How to be an eco-friendly runner

I was inspired by my recent event called National Geographic Earth Day Run to become a more environment-conscious runner. True to its theme, the run has taken efforts to minimize waste, keeping the environment clean, and ensuring the event is as environmentally-friendly as possible.

As a runner, sustainable living is very easy to start. You don’t have to buy expensive organic food, or turn into a vegetarian (although this is highly encouraged!), or give up your current lifestyle that is accustomed to modern amenities.

These 3 simple tips can help you make the Earth a better place while still enjoying your passion for running:

 

  • Bring Your Own Bottle

This is commonly implemented at trail runs, however it is not yet common for road races. This is a great idea because water stations will be clean without cups littering the road. The only trash collected at the water stations will be mostly bananas or energy gel, and this will minimize the volunteers needed to clean up the roads after an event.

During your long run LSD, bringing your own bottle ensures that you remain focused. You can save time by not needing to stop at convenient stores along your training route. You are also free to plan your own routes without worrying if you have enough water to sustain the long run training.

Water station at this event was one of the cleanest that I have ever seen.  There is almost no trash!

Any water bottle will do, however it is advisable to invest in a bottle that has a handle or belt attached. Keeping your hands free will make your runs significantly more comfortable.

  • Buy your supply in bulk

Instead of buying single servings for your energy gels, energy drink, and recovery drink, buy a tub or a bin that will last for several servings. This is a great idea because it will eliminate single-use packaging, such as plastic wrappings. It might be a big amount to spend initially, but the cost per serving will be significantly cheaper.

It is a bit of a hassle since you have to take time to mix your own energy drink/gel. However you will save money in the long run.

Not affiliated with Hammer Gel, but this is an example of how your cost per serving will be cheaper when purchasing in bulk:

  • Carpool to events or training venues

This is a great idea because it cuts down the number of vehicles on the road. Lesser vehicles means decreased harmful gasses emission such as carbon dioxide, which is a significant contributor to global warming. Parking at event venues will be easier too as there were reduced number of cars. Or better yet, take the public transport and you don’t have to worry about parking at all.

Not only is carpooling beneficial to the environment, it is also good for your too. You will save money because you can share the cost of gas and toll. Not to mention, they will have company to ensure that you get to the race venue in time

  • Plus point: Organizers set up recycling bins

Based on my observation, one of the biggest trash sources from an event are the freebies and the refreshment. To tackle that problem, they did not give any bags at the finishing line – just a medal and a fruit. Should participants be interested to collect freebies from the sponsor tents, they can throw the packaging or plastic away inside these recycling bins.

On top of that, this event has carefully selected banana to give away at the finishing line, so they have set up a compost bin (not in this photo) for organic waste.

5 reasons why you should join a trail run

After a few months taking some time off from running and exploring a new interest in crossfit, I am now back with a more consistent running schedule! Lately I’ve been more interested with trail running, and the most recent trail run that I participated was King of Kampung Kemensah in the 18km category. I had a good time running off-road, and here are 5 reasons why you participate in a trail run too:

IMG_9059My hijab is as cheerful as the race day vibes. It feels good to be back!

1)Less participants, less bottleneck and congestion

  • To avoid over-crowding the single lanes in the trail, organizers usually limit participants to less than 1000 in total
  • Parking is easy, because there are less cars too
  • Due to the small number of participants, it is easier for organizers to manage the welfare of participants, which means there is always an abundance of food!

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2)Running is more challenging

  • There are various terrains that you can expect, such as muddy, sandy, or rocky. It takes time to get used to balancing and running on uneven surfaces.
  • It is more humid in the forest. This will also attract bugs such as mosquitoes and leaches.
  • Cuts and bruises are all part of the trail run package. Just think of them as souvenirs and battle scars from the event, embrace them and be proud of them!

3)It takes you to beautiful places

  • Such as this:IMG_4112 2
  • And this:IMG_9049
  • But if this view does not convince you to join a trail run, I don’t know what will:IMG_7835

4)You will appreciate nature

  • You will never take clean air for granted again
  • Take notice of the interesting leaves, foliage, and bugs surrounding you. Everything is beautiful in their own way!
  • Sometimes you just have to accept whatever Mother Nature throws at you. The weather can be unpredictable – it’s better to be over-prepared with the right equipment.
  • Most organizers are now implementing BYOB – Bring Your Own Bottle. Trails are cleaner thanks to this new rule, and I fully support this move.

5)You will learn to respect the distance

  • Running 21km on the road is not the same as 21km in the trails. Therefore, trail running requires a different training strategy than road races.
  • Elevation is always a part of trail running. Get used to running uphill, climbing the stairs, and strengthening your quads and glutes.

Weekend Runner takes Australia

I took some much needed break from any running activities after Cameron Ultra and spent slightly over one week in Melbourne and Sydney. I could write a million things about Australia – the coffee and café culture, the koalas, kangaroos, and natural wildlife, the multinational population… but my most favourite part of the trip was the Great Ocean Road and Blue Mountains National Park.

  1. Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road (GOR) is not just any stretch of road. Spanning over 243km, it is actually a war memorial, built by soldiers dedicated to their comrades who died in World War 1. It is located along the coastal line, and along the highway there are several points of interest and historical significance. It is perfect for families, surfers, and even runners as there is a pedestrian walkway too.

However, from my personal point of view, the main attraction for GOR is it’s diverse natural formations. From dramatic cliffs, to unique limestone formations, friendly campsite and beaches, surfer waves…one could not get enough of the beauty that surrounds GOR. I wish we had more time to complete all 243km. We did not even make it to the 12 Apostles, but on the bright side, I have reason to return again soon!

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14753690_10210813226636562_2728491184366127058_oNatural formations carved by wind, water, and time

  1. Blue Mountains National Park

When in Sydney, the first image that comes to your mind is the iconic Sydney Opera House. However, after about 1 hour 45 minutes of train ride from Central Sydney, just off the Katoomba train station, lies the magnificent Blue Mountains National Park. Inside the Blue Mountains National Park is the Three Sisters, Wentworth Falls, and various trails and hikes. I wish I came there prepared in my trail running shoes with a few hours of trekking supplies. There was just so much to explore!

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

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Since time was also limited, the best way to enjoy was taking the train, cable car, and moving “skydeck” at Scenic World. Just like it’s name, Scenic World offers a panoramic view of the national park, and it also leads to trails of various difficulty levels. Scenic World is also a live museum dedicated to the pioneering European settlers who worked as coal miners, working several meters deep into the mountains. On a bright, sunny day, you can view for miles away and even spot the ‘blue haze’ that this region is famous for. I wonder what it’s like to go for a trail run among the trees and behind the waterfalls. Once again, it gives me a reason to return again soon!

"Blue Haze" that gives Blue Mountains its name

“Blue Haze” that gives Blue Mountains its name

Remnants of past mining activities

Remnants of past mining activities

 

Australia has left me with a bigger hunger for adventure and a renewed appreciation for nature, and the only cure is to start planning for the next vacation.

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

Re-discovering Kemensah

Flicking through past week’s photographs in the trail, I realised that I longed for the muddy ground, ascending among the trees, the clear air, and the rush of the river. What I missed was spending time in the trails again. Taking advantage of the long weekend, I gathered a few friends who were familiar with a route in the Kemensah, Ulu Klang area for a leisurely trail “run” (it was hardly a run, more like walking with occasional spurts of running).

We weren’t aiming for anything ambitious for that day. We set off at a very leisurely pace, excited for what is ahead since most of us are not very familiar with this route. We walked non-stop, and ran once in a while. It was not a very challenging trail, with elevation gain for about 400m. Sometimes there were puddles and small stream crossing, but nothing too technical. We could hear some animals along the way, but we did not manage to spot anything. Frankly speaking, I think everyone just needed a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city which is always a good thing!

The highlight of any trail “run” is taking a dip in the river. After about 6km of walking, finally we heard the sound of water rushing. We finally made it! The river was knee deep, and the lush surrounding trees makes a good spot for a photo op. Some of us brought some snacks drinks, so we took our time by the river to soak in the nature.

 

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The highlight of any trail run!

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Heading back

Heading back

Despite its ease of accessibility and close proximity to the city, Kemensah is not a very popular site for camping unlike Gunung Nuang. Probably because it was not very challenging and not very big, so most people can explore other trails within a few hours. I heard that there is also a waterfall among these trails too, which gives me the perfect excuse to come back again! 

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

King of Kampung Kemensah 18K Trail Run

I had several experiences running in various trails, yet I have never ran in Kampung Kemensah before. So I had no idea about the condition of the trail, or the level of difficulty that I might face. The organizers did not upload any map or elevation chart in their official website, however they did write down the checkpoints yet I had no clue about the distance between those checkpoints. I could search for videos uploaded by past year’s participants, but deep down inside, I did not want to spoil the surprise. Despite my lack of knowledge about the venue, I decided to proceed anyways with the race. There was a sense of thrill going into the unknown and taking risks with the unfamiliar. Or as the Malaysians say it, “Main redah je lah!”

IMG_4112IMG_4111Ready to embrace the unknown. I can smell the fresh air!

It turns out that the route was not difficult, yet it was challenging. The inclines were steep with elevation gain of more than 300m, and most of the ground was muddy. The forest was dense, but the trail was well-groomed. I was glad that I was wearing proper trail running shoes and carrying a hydration bag. As we approached closer to the mid point of the race, I can hear the gushing sound of water. Just as I anticipated, river crossing is a part of the route. The water went only to my knees, but the rocks at the bed of the river was slippery so I had to slow down and be extra careful not to slip.

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I was silently praying that my phone does not want to go for a swim again, just like it did during Hulu Langat Trail Run

Since I was running in an unfamiliar route, I did not set any PB (personal best) target to beat as I did not know what to expect. So I took my time, absorbing my surroundings and enjoying the trees, nature, and sounds of insects. I even bumped into a few familiar faces along the way.

 

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Some familiar faces in the trail/ultra running community. I wish I had the time to snap some pictures with everyone, it was like a reunion party!

All trail runs are challenging in their own way, and Kemensah is no exception. I had no regrets diving into the unknown, while catching up with some people along the way. I would definitely come back again next year, hopefully for the 50K category.

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

 

P/S: I thrilled to be given a chance to contribute an article for Running Malaysia magazine about the positive impacts of being a part of a running community. Special thanks to Kyserun Krew for their support, inspiration, and motivation. Do grab the May/June issue at your nearest news stand now!

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Taman Negara Pahang (Pahang National Park)

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”- John Muir, Father of National Parks.

I don’t hate modern technology and the comforts of modern, civilized city. But, we are getting too dependent on them, it’s unhealthy and borderline addictive. It hit me that I was one of those addicts when I freaked out that Taman Negara Pahang has no wi-fi or 3G! How am I going to get in touch with everyone? What if an important email comes in? Will I miss out on an important news or announcement?

So I took up the challenge for a gadget-free weekend of ‘Digital Detox’. Deprived of the 21st century amenities except for a simple room with mattress and running water, I embarked on a simpler way of life. Electricity and telephone reception was available, but it was unstable. We weren’t deprived of food, but it was a non-fussy ‘kampung’ method of cooking.

I tried not to dwell on what was not available. Instead, I wanted to focus with the fact that I was in one of the oldest rainforest in the world. Surely there is plenty to look around then looking at the screen of my phone. My friend and I walked around the small village, chatted with other visitors and locals while waiting for our night walk.

After dinner, we proceeded with our night walk. Some of the interesting animals and insects we spotted were:

IMG_3851A poisonous cave centipede 

IMG_3856A docile, domesticated tapir comfortably taking a nap despite surrounded by a crowd. According to the guide, the tapir was orphaned since it was a baby so park rangers raised him instead. From time to time, it will appear on the hotel ground.

A trip to the rainforest would not be complete without any jungle trekking. The highlight of the trekking was a canopy walk and the view on Bukit Terisek. It was a very mild hike as most of the path had platforms or stairs, so it’s suitable for family trips or beginners. We went to an Orang Asli (aboriginals) settlement too to learn about their culture and way of life. Since this National Park is protected, it is interesting to note that only a few of the Orang Asli tribes are allowed to hunt and harvest in the jungle as they are still living their traditional, nomadic way of life.

 

IMG_3901Canopy walk. The suspended bridge was hanging 40-50 meters above the ground.

IMG_3894IMG_3900The hike to the top of Bukit Terisek for a view of Gunung Tahan, the highest point in the Peninsular of Malaysia. It’s about 7 days of hiking and trekking to get to the top from Kuala Tahan. 

Our last activity was called “Rapid Shooting”. As the name suggests, the guide will zoom us on the Tembeling River with a lot of splashing, and ending it with a swim in the river. By this point, we realized that there is no point in bringing along our gadgets. We locked them safely back in our room. We did not have any camera to capture the moment, but the fun memories were safely stored in our brains for us to relive it over and over again. While everyone was fumbling with keeping their phones/ cameras dry and busy pressing buttons, we did not have to pose for photos, we weren’t concerned if our gadgets will get wet or fall into the river – We were totally focused on living in the moment! It was very liberating.

In the end, I didn’t manage to totally cure myself from depending too much on the comforts of modern society, and I don’t think I ever will be. But it did made me think about “So what did I miss out on?” The main answer was: Nothing much. People will still proceed as their normal lives would, and the world will continue to spin like it should. Perhaps I should go for another round of ‘Digital Detox’, this time it will be longer than 2 days.

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner

UEM Charity Run 2016

I give credit to my mum for encouraging us to join this event. She found it through the internet, and announced that she would like run in the 3km Family Fun Run category with her friends and my sister. I agreed to it too. But after seeing how excited her group was about the event, I figured that she has plenty of support and company. Plus, I knew that she can run longer than 3km because she works out regularly. So I ‘upgraded’ myself to the 12km category instead.

IMG_3106Team Mama

The event was a huge turnout because it’s not everyday that one of the busiest highways in Malaysia gets blocked and closed just for a running event. Usually, the North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) was jammed with cars and vehicles but this morning, it was full of runners. All categories and distances can safely run on the road without any traffic. Despite the high number of runners, the highway was wide with 4 lanes, so no one was knocked over and fast sprinters can easily maneuver through the crowd. There was even enough space to set up sufficient water stations, sponging stations, and portable toilets along the way.

 

IMG_3097The starting line and finishing line. Is there an express lane for slow runners like me?

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetJumping for joy at the same spot when I felt miserable about being stuck in a traffic jam.

IMG_3140The massive turnout for the event

Running instead of driving on a road that I travel through almost everyday gave me a new sense of appreciation for the route. I have never realized that the wide, open road against the backdrop of dawn was very picturesque. We just ran and ran into the first ray of sunlight. How could I have missed that despite driving through this road almost every day? Now, I agree that sometimes all we need is to slow down, look around to discover that there is beauty around us, and how perfect God’s creations are.  I have never realized the slight elevation of the highway too while driving in the comfort of my car. It was challenging, but it wasn’t a killer. We were rewarded with an equally long stretch of downhill. I just leaned my body forward, and let gravity do its work.

In the end I did not run my fastest 12km, so I did not take home a new personal best (PB) record. However, I did went home feeling grateful and energized, with a better appreciation of my surroundings.

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

Compressport Combo Challenge (Trail Run 6K) 2016

Remember my previous trail run experiences at FRIM and my 2nd trail run at Mardi-Maeps? Through my past experiences, I have learnt that trail runs can be unpredictable: What if it rains tomorrow? What if I had to endure another 400m of elevation gain? What if my legs suddenly cramped up? What if I have to swim? I had so many doubts on the Saturday before the race, I was considering if I should skip this week’s event. After all, my legs were not 100% recovered yet since my [incomplete] full marathon debut.

However, thanks to the infectious positive and optimistic vibes of starting a new year, I woke up on race day morning feeling fine and fresh, ready to run again. Aside from a very slow 10K run on 1st of January 2016, I have not been seriously running because my quads still hurt. So what better way to start the 2016 running log with some trail running at Mardi-Maeps!

 

IMG_2371Looks like 2016 will be a great year with these bunch of people! (photo credits to Kyserun Krew)

IMG_2373Hello there, Family Running Crew! (photo credits to Kyserun Krew)

 

My previous experiences in Mardi MAEPS have taught me to be overly prepared and always expect for the worst-case scenario. I knew I was not ready to take on a double-digit trail run event yet, so I signed up for the 6K category. But this time, the 6K route was unexpectadly easy and simple. Hills are unavoidable – they are a part of trail runs anyways. But for today’s case, the uphill climbs were not challenging. According to my Garmin, it was only 188m gain in elevation. My friends who participated in the 12K category thought otherwise. Judging by the blisters on their feet and how tired they looked at the finishing line, I was convinced that their route was definitely tougher than mine.

The only unpredictable part of this trail came at KM3 – we were pleasantly surprised when we were informed that there will be some river-crossing. In my mind, I was prepared to encounter a river that could potentially soak me from head to toe, just like in Hulu Langat Trail Run, and thank god I choose to wear my Nashata Tron Ultra Top today because it’s light and it will dry up fast. Instead, we faced a small stream that was only up to my ankles!

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Expectation…

IMG_2361….vs. Reality

So far, it looks like I’m right on track for 2016! This event gave me the confidence booster needed to take on more challenges, and just the right amount of motivation to start running again. So, how did you spend your New Year?

IMG_2368I am so glad that I decided to run today!

 

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

The Weekend Runner: FRIM Forest Trail Run 2015

I have a love-hate relationship with trail running. I would be cursing at myself, but right after the race I would be hunting for the next trail run. Perhaps it was stemmed by my first trail run (Mardi MAEPS Trail Run) in 2014 which was a total blunder. No trail shoes, no hydration pack, socks that were not suitable…what was I even thinking back then?!

 

Yet, it was so addictive. There is something about being in nature, a change of scenery from the concrete jungle that drew me back to off-road races. Unfazed by the bad experience, I signed up again for FRIM Forest Trail Run at the end of 2014. I settled for only 9km, but I vowed that I will be back in 2015 to take on the 16km category. So here I am again, in FRIM Forest Trail Run 2015, to fulfill the promise that I made to myself, hopefully better, faster, and stronger than last year.

 

NHIB65132014, 2015. Same venue, same event. FRIM, it’s good to be back.

Another reason why I was continuously drawn to trail running was because it can be a humbling experience. I felt like the most confident runner in the world. But then it rained heavily the night before. The ground was soft and slippery, with loose stones and gravels scattered along the route. I lost count how many times I tripped. It sounded like a minor problem, but multiply the tripping several times you will end up losing precious minutes, not to mention very painful ankle joints tomorrow.

 

IMG_7561Mother Nature, you win this time. But I won’t lose without a fight. (Picture was taken from FRIM Forest Trail Run 2014).

Trail running can also be very challenging, yet rewarding too. You are transported to a totally different world, it feels like a mini-vacation. The steep, uphill climb that you have to endure? A very beautiful view awaits at the top. The route is long, and sometimes lonely. You can walk for miles, and not bump into a single soul. You leave it all to your instincts and the sign boards. But the sound of birds chirping, leaves rustling, and rushing water from the river will always accompany you. Plus, isn’t the main reason to sign up for trail runs was to enjoy the sights and sounds that nature has to offer?

IMG_2006Sights like this make trail running a worthwhile experience.

I don’t think this love-hate relationship with trail running will go away any time soon. Trail running is here to stay for me, and I look forward to more adventures off-road in the future.

 

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.

The Weekend Runner: Releasing turtles and Putrajaya 100 Miles (Support Team).

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For this week, I had to swap my number bibs for name cards and lanyards as I head up to the East Coast of Malaysia for work. We were lucky enough that our accomodation was pretty close to a turtle hatchery. So one evening, after we were done for the day, we decided to participate in a program to release baby turtles into the sea.

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IMG_1848A little briefing on handling these precious baby turtles. Their shells are still soft and will harden as they grow older.

IMG_1859Moments like these make me want to say “I really love my job”.

I spent a few minutes with my turtle before it was time to release, but I was already getting emotionally attached to it. A million fears were racing through my mind my baby turtle swam into the open sea. My biggest fear was that my children or grandchildren will only know turtles from pictures in books. What if they will never knew the unique swirls on each turtle’s shell? What if they will never meet the eyes of these creatures, and look deeply into their gentle souls? If we continue to pollute the sea with plastic bags, or do not stop eating turtle eggs, these animals will be pushed to the brink of extinction very soon. I would hate to think that my worst fears might come true if we do not change our ways and realize the deteriorating impact of our actions to the environment.

 

For more info on this programs, bookings, and arrangements, head to: http://www.pahangtourism.org.my/index.php/destinations/islands-beaches/cherating/pantai-chendor

 

The next day on Sunday, I headed to Putrajaya to cheer friends who ran in the Putrajaya 100 Miles in the 100km category. It’s not everyday you get to be a part of an ultramarathon event, and 100km is a really big milestone in every runner’s career. They needed all the help they could get to stretch their physical and mental endurance.

The race started yesterday (Saturday), at about 7am. The support team was already on standby at the checkpoints, helped the runners pace, or carry the essentials. I was unable to join them on Saturday because I was still travelling, but I kept tab of their progress (and pain!) through social media and text messages. So the least I could do was cheer for them at the finishing line and helped them take pictures on Sunday. The cut-off time was 30 hours, and they managed to complete the run in roughly 26-27 hours.

IMG_1944The support team who worked just as hard!

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IMG_1939Sleep-deprived, exhausted, and sun-burnt, the least I could do was be a familiar face at the finishing line, cheering for them to finish strong.

 

It was an interesting experience to be a part of an event from a support group’s perspective. I have always thought that running was an individual sport – the only person you need to think about is yourself. However going solo was never a viable option in an ultramarathon. Without proper coordination, planning, and strategizing from the rest of the support team, a runner’s performance might be severely affected, or worst, he/she will not be able to complete the race. It was a humbling experience, and there are lots more for me to learn.

 

Until next week,

The Weekend Runner.