a goal of providing a venue for women who dream of starting to get physically fit through running, MWM provided an atmosphere that women will be  comfortable of achieving their dreams. Malaysia is one lucky running community to have an event such as this. Yes, anybody most especially women can just join any short distance races that they feel like doing. But in MWM, it takes care of those who needed assistance  especially the  first time runners to  be confident on themselves that they can do it. The running clinics organized on weekends, the long runs few months prior to the race, the open forum and consultations on issues of women while running, the proper running gear, are few things that the event provided to all women participants prior and even after the event.

Karen Loh is a Wonder Woman, will do her best to make things happen. A mother of two loving and adorable boys which she has to attend to their everyday needs and a household to run, despite all her domestic duties, she  finds the  time to organize the event to the best of her ability. I only witnessed the tip of the iceberg, arriving on the day before the start of the Expo Activity. She is a lady that never gets tired. Before the Expo started she has to make sure that everything was in order. During the Expo, she hosted the event from the time it opens until it closes for day 1 and 2 and at the same time welcome the guests and the VIPs, talk to the exhibitors and runners too. One can never see a trace of tiredness on her face nor on her voice. That goes for two days. And more so on the race proper until after the race.

Indeed, there is no limit to what a woman can achieve for as long as she wants to do it with all her heart and with so much passion. Together with so many volunteers and field workers, she made MWM a successful event.

This is a race that will go a long way on the streets of Malaysia. It may have its areas for improvement this year, but there are also lots of good points to be acknowledged and praised as well. With her positive outlook and very open minded to areas that needed to be improved for the futures races, MWM will surely count years as it continue to inspire women to go for their dreams, to stand up and shine despite the roles that each of us needed to portray. Congratulations to each and every lady runners on this event, thank you to all the pacers and volunteers, marshals and event logistics, thank you to MWM. Cheers to a successful 2015 event. We look forward to next year's celebration of Womanhood.

With that, for this year's race, I will be forever grateful to MWM for providing me the microphone to share my story and providing me the audience to be inspired. Thank you for the many first times that I experienced on this event. Happy running to all the Wonderful Women and Gorgeous Men too.

MWM 2015 Race Result - Rank74 (BIB#2062)

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