A race worth travelling for.
Singaporeans looking to do an overseas run should list Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM) as one of the few runs to sign up. Traditionally taking place in June/July, this year’s run was planned for in October to avoid any postponement due to the haze as in the case of last year. Hence, imagine the irony that a few days before this year’s run, the PSI started to shoot up to the unhealthy range. While the PSI range was relatively much lower than that in June last year, I was dreading to see an update from organizers saying that the race would be postponed. Thankfully this was the only haze-related measure from the organizers 2 days before race day.
Off to KL!
So 4 of us – 2 doing the full and 2 doing the half – set off on a Saturday morning for a short flight to Kuala Lumpur – 75mins to be exact. Upon arrival, we took another 30mins or so to clear the immigration and customs before proceeding to the KLIA express. The KLIA express (or ekspres) costs 35RM takes another 30mins to reach KL Sentral where there are choices galore for anyone looking to get to their hotel. Take your pick from taxi, bus, train (yes train), monorail and the LRT (KL version of our MRT) – our next mode of transport. While we did not take the taxi, it should be noted that the taxis at KL Sentral operate on a coupon system – hence no worry of having to haggle over the prices which is usually what puts us off taking taxi. The LRT ride was to the next stop – Masjid Jamek – which is the station for Dataran Merdeka, the starting point of the half and full marathon as well as for the race pack collection at Dataran Underground.
Race pack collection
Dataran Underground which is basically below the Merdeka Square, is an underground mall with the large space needed for a race pack collection. Through the main entrance located near the big flag pole and fountain, volunteers will guide you in. Something unique about the race pack collection is that the race expo actually starts before the collection and continues after the collection point. Personally I think that if it were done deliberately, it is a good move as you actually taper the crowd before the collection, possible reducing queue time. Probably due to it being the last day of the collection, the queues if any, were cleared within minutes. The expo continued mainly for the race sponsors and here I picked up additional freebie from Honda and a clock which I had ordered online.
From the race pack collection, we headed to check into our hotel which was minutes away from the Dataran. Swiss hotel (no typo here), is the nearest hotel possible to the start point for the HM/FM. Even if it were not a budget hotel, you wouldn’t mind paying for the convenience of getting up an hour before start time and still having time to spare! And the cost? $30 per person for the night. After checking in we took a short break before heading out for a quick lunch. We then headed to check out the Petronas Towers and abit of exploring of KLCC (lots of food and shopping opportunities) before we finally decided to get dinner and then call it a day.
The marathon buddies got up at about 0345hrs – that’s 45mins before start time – for a quick shower and lite breakfast before heading to the startline. We squeezed in another hour and half of sleep before we got up to do the same before walking over to the startline for the half-marathon. The efforts by the organizers to make participants feel at ease can really be felt; from the free LRT rides to free drinks and salonpas – lots of it! After getting a spot where we could breathe more easily, we went thru the usual pre-race routine – track selection, getting GPS ready and a final tug of the laces – and off we went at 0600hrs.
The first six kilometers was around the KLCC area, making a big loop around Petronas Towers with some slopes every now and then. As you reach the halfway 10km mark – you are faced with a manageable climb up the elevated expressway which is relatively flat but with a couple of slopes up and down before you reach the 13km mark which leads the half marathon runners off the expressway. For some reason, other than it being unlucky 13 – this was where a few runners, mostly those attempting the full marathon decided to drop out – some were clearly in some pain while some were(I hope) sleeping. But I later on found out that it was the point where the full marathon runners broke away to proceed to the highway for their additional 20km of track, hence somewhat a point of no return or a strategic point to call it quits.
As we left the full marathon runners, we merged with the 10km runners and along came the question of “Will there be congestion when the full marathon runners merge back?” While the full marathon runners did eventually join back at 36/37km mark(17/18km for the half/8km for the 10km), the 10km runners were then diverted as they embarked on their final 2km. The full and half marathon runners were then push thru the second highest climb thruout the race(at the last 2-3km mark) to the Botanic Gardens while passing by the Parliament House.
We made one last turn out of the Botanic Gardens area and could sense that we were near the finishing line and started to push harder – even though at this stage it was pretty much run/walk mode. Passing the National Mosque on our right, we started to see supporters as well as those who had finished their race, edging everyone on – pretty much like the final stretch between the old City Hall and the Padang for the Singapore edition of the Standard Chartered Marathon. As we cross the finish line, we were definitively glad to complete the run despite the threat of haze as well as the grenade incident that took place in KL a few days earlier.
After collecting our medals and refreshment, we proceeded back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes before heading back to the finishing point to wait for the marathon buddies. As always they finish the race and meet us in their finisher tee and medal, grimacing with every step they take. They proceeded back to the hotel for a quick change and rejoined us for breakfast. After avoiding the spicy food before the race, we happily tucked into Nasi Lemak, Naan and Prata – easily found at the Masjid Jemak area near our hotel. Satisfied by the local fare, we proceeded back to the hotel for a rest before checking out.
As we came to end of the our SCKLM trip, making the same way back to the airport the way we came, the four of us agreed we should seriously consider making this one of our annual overseas run. And we hope that if we do return next year, we will bring a bigger group with us.
As mentioned earlier, credit must be given to the organizers for making this event as enjoyable as possible and their efforts to improve can be noted from how they reach out to participants for feedback – even offering a lucky draw for those who participate. Even when I emailed them for permission to use their pictures, they replied to me promptly on the same day (even though it was 3 weeks after the race).
For those keen to save up, the cost in SGD (RM in ( )) for our trip is as follows:
- Registration Fee 42
- Hotel 35
- Taxi(Singapore) 45
- Flight 90
- KLIA Express x 2 27 (70)
- LRT x6 2.7 (7)
- Meals x 4 23.1 (60)
- Misc(Drinks+Snacks) 15.4 (40)
- Total 270.2
So start saving a dollar a day (and watch out for hotel/flight deals) and you’ll see that doing an overseas run – at least the SCKLM, is really not that hard to save up for.
Perhaps you could join us when we make the trip next year.