Consulting my digital wristwatch for a time check, I should have been running for about 6 km and there was still no sign of water station of the Seremban Half marathon. Since that was a 20km event, it was not likely that the water station is located at the odd distance. That means the first water station could be situated at the 10km mark. I was feeling a little dehydrated and the “run like a camel” incident that happened in KLIM March 2006 flashed across my mind (the Part 1).
At the Starting Area
Before the flag-off at 6.45am on Sunday 16 July, the starting area was packed with students’ runners wearing the official white T-shirts. After running a few Seremban races, the process seemed repeatable – I automatically went to the registration counter to deposit the race coupon. I was pleasantly surprised that every runner was given a bar of chocolate wafer upon submitting the coupon. Not wanting to eat and later look for drinking water, I handed it to a pupil whom he happily accepted it.
The starting line is a 4-lane-wide road. This time, the organizer has put up permanent banners at the side of road indicating the different categories of events though there was no overhead banner. Categories A, B and C for the 20km event were at the forefront while those that start later were at the back of the starting line.
At about 2km mark, I spotted a water station that bore the sign “RM1” instead of “RS1” or “SS1” (that stand for Refreshment Station and Sponging Station). I thought that the organizer was exceeding the requirements by staging the first water station so soon. But when one runner tried to grab the bottled water and immediately three Chinese teenager girls who manned the water station started to response unfavourably, then only I realised that payment of one Ringgit is required to purchase the water. I was very impressed by their enterprising effort. Unfortunately, situation analysis was not properly done by setting up water station so near to stating line.
After running for about 10km, I saw the race officials were giving out ribbon to runners and the course took us to a left turn. The water station was located exactly the same spot as last year which was near a river. Only Excel drinks were served. A check with the volunteers, I was told that it was the only water station available. With that, I drank up to six cups of drinks before I took off again.
I read somewhere that the course would be newly designed route. But after running the race, it looked exactly like last year to me. I was puzzled as to which category of event they were referring to.
Generally, most of the distance was run in the outskirt of Seremban town. One unique feature of the course was that there were carcasses of monitor lizards, birds, snakes, etc. on the road. At certain areas, foul smell greeted runners from the nearby factories. There was not much traffic, and that was ideal for running.
Contrary to the scarcity of water stations, there were a few sponging stations. The SMK students were doing a good job and were very efficient in carrying out the duty. They were seen collecting the sponges immediately the sponges were discarded by runners. At one sponging station, I actually did not want to take the sponge, as there was no need for me to use it thereby saving their effort having to collect the sponge later.
One runner running next to me, while holding a sponge that do not look new and seeing the students picking up the sponges, commented that the sponges could be recycled ones. Since I supported recycling programme, I replied that it was okay to recycle them. After all, we used the sponges to wipe faces and hands only. Not much damage could have been done to our outer skin.
I was happy to see the three Chinese girls appeared again about 3km to the finishing line. This time, they got the location right. I could confirm their identity by recognizing the same grey Atos car parked next to them. The business was better as I could see a few runners purchasing drinks from them.
Weng told me after the race that he actually detoured to a petrol station situated just next to the course to refill water from a public tap since he did not carry any money. Another runner later asked him for drinking water which he was most kind to share.
With the huge number of students’ participation, the two-lane country road was practically occupied by the students walking or running in abreast occupying the entire lane that left runners running in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, cars were allowed by the organizer to use the same road competing for space.
The last one kilometre distance was disappointing. The traffic jam started at a cross-road until the round-about for about 500 meters. It happened last year too. It was bad with both sides were congested with traffic almost in deadlock situation. While the vehicles were motionless spewing out carbon monoxide, the limited space was occupied with big number of students. The limited space was further squeezed by motorcycles which practically left no space for the runners to run.
Return at the Padang
There was host of activities at the finishing area with runners walking around the fields and chatting with their friends. There was special draw on top of the lucky draw. I missed the Nutrimalt drink this year. It was most refreshing to drink the iced-cold Nutrimalt drink after the run.
The staff of Excel drink actually carry a tray and walked to the runners in the padang. I was pleased and took a cup of drink. After a moment later, I realized that the staff was taking the drinks to the VIP and were hijacked half-way by the runners.
On the stage, the performers were busy performing and singing. They have drumming with the lion dance drums and even wheelchair dance.
A well organised race but marred by lack of water stations and the terrible traffic jam at the last kilometre. Overall, it was quite fun to run in this race as the course takes us to the country roads.
For those runners who wanted to run next year, you may want to bring along a few Ringgit notes to overcome the lack of water problem.
I still prefer Runs organized by Clubs as they know the runners need and paying attention to details.
Let us hope there is no Part 3 of Running like a Camel.
Photos are by courtesy of Weng.
By Tony / KC