With 6 direct flights daily, at less than 5 hours, Kuala Lumpar is never far away. Known as a cultural melting pot, while also boasting some of the most diverse and delicious foods in the region, makes it perfect for a destination race. The KL Marathon is organized by standard chartered bank and has been run consecutively since 1989. Now with more than 30,000 runners a year, we were eager to give this race a try.
Race Pack Pick Up
We arrived from Taiwan on Friday, the national holiday in Taiwan, 10/10 and headed into the city. We dropped off our stuff and headed immediately to “Dataran Merdeka” which would be the start, finish and the place for race pack collection. Something interesting about KL is that although they have a rather extensive transit system, consisting of train, LRT and monorail (and perhaps more) none of these are seemingly connected so this makes KL both accessible and confusing for tourists.
Race pack collection was well organized. There was a small maze to get from the entrance to the race collection counters, lined by sports company booths looking to sell or advertise their wears pre-race. We ended up getting complementary kinesiology tape and buying a Brooks shirt on discount.
Finally at the race collection counter, we were in and out within 5 minutes at the most, and although we were there on a Friday (I’m sure Saturday would have been packed with people), the collection counter was set up for the efficient movement of thousands of people.
I really enjoyed my race singlet, it had a feminine cut and fit nicely, there were on the other hand complaints from men that the men’s singlet fit nicely by width, but it was a little short for most.
At last, it was race morning. we were up at 3:00 am and eager to get to the starting point. There were free LRT rides for race morning advertised all over the city from 3-6am. Although tempting, we were familiar with the transit system being a bit confusing and opted instead for a cab.
We went for a light warm up and left our stuff down stairs before lining up at the starting line, where we were informed that there would be more than 5000 other runners in the full marathon alone. We were also introduced to the pacers that would be running for finishing times between 3:30 and 6 hours, at half hour intervals.
Finally, the gun went off and it took a few minutes for us to get out of the gate but the course was wide and surprisingly we were able to maneuver around and find a comfortable running place within the first 500 meters.
The beginning of the course wound through the brightly lit downtown area. Deepavali, the Hindu festival of lights is on Oct 22nd, 2014 and the city was decorated with lights all through the streets. There were also entertainers playing drums and other
instruments for passing runners. Around kilometer 2 we ran past the infamous twin towers of KLCC and this seemed to be a landmark throughout the race as it can be seen from almost anywhere on the course.
From the KLCC towers, we ran through a section of KL that housed most of the world’s embassies, each with their own individual style. Next was a brief jaunt through the “Golden Triangle” a popular night clubbing spot in KL. As it was still the wee hours of Sunday morning, there were people standing outside the clubs to drunkenly cheer us on as we kept running.
Kilometer 6 took us out of downtown and on to the highway where we would run overlooking the city to kilometer 33. The view of the city, as overlooked from the highway is nice, and as an evening perspective, the city is quiet, which you might not otherwise ever see. Between kilometer 10 and 17, runners are on either side of the highway so you can spot the first runners pass and cheer them on from afar. Around km 16 we could here the Azan from Surau Al-ikhlasiah, the call to prayer at the mosque on just the other side of the highway. We could not see it, because of the high sound barriers for the highway, but could hear the calling for at least a kilometer.
This long highway section of the marathon was certainly the most mentally challenging, as we ran nearly 27km on different sections of highway as its rolling hills took us through different sections of KL, but the scenery was mostly unchanging. The sun slowly rose, which was surreal after running almost 2 hours in darkness.
Finally we veered off the highway and through some of the wealthier suburbs of KL. Here the roads quietly wound through the houses and we even saw some monkeys crossing the road. There is a large section of tropical forest in this part of Kuala Lumpur with bird and butterfly parks surrounding a lush forested ravine. This was in quite a contrast to the previous section of the course, here it was tranquil and the running crowd around us had thinned.
Eventually, for the last 4 kms of the race, all running groups combined on the way to the finish line. This entire length of 4 lane road was closed off for the race and divided in 2, one section for the marathoners and half marathoners and one section for runners of the 5 and 10 km distances. But at more than 33,000 overall participants, this final stretch was still a little crowded and it was difficult to maneuver around some slower groups of people.
Finally we rounded the corner onto the last stretch, it was approximately 8am and the crowd was amazing! Everyone was cheering, with some holding up signs “You are all Kenyans to me” and “You run better than the government” I couldn’t help but smile all the way to the end.
Overall it was a great race, great crowd, there were plenty of aid stations, the volunteers were great and everything was organized for efficiency for these 33,000 participants. The only criticism was that when all of the running groups combined toward the final kilometers it became congested for some of the faster runners. Other than that fantastic run! See you next year KL!
Find the Garmin course map here.