I heard the first time about The Great Relay back when they announced this year KL edition. At that time I didn’t think I would join this race but James Willis (aka “Running on old legs”) posted on Facebook about how cool it would be to run this race. I liked the post, even commented and didn’t I know at that time that I was already part of the team !
I didn’t have to look for team mates, James took care of everything. Fast forward few months later in March I met Jeri Chua the Race Director for The Great Relay races. She was a speaker at the Malaysian Women Marathon 2016 and few of us at the Malaysian Ultra Runners Association had dinner with Jeri and the other speaker Stephanie Case. We spoke about the race and after that, I was sure it would be a cool race with great ambiance. Our team name was “Mere mortals running”, a reference to Running on Old Legs and we had team TShirts with the cool logo of James’ blog !
The race format
Basically you have to run multiple times a simple loop of 3.5km in Kepong Metropolitan park. It’s a nice jogging place, quite large and well maintained. It has flat sections for about 2/3 of the loop and a rolling hill section with ups and downs. Not much to be honest if you run one loop but after more loops, with the heat (there is barely any shade on the running track) it can become a challenge. The lowest point is at 54m whole the highest (2 of them) is at 72m. Not much if you think of it from an endurance race point of view…
The view is really nice. You have a running track on most of the loop which is nice at place (not great) and at other sections very hard. Wearing sandals, I feel these differences and I preferred running on the tarmac not on the track. If you want to see more about the park, you can have a look at this blog page: http://runningtortoise.enaphotography.com/2013/01/27/running-spots-kepong-metropolitan-park/
It’s a relay race where you have to run only one lap then pass the baton to one of your team mate. The teams can be 2, 4 or 6 individuals in men only, women only and mixed categories. The distance is either 50km or 100km. Most of the team were registered on the 50km while the 100km had only 8 teams, most of 4 runners and one with 6 runners. Runners have a bib each which is number 1 to 4 or 6. They have to run by order of bib. The organiser is flexible if changes need to be done (swaps, ..) provided the team is keeping the order of the bibs.
In addition to the main race, there was a kids race organised by one of the sponsors – Ash be nimble – where the kids were either running in a team with other kids or with their parents. There was a loop of 300m on the grass that was to be repeated 5 times with passing the baton at each lab. Quite a cool way of having a fun time as a family.
Before the race
The Bib collection was at Ash be nimble HQ in TTDI. I collected the Bibs and TShirts for 4 team in total in Midvalley from my friend Ash who brought them for me. In fact his wife Hui created Ash be nimble. Special delivery 🙂 I collected the Bibs for my team – Mere mortals running – and for the 2 Mont Kiara Running Club and the Ash Beard Nimble teams. There were plenty of information on the web site and the Facebook page of the race. Also in the last few days couple of emails were sent to participants (those who registered the teams) who then had the responsibility to share it with their team mates.
I arrived at the race site on the saturday around 5:45am. There was ample parking at that time of the day (not the case during the day as it’s a very popular recreation place for families). The site had toilets beside the parking, however those were found to open only at 7:30am. I did all my business prior to arriving at the race, so I was not bothered but some runners had to walk across the highway to go to the Petron petrol station via a flyover pedestrian bridge… 800m round trip ! Not everyone was happy certainly and the briefing was nearly delayed because some were still on the way back. I think having a portable toilet (1 or 2) would haver helped everyone. My experience during the race was that the main toilet which was beside carpark was near enough (unless you are a team of 2 !!!!).
The race site was big enough with lots of grass. There were canopies which were to be used for the sponsors providing stuff (food, massage, medics, …). During the afternoon, runners were flocking under those due to the scorching sun. Some canopies for runners would have been great. Seems some runners from MKRC knew about it as they came with their own canopy ! Smart felas 😀
Time can be long in between your runs, but there is sufficient things happening (kids race, yoga, massage, ice cream free flow, food, …). I took the time in the afternoon to take a nap… feels good after !
The race was a good one, very competitive on the 100km. I decided to run my laps on a slightly faster pace than tempo pace. Usually I do typo pace on a relatively flat place early or late in the evening, not during the day. So I had decided that targeting an average of 5mn/km would be good considering we would run throughout the day, which meant that the first few laps would have to be slightly faster to compensate for the later ones.
I did 2 laps in position number 2 then had to swap to position number 4 in order to have time for the Kids race where my wife and kids were taking part. In total I did 7 laps, 4 of which were wearing the Xero Z-Trek (minimum cushioning) and 3 wearing the Xero Z-Trail (more cushioning) for the last 3 laps.
Usually up to 35 km I would stay with the Z-Trek however the pace being a fast tempo run and not an ultra one, my legs were taking more beating. That usually results in slowing down and therefore more cushioning was helpful to compensate that effect of tireness.
However looking at the splits it seems I started slowing down when I changed slippers… funny or just the consequence of the heat and my timing would have been worse with the Z-Trek ? I certainly have to try to push my limits wearing the Z-Trek and the Z-Trail to benchmark how best I perform say on the road for certain distances. It might be worth starting with the Z-Trail or simply wearing them only when the feet say ‘cannot anymore’ !
My team mates were very dedicated, that’s the drill for a relay you might slow down for yourself but you don’t because you run for the team. When we finished, there couple of teams still running for about 2 to 3 hours more. In the end our timing was not bad I think. There are two things that basically “make” your result here:
- How fast you are on the distance – that’s pure speed and based on how fast is your tempo pace and race pace on short distance
- How well you handle the afternoon heat – here ultra runners are definitely at an advantage training wise
Below the final results for the 100k, we did well I think.
The kids race
As mentioned earlier, there was a kids race organised by Ash Be Nimble. 5 loops of 300m with one kid running for each loop. I “ran” this one with my wife and 2 kids. We alternated so that the elder one can run with us, the youngest one too and the last lap just the eldest one. It was cool, everyone was a winner, which is what matters and everyone had fun. The kids were getting a medal (paper with drawing pen) and a Ash Be Nimble Shirt. The loop was on the grass and I went there barefoot… ironically I suffered more there than on the road because some of the grass was hard and sharp 😀
The race was nicely organised and both Jeri and Vlad were great as emcees. Great stuff happening during the race to keep all participants happy, interested, … Only point to improve is the covered areas for the sun but also in case it’s raining. Amazing performance from my buddies from the Mont Kiara Running Club (basically nearly 3 teams in the top 4 !). A great thanks to all the volunteers (many known faces) This race is a must do at least once with your buddies !
Photography credit to Kenny Foo, James Willis, Rany Tan, Chan Wk and myself (the crap photos !).