CLOSE to 2,000 women left their homes with only their running shoes to spend a morning together working through sweat and pain for glory in the inaugural Malaysia Women Mara-thon held in Shah Alam, Selangor.
Participants who ran in the first ever women-only race in the region were clearly in for a memorable day as they also got to run alongside American Kathrine Switzer.
Kathrine, who is also known as the ‘Marathon Woman’, was the first woman to register as a numbered entry for the prestigious Boston Marathon back in 1967, when the event was only open to men.
The 66-year-old, who was in Malaysia to promote and encourage more women to take up the sport, also took time to get dressed and ran the 8km fun run where she mingled with participants.
Besides women participants, race director Karen Loh also gave the men a chance to be part of the race as cheerleaders and pacers.
“We want more women to get out and what makes this race special is how they will not have to worry and be intimidated by fast runners,
“They can take their time, dress comfortably and finish the race because we will wait for them,” said Karen, who is a marathon runner herself.
Many took up the golden opportunity to accompany their wives, girlfriends and friends through the hilly route around the Shah Alam city centre.
Husband and wife team Jolene Hong and her husband Henry Chin raced their 15th marathon together and even remembered to cross the line holding hands.
“We practise and run together in every race so that we can encourage one another even if the course is difficult, “ said the mother of two.
The duo, who will be running in the Berlin marathon later this year, hope to motivate more couple and friends to get out and run together.
“Henry used to run by himself and I was the spectator and cheerleader but that all came to a stop when I saw how women my age were competing in runs and I realised I could be just like them too,” said Jolene, 47.
It was a different story for Daniel Lee and his new-found friend Lim Ying Ying, who ran the 21km.
Daniel, who is wheelchair-bound, proved disability was not an issue for him as the 22-year-old volunteered to pace Ying Ying whom he met just a few days before the race.
“Every time I run uphill, I will turn and look at Daniel as I am afraid he will not be able to catch up with me,” said Ying Ying, who soon got used to it as Daniel would catch up within minutes.
He said the route was hilly but with his weekly training in Putrajaya, it was good enough for him to complete the race with ease.
The race, which started at 4.30am, was divided into three distances — the full marathon (42km), the half marathon (21km) and the 8km fun run event.
Also making a special appearance at the race was the Jakarta Free Spirit Running Club founder Barbara Oravetz, Sue and Andrew O’Brien, better known as Couple on the Run, and Thai Muslim Thida Sonjaroen who is the first woman to run the 142km Ocean-to-Ocean race.
Participants completed the race to a carnival-like atmosphere where breakfast was served with local singers and a percussion band entertaining the crowd.
The title sponsor for the event was Nestle Fitnesse while the main sponsor was Capital FM.
Full marathon (42km)
1. Annie Yee Pei Ni 3’40:08
2. Azlinawati Husain 3’48:40
3. Susan Henderson 3’53:46
1.Yuka Takehiro 3’40:08
2.Annie Lee Khum Chiew 3’50:52
3.Foo Kam Miew 4’10:10
Half marathon (21km)
1. Emily Ailsa Donker 1’27:47
2. Kimbeley Yap Fui Li 1’42:01
3. Loh Chooi Fern 1’45:32
1. Emer Breen 1’35:40
2. Choong Swee Ying 1’38:21
3. Susan Khoo 1’39:18