Standard Chartered KL Marathon

This is not actually a race report.

It is an account of a much more fulfilling and satisfying experience. An experience that comes from doing something that has a bigger purpose.

Care2Mentor & Care2Run
As some of your know, when time permits, I help out at a Community Running Project known as Care2Run. You can find out more about what they do and why they do it here…

Firstly before I share this story, I’d like to thank all the hard work of its Organising Committee and in particular Prem Kumar Ramadas for getting this small community project to be a part of the Standard Chartered Foundation guest list at this year's Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon.

Thanks must go to Standard Chartered’s generosity too as not only were we given complimentary slots for the children involved in this project but they got to experience this huge and spectacular event in a special hospitality tent which included a buffet breakfast fit for the VVIP’s that they all are!

As an ex banker myself I don’t mind confessing that I had become a rather cynical old fart (can I say that here if not replace it with “f#@t” in terms of the world of financial services) and the wider world of corporate hospitality that was for spoilt and overpaid corporate executives benefits than real people.

However, I’m delighted to say that the Corporate Affairs team at Standard Chartered have done a huge amount to soften this cynical perspective of mine and I’d like to publicly salute them for their support and help in making the morning so special for the 4 Mentees I ran with and the 36 others that the other Care2Run volunteers ran with.

Our roles as Mentors was to escort, motivate, coach, pace, occasionally cajole, and frequently restrain them from sprinting off and getting carried away with the excitement racing only to “puncture” before the finish line.

In some cases, trying to keep up with the children who were participating, was also an important and essential part of our role too. This, as you’ll see from the picture below of me, was, at time, a struggle for many of us. As, despite the fact that many of the children were doing what was their first long/middle distance run and participating at their first large international sporting event. All of them were up to the challenge and demonstrated great determination and fortitude to not only keep going, they not only finished but they finished strong. 

Running with Brendan
Seeing so many people so early in the morning was scary for me so it must have been incredibly intimidating for most of the children. Whilst quietly admitting to me that they were nervous, they all still looked incredibly calm and focused though which was to everyone’s credit.  

My specific job was to help Brendan & Parthivan my two team mates from the recent PAR-XII Relay run try to go under 1 hour for the 10km run. Because of their potential we had been assigned along with 2 other runners who were to be looked after by Willem to the “Speed” version of the 10km run which flagged of at 6:45am.

Speaking with both Boy’s prior to the event I had learnt that their primary objective was obviously to finish having never done anything like this before. When I asked them to be more specific in terms of what sort of time they wanted to do they both decided on doing the distance in an hour was good enough.

After explaining the mathematics to them, in terms of this would mean that they’d need to run 10 six minute kilometers and the fact that they were capable of running 3 kilometers at around four minute pace which is what they’d achieved in the PAR Relay event. After a little cajoling on my part they re-set themselves a “stretch target” of doing a sub 50 minute 10km.

I have always adopted this concept personally in all of my endeavours and since then have encouraged everyone I work with or influence outside of work (including my own children) to do the same thing.

So, irrespective of how they ran, I was really impressed with the way that both Brendan and Parthivan grasped this concept, and decided to “raise the bar” for themselves with such an ambitious goal.

After a little warm up we entered the “holding pen” and quietly and politely worked our way through the crowd so we could at least see the starting arch.

The first few lessons I wanted the boys to learn was the importance of positioning themselves at the start and of giving themselves the best possible opportunity of being the best they could be. As importantly though I didn’t want them starting too close to the start and going out as a consequence too fast.

As a result, I deliberately held them back from getting too close to start line where they could get caught up in the usual euphoria of the start and end up being sucked along in the usual stampede that always follows the sounding of the starters gun.

So just with any other mass start we actually shuffled along with the rest of the tide of people and crossed the start line some 30-40 seconds after the gun had gone. This was close enough to the front so as not to be too crowded but far enough away from the real Elites and those ego laden runners that think it’s cool to sprint for the 1st 200-300 metres and then start walking because they have run out of puff.

As a result, I was able to get the Boy’s settled in to a nice rhythmic pace right from the off. This was set in my mind at their stretch target time of five minute per kilometre pace and all that remained now was the next 10 kilometres and whether they would have the strength of mind to keep this pace up.

Usually while I am running I am only conscious of what is happening inside of me and perhaps what or who is immediately around me in terms of the impact this has on me. It was interesting though that this time running as a Coach/Mentor/Pacer for the Boys’ I became acutely aware of their breathing and completely forgot about my own.

I found it fascinating that in spite of all the ambient noise around me from the supporters on the streets and the footfall of the other runners’ around us that I could hear so clearly the breathing of both Brendan & Parthivan who were a several paces behind me.

It made me think that despite my age, my hearing wasn’t that bad after all. It also reminded me that when we focus on something it is actually amazing what we can do and I was, I confess totally focused on the Boy’s and, this fact added a new really good feeling to my running.

We proceeded steadily through the streets of Kuala Lumpur sticking wherever possible to the sides of the road so that our rhythm wasn’t disrupted and so that we could cruise past most of those ego burdened runners who’d predictably dashed off at the start and before we knew it we were at the first water station at the 2.5km marker.

As we approached the aid station I reminded the Boy’s of the tips I had given them before the race on how to collect their water and take what they needed without stopping and how to behave in terms of being grateful (Thanking the Marshal’s) and ethical (Throwing their litter in the bins provided).

Although not needing fluid, I led the way at this first station to show them how this was done in practice and I’m delighted to say that they executed the routine perfectly with the 3 of us being the only ones in the group of runners at that moment in time to pass through the aid station to engage the volunteers with a sincere and heartfelt “Thank You”.

Shortly after this we turned on to Jalan P Ramlee where we got a great morning view of the Petronas Twin Towers (still a jaw dropping spectacle for me and definitely for them) and before we knew it we’d gone down Jalan Ampang and were back on Jalan Sultan Ismail heading through the 5km Marker.

Both Boy’s were sounding comfortable still and confirmed this in my conversation with them both, although I detected a hint of hesitancy in both of their voices, and suspected that we might be hitting the equivalent of their “wall” soon.

Right on cue as we passed the 6km marker and turned on to Jalan Kuching heading towards the hill of Jalan Parliament I sensed that both boys had started to become a bit more laboured. So, I told them what I felt and that I was going to back off the pace a bit to help their heart rate and breathing recover for the hill of Jalan Parliament that would be approaching shortly.

They gave me a relieved looking nod and we slowed slightly to a 6 minute per kilometre pace. As I did so, I told them not to worry about the time as they’d done brilliantly up to this point and to relax and refocus energy on their breathing.

At the foot of the hill they took on water at what was the 3rd aid station and we all used the sponges to help cool us for the hill of Jalan Parliament where I reminded them to focus on the form and technique for running hill’s with a slightly shorter stride and a more pronounced powerful arm action.

As we turned into the Lake Garden area at the top of the hill the Boy’s breathing had, despite the hill, impressively returned to normal and I told them that we were now going to use the great job they’d done of running the hill to our benefit by using gravity to our advantage as I knew that we now had almost a kilometre of down hill ahead of us.

As a result, I used one of my favourite feelings for running with them and asked them to imagine that they were now water flowing down a mountain stream. This obviously increased our pace which as we went through the 8km marker was almost exactly 40 minutes.

At the bottom of the hill with just over 1km to go we reached the last aid station which strangely had no bins. I told the Boy’s not to worry about this and to just hold on to their cups as I could see some normal street bins up ahead that we could use.

Sadly, Parthivan either did not hear me or I had said it a little too late as he’d already dropped his cup and shouted out “Sorry Coach”. I was about to say “It’s OK” but before I could, I realised that young Brendan, to his immense credit, had seen what happened and had stopped to pick the dropped cup up and was now struggling to reconnect back with Parthivan and I.

As he did so Parthivan thanked him and this as well as Brendan’s attentiveness really impressed upon me that this wasn’t just running this was really caring behaviour too. This not only brought a lump to my throat and a tingle to the hairs on the back of my neck but also typified the way these two young men had supported each other all the way around the race course.

We slowed momentarily to help Brendan get back with us and when he did I could see that he was definitely feeling the pace a little more than Parthivan was now. As we rounded the National Mosque with 1km to go I sensed that Parthivan wanted to start pushing for home and I told him that if he wanted to press on to finish strong, as we’d discussed, he could do so.

Being a little younger and naturally more impetuous than Brendan this was the equivalent to the jockey dropping the reins for a thoroughbred racehorse. As no sooner had I said this Parthivan had scampered off ahead by about 10-15 metres or so.

I remained with Brendan and reassured him that there was still a way to go yet and that we would most probably catch Parthivan so long as he stayed relaxed and used the time remaining wisely to getting his breathing back under control.

Sure enough as we emerged out of the tunnel and crested the final incline for the run in to Merdeka Square and the finish line Brendan too had a kick left for the finish line and the 2 of them out kicked me to cross the line within a second or two of each other and complete their sub 50 minute 10kms.

Parthivan Sprinting towards the Finishing Line
We high fived each other and then waited as near to the finish line as we could for our other Care2Run runners to finish. While we were waiting they told me how elated and amazingly fresh they felt. I explained that this was because of the amazing job they had done and the body’s ability to reward us when we do amazing things physically with things called “endorphins”.

We were then reminded that we were in a VIP viewing area and asked to move on to another area where we found Willem and his two charges. They had been literally only a few steps behind us as well and after congratulating each other we all found our way to the hospitality area that the kind people at the Standard Chartered Foundation had given Care2Run runners access to and where the Boy’s were reunited with Prem, Mee Ling and the rest of the Care2Run support crew.

Care2Run Junior Mentors
I then jogged as quickly as my rather aching Achilles Tendon would allow me (it – the right one in particular - really doesn’t like me running on roads these days) over to the start line so that I could join Arun & Dash for their 5km run.

Luckily, thanks to our distinctive Care2Run tops (great job on those Prem btw) I spotted Rachel on the start line and squeezed in to let her know I was there to help her with the two boys. She was pretty relieved as otherwise she’d have had 5 kids to look after.

While the Girl from Hitz FM (sorry I have forgotten her name) was doing a great job of talking up the crowd, I gave the boys a similar little “pep” talk regarding do’s and do not’s at the aid stations and added a warning to Arun specifically not to go off too fast as I’d run with him before and he really was a Gazelle that needed to work on his pacing so as not to be eaten by this English Lion ;-)

I set him the challenge to stay together and to help me help Dash who was looking, bless him, a little nervous versus Arun who was like the excitable Springbok that he is ;-)

The 5km was I learned at the start line an untimed “Fun” Run. However, both Boy’s pleasingly confirmed that “fun” for them meant the same as for me. Namely, we’d maximise our fun by not puncturing or walking and running to be the best we could be. As a result once the gun went off we set off at a steady pace with maybe only 3-4 other like-minded but older “Racing Snakes” ahead of us.

The route for the 5km went straight down Jalan TAR until it joined the 10km, 21km & 42km routes on Jalan Sultan Ismail and at this point we lost sight of those 3-4 “Racing Snakes” ahead of us. This seemed to disappoint the Boy’s as they clearly wanted to race but I reminded them that we needed not to worry about them as we were not racing them but ourselves today and our focus was to stay strong and go the distance.

As with the Boy’s on the 10km therefore I got them focusing on their breathing as Dash in particular had a really shallow breathing pattern and I knew almost from the off that he was going to struggle.

Along Jalan Kuching there was a timing mat which the Boy’s ran wide of and didn’t cross. Despite the 5km run being untimed I told them to turn around and run back the way they had come and to make sure they run over the mat. This was obviously not necessary given that it was an untimed race. However, I felt that it was a worthwhile and additional lesson for both of them so that when they did run a timed event in the future they’d be aware of the importance of this and could minimise the risk of not registering a time.

Pleasingly both took this lesson onboard fully and even more encouragingly young Arun was doing a great job of not only self managing himself but of also being very attentive to Dash who, by now, he too had sensed was struggling more than he was.

I stepped back and allowed Arun to coach and encourage young Dash and when Dash’s stitch became too painful for him allowed them both to walk him up the remainder of the hill of Jalan Parliament whilst the pain of the stitch subsided.

We all stuck together on the descent down to the National Mosque but as we turned the corner with just under 1km to go young Arun who was by now chomping at the bit threw me a look that basically said “Please Coach, Please Coach”. I simply said “Go on then” and off he scampered while I again reassured Dash that so long as he stayed strong and kept breathing deeply he’d finish strongly too.

Sure enough he did just that and we were probably 20 metres or so at the finish line behind Arun with them both running just over 28 minutes for their 5km which is very respectable. Arun could and will go significantly faster than this next time he runs of that I’m sure and so will Dash now that he’s got this run under his belt and started to understand the importance of relaxing and breathing whilst he runs.

Special thanks to Prem, Mee Leng & Elgy the founders of Care 2 Run and to Phooi Ee (aka Phebe) and Denise the Secretariat & Leadership Team for setting this most rewarding experience up for us all. As well as a final and sincere salute to acknowledge the generosity and sincerity of the Standard Chartered Foundation team and Corporate Affairs Office of Standard Chartered who have restored some of my faith in the fact that Banking does still have a sense of community despite the commercial pressures put on it today.

Most importtantly, thanks to Parthivan, Brendan, Arun & Dash for letting me run with you all. It was not only hugely rewarding for me it was a privilege and pleasure helping you to be the best you could be and I look forward to running with you again soon.

The Big Family of Care2Run
Over n Out for now

The TriHard Rustman


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