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Wan's Column - Adidas King of the Road 2007 - 5 August 2007

I take a keen interest in this year's adidas KOTR when it was first announced 3 months ago for 2 reasons; it is held on the New Pantai Expressway (fully closed to traffic and toll free!) and it is going to be my first event as a senior veteran. I signed up early when the adidas team was at Bukit Aman Car-park to promote the run. I must say the adidas team is very dedicated in going to the ground to promote their run. Their team lead by Krishnan Karuppan, adidas Head of Running and Organizing Chairman of the event, equipped with their foot-scan device is a regular feature in many parks frequent by runners. Krishnan also proactively sent over the soft copy of the entry form to RunnersMalaysia very early to help in the communication with the running fraternity. Our website, into the second year has by now got some reputation with event owners that they could ride on our information portal. We do get several requests from event owners to have their events posted in this busy running season before the fasting month starts in mid September 2007. Well folks! This is what we are set up for… serve the running fraternity.

Technical Support
Adidas took a bold decision to organize the event on their own without the technical assistance of Selangor AAA. Instead, it teamed up with NPE and MSSM to form the organizing committee. I feel this is a good move to seek alternative instead of relying solely on the State AAA for technical assistance. Pacesetters Athletic Club, Malaysia has already done so and the New Balance Pacesetters 15km 2007 was organized entirely by the club, including the technical part of it. While this should not be viewed as breaking the State AAAs' monopoly, it opens up the scope to various organizers to develop their management skills. Organizing road races is nothing very technical, paying attention to details is very important. Krishnan, has been in the running circuit for several years and also has been an active marathon runner himself has the experience to do the job. Having said that, there will be hiccups and there will be comments and feedbacks in the various blogs written by runners. Therefore, it is important to learn from the mistakes and improve on it the next year. The moment any event organizer takes the view that they don't care about the runners' feedback……the word of mouth will reduce the participation the following year. We have already seen a few so called long established half marathons in the country losing participation in the 21km categories and have been getting the kids to shore up the numbers. If you call the event a Half Marathon and you have only a few hundred entries in the half marathon category, you better close shop and do something else. A good example of a event that lives up to its intention is the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km 2007; 1,400 entries of which more than 60% did the 30km and the rest did the 20km. We must distinguish who is the bride and who is the bride's maid! Adidas announced that they have 2,000 entries for the half marathon and 4,000 for the rest of the categories; …..pretty decent proportion.

Getting the Size Right
I set aside Friday afternoon (took half day leave) to pick up the bibs and vests for my little group and also to do my dental, all in an afternoon. I hate to go to Sunway Pyramid since they started the extension work on the shopping podium. The parking is chaotic and very dusty. Since the collection ticket was silent as to where the collection point is, I make my way to the information counter. I was directed to Level 1, to the front of the Bowling Alley. When I saw the set up and small manpower available to deal with 6,000 entries, I knew disaster was brewing and I am glad I took the afternoon off to get my collection done with, instead of waiting till the evening or Saturday. On Saturday morning, Jamie told me that it was a near riot situation in the collection centre the day before. There were no sizes except XL. I met Tang Hong Kiat after the Saturday morning run at Restaurant Syed and he complained to me that his whole group were given only XL sizing. I call up Krishnan Karuppan, the Head of adidas Running and the organizing chairman. He has his hands full and the distribution of vests was not a good start to the event after an impressive build up. The event was very well marketed and the adidas team went to the ground to promote the run very well and getting 6,000 entries with 2,000 in the 21km is a great achievement.

Getting the vest sizes right is always a very tricky situation for event organizers, I had my fair share of headache with sizes. Munning, president of PACM wrote about this in his column in the June 07 Footloose. In many local events that offer the typical CVC material round neck T-shirts, the organizers do not give very much thought to the sizing, they just order what they feel like it. As runners, we just take what is available, especially when you are collecting your bibs on the last day before the run. I have actually stopped keeping these CVC T-shirts, I gave them all away without wearing them, mostly to my Indonesian maid. I only keep those dry fit T-shirts or vest given by organizers who pay more attention to quality.

I can appreciate why the runners are upset with the sizes, adidas gave a quality dry-fit vest (retail price RM59.90), bright yellow with black printing, very light and very comfortable. It is one of the best I received and I will treasure it, wearing it on special runs. The sweat retention is very low. I read that to test the sweat retention; first weigh the vest when it is dry and then run 10km with it and weigh is again, check the weight gain from the sweat retention.

We can never get the sizing correct unless the Race Organizers do the following;

  1. The closing date must be a least one month from the event and strictly enforced. This must be a mission impossible with Malaysian runners as we all like to wait till the last minute to make a commitment to register. During my time as race director of various Pacesetters' events, we tried to do this but we still get flood of late entries with lot of reasons why we should admit them after the closing date.
  2. We tried using the previous year' sizing record as a gauge but still not accurate. The different women and men cutting add on to the complications. The next best alternative is to work to a pre-determined maximum number of entries, say 2,000. We estimate a 4:1 ratio between men and women. Commit 60 percent with the manufacturer first based on sizing from last year data. It takes 4 to 8 weeks for delivery based on our experience. Later we order the balance nearer to the event, having the opportunity to correct any sizing imbalance.
  3. To ensure the above strategy is successful, we need to compile our database as and when we received our entries. As we do not have an online registration system yet, it is done on an electronic spreadsheet. The latest sizing from our database and with some forecasting help to get it more accurate.
  4. We also try to have the sample sizing available for runners to see at the time of registration. Those of you who have been to the website to register for this year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, you would notice how detailed the sizing measurement and cutting. Most of us are just unfamiliar with this sizing measurement methodology. I would say I wear Asian XL and American L, sometimes I got it wrong with certain cutting.

In this region, only the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon has the privilege of getting the sizing right as the event can afford to close in September, a good 2 months before the distribution date. The moral of the story is to improve your event till it become such a sort after event that runners sign up, the moment your registration is opened. When can a Malaysian event achieve this?

The Reality of Getting Old
I was excited about running my first event as a senior veteran and I got my chance in the adidas King of the Road last Sunday. I knew I was not well prepared as I was nursing a strained tendon since June 07. I suspect this injury comes from an old injury when I ruptured my Achilles tendon back in 1989 playing badminton. It has not bordered me all these years, I guess the extended warranty is over after 17 long years. I felt the strain after the New Balance Pacesetters 15km in May 07….the price for running a good time. I proactively avoided all the races in the month of June and July 07 to avoid aggravating it. For the last two months I have been keeping to a routine 25km to 30km weekly mileage, including a 10km run each Sunday. I have been icing my tendon whenever I remember. I only managed to do one slow 15km, 2 weeks before the adidas KOTR. I ran a cautious race from start to end without pushing my self but still sustained a strained Achilles tendon. It was OK till after the 15km mark. I clocked 1hr 54 minutes, placed 69 in my category,……. definitely under distance, probably 19.3km.

Wan, Chai and Lim before the start of the 21km.

Chong Ting Chow running his first 7km event

Ivy running in her 10km.

Wan struggling at the last 5km, age has caught up as a senior veteran

Other Observations
Just a few to keep Krishnan on his toes;

  1. Water Stations - In the 4 stations, there should be water in addition to 100PLUS. Some runners are not used to isotonic drinks.
  2. Water Stations - In each station there should be more tables, spaced out, adequately manned. Having 2 person per station is grossly inadequate to serve 6,000 runners.
  3. Water Stations - for the 10km, the water station was sited very late into the event, try to have it at mid-point.
  4. The half marathon distance is short, nothing wrong with it but make know to runners. Someone told me he measured it with his satellite tracking Forerunner and it was 19.6km. My bio-meter in my legs measured it at 19.2 to 19.3km. Care to give the correct distance since the organizer is a toll road operator!
  5. The distance markers were not consistent, the 14km to go was on the wrong side of the road, a short distance after 5km to go, it became 2km to go….in between 2km just disappeared.
  6. The finish area where drinks are served is too congested, due to the ongoing road work I guess….hopefully by next year when Sunway Pyramid is spanking new, we get a better rest area to have a drink and chit-chat with fellow runners.

Overall, I will be happy to run again next year and this is the safest road race route in the country. Only in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon I get to run in a traffic free route……..happy running!

Wan Yew Leong
10 August 2007


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