Get the family running: Malaysian top runners share their favourite running spots

Running is one safe way to keep fit and maintain social distancing during the pandemic. Photo: Pixabay

A family that runs together, has fun together. Well, in these pandemic times, when quite a number of sporting activities are restricted, running is enjoying quite a boom.

Even though running hasn't been immune to the cruel effects of the pandemic - group running events and races have either been cancelled or have gone virtual - it's still safe to run outdoors your own or with family members.

While some casual runners are content to just head out the door and hit the pavement in their neighbourhoods, there are others who prefer to go the extra mile and drive out to a favourite spot - one that they find more fulfilling or challenging.

What makes for a perfect route? For some, an ideal route is one with nice views: rivers, hills, trees or interesting landmarks.

For others, a few gruelling hills are essential for a challenge that can up their game. No pain, no gain, right?

Every once in, however, it’s nice to have a change of scenery and try new spots. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

We asked three of Malaysia's elite runners to share their favourite running spots. You might want to check them out and add them to your list - it may double up as being a family jaunt of sorts (ending with an ice-cream stop, maybe) that gets everyone out of the house for an hour or two.

Sheela Samivellu, 40

Woman's half marathon national record holder

Sheela wants to run for as long as she can. Photo: SHEELA SAMIVELLUSheela wants to run for as long as she can. Photo: SHEELA SAMIVELLU

Sheela started running when she was just five years old and she hasn't stopped.

She's the current national women's half marathon record holder (1 hour 24 mins 44 seconds) and a perennial winner at the Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered marathon.

"Running is my passion and I want to keep running forever. Running has thought me to be disciplined in my life and career. Running has also made me remain positive and is a way for me to get rid of my stress," she says.

Though there are no running events this year - save for virtual runs - Sheela isn't too beat up about it as she says it is a good time for her to let her body rest and recover from years of competitive running.

"I have been racing for more than 10 years so I think this is the best time to give my body a break. Recovery is the best medicine for runners," she says.

These days, Sheela runs a comfortable 10km distance about five days a week.

"My favourite distance to run is 21km but for training, I usually make sure I have enough mileage to maintain my stamina... usually about 10km," says Sheela.

These are her three top training spots:

1. Putrajaya: There are many running routes in Putrajaya. I usually start from the Palace of Justice and then explore different routes.

2. Taman Bukit Jalil - It's quite a hilly location but it is safe for runners.

3. Technology Park Malaysia: There is less traffic and you can do as loops... as many as you want to reach your desired mileage.

Soh Wai Ching, 26
Guinness World Record holder for the Greatest Vertical Height Stair Climbing in One Hour/KLSCM 2019 overall 10km champ

"My favourite routes are the ones that are safe, have a good atmosphere and where I am able to meet other runners," says Soh Wai Ching, who, just last Wednesday, achieved the World Record for the Greatest Vertical Height Stair Climbing in One Hour with a distance of 1.295km.

Soh has been running since 2012, when his sister - also a runner - introduced him to the sport.

Now, he runs on the road about four or five times a week and does stair-running also four or five times a week. His fastest time for a 10km is 33 mins 37 seconds.

Soh misses participating in running events that have all been cancelled or made virtual due to the pandemic. Photo: SOH WAI CHINGSoh misses participating in running events that have all been cancelled or made virtual due to the pandemic. Photo: SOH WAI CHING

A regular fixture at running events for the past eight years, Soh admits that he misses participating in these events. However, he is quite content to better his performance while waiting for races to resume, hopefully next year.

"I love to compete with myself and be the best version of myself," says the young man from Selayang, Selangor.

At the moment, he is determined to set Double Guinness World Records next year!

"I didn't do quite so well for last week at my attempt (Greatest Vertical Height Stair Climbing) . I only clocked 1.295km in an hour," he said, even though he did set a record.

"My next goal is to be the "Fastest Vertical Mile Stair Climbing (Male) in one hour - that's two records at one go," he said.

Soh's favourite running routes in KL are:

1. Sri Hartamas: I usually start around 6am from the Petronas station in Hartamas to Bukit Tunku and back which is about a 15km distance. It can get a bit dark, so do wear reflective vest or gear to stay safe and visible.

2. Padang Merbok to Bukit Tunku and back for a comfortable 10km run. This route is really nice, surrounded by lots of trees, lush greenery and the air is fresh, especially the Bukit Tunku area.

3. Kepong Metropolitan Park or Taman Layang Layang - I usually run loops around the park. Each loop is about 3.4km. This is where I first started running.

Muhaizar Mohamad, 35
SEA Games marathon bronze medallist, pereniial KLSCM marathon winner (Malaysian)

One of the country's fastest marathon runners, Muhaizar (his personal best is 2 hours 26 min 27 seconds) can't wait to hit the road running after a month of abstaining from the sport he loves dearly for the pasta month due to a knee injury.

Muhaizar loves running in the palm oil plantations in Gurun, Kedah. Photo: MUHAIZAR MOHAMADMuhaizar loves running in the palm oil plantations in Gurun, Kedah. Photo: MUHAIZAR MOHAMAD

"I'm just about to resume my training. Because there are no events to train for now, due to Covid-19, I will soon train so that I can maintain my stamina and performance so that whenever there is a time trial or virtual run, I am ready," says the father of four who is a staff sergeant with the Malaysian armed forces.

Muhaizar recently registered for the SCKLM virtual run.

"Of course, a virtual run doesn't compare to an actual race where you are competing with other runners. But it is a way to maintain our performance and will have to do for now," he says.

Although he often runs around Sungai Besi in Kuala Lumpur where he lives, Muhaizar's favourite running spots are all out of the Klang Valley.

Here are his top three picks:

1. Cameron Highlands: The weather is nice and cold. Also, the high altitude is really good for athletes or runners who want to improve their performance.

2. Bentong, Pahang: Though there are no high altitudes here, the weather is cool also and there are sandy routes that are better... less risk of injury compared to running on roads.

3. Gurun, Kedah: Running in the palm oil plantations is really quite an awesome experience and you have both flat and hilly terrain for a good mix.

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