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Wan's Column - Brooks Pacesetters Bonding Run at Sabak Bernam - 15 April 2007

Having a breakfast run at Sabak Bernam was an idea conceived a few years ago when I was still the president of PACM. The kinky issue then was the lack of proper accommodation for the outstation members. I did negotiated once with the local rest house to block book certain number of rooms but the bureaucracy and the uncertainty puts me off. Both Henry Chua (former group leader) and Tan Swee Nel, the current group leader were repeatedly reminded whenever I meet them at various runs. When the notice went out that we are having the Brooks Bonding Run this year at Sabak Bernam, I was the first to book 4 rooms for my family, Joseph Cheah and Chai Weng Moon.

I feel the Executive Committee's present strategy of getting the smaller area groups to host the bonding run is a good one. Last year, the Klang Area Group did a fabulous job in organizing a good run at Klang. The benefits coming out of such an arrangement is that the host group would mobilize all their members to put up a good show.

A lot of leadership was demonstrated and everyone puts in effort in making it a success. I can see and feel the energy in both these runs. Towards the end of the run, the whole Sabak Bernam Group went on stage to take a photograph and that's the whole team that worked hard in making the event a success.

I have never been to Sabak Bernam before, read about it during my student days that it is a coconut producing area. I drove pass junctions along the roads to various places in Perak that point towards Sabak Bernam but never have a good reason to visit the town. We drove out of Subang Jaya at 2.30pm with Jason Thiang and Rustam following from behind. We have decided to use the Guthrie Corridor instead of following the map posted by KC Leong that suggests we use Klang Town / Kapar way. Shortly after our turn into the Kesas Highway, we lost Jason and Rustam. After a short call discussion between my navigator Chai and Jason, they have to figure out how to get there. The Guthrie Corridor is an efficient way to avoid the Klang / Kapar congestion and before long we got to Ijok, the town that few people know till the current by-election. After Ijok we went to Kuala Selangor, famous for its fireflies. Beyond Kuala Selangor, it was an easy drive as the roads are now two lanes, both sides. We got there before 5.00pm, the earliest group to arrive and met Tan Swee Nel at the entrance to the Tokong Thien Hock Kong, getting the venue ready with banners. The temple is an excellent choice for the event as the compound is large enough to gather 300 runners.

The hotel we were putting up, Siang Nong Hotel is within my expectation as I have done plantation audit during the eighties and have stayed in similar shop-house type hotels. It was a little getting used to by my children. We have to buy bath towels and drinking water for our rooms! That night we had our dinner at Restoran Kuang Wah, No 1, Jln Enam, Bagan (Tepi Laut) 45300 Sungei Besar (tel 012-203 5097). While the food is pretty cheap by Kuala Lumpur standard, it did not wow us! We later found that Sungei Besar has better accommodation than the Siang Nong Hotel we stayed in. Along the way there are also some Home Stay facilities. The group from FRIM stayed at Sungei Besar.

Wan with wife Clara, daughters Adeline and Stephanie before the start of the run

The Sabak Bernam group walked the extra mile by inviting residents of Sabak Bernam to join the event. More than 200 residents and together with about 70 PACM members from Kuala Lumpur, we have nearly 300 runners, a great effort for a small town like Sabak Bernam. I think it is an excellent local event as a small town like Sabak Bernam is unlikely to have many sport events of this scale. The two routes (9km and 5km) were logically charted that took us out of the town shortly after the start. Most of the running was done within Palm Oil estate and Kampung Area, a refreshing change from urban Kuala Lumpur. The route was well marshaled by the volunteers and the local police were also in attendance to manage the traffic. While there is no water station in the 9km route, there were marshals in their motor bikes with bottled water. I got a bottle to share with my wife. I caught up with my eldest daughter Adeline who did the 5km at the last 1.5km. She told me my youngest daughter, Stephanie, age 12 has gone ahead. I ran on trying to catch her before the finish line but she is nowhere to be seen. I waited for a while, almost everyone came in and she is still missing. I got worried and went on stage to make an announcement. Still no sign of her and by then I was very worried. Suddenly, we saw her trotting in looking tired. She ran the 9km route by mistake, after following another young runner! Not bad for a computer nerd who never exercise. As a family, we started to enjoy the rest of the morning having coconut drinks, soy bean milk, soy bean curd, nasi lemak and fruits. A good portion of the temple ground was shaded by the stage building and most runners were sitting down, enjoying the morning while the lucky draw was on. We have more than 100 items donated by the very generous local individuals and businesses. Each runner gets a pair of Brooks socks and a Brooks 40% discount coupon to buy shoes at the Brooks shop in Kuala Lumpur.

Wan and Chai Weng Moon completing the run together

Lost lamb Stephanie, exhausted after her 9km run by mistake!

An event like this does not cost a lot to organize as compared to competitive road races. It brings out the family together for a nice morning outing. The local host demonstrated their organizing ability and along the way built up an execution team. I hope the Kuantan Group can do an event the second half of this year, something similar without the frills of a road race. Kuantan Group has a proven track record, having organized 3 events, 21km, 12km and 10km. Of the 3 events, I enjoyed the 12km Kuantan Nature Run the most even though it was the smallest of the 3, with only about 120 participants. I recall we ran through the ocean front with the sea to our right, then the kampong roads and finally the jungle stretch. That night I spoke to Roger Ong of Batu Pahat Marathon Club and suggested that they should have a breakfast run at Batu Pahat since budget is an issue to have a road race. I always wish that the running clubs organize a series of runs across the country. So far only PACM and Ipoh Road Runners are doing it. Munning went on to say that a series of 10km may be organized across the country during a press conference in 2005. The Batu Pahat Marathon Club did attempt to get going but due to budget constraint, it did not go ahead. We could re-strategize the plan and have breakfast runs instead. It is a lot easier and more fun for the whole family. This is the type of events that parents can introduce the fun of running to the whole family. Running clubs must bring in the family elements in their runs where possible and the picture Chan Wing Kai took for my family tells a thousand words of a family driving all the way from Subang Jaya for a weekend together, taking part in a fun run. Along the way I discovered that my youngest daughter can complete 9km without training! I shall get her to join my Saturday morning runs after her UPSR.

On the way home, we contributed a little to the local economy, buying back some mangoes and papayas. We passed through Ijok again and saw the massive campaign in the by-election with all the posters and banners up. On behalf of all the members from Kuala Lumpur who took part in the Bonding Run, we thank the Sabak Bernam Group for their wonderful effort in organizing the event. I always need a good reason to go places, taking part in a run is always a good one and it need not be an international class run.

Wan Yew Leong
23 April 2007


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