Did you know that there are only 5 Women Full Marathon in the world? Given that half of this planet’s population consist of women, you would expect more than that. There are 3 in Japan, 1 in USA, and since last year, Malaysia should be proud to have her very own Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM) too. If the first MWM 2013 captured our imagination, then its second instalment, MWM 2014, has captured our HEARTS. Such a bold statement is not bandied about loosely without justification.
When we look at the massive jump in the participants from 1,800 runners (2013) to 4,400 (2014), the numbers tell us that the running community has accepted this concept of giving our mothers, wives, aunties, sisters and girlfriends a race they can call their own. Although the spotlight was supposed to be on the women only, the men were allowed to join the run as pacers, provided that each duo team will cross the finish line together.
But the race statistics does not reveal the full story. For that, you had to be at the Shah Alam race venue in Selangor at 4am on 16th March 2014. If you were there, you would have seen clearly the hopes and aspirations etched in the faces of the women waiting anxiously for race director, Karen Loh, to make an announcement regarding the alarmingly hazy conditions. Would the run be cancelled at the eleventh hour? The cloud of haze and the burnt smell lingering in that Sunday morning air made it hazardous for anyone to be outdoors, let alone run 42km in it. Given the bleak condition, the mood among the runners at the starting point were surprisingly UPBEAT.
Eventually, Karen announced that given the unhealthy hazy conditions, the organisers had decided to convert this competitive race to a fun run, and the prizes would be given away as lucky draws instead. For those who decided not to run, they could still claim the finisher’s pendant and running skirt giveaways. While those who still wanted to run, it was up to the individuals to decide how far they wanted to run out of the 42km route which consisted of two rounds of a 21km loop. Later, it was reported that 80% of the participants did turn-up for this event. During the pre-race gathering, the inspirational 2-times world champion marathoner, Catherine Ndereba, gave a short speech of encouragement. Then, the crowd, led by a team of hyper-active aerobics instructors, warmed-up with a zesty Zumba routine. The guest-of-honour, Catherine “The Great”, herself, flagged-off the HOPEFUL full marathoners.
Happy Runner was at ground zero to pace his wife (Maryati) for the full marathon. The surrounding air was thick with haze and our visibility was limited to only hundreds of yard which giving Shah Alam an unusually EERIE atmosphere. However, as soon as, we met-up with some of our running buddies who came, we were all our usual selves; exchanging pleasantries and GLEEFULLY posing for photos. After careful deliberation, my wife and I decided that we would start the race, but if the situation proved unbearable, then we would immediately stop running. In the end, we did decide to stop after one 21km loop because we could feel our throats getting more sensitive and we were sweating much more than we would normally. We did see some couples turning backing before reaching the 5km mark but we decided to persevere for 21km because we did not want to be totally defeated by the haze. After all, we were really looking forward to running together in this event, especially since, unlike normal running events, this one was specifically catered for PARTNERUNNING. During the run, we had kept ourselves amused by chatting-away with our running buddies who passed us along the route. There was a stronger sense of camaraderie among the runners that morning because we felt like we were united in our determination to make the most out of a virtually impossible situation.
In such running conditions, the participants were showing their unwavering SUPPORT for, not only Women in sports, but also, all Women in society. The Male Pacers were more than happy to take a back-seat that morning because deep down, they knew that when women are treated fairly and given an opportunity to prosper, our WHOLE society will prosper too. Everyone was united in their support for the SISTERHOOD, and the Feel Good Factor was certainly high among the cheerful crowd. Some participants took the trouble to adorn unusual costumes
which added a fun and carnival-like flavour to the show. Even Happy Runner shaved his legs clean and wore a skirt, both for the first time, to mark this one-of-a-kind and unforgettable event.
Will there be a Malaysia Women Marathon in 2015? Nobody knows the answer to that question. However, what we do know is that the running community appreciates and support the vital role that women play in our homes, offices, society, country, and in all our LIVES – Hip, Hip, Hurrah!