Malaysia Women Marathon 2013: Malaysia’s First All-Women Marathon

This post goes out to a few people, a few incredible women in my life, one to whom I owe my existence, and the rest who have contributed in some way or another in shaping me into the person I am today. First shout out goes to my Mummy, who is the strongest, toughest and most beautiful lady I’ve ever known; my sisters, who are every bit as capable as the next girl when they put their hearts into striving for what they want; my best friends, whom I know will always have my back as I have theirs; to you, if you’re reading this and happen to be a girl; and last but not least, to all the women in the world, who may not have the same opportunities and freedom some of us do but strive everyday nonetheless with all they’ve got to make their marks in the world.

When I first caught news of this marathon, I knew almost immediately that I was signing up the moment I got home and was within access of my computer. It was not even an option. It was something I knew I had to do. Online registration makes registering for so many different things such a breeze, does it not? Hehehe.

There were a few other things that enticed me about it. Firstly of course, was that it was gonna be run in and about I-City, Shah Alam, a place that was quite foreign to me (I’ve been there only one other time before this race). Secondly, I was of the impression that the entire race was gonna be accompanied by pretty LED-lit trees because that was, after all, what I-City was known for — their colourful neon trees. But the biggest and main reason why this race was as good as mandatory for me to run, was because it was gonna be Malaysia’s first ever all-women marathon, a race founded and dedicated solely to the empowerment of women.

I can’t think of a better reason and cause to run for.

After asking around, I found out that my two best running buddies would be running this race too. These were incredibly strong ladies who have been running marathons way before I even bought my first pair of running shoes. Khai Sim would be doing the half alongside me, and Michelle, being the impossibly capable girl she is, the full. Let’s get this party started! Woo-hoo!

We arrived at the place a good hour before take-off, just to have a look. Word on the vine was that some sort of small carnival was being organized so there were a lot of activities and food stalls set up to celebrate this virgin all-women race. Plus I was really hoping to bump into the the Guest of Honour of this entire marathon, who have flown in all the way from the US to speak a few words on women sports, performance and health.

Just being there among so many independent, strong and powerful women psyched me up to unimaginable heights about the coming race. The air was buzzing with this unexplainable excitement, and just standing there breathing in the cold night air sent the biggest and most electrifying waves of anticipation coursing through my muscles every five minutes. We were all very soon gonna be a part of history in the making. How often does a girl get to say that?

I have a run a total 7 marathons prior to this, yet none have ever felt as meaningful as this one. All the previous races, they were for myself, a personal yardstick of sorts to continually improve and test myself with every finish line I cross. Time time, I was going to be running for something much bigger than just me, myself and I. I was going to be running for a much bigger reason than just a sense of self satisfaction.

Wearing my race numbers never made me felt so proud to be called a runner than that morning. Wear it loud and wear it proud, you know? Khai Sim looks a bit red in the face here because she is very painfully sunburnt from a Frisbee tournament she had just come from the day before haha. This girl ran on only 2 hours of sleep after close to 10 hours in the sun running after a disk! She is amazing.

And then I saw her, the woman who revolutionized the whole marathon scene for her gender all over the world, and possibly the entire competitive sports arena as well.

I don’t know why but just seeing her was such a fan-girl moment for me lol. I was squealing non-stop to the Ninja Rabbit and bouncing on the balls of my feet trying to get a better sight of her.

Kathrine Switzer is the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon. Her historic race in 1967, changed the rules of marathon forever. The Boston Marathon had been a male-only event for a good 70 years. People didn’t believe women could run a marathon, nor did they think they should. Isn’t that disgusting? To think this was almost 50 years after women were allowed to vote!

She registered under her initials K.V. Switzer so no one suspected she was a girl and ran the race wearing lipstick. Some of the guys were very amused to see a girl participating in a marathon and asked for photos, but others were not so supportive. Halfway through the race, she had the race organiser and other road marshalls chase after her, clawing at her clothes trying to rip her numbers off her back. They physically and verbally assaulted her just because she was a woman participating in what was then an exclusively male-only field.

But that didn’t stop her. She ran on, shielded by her coach and boyfriend, who shoved away anyone else who tried to go near her. Yes, there are chivalrous men; not all of them are chauvinistic pigs as examplified by these two gentleman.  She persevered through snow, rain and the infamous Heartbreak Hill that is the biggest killer of the Boston Marathon and finished the race in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

Her photos and achievement made international news and five years later, the rules were amended so that women could also now participate in running marathons. Thanks to her, women today everywhere can run as equals alongside men.

Today, Kathrine has run a total of 39 marathons and hundreds of road races of varying distances all over the world. She has been running regularly for 53 years and at 67 years of age, she is still going strong on the road, and plans on running the Boston Marathon again in 2017 as a 50-year mark commemoration of the 1967 race.

She is my biggest inspiration of 2013 handsdown!

I almost forgot to breathe when she said it would be her biggest pleasure to have a photo taken with me T_T

I was still left in a daze when she excused herself because she had to go lead some aerobics warm-up routine lol.

It was one thing to be amongst a mass of women, it was another to share the same vision and goal as each and everyone of them in that place that morning. We women have come a long way since  the days when everyone said our places were in the kitchen and that we couldn’t wear pants and climb trees. Today, we can vote, we have equal rights in the workplace and sure as hell, we can do everything men can do, if not better. Like running a Goddamned marathon (in my case, a half hehehe).

Shuffling into the starting pen did not scare me at all this time. With all my previous races, this would be when the nerves kick in the worst, when I would be running through all the worst case scenarios in my head, like what if I didn’t finish, or what if I clocked horrible timing. Without fail this would be the time my stomach feels like exploding, leaving me to bleed out to death from how scared I was at the mere thought of the next 3 hours that’s gonna consist of nothing but pain. Running even only a half marathon is a bloody big battle, I’ll have you know.

Not this time, no. I felt empowered by the scene that was before me, assured by all the ladies who were huddled close and around me. There were a few men pacers too, spouses or partners of a few who have chosen to endure this challenge with their better halves. I drew strength from this small collection of women, warriors each and every one, who were all, like me, brave enough enough to challenge and push themselves to their limits or otherwise die trying.

When the flag-off horn went off, I actually unconsciously let out a small cheer haha. Can you spot me?? =D

There was no fear, no trepidation. I was running with the best group of runners I can ask for. Nothing was going to dampen my spirits. I felt the strongest I had ever felt in a long, long while.

I was telling myself that if I finish this race strong, I would do my full marathon before the year was out. Everything that morning was pointing towards a very favourable run. I got sufficient sleep the night before. I was well-hydrated. I was most prepared to endure 21km than I was in any of my previous halves. And my legs — my God, my legs — they felt like if I pushed hard enough, I could easily grow wings and fly.

I don’t know if it was the novelty of running in our country’s first ever all-women’s marathon, or the knowledge that I was running in one out of only four races in the world that is founded specially for women, but I hardly felt any pain this time. The cramps, the exhaustion, the blisters, they almost didn’t register as I pounded on step by step towards the finishing line. All that was on my mind was how beautiful this sight before me was — the sight of sisters of all race and religion coming together to enjoy a common passion. Don’t mess with the effects of girl power, yo!

I was enjoying myself so much that I actually forgot to keep tabs on which kilometer I was at, something I used to rely on pathetically as a source of distraction to keep the pain at bay. I used to look out for the kilometer counters like my life depended on it, using it as the only tool to gauge how far more I had to the finish line. That morning, after what seemed like only a short while, I looked up to see that I was already at kilometer 19.5. I almost thought someone was trying to pull a prank!

Running has always been such a moving experience for me. You really find out things about yourself you didn’t know while scaling the roads. You find out what you’re made of. If you dig deep enough, you’ll learn that you’re a lot stronger than you think. That morning, there was woman helping woman, sister encouraging sister, friend assuring friend as we all fought our way to a new kind of victory.

This lady finished her Full Marathon crying tears of joy. Just seeing this picture makes me tear up myself. I may not have run as far as she has, but I can still relate to the emotions that must be welling up inside her at seeing the finish line. It’s a sense of pride, joy, anguish and, ironically, sadness all rolled up in one. Pride and joy because well, hello, you just accomplished one of the toughest things in the world to do, anguish because you’re nothing but a big ball of hot, searing pain right now, and sadness because as happy as you are that you’ve done it, that you’re here at the end of it all, it’s still a small bit of a shame that’s it’s all over.

Sometimes, you actually don’t want it to end. Because while you’re still out there fighting the fight, you’re invincible.

This couple made me smile simply because I once threatened the Ninja Rabbit that before I say yes to him should he plan on proposing anytime soon, we would have to run a Full 42km marathon together first hehehe. They finished theirs holding hands and then proceeded to kiss at the finish line ♥

And yes this guy, Daniel, who paced with his friend for the 21km in a wheelchair. He is the living example of how if you want something bad enough, you’ll let nothing stop you from achieving it. I’ve always looked up to people like these, who never let any shortcomings they have come in the way of them and their dreams. It’s all mind over matter. And he came in through the finish line quite a while before me, mind you. The only difference between who you are and what you want to be, is what you do.

I came in grinning from ear to ear, I remember that distinctively. I don’t usually cross the finish line in such a pleasant demeanor if you must know. Most of the time I just fake a smile for the camera then grimace and wince my way to my medal LOL. That morning, I felt like I had just competed in the Olympics and won. My smile was genuine and it stayed on even after this finishing photo was taken and I had collected my finisher pack. 21km in 2 hours and 43 minutes, baby. Not my best, but I’m more than just happy with it =)

I don’t think I’ve seen myself look so happy ever HAHAHA.

Khai Sim came in just hardly 10 minutes after me, running by me as I was just parking my ass down on the curb. I will never run a race without thinking about her, I tell you. She’s been there with me, and for me, since Day One.She is, and always will be, my best running buddy!

The medal was something different. We were given dog-tags instead of the usual loop-around-your-neck medal lol. It was kinda cool I suppose. Did you know the reason why dog tags always come in pairs like that is because when the soldier wearing it dies, a compatriot would pull one off to keep as proof that his buddy has fallen, and shove the other either up his dead friend’s ass or down his throat so when they collect the bodies and send them home, the mortician can identify who is who? That’s the only way to ensure it doesn’t fall off and get lost somewhere, which would leave the body unidentifiable. The Ninja Rabbit parted this very morbid piece of knowledge to us, much to Khai Sim’s dismay LOL. I suppose I would rather have things shoved up my ass and get a proper burial than risk it getting dropped and never be recognised beyond my grave. Still, some very disturbing info all the same lol.

We are soldiers, yes we are!

Hello Awesome-Pawsome boyfriends who came all the way to support respective girlfriends hehe. Kaartig came without Michelle’s knowledge to surprise her when she crosses the finish line.

Speaking of whom, that girl is more amazing that I initially thought!

She finished her 42km in 4 hours and 10 minutes!! That’s a drastic improvement from her previous 6 hours!! And to top it all off, she secured a position in the top 10 Women’s Open Category. Our girl is number eight out of hundreds of other full marathon runners!

Here, we, mere mortals, are seen worshiping her amazing strength and endurance. All hail this Running Goddess who does the near impossible almost without breaking a sweat! That’s her Pacer, Alp, next to her, face-palming at the kind of nonsense we do HAHAHAHAHA.

Obligatory photo with my number one supporter and fan aka bestest boyfriend in the world ♥

Good morning? The best! I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life!

And yes, if you’re wondering, I have decided to go ahead and sign up for my first full marathon. If I had been waiting for a sign that I was ready, this is it. Kathrine Switzer fought with her life so that women all over may run the marathon. I owe it to her to at least try. So whoever will be running the 2nd Penang Bridge Marathon 2013, I’ll see you! I’ll be doing my virgin full marathon then, do say hi and show some support hehehe.

Thank you, Malaysia Women Marathon, for helping me believe in myself. I mean, I already did, I just needed that little extra nudge to be absolutely sure.

That’s it. I ran my 8th half marathon last weekend. What did you do? =)

2 Comments
  1. @hewson: haha yup they’re something different for sure. Never got dog tags for finishing a half marathon before :D

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