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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ATM Half Marathon 2017 Race Review

I signed up for the ATM Half Marathon 2017 on a whim and simply because being a military enthusiast, this would be the closest I could get to running an equivalent of the Marine Corp Half Marathon. Besides, the race was to be held in the seaside town of Port Dickson, a town I used to live in for about 4 years when I was still a toddler of 2, and both my wife and me thought it would serve as a nice short weekend getaway for the two of us.

The marketing for this race was kinda impressive, a military exhibition on race pack day, a nice 'short' 21km along the beach (think Gold Coast) and though I don't run for medals, this one was pretty cool and a keeper. So, with that impressive sales pitch, I clicked the sign up button and plans were put into motion. 


I went online, searched for a hotel nearby the start location that would be facing the beach. The location of the hotel was picked cos it gave me the chance to take a slow 1km or so jog to the race start as a warm up. This race was really beginning to excite me. I was even having delusional thoughts of trying to achieve a half marathon time that's currently out of my league, that's how excited I was. And the fact that it would be a nice mini holiday (I even took an extra day off work) for us was also upping the excitement scale. 

But sadly, things didn't actually go the way the organizers, Muse Group Asia, promised. I signed up for the race roughly 3 months or so prior to race day and didn't really bother about it except checking on FB occasionally for updates on the race and everything seemed to be going fine, right up to the last 10 days or so before the race.

Time to get that pesky fly!

That was when the organizers for whatever reasons of their own decided to change the start location, the location of the race kit collection, the event tee suppliers and most importantly, the race route itself. The original out and back route along the beach was now 2 loops of basically horrible scenery with only about a kilometer of ocean view! I for one hate loops and had I known it was going to be a loop, I would not have signed up.

Adding to that, when I questioned the organizers about the extremely last minute change to everything on Facebook, they had the tenacity to tell me not to be 'overly upset' about things. So if I paid for a One Plus 5 and they gave me a One Plus 3T, I shouldn't be 'overly upset' with that? I was fuming and gave them a few pieces of my mind. Mind you, all the changes happened just 10 days or so before race day. I'll be very wary of any Muse Group Asia events from now on.

I wish I could get me one of this on the top of my car!

Since the hotel was booked and my dog's pet boarding fees had been paid, both of us decided that we'd carry on with the trip, get the race over and done with and just enjoy the holiday. And with the prior two weeks the both of us had, we really needed the holiday badly.

We started our journey to Port Dickson around 11.30am after dropping off our dog at the boarders and took a leisurely drive down arriving a little over an hour or so later. The day was to be a hot one with the blazing sun out in full force and being a coastal town, it felt twice as hot as it was in KL. The race kit collection was packed with runners collecting their kits as well as tourists who were passing by. Most were drawn in by the military exhibition which I give credit to the organizers and the Armed Forces was simply super! 

Getting my Uber qualifications.
The moment I saw all the military equipment and vehicles, I totally forgot about the race kit and was running around from one exhibit to the other like a little child on steroids! I did say I was fascinated by all things military didn't I :D? After numerous photos, my wife had to literally drag me to go collect my kit. The race kit collection was a horrendously slow process. I wasn't the only one fuming about the slow process, those behind me shared the same thoughts. Finally after a nice long wait in the sweltering heat, I got my kit and headed back to the expo for more fun and pics with the military.

Once I was finally done, we headed to check into the hotel which was now about 5km away from the race start location. There was no way I could run to the start as a warm up and would now have to drive to the start location. So much for booking a hotel close by. Oh well, you just make the best out of things. Once we checked in and after a short rest, we headed out for some photo opportunities along the beach and to get some food.


It was an early night for me since I had an early wake up with the race flagging off at 5am. Now, I've not been in any training plan but have been maintaining my fitness with almost daily runs and the occasional track workouts so while I was going to give it a go, I wasn't hoping for a spectacular result, especially with the route now being a loop. Did I mention how much I hate loops?

I got to the race start much earlier since I had to make sure I got a parking spot. I managed to find one, about 800 metres away from the start line and decided to jog over as a warm up. Since race start was a ways off, I managed to actually get in 2km worth of warm up mileage before my stomach decided that I needed to use the Porta Potty. Luckily there was no queue and the moment I stepped in the skies opened which caused me to stay inside a little longer. The rains that came just before race start, while welcomed, didn't last long and would only make the place more humid.

Some of the exhibits on display.

There was quite a number of participants, both military personnel and us non military. The thought of running with military personnel was quite exciting. One piece of good news was that I knew way in advance that Twenty First Century Sports would be handling the route and water stations and I heaved a sigh of relief for that bit of good news cos having an up close and personal working relationship with them, I knew how reliable and efficient they were with that aspect of things.

Even though I spotted one or two familiar faces, things were a little lonely for me cos my wife opted to sleep in and the usual gang weren't around. The race started right on time and off we went. I opted to start conservatively, not that I had a choice cos the road was narrow and there were just too many runners in front of me to swerve in and out. Slowly but steadily I made my way ahead catching up with the pacers, yes there were pacers. Thankfully the weather wasn't as humid as I expected it to be. 

There was nothing much I could say about the route, since there really wasn't much to see, except that it was generally flat which I was thankful for. I wasn't about to want to take on any hills. I kept the pace as steady as I could hovering in and out between 5:15 and 5:30 for much the entire race. I was pleasantly surprised to be overtaking lots of military personnel and secretly felt good about it, boosted my ego a little bit ... hahaha! My breathing and heart rate were steady with the legs holding on nicely.


Since I checked out the route before hand and knew it was going to be a boring one, what with no ocean view as promised, I opted to run with my Aftershokz headset. I don't normally run races with music but this time I needed something to take the monotony of the route away. I think it was a good call cos the music helped a lot. 

Everything was going fine until I reached somewhere around the 8km mark and we were diverted into a dirt path full of rocks and mud! I was not thrilled at all by this. This dirt path was close to 800 metres long and really messed with the pace as I had to slow down for fear of twisting my ankles. It was also dark and the one miserable spotlight they had was facing the wrong way! I cussed knowing that I would have to run this again. I found out later this was a race day decision to move the runners to the dirt path cos the Police refused permission to run on the road at that stretch. Again, another last minute change with no notice at all.

Image courtesy of Pic2Go

The rest of the race went without any incidents and since I knew what to expect, I decided that I'd up my pace as much as my legs would allow. I soon caught up with the 2 hour pacers who were going way too fast as I knew from my pace, I was way under sub 2 hour timing. Strangely enough, no one was following the pacers, most were running their own race. I left the pacers behind and made my way to finish the race. 

I crossed the finish in under 2 hours for an over distanced race and was generally happy with the effort and timing. While I'm sure I could have done better if I was in actual training, this was really a good result for me personally. I wasn't tired or beat up like I normally am after a race and that was a good sign. The maintenance work and base building seems to have helped a lot. The race also gave me an inkling as to what I need to do when the time for actual training starts but for now, things are going positively :D.

Image courtesy of Pic2Go

I made my way to collect my much sought after medal and after chatting with a few of the familiar faces there, I made my way back to the hotel. It was still pretty early in the morning and my wife and me had plans ahead of us. We were going to take a day trip to the nearby historical city of Malacca since we still had another night's stay in Port Dickson. I was looking forward to that. 

Overall, the race itself was nicely organized. I'll give credit where credit is due but I'll still blacklist this organizer. I feel like I was taken for ride and not getting what I was promised for when I signed up. And to be told not to be 'overly upset' when I voiced my concerns was totally uncalled for. To all you drivers out there, I raise my hat (if I had one on) to you guys. Not one and I mean not one of you honked at the runners even though you had to wait quite a while on the closed roads. You have my utmost respect for that. Port Dickson drivers are more awesome than the impatient morons in KL.



Here's a little tip from me, if you really wanted a good race by the ocean, awesome crowd support, a superb race experience and fantastic weather, then sign up for the Gold Coast Marathon 2018!

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