Honda Half Marathon 2017

The 2017 Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM) was fortuitously slated right in the middle of my 12-week GCAM training, so registering for the Half Marathon (HM) distance wasn’t that hard a decision to make. Up until May 21st, I’ve done several long runs over 21K and a single 30K in training. With that in mind, the initial goal was to run the HM at goal MP which is 5:20.

But as indications of my training proceeding quite nicely, I began entertaining thoughts of using this as a PoC (Proof of Concept) for GCAM. What if I push the pace quicker than my MP, hovering between LT and tempo, right from the start, and see how far I could sustain it? If and when the wheels come off, I could always fall back to the MP and cruise home.

Photo credit: Rany (I think!)
The morning started at 3am and despite just a 5-hour sleep and a couple of flu tabs in me from the night before, I was out of the house by 3:30am, not hung over. The plan was to hop on to the complimentary train ride from the BK5 station but alas when I got there, the staff told us that it wasn’t supposed to open, contrary to what the race guide said. The nearest operational station would either be IOI Mall or Awan Mendung. I chose the latter. Thankfully, the boo-boo didn’t mess up my plans that badly and I arrived in time to get in my 10-minute warm up before joining the thousands in the starting pen. In total, there would be 36,000 runners across all categories that morning. An amazing number really, cementing SCKLM as THE premier marathon in the country. Numbers mean little, if the organization is sub-par. But I’m glad to report that Dirigo Events and its partners delivered. In fact, I believe it’s the best KL Marathon I’ve experienced.

I found myself standing next to Cheong and just a few rows ahead of us, Calvin. The 2:00 pacer stood just off my shoulder to my rear. The morning wasn’t that warm but humid so with me still sweating away from the warm up, I needed to constantly sip from my bottle of Hammer Fizz. The vibes around the race precinct were great. The emcees were doing a great job with the crowd, the drones buzzed overhead, crew directing runners to their designated pens using large boards. I didn’t have any checked baggage so was there very lean and light.

The start was fast and a little surreal because I can’t remember any recent halves that I’ve done in KL. So the route, while familiar to me as a driver, was almost new and fresh to me as a runner. The first couple of Ks were comfortable even if too fast at close to 5:00 pace. Yet, Cheong and I were exchanging bewildered looks when the 2-hour pacer settled a few meters ahead of us! That was just too fast. I reckon the pacees must’ve breathed a sigh of relief when the pacer eventually dropped back, hopefully before flatlining his charges. Lovely traffic management and scores of crew made sure we ran the right way with no incidents. Before I knew it, we were already right in KL’s Golden Triangle along Jalan Bukit Bintang, heading to the Tun Razak intersection. From there we took a left towards Tun Razak-Jalan Ampang intersection. Normally, this junction is a traffic nightmare so it was awesome running through the wide roads with no worries. My plan was to simulate a marathon strategy and thus my gel intake intervals were executed likewise. 1 pack every 25 minutes or 5K whichever came first. I peeked at the watch at 10K mark and it showed 51:15.

A few Ks later we took the left ramp to Jalan Jelatek in order to link up with the AKLEH elevated highway. Here my pace dropped a little negotiating the ramps while Cheong continued his merry way. He would remain ahead of me from this stage on, even though I kept him in sight right up to the final 3K. AKLEH proved to be quite enjoyable and I was happy to note that I was on my side of the highway running back into the city and not the other side where the 5-6 hour marathoners could be seen snaking their way out of the city. My pace were considerably good against my marathon plans but wouldn’t have been sustainable in a marathon scenario. To hammer home the point, the aggressive early pace took its toll and boy, did the last 5K hurt. I even had time to stop for a photo with Wan at the 17K Lucozade Hydration Station.

I couldn’t be happier when the sight of the Moorish minarets of the KTM station and a bit later, the clock tower of the Sultan Salahuddin Building came into view. I crossed the line in 1:54:49 (average pace 5:22) which meant I was 2-3 seconds slower per K than what I would’ve liked. But then I raced this from the beginning which wouldn’t be how I’d run the marathon. Overall, it was a good training session and one that offered plenty of takeaways such as where I should be beefing up for the marathon!

As for SCKLM, it’s really the one to run in the country. Personally, I’d run the Half as the route is more enjoyable, and I’m able to finish in a shorter span of time. From my perspective, there’s absolutely no complain with regards to the traffic management, water stations, crew and race precinct. Kudos to the race organizer, and the huge team working behind the scene to make the event such a great success. I’ll definitely return next year for a better outing, hopefully with a bigger GCAM crew.

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