Race Report: Perlis Marathon 2017- hostile weather, friendly locals, encouraging friends

Perlis Marathon 2017 flagged off at 00:00:01 am on 30 April 20117. Can you spot me? :) (Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia)
Perlis Marathon 2017 was never on my full marathon race list 2017 for 3 simple reasons:
  • Flag-off time at 12:01 midnight: I ran Penang Bridge International Marathon 2015 which started at 1.30 am. I didn't mange to sleep well due to the odd hours. I ended up suffering during the race. Don't want to repeat!
  • Inconvenient location: Kangar, Perlis? A rather unlikely venue to run a full marathon with no close-by airport except to travel by bus, car or train? I wonder how I would move around. 
  • Hot and humid weather: I read some runners' 2016 race reports and most said they would never want to return to run again in Perlis due to the odd hours and hostile weather - hot and humid.
But some runners are simply too stubborn. And some runners simple have itchy legs (no run, no syiok!). Or is it that some runners miss the Adrenaline high?

I don't know whether I'm too stubborn, I have itchy legs or I crave for Adrenaline high. Somehow, there seemed to be force to have me click and sign up for Perlis Marathon 2017 at the last minute. 😉

Runners - you would understand, right? haha!

Hence, I embarked on my first ever electric train (Electronic Train Service provided by KTM) journey from Kuala Lumpur to Arau, Perlis to cure my stubbornness, itchy legs and get high with Adrenaline!! haha!

Race kit collection day

Interesting memorable race kit collection experience!! 
I was so glad I took ETS train to Perlis. It allowed me to experience our modern electric train facilities speeding at 120-150 km/h passing through beautiful nature of Malaysia.

I was most grateful to have bumped into KK Yum and other runners in the train. It made the whole trip so enjoyable and unforgettable.

Public bus from Arau train station to Kangar bus terminal (10 km)

Upon our arrival at Arau train station at around 1+pm on April 29,  we decided to listen to KK's advice (he participated in Perlis Marathon a year before) and take the public bus service from Arau to Kangar town. The distance is 10 km away. KK mentioned that we could walk to the race venue from Kangar Bus Terminal.

About 10 of us runners hopped onto the air-con public bus including KK and Wai-Yee and their fold-able bikes. We even bumped into a French runner in the bus who would also like to go to collect his race kit. KK and Wai-Yee got off half way at their hotel whereby the rest of us continued on the journey!

Slow walk from Kangar bus terminal to Stadium Tunku Syed Putra under hot sun (1.7 km)

The bus driver was such a friendly person. He showed me the direction to walk to the Stadium Tunku Syed Putra upon our arrival at Kangar bus terminal. Other runners followed behind me to start walking under the hot sun towards Stadium Tunku Syed Putra. Suddenly 2 runners pointed out to me that we walked the wrong direction and there was a short cut!!!! 😅 I was so apologetic to them for leading them the wrong way. Truly blind leading the blind!! haha!

Oh KK, Oh KK, what have you got us into? haha! (Just joking lah!)

It was such a fun, slow walk under hot sun, passing through some kampung houses and bushes. At one stretch, I thought we were lost because the road was so small and it was behind people's houses. haha! We chatted up and got to know each other better during the walk. I was walking mostly with Mr Tan Wah Sing and his lovely wife Susan - also my first time meeting her.

After about 20 min walk, we finally arrived at race kit collection venue with sweat! (wink!)

Race kit collection 

No crowd, Rather impressed by the friendliness of the locals - from the ETS train, to the bus driver, then to the locals I asked direction from during our walk to the volunteers at the race kit collection counter. The race kit came with 1 red running vest by Ultron and one High 5 power gel.

42km race route

Perlis Marathon 2017 - 42km route layout
The 42 km race route was rather flat throughout the whole 42 km, with only a small escalated ascent at the beginning

From the 42km route layout, you can see that the route will bring runners through the main streets of Perlis, running passed some beautiful landmarks of Perlis with 2 u-turns at K14 and K33.5

Water stations were aplenty - every 3-4 km or so with 2 stations with bananas. There were also hydration stations with water sponge. Oh  yes, 2 unique features that stood out: selfie point and water sprinkler at K37

Flat route - awesome!! Logically speaking, flat route was supposed to easier than hilly route, right? And despite the hot / humid weather and the odd-hour midnight flag-off time, probably the flatness of the race route would have made up for it.

Well - let's test the hypothesis if flat route was supposed to be easier than hilly route under such hostile weather running during sleeping hours. 😜


Festive atmosphere with rock concerts etc. 

Festive atmosphere

Have you seen a rock concert with live band performing before the start of a race?

Have you experienced loud live rock band's performance on one stage, while another stage's speaker not far away was blasting with different rock music?

How about at the same time, you also would witness a brass band playing drums, trumpets, trombones, flutes, etc?

Well, you could see it all at the unique Perlis Marathon 2017 held on April 30, 2017.

Since it was a midnight flag-off, it seemed like the organizers were also promoting the event to the locals with concerts, etc. 

The atmosphere was very festive. I felt like I was a a little Pesta in Perlis!!! What a unique experience!

Oh - wait until you see the flag-off!!! With colorful ribbons flying in the sky!! Yohoo!! So awesome!!

Friendly volunteers

Volunteers at bag drop area were very friendly. As I chatted with them thanking them for staying up all night for us, they happily smilingly addressed me as "uncle" this, "uncle" that... haha! (Do I look so old? lol!) What a bunch of friendly volunteers!! 

Crazy running friends

I was very delighted to see so many KL runners in Perlis at the full marathon flag-off area. I don't know most of them but only more familiar with Yew Khuay, Teddy Beh, Jerry Young, Jiun Pan and Mr Tan Wah Sing. But the race kit collection experience earlier of the day helped me to know more runners and also through their introductions.

Thank you all for making this a very fun happy start to a full marathon in Perlis!! 

(We could still smile now..... may be not so much of smiling later already if we knew what was waiting ahead of us.... haha!) 

We are happy runners!! :) (photo credit: Jerry Young)

Waiting for 12.01 am - the flag off time!! We all look very happy!! :) From Left to right: Teddy Beh, Yew Khuay, me, Jeff Wong, Jiun Pan and Jerry Young. (Photo credit: Jerry Young)

Flagged off sharp at 12.01.01 am! You can see the time in the photo!
Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia

First 18 km: Tailed behind Yew Khuay

3 key experiments

Coming into this race from Route 68 Challenge 50 km - my first ultra marathon 2 weeks ago, I didn't have much self confidence and much to expect. I came out of Route 68 Challenge disappointed at my poor timing. Some friends said I have been too hard on myself. May be they are right. 

Anyway, since Route 68, my self-confidence has taken quite a bad beating

I have been experimenting different things with the hope to improve my time. I observed other runners' slower cadence resulting in my intentionally slowing down my cadence thinking I would be faster; breathing method resulting in my switching from 2-2 breathing to 3-2 breathing; and I also took on Yew Khuay's advice to look into my fueling during race since I couldn't take much of power gels.

For this race, I decided to do some experiments

Firstly, it would be the first time for me to consume Hammer Nutrition's Anti-Fatigue Caps during a race. I bought Hammer Nutrition's Anti-Fatigue Caps a couple weeks back at Running Lab from Frank Chong. According to Frank, some runners mentioned that the caps would work "miracles"for them but he also advised me to try it out before any race as it might cause diarrhea for some runners. Well, I tried it oncebefore while running on treadmill. I did have some stomach discomfort after that. Nonetheless, I didn't take the warning but still decided to consume the anti-fatigue caps during the race!! Who knows? May be there would be "miracles" that I could beat the Kenyans during the race? hahahaha!! hahaha! hahaha!! :) Yes, that's how badly I wanted miracles to boost up my self-confidence and to have faster time improvement!! :) 

Secondly, I decided not to carry my MP3 music player with me. I have been running in races with my music to keep me motivated. But this year, I only listened to my music during run at Route 68. I also didn't bring along my MP3 music player at Yoma Yangon Marathon and Twincity Marathon in January 2017. Hence, Perlis Marathon would be another race that I would just listen to the nature and foot steps of other runners!

Thirdly, I decided to follow the famous ultra and full marathoner Yew Khuay's pace and cadence as much as I could. I guess in Malaysia running community, everyone knows Yew Khuay. :) He finished his Route 68 Challenge recently with the No. 2 podium finish in 84 km category. He also completed 12 full marathons in 12 months - all sub 4 times - among other great achievements!! Simply amazing!! You might ask me why I wanted to do that? I failed to follow him when he was a pacer at Twincity Marathon 2016 because he was too fast with Yimster together. And I was chased by him like a ghost during Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2016 when he was a 4:00 pacer. Oh well, I truly wanted to know Yew Khuay's secret of running sub 4 all the times, even a sub 3:30 in Tokyo Marathon 2017. I was hoping that I could learn from him if I tried my best to follow him and "clone" his steps, "clone" his running cadence, "clone" his pace, etc. Am I so desperate for sub 4 hours? Yes I am - while I still can run before age catches up even more. I guess doing a sub 4 is every runner's dream!! :) Thanks to Yew Khuay for allowing me to "chase" him from behind like a ghost at Perlis Marathon!! haha!! He has unofficially become my pacer. Really grateful to that!

With the 3 key experiments, I was hoping to gain back my self-confidence and running form as well as exploring ways to run a better full marathon.

Yew Khuay as my unofficial pacer

At K11 - beautiful palace with the sky lights above the main street. I was trying hard to keep up with Yew Khuay!! Do you notice my footstep is the same as his? :) (Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia)
I was truly grateful to Yew Khuay for allowing me to pace behind him. He wanted me to run next to him but I was very worried about my own capability that might cause him to slow down. Besides, I wanted to study his running cadence, running posture / form to see if I could find out any running secret that would help me!! In Chinese, this is called, 偷师。 😁

He told me that he would run with the pace between 5:20 min / km to 5:25 min / km pace. 

I should have known my own capability! :) I should have known that I would not be able to keep up with that pace for long. But somehow, I thought it was a flat route (despite the hot / humid weather and midnight start) and possibly I might be able to keep up with him. Besides, I had Hammer Nutrition's Anti-Fatigue caps to count on for that 'miracle", right? :)

So I followed behind him closely. 

When I meant closely, I meant even the cadence. When he moved forward with left feet, I also moved forward with left feet with same running cadence. And vice versa. He picked up his running cadence after 10 km or so. That also forced me to pick up my running cadence to keep up with him. 

It was tough!! I didn't look at my Garmin Vivoactive watch but only at Yew Khuay's back. haha!! 

I checked my Garmin Vivoactive's average pace after the race and I realized that I was running at an average pace of 5:07 min per km to 5: 27 min per km behind Yew Khuay!! That was an average pace that I never ran before in a full marathon!! I used to try running at 5:30 min per km for a full marathon. That is more of my maximum capability. The average pace of  5:20 min per km was not something I was entirely comfortable with. Under normal circumstances, I knew I wouldn't last!! But I thought again, "Hey, there is Hammer Nutrition's anti-fatigue caps' miracle!!" 😉 

Yew Khuay is such a nice person. I know he was chasing for his time while testing out his Brooks shoe as a pacer for SCKLM in May. But he kept looking back to ensure I was still behind me. When he saw me still behind him, he would then give a "thumbs up" to me signaling me to keep up. It was a very good motivation for me to continue to do my best to keep up despite the pace being too fast for me!! 

So, I bit my teeth and tongue, chested up, looked forward, and pressed on.

Happy to see KK Yum with his camera and fold-able bike as well as Wai-Yee in front of their hotel showing support to runners. (Photo credit: KK Yum)

Speedy Kenyans

Perlis Marathon was my 24th full marathon (25th if ultra 50 km race was included). I'm telling you - I have not seen a flock of speedy Kenyans running speedily before my eyes before. They are too fast! Usually they take half of my time to finish a full marathon. How to catch a glimpse of them?

Thanks to the K14 U-turn at Perlis Marathon and the great winning prizes attracting top runners in Malaysia as well as Kenya to join!

I finally saw them!! Yes, I saw Kenyans! Not one. Not two.Not three. But based on my calculation, there were about sixteen (16) of them!! They were running from the opposite after the u-turn while we were still struggling to reach the u-turn. I couldn't truly express my excitement of seeing a flock of Kenyans running towards me on the opposite side.  They were so so fast!!! I couldn't help myself but to borrow an awesome picture taken by ActionPix Malaysia to show you what I meant. 

Oh oh - besides Yew Khuay and the Kenyans, did I forget to describe the route and friendly locals? My apology!! :) 

Super friendly local supporters in the city of lights

I must say that Perlis Marathon 2017 truly impressed me with its super friendly locals coming out from their houses in the middle of the night, standing on road side, giving cheers to the runners.

Most of the locals were rather naive. They would stand there wanting to cheer but somehow, they held back. I guess it's due to their lack of exposure to large events as such. But on the positive note, the lack of exposure has created enough curiosity in them to really make an effort to stay up late to welcome runners to their beautiful home town Perlis.

As I ran passed them, I did my best to say hi to them. I even ran closer to some of them to give them high-five. This reminded me of the warm hospitality by the locals during my race at Bali Marathon 2015. Simply awesome!!

And please take note that despite the fact that it was a midnight race and in a small state of Malaysia, the streets were so well-lit for most of the 42 km. I found the 42 km route in Perlis Marathon was more well-lit than any other full marathons I have participated, including Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon. The lights were very very beautiful. You must experience it one day!

Such warm and super friendly locals cheering on to the runners! (Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia)

18-22 km: Unexpected motivational support from KK Yum

Disturbed mind to DNF

The most unforgettable stretch started at K18. 

At that time, my mind was not working well already. I started to lose focus. I started to feel sleepy (around 1.30 am or so). The humidity and the heat started to get into me. My cadence and pace started to lose the momentum and drop. Yew Khuay was further and further in front of me. 

What was most irritating was my churning stomach and continuous farting!! 

I believe the churning stomach and continuous farting had to do with the "miracle" - Hammer Nutrition's anti-fatigue caps. I took one capsule before race. Then I decided to take one capsule every 10 km.  Oh boy - I wasn't sure if that was a good decision.  

My stomach started to churn badly with the urge to go to toilet for big business from 15th km onward. 😭 As I was holding on to it not letting it to come out, I start to fart profusely!! Loudest ever! Longest ever!! Most frequent ever!! 

I thought, "Oh no! What am I supposed to do now? I haven't experienced such bad stomach pain in a race before. Should I stop to go to the mobile toilet? Or should I go to the bush to do my big business? Or should I hold on to it as much as I could until I reach finish line?"

Then I decided to hold on to it as much as I could. But I couldn't' hold on to my fart!! I kept farting! I felt so bad for runners behind me. 

With all the unfavorable distractions and surroundings, I really wanted to give up at that point and DNF. Besides, sub 4 was no longer a possibility

Why should I continue?

Another disappointment after Route 68 Challenge?

KK Yum's unexpected motivational support

When my drive to continue dimmed and I was at my weakest mentally,  suddenly I heard loud music blasting from behind getting close to me. 

The motivational music shook me up a bit on a quiet, silent night in the long, lonely road.

Then I realized it was KK. 

He was cycling next to me with his blue-tooth speaker blasting the latest songs through his iPhone.

KK Yum registered for 5km and Wai-Yee registered for 10km race this year. They put in extra effort to stay up all night to ride on their fold-able bikes to cheer and encourage runners along the route. KK was also the photographer, capturing memorable moments for runners.

KK is another person I was most grateful to during the race. His presence really motivated me. He would cycle up to catch up with me. Then he cycled to the front so that he could take photos for me and other runners while running towards him.

And now, he was right next to me at my low point of the race. Yew Khuay was already no longer to be seen in front. With the long road ahead, it was such a motivational booster to see a friend cheering me on.

I remember I asked him to go ahead to support other runners and not to wait for me. I was slowing down already. But he did not. In fact, he slowed down his cycling speed to be at par with my speed. His encouragement and the music were like a "steroid" shot into my arm - helping me to run slightly faster to catch up. 😊 KK would them speed up his bike to be side by side with me

I also remember him saying, "next is Sam Smith!" haha!! So encouraging!! 

The injected "steroid" was short-lived. I slowed down again disturbed mostly by my churning stomach and farting.

KK kept up with me until around 21-22 km when he reached his hotel. Then he said he needed to go back to prepare for his 10km race at 7.00 am.

I couldn't thank him enough for his company, support and encouragement. It was such a booster moment for me!

Picture taken by KK Yum. Photo credit: KK Yum. I still could smile - well I tried to look good on photo. haha!

Last 20 km: Zombie on a lonely, never-ending road

I couldn't quite remember how I pulled through the last 20 km. 

I know there were still some locals staying up at certain stretch of the road to cheer us on. 

Some called me, "Uncle - cepat! cepat!"

I stopped at every water stations to take 2 cups of water each due to the hostile weather. I was worried I would dehydrated. But I ended up going to toilet twice to pee along the 42 km journey. Luckily I still could control myself from purging!! haha!

I also love the volunteers and marshals. They were super friendly and caring. 

Again, I heard volunteers calling me, "uncle - air di sini!"

Seriously, I have not heard so many people calling me uncle on the same night/day!! I felt old but I know they meant well - as a show of respect and courtesy! 😋 Such wonderful locals!! And yes, I'm an uncle!!! lol!

Seriously, my mind is totally blank now as I wanted to write about my last 20 km. But I couldn't remember much.

I just know that my stomach kept bugging me. 

I just know that I kept slowing down to fart. 

I just know that I was rather alone with only one or two runners in sight at most times

I just know that I needed a volunteer to spray deep heat on my legs at K32 hydration stations.

I just know that I ate 2 bananas.

I just know that I drank as much water as I could at each station.

I just know that I used the water sponge to cool myself at every possible occasion.

i just know that I ran through a water sprinkler system at around K37

I just know that I was super exhausted with no feelings about my body anymore.

I just know that I was fighting very hard to press on and not to give up.

I just know that I was like a zombie - running and walking in this seemingly never-ending last 20 km.

Camera - must smile!! Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia

Yes, I was super tired! Mentally and physically! (Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia)

Finish Line

Finally!! Finally!! Finally! I reached the finish line!! I didn't know how I made it back!! So exhausted!! But I was glad I made it back!! 

It was wee hours in the morning around 4.08 am. Not much crowd at finish line to cheer the finishers. But it was good for me. Finished quietly with a time 18 min off my target. haha! 

I was so exhausted that I had to lie down on a bench after collecting my finisher tee and medal. 

I also had to go to the mobile toilet to do my big business. (yes - my first time to do big business in a mobile toilet at a race too! haha!)

Finally - I reached the finish line. I couldn't quite remember how I did it!! No feelings already! (Photo credit: ActionPix Malaysia)

Top pictures: Awesome water spot for finishers to shower and cool down.
Bottom left: Mobile toilet for my big business. :)  Bottom right: the bench I lied down out of exhaustion!

My race result

Horrible horrible running strategy and result with net time of 4:07:51, ranked 23rd in Men's Veteran category !! No sub 4. sob sob! 😥😥 I was very disappointed for not achieving sub 4. 

I wish I could do better. 

Hostile weather? Yes.

Sleeping hours? Yes.

No miracle from the anti-fatigue capsule? Yeah, no miracle.

Ran too fast at the beginning? What was I thinking? Kenyan?

Followed Yew Khuay? How could I? He is an elite runner!

But I'm not going to blame anyone or the surroundings or the circumstances for my poor result. I'm accountable to the outcome of my experiments. Not the desired outcome but I believe it makes me a stronger runner. 

Isn't that marathon is all about? It's like life - full of ups and downs. I gotta respect the distance and every race is unique. 

Lesson learned. Move on.

My split time average pace shows that I have been too inconsistent on my speed, and too fast in the first half!! I committed suicide for trying to follow Yew Khuay!! Overkill for me!! haha!
The certificate was out on the same day Sunday!! Excellent!! Speedy!

2 running vests from Ultron. I wore Saucony Kinvara 6 to run Perlis Marathon 2017. 

Analysis on full marathon finishers

Based on the finishers' results, I did a quick analysis.

I heard the announcer mentioned that there were 1,000 full marathon participants. But from the finishers' results, it seemed only 650 participants but 581 finishers. If this is true, it means about 69 people DNS or DNF. 

And look at the participants from Kenya: eighteen (18) male and six (6) female!! Wow!! This Perlis Marathon really managed to draw some very fast Kenyans to participate as well. 

Even for Malaysia categories, there were five (5) sub 3:00 hours finishers; sixteen (16) sub 3:30 hours finishers,  and twenty-nine (29) sub 4:00 hours finishers. 

This Perlis Marathon 2017 really attracted fast runners to compete!!

Total Men Finishers    : 512
Total Women Finishers: 69
Total finishers              : 581 
Total participants        : 650 (69 people DNF/DNS?)

Men's International (26 finishers)
Sub 3:00 hours   : 16 (Kenyans)
3:00 - 3:29 hours: 2 (Kenyans)
3:30 - 3:59 hours: 0
4.00 - 4.29 hours: 2

Men's Open Malaysians  (309 finishers)
Sub 3:00 hours  : 4
3:00 - 3:29 hours: 9
3:30 - 3:59 hours: 15
4.00 - 4.29 hours: 20

Men'ts Veteran Open Malaysians (177 finishers)
Sub 3:00 hours  : 1
3:00 - 3:29 hours: 7
3:30 - 3:59 hours: 10
4.00 - 4.29 hours: 16

Women's Open International (7 finishers)
Sub 3:00 hours  : 4 (Kenyans)
3:00 - 3:29 hours: 2 (Kenyans)
3:30 - 3:59 hours: 0
4.00 - 4.29 hours: 1 (Asian)

Women's Open Malaysians (40 finishers)
Sub 3:00 hours  : 0 
3:00 - 3:29 hours: 0
3:30 - 3:59 hours: 3
4.00 - 4.29 hours: 5 

Women's Veteran Open Malaysians (22 finishers)
Sub 3:00 hours  : 0 
3:00 - 3:29 hours: 0
3:30 - 3:59 hours: 1
4.00 - 4.29 hours: 5 

Friends, Friends, Friends

Personally, what meant most to me about this race was to meet very positive, supportive runners. How KK helped me from the ETS train to the race itself; and how Yew Khuay allowed me to tail behind him at the race; and how others supported and encouraged each other really made this a truly memorable trip. 

At the rest area after finish!
With Chynthia Chong - a gutsy lady with mental strength made of steel!
Hello - Mr Tan Wah Sing - it's always nice to see your infectious smile!!

Thank you Teddy  Beh for sharing cab and bunking in for this trip!

Good bye, Perlis Marathon 2017

I have asked a few runners who have just completed their full marathon to see if they would come back next year. Most said no due to the hostile weather. But there are also a few runners who said they would come back.

How about myself?

No doubt I had a disappointing race in Perlis and it's true that the hot and humid weather caused many runners (even the elite runners) to pancit (not perform well), but the locals here are so welcoming and forever warm and friendly!

The locals are not necessarily just during the race - volunteers, marshals, etc. But even our taxi driver, the bus conductor, the ETS train attendant - all very warm and friendly. 

Hey - afterall, this is the only race that I have people calling me "uncle uncle uncle" almost non-stop!! 

3 things I can sum up about my experience at Perlis Marathon 2017:
  1. Hostile weather
  2. Friendly locals
  3. Encouraging friends

Yes - I will come back next year if time permits. I can also visit my relatives and high school friends in Alor Setar after the race or go for a short holiday in Thailand. :)

So if you decide to join Perlis Marathon in future, please remember what I have done through and learned from my lessons! 

See you in Perlis Marathon 2018! 😋😋😋

Perlis Marathon  -good bye for now!! I shall come back!

our friendly taxi driver!!

Written by Vincent Khor on 7 May, 2017


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