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I believe that we’re on the cusp of witnessing a running boom in this country. After being away for some time from the KLCC Park, I was pleasantly surprised at seeing the increased number of runners lapping the 1.3K loop during my last few runs there. The path is getting crowded, yes, but like what my ex-boss used to say, it’s a “happy problem”. You can’t really complain when more people are taking it outdoors and exercising.

Then there’s the increasing number of races that we’re seeing the first half of the year. On April 25th alone, there will be 4 races happening: The BHP Orange Run, Bidor Half Marathon, Subang Jaya 10K (which is run on one of the fastest route in the Klang Valley) and Jogathon Warisan. Each a compelling run in itself. I’ve no experience in the Bidor and Warisan races (which attract large and competitive fields) but if you’re weighing between BHP and Subang, you may want to relive my races reports by clicking on each image below. Whichever you decide, you can be assured of a great run.

Click to read the race report

Click to read the race report

Night races in particular are currently enjoying a nice spell with the recent Putrajaya Night Marathon and the upcoming Energizer Night Marathon. Never have Malaysians, and to a certain extent our close neighbour Singaporeans, been so spoilt for marathons. Amidst this growth in the number of events, I’m curious to see how the organizers of this year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon will work to salvage the lost trust of last year’s race.

Other than the night races, we’re starting to see niche events too. I know of several in the pipeline and of course, there’s the well received Salomon X-Trail, Genting Trailblazer and the Telekom Towerthon of last year. If we can get an ultra marathon going here, won’t that be great?

The start of the 2009 BHP Run.

Popular local races like the adidas King Of The Road, BHP Orange Run, Bidor Half Marathon and Penang Bridge Marathon continue to thrive while the in-between distances are covered by the Pacesetters 30K, Bareno 15K, Centro Klang 12K and NB 15K, complementing the bread and butter races by the FTAAA. In all this mix let’s not forget but instead recognize the roles of running clubs like Pacesetters, Bidor Runners Sports and Recreation Club, Batu Pahat Marathon Club, Klang Pacers and Ipoh Road Runners who continue to actively perform their role as the catalyst with their signature races. As are running groups such as Der Pacemakers, Chap Ayam Runners and RunnersMalaysia, the first two focusing on moving beginners to the intermediate level and the latter on getting beginners off the Couch of Doom to the outdoors.

Organizing pot-luck breakfast runs are fun way to socialize and bring in new runners. Photo showing the turnout of RunnersMalaysia's 3rd Anniversary Breakfast Run.

Which brings to the exploration of the question of “why?”. Why the apparent increase in runners and races? It definitely has nothing to do with prize money. The races here are spartan in terms of such awards with the exception of the KL Marathon. Numbers should also be dwindling due to the increase in entry fees for some races but this isn’t happening. Instead call for entries are closing well before the deadlines. I don’t have an answer. Maybe there’s no singular explanation but several contributing factors.

Running in Kampar, scene of the 2009 Kampar Friendship Run

On a more subtle level, perhaps the Internet, running blogs and websites, and other social media tools are becoming so pervasive that information is much more readily available as are education on the sport.

How do we keep this momentum going? I hope corporations will roll out fitness programs such as workshops, Get Healthy Month and weekly runs within the companies. They can also support and, or, get into sponsoring events. As individuals we can continue to encourage newbies by running with them and pointing them to the many physical and online resources available. Start a blog to document your journey to fitness because you’ll never know who you’ll touch and inspire. Start twittering on quality content and setup a Facebook community. Continue to eat and live right because it shows and will rub off your friends and colleagues.

Large turnout on last year's Salomon X-Trail

Only time will tell if the apparent boom is real or merely perceived – sizzle or fizzle. Obviously we need hard numbers like total entries, finishers across age groups etcetera over a number of key races.

Like my other passion in photography, it’s an exciting time to be a runner!

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