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My first free hazy DNS medal: Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2015

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Posted By Zyen Hoo

This year, I believe, must have been a really tumultuous year for the organisers of the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM). I am sure that every year is challenging, but this must have been even more so, as they had to deal with issues right from the very beginning, all the way to actual event day!

SCKLM is the biggest run event in the central region of Malaysia, and is one of the major events which every diehard run enthusiast wants to be a part of. We not only blocked the date of the event (Sunday, 4th October) when it was announced; we also blocked the date of the registration!

We had to block the registration date too, to make sure we could get a spot!
We had to block the registration date too, to make sure we could get a spot!

I was in class when the registration opened at noon on 18 May, but the moment I was free, I got straight onto my computer and attempted to sign up for the marathon. I was personally aiming to join the full marathon (42km), because it was a personal goal of mine to do a full marathon before the end of the year; and I was targeting SCKLM as my first FM because I trusted that the organisers would do a good job taking care of the runners.

The servers were slow! Too many people were logging onto the website at the same time, trying to secure a spot in the various categories of the event (3km, 10km, 21km and 42km).

I eventually managed to crawl my way through and secure my spot in the 42km category. The problem was that my payment seemed to fail, due to a fault in the line. My payment had gone through but the website did not register the payment and showed my registration as incomplete; so I had to make a second payment to secure my registration. I wrote to the SCKLM organisers to ask them to cancel the payment for the first transaction, which they very promptly did. Needless to say, I was very impressed by their efficiency and their quick response!

The 35,000 spots available for the SCKLM were snapped up within 4 days. This must be one of the fastest records for a run event of this size!

Registration is CLOSED!
Registration is CLOSED!

So with that settled, all I needed to do was just start training for the full marathon! …. or so I thought.

POSTPONEMENT OF SCKLM

A few weeks later, a Facebook post popped up on my news feed. Yahya from Sarawak (famous local run blogger) had posted about the postponement of SCKLM, and he expressed his disappointment although he said he would still do his best to support the event.

Yahya's post which he shared in Runners Malaysia Facebook group
Yahya’s post which he shared in Runners Malaysia Facebook group

Postponed?? I quickly ran a quick check online and found that the Ministry of Sports, led by the young and charismatic Khairy Jamaluddin had just announced the inaugural National Sports Day would be held on 10 October this year, and in line with this plan, SCKLM would be changing its date to match the National Sports Day.

Announcement of the postponement of SCKLM on their Facebook Page
Announcement of the postponement of SCKLM on their Facebook Page

Needless to say, many people were pretty upset about the postponement. Locals like ourselves may still be able to make it for the run, but the problem is that many of the people who signed up were not from this region. There were hundreds of runners who had signed up not only from all over Malaysia, but there were also many international runners who had signed up. The non-locals had already made their travel and accommodation arrangements, many of which were prepaid (most of which were non-refundable) in order to get the lowest rates possible.

I was fairly sure that the postponement was something that the organisers of the SCKLM were forced to do. It wasn’t a choice they had.

Because of the change of dates, SCKLM had to offer refunds for those who could not make it for the new dates. They also allowed participants to transfer their registrations to buyers who could make the new dates.

There were of course other events on the same day; and given a choice, most of us would choose the SCKLM over the other events. But the problem was, other events don’t offer refunds either.

Many people had also complained that because 10 October was a Saturday, they could not make it for the event because they had to work on Saturday morning.

In my case, I didn’t have a choice to make because I hadn’t signed up for anything on 10 October. But the reason I didn’t sign up for anything was because I was expecting to spend some time recovering from the full marathon on 4 October. Plus, I had also signed up for the FitMob Body Combat which was in the evening of 10 October, and I didn’t want to tire myself out in the morning. So when SCKLM was postponed to 10 October morning, I felt that I was forced to make a choice between the two; because even though I would still be able to make it for the marathon in the morning, I didn’t think I would have enough recovery time before the 90-minute Body Combat class in the evening.

I figured I would have to deal with that when the time came.

But that didn’t stop me from joining the crowd of voices complaining about the change of date. Everyone kept begging SCKLM to revert to the original date, and made appeals to KJ to allow SCKLM to keep to the original date.

Yup, I even signed an online petition!
Yup, I even signed an online petition!
Chan Wen-Li, talented comic artist and run blogger, summed up the emotions of runners everywhere in this nifty little artwork
Chan Wen-Li, talented comic artist and run blogger, summed up the emotions of runners everywhere in this nifty little artwork

AND… BACK TO THE ORIGINAL DATE

Next thing we knew, after a few days of complaining, hoping, and begging, SCKLM announced the reversion to 4 October!

Hooray!

SCKLM 2015 reinstated to 4th October, as announced on their website
SCKLM 2015 reinstated to 4th October, as announced on their website

But this was again accompanied with a rise of bitter complaints, because many people had submitted their requests for refunds or transfers… and may have lost their spots in the run on the initial date which they preferred. I don’t know how the organisers handled this situation, but I am fairly certain that it must not have been pleasant for them to deal with irate participants.

Wen-Li's follow-up cartoon about the reinstatement of the original date of SCKLM
Wen-Li’s follow-up cartoon about the reinstatement of the original date of SCKLM

But anyway, everything is now set, and all we had to do was prepare for the run. Or so we thought.

HAZE RUNNERS

Then the haze had to come and spoil everything.

The haze in Malaysia, caused largely by extreme deforestation and forest fires in Indonesia, has become a yearly occurrence. Every year the affected countries complain; every year no action has been taken by the Indonesian government to alleviate the situation. It is as if they figured if they waited long enough, the skies will clear out on their own, and the surrounding affected regions will eventually drop their compaints.

However, this year has been worse then other years; the haze came in August, and it lasted all the way through to October. The Ministry of Education had to order schools to be closed for 1-2 days three times in a span of three weeks. Singapore was so badly affected that schools and offices had to close, causing productivity to come to a grinding halt.

Several run events were affected, including the Mizuno Wave Run, forcing organisers to either cancel or postpone their events. Refunds usually could not be offered because the money had already been spent making the running tees, finisher medals, and goodie bags for the runners; not forgetting other hidden costs like renting of tents, fees for marshalls, etc.

So whenever a run is cancelled or postponed, the orgnisers would normally give out the finisher medals to the registered participants, even though they didn’t run. While this may sound good to non-runners, serious runners do not like to collect medals that they didn’t earn. We want the finisher medals of course; but we also want the feeling of accomplishment, that the medal we obtained was a representation of the effort we had put in.

Some runners still wanted to run in spite of the haze, but most runners would prefer not to for the sake of their own health. [detrimental effects of haze] Personally, while I did want to run in the event, I did not want to run in hazy conditions.

And considering that SCKLM is the big run event that we have been waiting for months, it was only natural that we really wanted to run… and when the haze came, we were hoping that it would clear out in time for SCKLM.

Everyone, including the organisers, kept a close eye on the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings… only to find out that the API standard that is used in Malaysia is unreliable. The Malaysian API measures pollutants only as small as 10 microns, while the Singapore API measures all the way to 2.5 microns; hence the Singapore API readings are always much worse than Malaysia’s, and of course is more accurate. There are days when the API reading in Petaling Jaya was less than 100 (healthy index), yet we could not see the buildings in the skyline within a 30km radius.

The week leading up to SCKLM was a real yo-yo on our emotions. One day it would clear up a little, and suddenly the next day the haze would be back with a vengeance.

Truth be told, I had not done enough training for the full marathon. I had been very busy with work and dance, and in the weeks leading up to the marathon, the haze kept me from going outdoors. I did attempt treadmill running in the gym, but even that was not frequent enough… mainly because I had fallen sick! Just doing my normal activities in the haze was enough to give me a fever, a sore throat, and fatigue. I think that if the haze had cleared up within a month, I would not have suffered, but prolonged exposure to the haze (more than 2 months!) made my immune system finally break down. In the week leading up to SCKLM, I was feverish and tired!

So while I wanted to run in the SCKLM, I was half-hoping it would be cancelled because I knew I would not be able to finish my full marathon. (Yes I know it was a terrible hope! I’m sorry!) But if it still went on, I would have gone in and given it my best shot. I was sure that the organisers would not be so strict about the 6-hour cut-off time because of the bad weather conditions.

6-hour cut-off time! Oh no!
6-hour cut-off time! Oh no!

Two days before the marathon, SCKLM announced that the event was ON. Yay…?

And... it's on!!
And… it’s on!!

But then suddenly in the afternoon, the haze came back… and it was worse than ever!

SCKLM was forced to be CANCELLED! 🙁

Oh my... look at how bad the haze is!
Oh my… look at how bad the haze is!

The biggest run event in Kuala Lumpur was forced to be cancelled, due to unfavourable weather conditions.

Back in 2013, SCKLM had also been affected by the haze. At that time, it was schedule to be in April; and when the haze came, the organisers decided to postpone it to end of September. And eversince, the marathon has been held yearly around the beginning of October. This time, the haze came in October, and it was too late in the year for the organisers to postpone it to a later date.

So… there was nothing to do but to go to the venue that had been very nicely set up, and take lots of photos!

I was the only one among my friends to have signed up for a full marathon. I am sure that they all wish they had signed up for the FM too, since I got a medal for nothing, hehehe… although truth be told, I would rather earn the medal than to get it for free!

I only received the participation medal though. I was told to surrender my race bib and they would send me the FM Finisher Medal later.

The atmosphere at Dataran Merdeka was a very jovial one, even though there was no race on. Everyone was disappointed, but everyone was determined to make the best out of the situation. Runners who had flown from as far away as Borneo and even Japan were here, and took as many photos as they could!

scklm2015-header

Huge group photo with runners from Borneo, and the pretty girl in the middle from Japan!

scklm2015-group6

Group photo with the pretty runner from Japan!

scklm2015-group1

Another photo!

scklm2015-group4

The girls from Team ERES

scklm2015-group3

Girly we-fie!

scklm2015-group5

Group photo of team ERES

scklm2015-group2

Group photo

scklm2015-jump1

Jump shot!

scklm2015-jump2

Another group jump shot!

scklm2015-stackplank

Stack planking 🙂

scklm2015-me_jules

Two very sad girls. It would have been my first FM, and Jules' first HM

scklm2015-fmlongline

Ironically, there was a superlong line to collect the entitlemets for the Full Marathon, but almost no line at all the other lanes! You would have thought FM would be the least because it was the most challenging distance!

scklm2015-fmfinishertee

I got my FM finisher tee, but it's meaningless because I didn't actually finish an FM 🙁

scklm2015-fmracepack

My race pack for the full marathon

scklm2015-goodiebag

The goodie bag distributed on the event day

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I only heard about the morning run later… which I probably wouldn’t have joined anyway, given that I was still recovering from the fever. A group of runners had planned a 10km run early in the morning, for people who would still like to run in spite of the haze.

It must have been really challenging for the organisers this year, but I take my hat off to them for doing the best that they could in the circumstances. And I must say that it has been pretty well handled, in spite of all the issues and difficulties that were thrown their way. It was a pity that the weather was completely uncooperative. But here’s to next year’s SCKLM!

Thank you to the SCKLM organisers who have been very professional throughout the entire handling of the registration and event, and to the tireless volunteers who helped with the distribution of the race packs and race entitlements.

Here's another cartoon by Wen-Li. Sorry I keep taking your cartoons; they just summarise our feelings so perfectly!
Here’s another cartoon by Wen-Li. Sorry I keep taking your cartoons; they just summarise our feelings so perfectly!

TAKE-IT-EASY, PAYBACK TIME

When we had signed up for the SCKLM, MSIG Insurance tied in their insurance for runners called Take-It-Easy. This insurance policy is a runner’s personal accident (PA) insurance, which covers runners in case of injuries or accidents that may happen during the run.

The insurance policy costs only RM4 to sign up… but I remember getting very annoyed by this insurance add-on because it was compulsory. When I was trying to sign up, I tried to remove the insurance add-on, but found no option to remove it, and I could not proceed with the registration if I tried removing it.

I know it’s only RM4, but I did not like being forced to purchase it. And with thousands of people signing up for the run, the insurance company was going to make thousands of ringgit from the sign-ups!

TIE PA = Take-It-Easy Personal Accident
TIE PA = Take-It-Easy Personal Accident

With the cancellation of SCKLM, I think this came back to bite the insurance company in their @$$.

I didn’t spot this … credit does not go to me. I saw a few people sharing it on Facebook – event cancellation was covered in the list of payouts for the Take-It-Easy insurance policy!

Event cancellation is listed as one of the benefits of the insurance!
Event cancellation is listed as one of the benefits of the insurance!

Of course I got really excited, and I shared on Facebook my discoveries, and how to file for a claim.

Even while trying to file for a claim, the MSIG website was down… possibly due to high traffic of people trying to file for a claim. I only managed to get onto the website about an hour later, but by then I had already submitted my claim using my tab.

My post which I shared on Facebook
My post which I shared on Facebook

Throughout the cancellation notice, the insurance company had been suspiciously quiet. I don’t mean to be mean, but it felt as if they were hoping no one would notice that clause so that there would be no payouts. Perhaps they were planning to make the announcement later and at that time were making plans on how to go about it; but because it took so long, the damage has already been done. It was only one week after SCKLM that MSIG finally released a statement about the claim for event cancellation. But by then information had already been exchanged between participants, making the statement irrelevant.

When I found out about the event cancellation clause, I shared it with as many people as I knew who had signed up for the SCKLM. One of them, a running enthusiast from my high school, Zikra tried to look for similar information on her part, but could not find the event cancellation on her insurance policy. So she called MSIG to find out why…. and was told that this was only included in the policies of the first 5,000 registrants.

Needless to say, many people were upset by this revelation. Why should only the first 5,000 registrants be entitled? Didn’t all of us pay the same amount, so shouldn’t everyone be entitled to the same list? In addition, this entitlement for only the first 5,000 registrants had never been announced during sign-ups.

As someone descrbed it to me… “Take money very easy, give money not easy at all!!”

Finally, an announcement made by MSIG about the event cancellation entitlement
Finally, an announcement made by MSIG about the event cancellation entitlement

One of my run buddies, Luan could not find her insurance policy which should have been emailed to her immediately upon successful registration. Of course she was annoyed, because she didn’t know if she was entitled. So she had to write in to ask if she was the first 5,000. I told her that she should be, because she had signed up before I did, and I was entitled. Finally after several email exchanges, she managed to get a confirmation email from the insurance company stating that she was among the first 5,000, and was entitled to the RM100 payout.

Well, at least they honoured their agreement. But this experience has made me less likely to sign up for Take-It-Easy insurance for other runs, which I think was what the insurance company was hoping for. They were trying to create awareness about this run insurance policy, which hopefully runners will buy for other run events even if it is not compulsory or even included. I would have considered it had this whole debacle been halndled more gracefully. This just seem to confirm the stereotypical view people have of insurance companies – very easy to collect payment, very reluctant to make payouts. I think MSIG needs a better team of PR officers who should have handled the event cancellation claim from the very start – make it clear who were entitled, and make announcements about the claim BEFORE participants made the discovery for themselves. It’s not as if they were not prepared for it; SCKLM organisers were already announcing the possibility of cancellation in the weeks before the event. The hazy weather should have been a dead giveaway. A contingency plan should have been made, and announcements about the event cancellation payout the moment SCKLM was announced as cancelled would have shown the sincerity of MSIG. As it is, the way the handled the claims and payments much later seemed more like damage control, and simply because they were bound by contract to pay out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that they were honourable and that they held up their end of the forced obligation. I just think that they could have handled the whole issue more elegantly. And at any rate, SCKLM would not have partnered an unreliable insurance company.

Thank you to Standard Chartered KL Marathon and MSIG for doing their best under these circumstances! Looking forward to actually being able to run in next year’s marathon!

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6 thoughts on “My first free hazy DNS medal: Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2015
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    […] as the haze got progressively worse and refused to go away (leading to the cancellation of the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon the previous weekend), the organisers wisely decided to move the party to an indoor venue – […]

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    […] was very fortunate that my target of doing a full marathon for the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2015 could not materialise when the event had to be cancelled due to the haze. There was no way I could […]

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