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Wan's Column - Re-strategizing the Beginners’ Running Program

Over the Chinese New Year during the family gathering at my mother-in-law’s house, I made some observation of my family members, my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. A few of them have grown more prosperous, aka put on more weight. As usual they asked me if I am still running actively and the answer is obviously a yes! I knew for sure most of them do not have a regular exercise program and asking them to join me for a run on Saturday seems like an insurmountable task. The youngest of my sisters-in-law, Emily Bong, mother of four expressed interest in my beginners’ program. She told me she has just started brisk walking cum slow jogging around her house in the morning before going to work. I congratulated her and told her to join me the coming Saturday on 24th February 2007 to start the program.

Her husband, Kenny Lee was supposed to come with her and two of the children. Due to some other commitment, Kenny was unable to come on the first morning. I went to their house to pick them up at 6.50am with my daughter Rachel. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw them all ready waiting for me at 6.50am sharp, very puncture and a good start.

On her maiden run with us, her old running shoes gave way after 500m, a case of keeping the shoes too long but not used. That morning she invested RM400 into new running shoes, shorts, vests and socks to show her commitment. After 3 weeks she felt a little pain on her shin and had them examined by my chiropractor brother-in-law, Dr. Thomas Ong. It was not anything major, just that she has not been exercising and would need longer time for the body to adjust to the new exercise regime. We told her to cut down on the jogging portion and carry on with her brisk walking. Kim was very supportive and gave personal encouragement to Emily, showing Emily her photographs before and after she did 6 months of running and lost 20 lbs in the process! Three Saturdays later, her husband, Kenny Lee joined us. He used to play squash, still slim but now as a smoker, he has trouble running the 3.4km route. Together with their three elder children, Marissa, Martin and Marvin, it is now a family affair each Saturday. We believe if the family continues with this program weekly, they will all improve on their fitness level.

My biggest challenge is yet to come, this time Emily elder brother, Raphael Bong has agreed to come. Raphael is 40, weighs about 105kg or 230lbs. I knew I have to be very careful here as I am dealing with a grossly overweight individual. 20 years ago when I married his sister, he was 20, a slim and underweight young man. How he has grown over the years. I recognized that even our jog / walk program may be too much for him to manage. We have to start him from just brisk walking, cut the weight a little, strengthened the legs, before we could even talk about some light jogging. I shall be very patient here and he has to be disciplined. He will also have to regulate his food consumption, to reduce oily, fatty food and reduce sweet drinks or food.

Brisk Walking, A Great Way to Start.
Looking at the participation and fitness level of my family members as a yardstick, I have decided that I need to lower the bar; to bring in a pre-beginners’ running program in the form of brisk walking. Brisk walking will not sound too insurmountable to over-weighted or obese individuals to overcome their reluctance to get started. It will also widen the base we can operate on and to turn obese individuals into joggers eventually. As I am not a good walker myself, we need to invite someone to show the correct way to walk; Jeffrey Kok answered to our prayers. Jeffrey, age 65 has been with PACM for many years. In recent years as age has caught up with him, he has moved on to brisk walking while still taking part in Marathons. In the recent KLIM 2007, he clocked 6 hours 45 minutes with a combination of jogging and brisk walking. On 24 March 2007, Jeffrey came in and immediately he got a strong following of ladies following him. He promised to come in on a regular basis. On our part, we will add on a Brisk Walking section in our website with links and articles on brisk walking.

Ambank Kuala Lumpur International Marathon 2007
The KLIM 07 is the second event of the year for me. Once again I made the required preparation with Kim. She is now my regular training partner on Sunday. In the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km 2007, the target I set her was to just complete the run as it was her first 20km run. As a matter of fact, it was her first road race in her life. This time I set her a target of running under 2 hours for the 21km. It is an achievable target given her very strong aerobic fitness level and doesn’t need to slow down in her second half during the GE 30km. After a few weeks of easy 10kms on Sunday, we get better prepared with three 15km practice runs immediately after the Chinese New Year on 25 February, 4 March and 11 March. We pushed a little harder after each week. I suggested to her a pace of 54 minutes for the first 10km. I will pace her for the first 10km. As my best 10km time was 53 minutes in 2006, I knew I will be stretching myself trying to do 54 minutes for the first 10km in a 21km race. My comfortable pace is 58 minutes for the first 10km. As Kim has shown so much commitment, potential and discipline, I shall play the role of the pacer. The race went very well from the start and we were cruising along in the very warm and humid morning. I did not enjoy the airport road stretch as it was dusty with relatively heavy traffic on a Sunday morning. By the time we got to the entrance to the SMART tunnel, at about 8km mark, I was feeling very tired. I knew I ran too fast in pacing Kim. She was in excellent form and I told her to move on without me. I told her I shall follow her from a distance. She moved on and I slowed down to catch my breath. I saw my watch at 58 minutes plus at 10km, quite a shocker to me as I thought I ran hard. At several points, I actually wanted to start walking, something I had not done so for any half marathon. I have only walk in the four full marathons I completed. I plodded on km by km till I reach Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the heart break loop. I can see that my capping of 2hrs 7 minutes is a touch and go situation and pushed hard to finish.

I met up with Kim at the Powerbar tent shortly to exchange results. She met the target I set her. It is great training with Kim as she has great discipline. I believe I could even improve or at least slow down the deterioration in my time running with age. Shortly we met up our fellow runners from the RunnersMalaysia Beginners’ Running Program; namely Rizal, Ivy Lui, Peter Kuan, Alvin Kuan and Jamie Pang. Jamie made a great come back in training and ran 2hr 1 minute for the 21km. He has been training hard since the Chinese New Year and shall be running the Penang International Bridge Run on 24 June 2007. Jamie ran a fine negative split time and he was behind both Kim and I at the 10km mark. Peter Kuan was able to redeem his failure to run under 3hrs in the Bidor Half Marathon by completing within 3 hrs (2hrs 53mins 18 secs) He has put in considerable effort with several long runs through the Chinese New Year period, a great sacrifice for someone in the property sector with many Chinese New Year lunches and dinners. Rizal and Ivy did their 10km within 1 hour.

Snapshot of our 21km Results (Extracted from KLIM 07 Website)

Wan Yew Leong – 2hr 6mins 23 secs, 58mins 30secs at 10km, 148 / 559 (26.4%) in men veteran and 353 / 1214 (29.1%) men overall.

Kim – 1hr 58mins 5 secs, 57 mins 9 secs at 10km, 20 / 158 (12.7%) in women and 37 / 293 (12.6%) women overall. (Out of the 19 women ahead of Kim, only 6 were Malaysians that include established runners such as Yuan Yu Fang, Vally Michael and Amutha.)

Jamie Pang – 2hrs 1min 11 secs, 1hr 1 min 37 secs at 10km, 164 / 655 (25.0%) in men and 279 / 1214 (23.0%) in men overall.

Peter Kuan – 2 hrs 53mins 18 secs, 1hr 19mins 37 secs at 10km, 492 / 559 (88.0%) in men veteran and 1050 / 1214 (86.5%) in men overall.

While it is not confirmed, most runners I talked to felt that the 10km mark was not accurate, it was longer by a few hundred meters. If this is true, it is disappointing as in the absence of km markers (a key weakness that should be rectified) we are dependent on the 10km mark split time as a guide to decide on the pace for the second half. The full marathon runners will be even more confused as they may start speeding up after 10km and end up running a poorly paced race. In the process these marathon runners could hit the wall earlier. Besides the timing, we are happy with the event overall, adequate drinks station with both water and 100PLUS. Sponge stations offering drinking water as well. This is important as we were running in a very hot and humid environment.

A proud coach and his great student having completed the 21km in sub-two hours.

Wan, Kim and Rizal post-race

Father and son, Peter and Alvin, after their run

The group soaking up the sun after the race

It is good that the organizer has included a kids’ run, a 3km event within this event. It would encourage the children to take up running after experiencing the big event atmosphere. I made this comment in my write-up on the Singapore Marathon 2006 and I am glad the organizers took it up.

The figures in the marathon has not improved much with 826 runners completed the 42km event. The Half Marathon did better with 1,507 completed and this has indicated that a number of rookies have joined the Half Marathon. The organizers will have to do a post mortem and work out early how it could improve the participation in the 42km and 21km categories. If Singapore can do it with a much smaller population, why can’t Kuala Lumpur do it?

The participation details are as follows;

Half Marathon
Men Veteran
Men Senior Veteran
Women Veteran

If we are to compare these figures with the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km in January 2007, we have a total of 1,400 runners completing the 20km and 30km event. A high budget event like the KLIM 07 has only managed to garner 2,333 runners in the Half and Full Marathon. I conclude that we still have a long way to go to improve the home participation of the KLIM to rival the Singapore Marathon with 15,000 Half and Full Marathon finishers.

Wan Yew Leong
27 March 2007


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