Sunday, June 18, 2006

PJ Half Marathon

Click here for photos taken by Chan Wing Kai.

Note: Looks like posting of photos in this free web site is having a lot of problems recently. Not able to post even a photo.

Dragon Dance & Cheerleading
Standing at the starting line with Weng, Chee Wee and Jason, we were pleasantly treated with performance of dragon dance. It was then followed by a team of teenage girls performing the cheerleading stances. With the synchronized action and voices, the cheering sound was loud and crisp that could rival the battery-operated hailer used by one of the Selangor AAA officials.

Jason said he could only see the cheerleading girls when the three leaders were pushed up into the air. Though he is 5 feet 10 inches of height, his view was blocked by a few lines of runners standing in front of him. There was huge crowd and the responses for the PJ Half Marathon were good. Jokingly, I said that he was not standing on the pole position as he was just standing next to a stub of two feet tall right in the middle of the road as road divider.
While playing badminton on Friday evening (two days before race day), Meng was telling us that since there would not be any Champion Chip, it would be better to stand close to the starting line. Otherwise, valuable seconds would be lost just to inch to the starting line when clock had started ticking. I was laughing and commenting since when he thought like elite runners.
Just a minute or two before the race was flagged off, a very serious and senior Selangor AAA official gave a final briefing. Among other instructions, he said, “… there is lots of time; so, please don’t rush. Safety is important.” Undeniably, 21km is quite a distance and we need quite a lot of time to run too.

Under Construction
At 6.30am, the race was started. There wasn’t much cheers and all runners dutifully moved forward and later changing gear into running motion. Running into Jalan Subang, a long stretch of road construction greeted the runners. The 200-meter stretch connecting with Federal Highway was heavily under construction and there was no light to pace the way. Luckily, there were no vehicles at that moment.

The construction of flyover at Federal Highway somewhere near Motorola area was miraculously completed on time. Two weeks before that, there were still lots of metal supporting structures lining along the highway.

The last competition that I took part was on 26 March for the Kuching Marathon. Though there were occasional Sunday morning training runs at Bukit Aman, nothing compares to a real competitive race. At the initial stage of this race, possibly I was running slightly too fast trying to follow Chee Wee’s and Jason’s paces, I felt the non-coordination between legs movements and breathing rhythms. I slowed down a little and I felt better; slowing down a little meant I was way behind them.

The Unwanted Noise
The entire course was the same as last year. One good thing about the looping back at the furthest point was that we could see who were the running friends in front of us, and how far away. It was a sunny weather this morning as compared to last year which was raining heavily.

I do not quite like the course of PJ Half Marathon. Most of the distances were run on highways. Twenty years ago, the only busy highway was Federal Highway. Today, Jalan Subang has evolved into 6-lane dual carriageway. When cars traveling at fast speed, the sound generated was quite deafening.

All runners actually got the full impact when we were only about ten feet away running abreast with the speeding vehicles. I believe every runner would have to endure the noise and pollution. Somewhere near Subang Terminal 2 area, one bus in blue ferrying factory workers just came into the road discharging heavy cloud of dark exhaust fume. I saw a lady runner in front of me fanning away the smoke with her right hand in somewhat a futile attempt.

Returning to Stadium
While returning at the stretch of road leading to the stadium, I saw Jasion Thiang. He said, “Wah, running in a so relaxing manner.” Within minutes, I entered the stadium; immediately, I saw a few familiar faces calling my name – KC, KC… I saw Chan Wing Kai, photographer of Pacesetters Club, aiming his camera at me with the “bazooka” like lens. Immediately, Steven and Agnes Chin greeted me. I put on my best smiles continuously, raised my right hand to acknowledge the pleasantry. The last 400 meters were run on the track of Kelana Jaya Stadium. Every runner seemed running in good form despite the earlier tiredness and pain, if any.

I completed the run in 1 hour 54 minutes – one minute ahead of my target. I got 58th position and a medal. When I was with Chan Wing Kai, at one time, I was like a movie director: “take the photo of this runner, take that runner that I know.”

Just next to the track was a radio station having great fun with the runners. I saw one blind-folded fat runner was dancing furiously pointing his fingers up and down, jumping here and there almost in comical stance. I presumed he was emulating John Travolta in his Sunday Morning Fever.

In the main block of the stadium, there were many booths have been set up to promote their products. I saw there were long queues for the Fitness First booth where the two beautifully lady promoters have to attend to the overwhelming crowd.

The medal flew off when I was driving home. I put the medal together with a few pamphlets on the windscreen while removing my running shoes at the car park. I totally forget about the medal until I saw the pamphlets were flying off at the highway. So, I returned home empty handed. Tony suggested that I could take a photo of the medal and keep the virtual version.

Post Race Assessment
Overall, PJ Half Marathon was a well-organized race. All volunteers and Selangor AAA officials performed their expected duty well. The water and sponges stations were set up according to claims and were well managed. I saw the teenagers scouts manning the sponging station were having good times too splashing water among them. Before the race, I was impressed with the number of freebies in the goody bags. The T-shirt is of good quality type and the design is attractive.

One set back: the course is too heavily laden with traffic. As advertised in the Star newspaper on Thursday 15 June: “run in Malaysia’s latest city – from town to city. Held in conjunction with the declaration of Petaling Jaya as a City.” It is the price we have to pay. Come with the title, it also comes with the worrying expansion in traffic volume. Let us hope that the organizer would devise another new route in next year’s PJ Half.


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