Determined to try as many different types of runs as I can manage this year, I was excited when the KL Tower International Towerthon was first announced. To be honest, I had no idea what it entailed… I just knew that it sounded really exciting and different from all the runs I have been to so far (all of which were on-the-road).
I was really surprised that for a supposed international event, the website had barely any coverage. I was trying to find more information, but the only information that was available about the towerthon was on the image containing the entry form which was available on themarathonshop.com.my, the website at which we could sign up online.
I suppose the information was pretty sufficient, although it seemed so sparse.
I had big plans to prepare for the towerthon. Because I stayed in a condo, I figured I could use the staircase as my training ground. I told myself that I should walk up the stairs from ground floor to the top (which was the 20th floor) at least three times a week, to get my body conditioned and ready for the gruelling 2058 steps up. Of course the towerthon was much taller than my condo building, but at least I could whip my body into shape and build my stamina to climb a lot of stairs.
Sounded like a good plan, right?
Of course it didn’t happen.
In fact, I didn’t train at all.
Okay, that was a lie. I did attempt to go up the 20 flights of stairs at least twice before the event, but that was in the two weeks beforehand. My complete lack of training guaranteed that I was out of shape. I huffed and I puffed, and had there been a straw house in front of me, I could have blown it down. I had to stop every five floors just to let the lactic acid dissipate from my muscles.
So, when D-Day loomed, I was nervous and worried. But to hell with it, I thought. It didn’t matter how long I took, as long as I finished. I decided to just go my own pace.
RUN DAY 17 MAY 2015
My run buddy Luan helped me collect my race pack, and she pointed out that I had mistakenly signed up for the Women Veteran category, which according to the confirmation slip was for women of ages 40 years and above – which is not my category! I wondered how I could have made such a mistake, until I realised that I had followed the registration form (as shown in the image above) – Women Veteran was for women of ages 35 years and above. The inconsistency had caused the confusion; but anyway I had been able to sign up for this category online without any problem. Anyway it wasn’t a big problem because I wasn’t aiming for the top ten prizes (if I was, then the category must be ironed out clearly); I was merely aiming to finish.
Because I was in the Women Veteran category, I did not have to get to the venue so early; the flag-off time was only about 7:30am.
I arrived just before 7am, when it was already bright. As much as I wanted to see a brightly lit KL Tower against the dark sky, I was not willing to get there too early and wait for hours before starting the run. Fortunately, Luan who had gotten there much earlier managed to get some pretty nice shots…
Andrew, who was in the Men’s Open category, had already long completed the journey up and down. His was the first category to have been flagged off at 5am. Andrew told us he took about half an hour to get to the top from the starting line.
Luan and I waited for the Women’s Open category to be flagged off, which took part in waves because the category was quite big. We had to wait quite a bit, as the organisers had to wait for the stairs to be clear before they were able to release the next wave. Our category was finally flagged off about 7:50am.
We had to run from the bottom of the road where the gate was, and run up the road which was in itself quite a slope. This led us to the base of the tower, where we had to run up a couple of external staircases before going into the belly of the beast… the concrete staircase inside the stairwell that led all the way up to the top!
If I thought climbing the stairs in my condominium block was tough, it was nothing compared to the stairs that awaited me at the KL Tower. The stairs were quite high, and the stairs had four landings for every storey. It was quite challenging mentally, having to climb all those stairs, only to see the numbers change every four landings as opposed to the usual two that other buildings have! Every floor on the tower was really high!
My friend Luan who is extremely fit, climbed the stairs easily with little problem. I tried my best to keep up with her, but she went up so easily as if it was something she did every day. I had to stop and rest every so often; but I always tried to stop at a spot out of the way that wouldn’t block others.
I know I shouldn’t be gleeful about being better than others, but … I was relieved to find that I managed to overtake many ladies who had been flagged off earlier in the Women Open. It wasn’t that I was glad that I wanted to be better than them; I was just glad to see that I was not the most unfit person there!
Most people would hit the first few floors with gusto, climbing up determinedly. But as we got higher, we could see many people taking breaks; sitting at the small landings between the flights of stairs, some even sitting on the stairs itself when there were no space on the landings. The staircase itself was quite narrow; it was wide enough only for two people to walk side by side.
While I acknowledge that it was a difficult climb especially towards the top, it was sometimes annoying to see how many people were not considerate enough to give way. Some of the participants would walk up two abreast slowly, and not giving enough space for the faster ones to overtake. I was even once caught right behind a large-sized girl who suddenly stopped in the middle of a flight of stairs to catch her breath. It was certainly quite a shock to suddenly have someone’s butt right in my face when I was trying to hurry up the stairs!
The teenaged participants were flagged off after our category, and being less than half our age, the kids were able to hurry up the stairs with far more energy than us. The boys were flagged off before the girls, and therefore the boys were right on our tail (as Luan said, the boys were overtaking the aunties!). I always tried to give way to the faster participants, and many boys were quite polite by saying, “Excuse me!” albeit in a breathless voice. But there were also several boys who would just push and shove their way through with nary an apology. When that happened, the teacher in me couldn’t let that slide – I told them off. Some of them did turn around to give me a dirty look… which just told me that their lack of manners needed the telling off more than ever!
I think there was a total of two water stations along the way, in rooms off the stairs where tables were set up with water, and large empty space for participants to rest and catch their breath. I stopped at one of them to grab a very quick drink; but I skipped the second one because I found the room too crowded and I didn’t want to get caught in the crowd.
I soon lost sight of Luan, who had climbed up without resting. I had to keep stopping especially towards the top; but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I managed to make it to the top in little more than 30 minutes – 34 minutes to be exact!
When I reached the top, there was someone who called out my name with a congratulations, and a photographer who took my photo as I crossed the finish line. I had wondered then how they knew my name, until Luan told me that the timing chip on the race bib was picked up by the scanning device, and the name of the participant was displayed on the TV screen which he was observing.
To my surprise, as I collected the medal, I was immediately ushered down to a holding area two floors below the top. We were not allowed to admire the view from the top of the tower which we had laboured to climb up the past half-hour. Andrew had told us that the previous year they allowed the participants about 5 minutes to look at the city skyline while catching their breath; this year they offered viewing tickets at a discounted price.
I suppose the GST (goods and services tax) implemented in April this year must have really affected everyone, including KL Tower!
THE TRIP DOWNSTAIRS
Luan was waiting for me at the holding area, where we could grab a drink. We tried to make our way downstairs, only to be told that we had to take the lift downstairs – and there were only two in operation. There was actually a really long line for the lift, so Luan and I squeezed ourselves to the back of the line – which of course was pointless, because people starting cutting queues.
Like many others, we would have preferred to walk down the stairs as it would have been a lot of faster, but we were barred from doing so because there were still participants climbing up the KL Tower. Have I mentioned that there were no “chicken exits“? Meaning that once you start climbing up, there was no way out but up; you cannot change your mind halfway and back out.
The lifts were not moving fast enough to be able to transport the people downstairs. The number of people in the room kept growing as more people completed the climb and joined us at the holding area. It was unbearably hot, and a lady who had already been filling ill from the physical exertion of the climb couldn’t take the lack of oxygen and threw up. She had to be rushed out and down by the medical assistants.
After much pushing and shoving by the crowd through the tiny doorway that connected the holding area to the the lift area, Luan and I finally managed to get into a lift. We had waited for more than an hour in that holding area – double the time we took the climb up the stairs! If there had been an alternative staircase for us to move down, we would have easily been downstairs in less than 15 minutes.
Andrew had been patiently waiting for us downstairs, wondering what was taking us so long to come back down.
All in all, it was an interesting experience. While I enjoyed the challenge of climbing up the stairs of the KL Tower, the wait to go down by lifts was not something I would want to experience again! Unless the situation is improved, I don’t think I would want to join future towerthons!
Andrew was the one who found it! There is a photo of me in the latest edition of Running Malaysia magazine, taken during this run!!!
And considering how a lot of action shots of me that I’ve found in photographers’ online albums look pretty horrible (I am not photogenic in running actions; I look half-dead in most of them), the one they chose is a pretty nice one!!!
I have appeared in a local print magazine about running. My life is now complete (no sarcasm here!!!).