|At the finishing line…|
The Energizer Night Race 2011 is touted as one the premier running event in Malaysia. It features a full 42.2 km marathon, a half marathon, an 11 km run and a 5.5 km fun run (yours truly had entered the fun run). What makes this race special is that it is held at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC), home of Malaysia’s Formula One race and that is enough to send people scrambling to enter. Well over ten thousand runners of all shapes and sizes had entered and the build up to the race is phenomenal. Everyone was talking about the Energizer Night Race (ENR) and after reading this Race Report, you will understand why everyone will continue to talk about it for years to come (though not for the reasons you might think).
The race is held at night (it’s not called ENR for nothing) which is a bit unusual for running events as most events begins in the wee hours of the morning. This time, I had no problem with lack of sleep as I did in the last 2 running events I entered- The FT Day 2011 7 km run and The 2011 World Kidney Run 5 km run. I had an easy day the day before the ENR and woke up fresh and full of energy. There was a heavy downpour in the morning so it was really cool and pleasant when the rain ended. I was optimistic- ‘This is going to be a great day and I can end it with a great race’.
The day went by quickly and before I knew it it was time to go. According to the schedule, the races were supposed to start as follows:
Marathon 8:00 PM
Followed by half marathon
Followed by 5.5 km fun run at 8:30 PM
ARRIVAL AT VENUE
I was a bit miffed that we had to arrive at the SIC by 6:00 PM to pick up the headlights that we were supposed to wear during the run. I figured if I arrived at 6 and got my headlights, what am I supposed to do for 2 1/2 hours? The promise of a carnival and fair didn’t appeal to me at all and if I could help it I would forego the headlights and arrive at 8, warm up for half hour and just run. Being a good sport and all, we decided to go and get the headlights. Maybe it’ll be fun to run around with a torch on my forehead.
|Arriving at the main entance|
We arrived at about 6 and went to park the car. I had been to Formula One races before and parking the car was a pain. If you’re lucky, you only need to walk for 20 minutes before you get to the main entrance. If you’re unlucky (as I was then) the walk could last for more than half an hour. I was really chuffed when the car park was only 5 minutes away from the main entrance. Had to pay RM10 though which didn’t feel right. But the excitement of the event was high so I just paid the parking attendant. The car park was getting filled quickly with other runners. It was 6 PM. Only 2 1/2 hour of loitering to go through.
It took us about 5 minutes to get from the car park to the main entrance and another 10 minutes from the main entrance to the grandstand. The SIC is a glorious venue and has hosted Formula One races for over 10 years.
IT IS HUGE.
|Through the main entrance. There’s still a long walk to get to thegrandstand.|
When the F1 races are on, the grounds of the SIC will be filled with people. Tonight, even ten thousand competitors can’t fill even a small part of it. It really looked deserted when we went through the Main entrance.
It was 6:15 and there was an air of excitement.
There were teams of families, friends and office mates. There were the lone rangers, coming alone and obviously very focussed on what’s coming ahead.
|This way to the tunnel|
Arriving at the grandstand, there was a sign asking all runners and competitors to proceed down the stairs into the pit lane area. Now this is the beginning of what could be the most dramatic running event I have ever entered (and I don’t think anything can top this in the future).
THE TUNNEL OF DEATH
To get to the pit lane, we had to go through about 4 flights of stairs, through a tunnel which probably is about 50 metres long and up 3 flights of stairs. I felt a bit strange going through the tunnel. It would have been much easier to get to the pit lane from the grandstand area. You have to cross the track itself but still, it would have been more appealing than having to go through what is now known by such names as the ‘Tunnel of Death’, the ‘Tunnel of Doom’, the ‘Tunnel of Suffering’ and the ‘Tunnel of Hell’.
|Going into the tunnel|
It was so hot and stuffy. Being a running event, one would have thought that the organisers would want to keep the runners as comfortable as possible. But still, I thought this is the SIC and there are lots of rules they have to adhere to. So we braved the heat and the lack of air and made our way through the tunnel. Though at this point I did feel like unsuspecting cattle being led to the slaughter house. It was that bad.
We emerged at the other end safe and sound (maybe a little bit cranky) only to be faced with another challenge.
The time was 6:30 PM and the air of excitement was turning a bit sour.
All runners are supposed to be given the Energizer headlight and that was the reason for coming so early. I don’t know why but the headlights were given out in a small room as you ascended the stairs at the end of the tunnel. So you have people stuck in the tunnel below because a queue had formed above for the headlights to be distributed and that area was even more hot and stuffy then the tunnel. There were boxes and boxes of the headlights being distributed by 2 people. I pity the people still stuck in the tunnel. More and more people had arrived and we were relieved to have gotten out headlights so that we could head out to fresh air.
The time was 6:45 PM and we’re just glad we are not in the tunnel anymore.
We still had just under 2 hours to go before the 5.5 km starts so we decided to go to the carnival organised near the pit lane area.Well, carnival is a bit of an overstatement. More like a few stages and stalls. It didn’t feel like a carnival at all and it took us all of 5 minutes to get the carnival over and done with.
The time was 6:55 PM and we want to just get the race over and done with.
BACK TO THE TUNNEL OF DEATH (TWICE)
Our original intention was to get the headlights then head back to the car and chill there while eating some fruits and food we had brought with us. I knew then that that was probably the wrong strategy and had wished we had brought the food with us. Because it meant that we had to go through the Tunnel of Death again. I had thought of not going back to the car and just hanging around the carnival but I was carrying a back pack and had my track bottoms on and I don’t want to run with them on. Leaving them at the baggage area was just not an option. So we braved the tunnel again. Going back to the tunnel against the flow of traffic was an interesting experience. I am not sure whether those going in for the first time knew what thy were heading to. You see a bunch of people (well, a huge bunch of people actually) still with enthusiasm and excitement heading in and a small bunch of less than enthusiastic people heading out. I wish them well.
|I’m still excited about the run|
The time was 7:10 PM and we’re glad to be back in the car in our own safe space.
We had our light dinner and chilled out for a few minutes before we decided to go back to the grandstand which meant going through the Tunnel Of Death again. This time the enthusiasm and excitement had all but disappeared and I can see that everyone just wanted to get the race over and done with. At the end of the tunnel where the headlights are distributed there were only empty boxes left.
No more headlights. They had run out.
The time was 7:30 PM and there are a lot of irritated people out there
At this point, things started to get chaotic.
THE MARATHON AND HALF MARATHON
I didn’t know where we were supposed to go. There were thousands of people in the pit lane area. The marathon was about to start and I didn’t have a clue where to assemble. Suddenly, there was a horn and a loud cheer.
|The marathon runners.|
The marathon had started.
And there was a mad rush.
This is probably the most memorable part of the night. Thousands of marathoners to inspire us mere fun runners.
One day I’ll be in that group. But not today. Today I’m just a little minnow.
There were still marathon runners in the pit lane who didn’t have a clue what was going on. You can see them trailing behind. I feel so sorry for them. It’s important to start the run on a positive note and starting late will just make them lose their rhythm. I hope they can forget the start and settle dow.
|Half Marathon runners..|
10 minutes later, the half marathon started and again, a mad rush and lot’s of cheers and claps and again lots of late starters.
It’s unfortunate that not all the runners managed to get themselves the headlights. I can still see people desperately trying to find headlights. A few people came up to me and asked me where I got them. I told them that they had run out of them. It’s so sad to see the look on their faces.
Now it’s time for the 5.5 km runners to assemble.
The time is 8:15 and I’m wondering what the heck is going on.
LINING UP FOR THE 5.5 KM FUN RUN
It’s supposed to start at 8:30 and I still have some warming up to do. We proceeded to the starting line and memories of the Tunnel of Death came back. We were squeeshed and squashed and packed tightly. I wanted to be at the back so that I can avoid the mad rush but I found myself right in front of the pack. There were a few thousand runners behind me. Not the best thing for a slow starter like me.
The MD of SIC were given the honour of flaging us off. After the usual banter of ‘Are you ready’, the horn was blown and the race had started.
The time was 8:21 PM and I’m running.
|The start of the 5.5 km fun run|
I always get caught up in the adrenaline of the start of the races I’ve been in. Tonight I wanted to take it easy at the beginning so that I can finish hard. As I was at the head of the pack I had to run faster than I intended at the beginning. My heart rate raced up to 85% and I couldn’t slow down. But you know what. I had me a lot of fun. I eventually settled in at my normal pace and my heart rate went down to 80% after the first 500 m. This is the famous turn at the SIC where lots of overtaking takes place by the F1 drivers.
SETTLING IN TO MY RHYTHM
By this time I was smiling and just enjoying the run. I looked around and I saw people of all shapes and sizes run beside me.
There were the seasoned runners looking very smooth and the obvious novice runners who were trying to overcome the pain of running.
There were the groups of friends an colleagues taking pictures at every available opportunity, smiling at and laughing with each other.
There were family teams of husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brother and sisters looking to create memories of each other.
There were the photographers runners, running around with huge dSLRs taking pics of other runners.
There were the thin ones, the not so thin ones, the tall and the short.
Then there’s me.
I’ve been running for about 6 months now and this is the third race of my life. I wouldn’t call myself a seasoned runner nor does novice seems to suit me. I just wanted to run and enjoy the moment. I do tend to run with a smile on my face and it does seem weird. Lina, being a faster runner than me, had said good bye and sped off into the darkness ahead. We had agreed that we would never allow the other to hold ourselves back. So I ran alone in the midst of thousands.
The time was 8:35 PM and I’m smiling.
I saw a funny thing during the run. There were some people who were cutting corners, actually not corners, they were cutting across the grass and sometimes cutting a few hundred metres off. I don’t want to judge them but hey. It’s a race and there are rules you know. If you can’t handle the running then walk.
I looked around desperately for race marshalls but there were none around.
AT THE HALFWAY POINT
It’s really a thrill to run at the SIC. And I have to say the view was spectacular. Imagine thousands of runners with headlights (those who had them anyway) running. You can see the lights a mile away. It;s like a big city traffic jam at night with the cars bumper to bumper. Only difference was that the cars were human, the engine was the heart and the tyres were feet. The great thing about this race is that you can see the whole track sometimes and it was easy to imagine and visualise getting to a certain point.
I had settled into my normal pace of running and I was moving. Really moving. I was overtaking a lot of runners (OK they were not really competitive runners so overtaking them was easy and they don’t call this the fun run for nothing) and in my mind I was thinking, ‘out of the way please. Future triathlete coning through’. I tried to run near the edge of the track as much as possible so that I can take a few metres off the actual distance. I felt like a champion runner.
The half marathon runners had started to come from behind (the full marathoners were on another route) and any illusion I had about being a great runner sort of took a beating. They were fast. I mean really fast. I couldn’t catch up with them even if I tried. Even if I went full speed I couldn’t keep up with them.
Can that be me one day?
The time was 9:00 PM and I’m still smiling
THE WATER STATION
I had run for more than 30 minutes now and am wondering where the water station is. For short events like this I tend not to have to drink any water but i do like to soak my body with water to cool it down. When the water station finally came into view (about 1.5 km before the end, which is a bit late) I saw hundreds of people flocking around the station. It was chaotic so I didn’t bother to slow down. It was a bit surreal and strange to see cans of drink as well as big 1.5 litre bottles of watet littered all over the track. I would have thought the smaller bottles would be better. 1.5 litre bottles? I won’t carry one with me while I run and others felt the same I think. Most of the big bottles had lots of water left in them and I think those who took them only took a few sips of water before throwing them away. What a waste.
The time was 9:05 PM and I’m still smiling
|1 km to go|
THE FINAL 1 KM
Finally I saw the indicator for the final km and the rush came. I know I can run faster but wasn’t sure how long I can sustain a faster pace. I decided to hole back until I got to about 500m. It’s been a great run and apart from slowing down to take the picture of the last km indicator, I had run all the way. In the last 2 runs I had to to walk a few times to catch my breath. This time I ran even the 2 inclines didn’t give me much of a problem. When I turned the final corner I took off and ran as fast as I can. I saw the starting line and couldn’t see where the finishing line was. There were thousands of people walking around aimlessly at the finishing line.
THE FINISHING LINE
Where was the finishing line?
|At the finishing line|
I took a guess where the finishing line was and stopped.
The time was 9:11 PM and I’m done.
My time was 49 minutes which is a bit slower than I intended. I didn’t qualify for any personal medals tonight as I was aiming for at least a 45 minute time for a bronze.
But the time didn’t matter much time. This was probably the best run I ever did and I had a fantastic time running and felt a bit sorry I didn’t run the 11km.
THE MESS OF THE FINISH
I’m a pretty forgiving person and the feeling I had at the finishing line almost made up for the Tunnel of Death. But what happened after is beyond belief.
In the events I’ve entered, all finisher’s goodies were handed at the finishing line itself. You run the race, you finish the race, you get your stuff, you celebrate and you go home.
It was a mess at the finishing line for ENR. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go (and thousands didn’t have a clue either). I was looking around for race officials and organisers and couldn’t find any. There was a lady on the PA system shouting out instructions in the most unpleasant way possible. We decided to follow the crowd and went to the pit lane area. There were still runners running in the longer distances running the track and they had to go through thousands of people to continue their run.
The time was 9:35 and my smile is getting smaller.
|The queue. Is it worth it?|
We saw 2 queues and decided to join one until told that this is the queue for the 11 km. The queue for the 5.5 km is the other one. So we went to join that queue. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. The queue was that long. When we did join it I asked Lina,
‘I only have 1 question. Is this (pointing to the queue) worth it’?
And she said yes. So we queued and waited and waited and waited.
And waited some more. I went back to the carnival to buy some water and rejoined the queue.
And waited some more.
The time was 10:00 PM and I’m not smiling.
The queue was not moving. We saw bags being thrown out to the finishers and heard boos and cat calls. The doors of the hall where the finishers stuff was given is closed. I went to the front to find out what’s going on. Peeping through the window I saw the organisers arguing with runners, arguing with police, arguing with themselves. I asked around and found out that the theory is that the finishers bag was not packed and they were packing the items in now. I heard another theory that the organisers didn;t have enough people (which is true as I saw about 10 very worried looking people- 10 to handle 10 thousand is madness).
Things started getting out of hand and people (me included) were starting to get agitated.
|The Police came…|
Suddenly I saw a police 4WD driving in. This was getting out of hand. I had visions of the riot police with their shields and batons coming in to deal with these unruly runners.
There were still people running and completing their races. Imagined running for over 2 hours and nearly collapsing in exhaustion and no one to help them with water and medical treatment. The look on their faces just screams all the emotions they were feeling.
Suddenly, the Policeman in the 4WD made an announcement to the effect,
‘The Organisers have informed us that the bags wil be posted to all tunners. Please disperse and go home’.
The time was 10:27 PM and I was terrified.
BACK TO THE TUNNEL OF DEATH
As soon as I heard this I called Lina and told her to make her way as quickly as possible for the Tunnel of Death. I had visions of ten thousand people in the tunnel and we had to make a quick getaway. We don’t want to get caught in there with the others.
I think if I ran like that in the race I would complete it in less than half an hour. We met up just before the tunnel and made our way down and through the tunnel. The tunnel had now acquired an unsightly smell and ventilation was bad. The air was foul. People were cursing. The scene was like something out of a movie. It was as if an earthquake had occurred or like coming out of a war zone. Kids were crying. People were falling and collapsing.
I only had one thing on my mind. We must keep moving forward. No matter what. There was a crowd behind us and this crowd is not happy.
We finally emerged out of the Tunnel of Death and the cool air of the night felt so refreshing. Now we could relax. We made our way to the car hoping to get out of there as soon as possible. The quicker the better. We got in the car and made our exit. One thing on my mind.
The time was 11:00 PM and I’m still don’t feel safe.
It took us about another 20 minutes to get to the main road. Traffic had built up in the road before we get to the main road. We had forgotten about the marathon runners who were still out there. They had to run outside of the SIC track on the main road. And the police were monitoring the traffic. A few cars were allowed in the gaps between the runners.
When I got to the main road, I saw the marathon runners. Knowing all the chaos happening inside, my thoughts were for them. Running in the dark, without adequate fueling stations, often alone. Marathon runners are inspiring anyway but the marathoners last night were truly inspirational.
We honked and cheered the marathoners as they passed by us in the main road and the smile they gave in return was awesome.
I will never forget one particular marathon runner. An amputee with his right hand missing (all the way to the elbow I think). I hollered at him and cheered him on and he smiled back.
Wow. I thought we suffered but I know it’s nothing like the suffering they have to endure both during the race and the nightmare that awaits them at the end.
The ENR has a FACEBOOK Fan Page and over the last 24 hours, everyone us united with a common purpose of expressing their dissatisfaction over the way the race was conducted.
There as so many unhappy people out there and can we blame them. I won’t write anything that I myself had not been a witnessed but some of the stuff that went on last night is beyond belief.
People run for many reasons.
Some to change their lives.
Others to prove a point.
Some like me because I love to run.
I really don’t care much for the goodies bag anymore, but after reading a lot of the posts here, it’s unforgivable that they made what should have been what dreams are made off into a nightmare.
For me, I just want to remember how I ran. Despite all the drama, the run itself was fantastic.And of course, I’ll always remember that one armed marathon runner. You are an inspiration to me and I’ll never forget that smile.
IMPORTANT ADDENDUM TO THIS RACE REPORT
I am happy to add that the one armed marathon runner I mentioned is none other than Adam Kamis of 1armrunner.blogspot.com. What an inspiring runner.
18 April 2011
For Race Reports by other runners see list below:
from Trying to Tri – Energizer Night(mare) Run 2011
Allan Malcolm – Energizer Night Race