Hit the trails and learn lessons on running humility and caring for the forest, writes Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan.
THROUGH my little experience in road running and even lesser in trail running, I find this statement to be true - If you want to test the limits of your body, run on the road. If you want to teach yourself humility, hit the trails.
And the Kiara trails (often used by mountain bikers and hikers alike), located at the tail end of Taman Tun Dr. Ismail and bordering Desa Sri Hartamas, is the perfect place to be humbled without having to drive too far out.
I’m pretty sure many runners, especially those who are on the slower side, would agree with me on this. En route to the finishing line, at the final vertical climb made of earth and rocks, a Chinese male runner made a joke in Malay. “Sekarang mau nangis pun air mata takda keluar punya tau.” (There won’t be any tears even if you were to cry now).
Another girl in tudung raised her palms and said a prayer, that this be the final incline. She couldn’t take another ascent, she confessed. She even asked my husband and I to say “Aamiin” to her prayers.
Another male runner, who was sitting down for a rest as I passed by, said: “Inilah namanya buang tabiat. Bayar mahal-mahal untuk seksa diri sendiri.” (This is what madness looks like. You pay so much only to torture yourself).
These conversations are funny in retrospect. But at that point, some runners just felt that they could not go on. If this was a road run, they could stop and hail a taxi home if they don’t feel like continuing.
Unfortunately, this is a jungle. To end the race, you need to come down to where you started.
TEST IN HUMILITY
In the race booklet, which the organiser e-mailed before the run, everyone had been amply warned. Do not overestimate yourself, it said. And do not underestimate the trails.
I had anticipated a difficult trail but I did not expect a crawling-level vertical climb. Nor did I expect stretches of pure rocks and sands, like the bed of a stream, minus the water.
I studied the elevation profile many times before the race but seeing those zig-zagging lines on paper and meeting the elevation face-to-face are two matters which disparity I cannot describe.
Some 600 runners were flagged off at Taman Lembah Kiara and they headed for the Kiara Hill, turning right a few hundred metres after the main gate into the trails.
It started easy enough on trails made up of soil and stones. But things got harder pretty soon, when runners need to run or walk their way up.
The main reason why I don’t run on trails often is I’m pretty hopeless on the stability side and an uneven terrain is, to me, an ankle accident waiting to happen. This explains why I decided to walk along some stretches, especially during descent. I’d rather finish slow than finish injured.
Somewhere at Km8, there was a leaked water pipe so water was splashing like rain and the surrounding area was as muddy as it gets. The authority should look into this and I hope they have. That’s a lot of wasted water there.
There were three major climbs and the third, at Km11, is the most difficult because the body was already tired and weary.
THE BEST PART
At Km12, I had already known that I would probably be the last few to arrive but I told myself I will return next year. The route is challenging and exciting. It punishes the unprepared but if you keep to a safe pace and keep your eyes on the ground, it is a cooling, exciting run that no road can replicate.
I had entered the race to discover the trails so I can explore it on my own later but by Km5, I could not find my bearing and had depended fully on other runners, and the red and white markers the organisers have placed to help runners navigate their way. There’s no way I can remember the route now if I were to go in alone.
This was my first race, where runners were asked to bring their own water bottles. There were containers at the water stations where we could refill out bottles at the taps.
I wish more races would take on this green stance because this eliminates the use of paper cups. Plus, it bothers me to see runners throwing away their cups along the race route as if those split seconds would make a difference if they are going to be a podium finisher.
I agree that organisers should put the responsibility back on the runners. If you need water, then bring your own. This will help eliminate wastage and less people are needed to man water stations.