What the hell was that? Was that supposed to be a world-class international event brought to us by a world-class international brand? I've been to primary school sports days better organised than that.
What happened last night at the Energizer Night Run was just plain shameful. The way the organisers handled the situation was beyond shameful.
Most people who know me know that I don't normally complain about race organisation, not so publically at least. This is because I believe that race organisers are actually doing us a favour by hosting these events. Having been on the organisers side before, I know this is a thankless job.
Without these organisers, we wouldn't have any race to participate in, so we owe them at least some support. By all means criticise when things go wrong, but make sure it's constructive so they can learn from it and improve. And when they do, they improve a thousand-fold. I've seen this happen before. And that's how the sport has grown so much these past few years.
However, last night's run was so badly handled, I cannot keep it quiet. These goons who organised the Energizer Night Run don't deserve anything but the scathing comments they've been receiving on Facebook. As of now there are is a boycott group, a boycott page and a we want justice page (I'm on all of them!).
It was shocking considering all the pre-race hype. Even the race kit collection was smooth, giving me a false sense of security that this was going to be a well-run event. But as soon as we got to the circuit, my friends and I saw that it wasn't to be.
First off, parking. How bad was that? I've heard that the parking fees were RM10! Highway robbery. And not all were charged apparently. My friend, Keni, who drove us there, was just waved in. He had already wound his window down to pay, but the jagas just waved him in. We were the lucky ones.
We walked to the circuit and everything was fine. Till we saw a bunch of runners being shepherded into a tiny door, which led four floors down into a narrow tunnel under the track. Having been to the circuit before, I know there are a few other tunnels that lead to the paddock, but they only opened the one. Now, if you know you've got 10,000 eager runners coming through at roughly about the same time, why the hell wouldn't you open the other tunnels?
I soon found the answer. After going the crowded, stuffy tunnel (which has been dubbed "Tunnel of Death" by the way), we found that it led to a small room where the headlight collection was. And it was utter chaos there. I couldn't see where the collection table was but apparently there was no one manning it. Keni braved into the crowds and grabbed one each for him, Shifa and me.
We left that room into a large open space wondering why the hell they didn't do the headlamp collection there. It was much more spacious and a hell of a lot cooler. But these smart bastards just had to inconvenience everyone and do it in a small confined room. Bloody brilliant. I also heard that when things got out of control, the volunteers and organisers high-tailed it outta there leaving the participants to fight it out like wild animals.
Unfortunately, as Malaysians, we don't know how to queue so the situation got very chaotic very quickly. They should have had some kind of system in place to ensure order. But instead, they ran. Useless.
Anyway, after that I went off to look for the baggage handling area. Senn was coming later to pick me up so I didn't want to leave my stuff in Keni's car. There were no direction signs telling me where what is, you just have to go scout around and if you find it, you find it. Otherwise you're shit out of luck.
I finally found it after going round and round the so-called carnival area. Another chaotic scene. After standing in line for about half an hour, I finally got to the front to see that there was no one manning that booth either. I saw loads of runners just tagging their own bags and dumping it in the room so I did the same. Suddenly I heard someone shout, "Everybody! Get the hell out of here! GET OUT ALL OF YOU!" Ahhh.. so that's where the volunteer was, busy yelling at people. Well, if you were doing your job efficiently, we wouldn't have to go in there to do your job. I mean, how difficult can it be to take the bag, tag it and pass the baggage claim tag to the runner? Seriously? A lot of full marathoners missed the start because they were still in line at baggage handling!
Anyway, I dumped my bag in plain sight so I could (hopefully) retrieve it easily later and went off to meet Emma and the RoE gang to begin our run.
The first kilometre or so was not too bad. It took us from the track, to the paddock area and out to the main road via the paddock access road. This is when it got a bit scary. Understandably, because it was a main thoroughfare, they couldn't close the whole road. So they had us running down a busy road with cars coming from behind. What they could have done was create a contraflow on the opposite side so the runners could have the whole two lanes to themselves. Running down that road with cars whizzing past your shoulder just inches away was bloody scary.
Emma and I skipped past the first water station and proceeded down the dark road that serviced the circuit's car parks. We were doing an ok pace (slow by Emma's standards, I'm sure) and soon came to the second water station. Chaos again! Volunteers there weren't ready. Cups were still in their packaging as the volunteers were busy trying to retrieve the cups from the packaging and pour the water. In their panic, they just threw the cups, packaging and all, onto the table, leaving the runners to take the cups out themselves. Runners were pouring water for other runners, while the volunteers stood idly by! What the hell are you there for, son?!
Emma was smart, she just grabbed a Gatorade from the ice tub and we were off. Soon, we got to another water station. More of the same. Were these volunteers not briefed before the run?
When we completed the outer loop, we were supposed to grab a wristband then enter the circuit. I moved to the left where I saw three volunteers standing there with the bags of wristbands in their hands. The first two did absolutely nothing. Nothing. Just stood there with their mouths agape. Again, what the hell are you there for, son?!
I grabbed two wristbands from the third guy and passed one to Emma and continued down to the circuit. We were directed to go down the pitlane then make a u-turn onto the start/finish straight. Now the track is so wide, one of the widest in the world in fact, yet we had to funnel into a narrow section to cross the timing mat. Again here, there was chaos. 5.5k runners, having completed their run, were just loitering around the area, getting in the way of the 21k runners. Also, we were given more wristbands here, which turned out to be of no use because no one checked them at the end. We navigated through the chaos and found some open space and ran down to Turn 1.
This is where I saw the ugly side of runners (oh yes, runners, you are not going to be spared from my scathing remarks either!). There were a whole bunch of runners cutting the corner at Turn 1. They shamelessly ran on the grass cutting the whole corner and rejoined the track at Turn 3. Those of you who took the shortcut and think you're being sooooo clever, you're not. You're a total disgrace to the running community. They cut Turn 1, Turn 4, Turn 9. They would have probably cut Turn 14 too if the water station hadn't been positioned on the outside of it. If you feel the need to cut corners, please stay home next time. You're a waste of space.
Speaking of water stations, the map had shown two station on the circuit: One at Turn 6 and the other at Turn 14. Guess what? The one at Turn 6 was just there for show. There was no water, no Gatorade, nothing. Just two volunteers sat there twiddling with their cell phones. Once again, what the hell are you there for, son?!
The water station at Turn 14 was slightly better. But only just. They had water and Gatorade, but like the earlier water stations, the volunteers just weren't ready for the onslaught of thirsty runners. And because the volunteers were ineffective, runners had to resort to getting their own drinks from the ice tub. Runners were grabbing 1.5 litre bottles of mineral water, taking a few sips, and dumping it to the side of the road. What a waste.
As we finished our first loop on the circuit, we again had to go through the chaos at the start line. If you're done with your run, get off the track, people! Don't impede those still running. Apart from that, the second loop went without much incident, save for the useless water stations. The worst part happened after crossing the finish line. Total chaos. There was no one to tell us where to go, there was no water available, nothing. Just a whole bunch of people looking important but without a clue.
We crossed into the pitlane and saw a long queue of people. We found out that it was the queue for the goodie bags. We waited in line for a while and saw that it wasn't moving, so I decided to go get my bag instead. This was the only part that went smoothly. Because I put my bag in plain sight, when I got to the counter, I just pointed at my bag and the volunteer went and got it. There were no queues (mainly because everyone else was on the other side queueing for the goodie bags!) and I got out of there in under three minutes.
After that, we decided to try our luck with the goodie bags again. We had waited in line for only about five minutes when we heard the announcer rudely announce that no goodie bags will be handed out because of the riot earlier. All goodie bags will be couriered, now please disperse!
Can you believe that?! No apology, no sympathy, nothing. Just a terse get-out-of-the-area-now-you-hooligans! So we left. I found out later that the bags were just left on the floor for anyone to take. And when it got crowded, volunteers were throwing the bags at the runners. How utterly disgraceful. To top it off, they gave the wrong bags to the runners. Some of those 11k runners were probably delighted to discover they had gone home with 42k finisher t-shirts and medals!
Now, all those disappointed runners had to leave but the only way out was that horrid Tunnel of Death. By now, the runners were all sticky and sweaty and had to go through that narrow, stuffy tunnel to get out. If someone had fainted, there'd be no medics around (not that I saw any medics the entire night). Even if there were medics in the tunnel, with the throngs of people going through, they wouldn't be able to get to there on time. Good thing there was no stampede, else things could have gotten really ugly.
Luckily for me, Senn had parked her car at the Paddock entrance, so I was spared that trudge through the tunnel. I walked in the open air, cheering on the full marathoners who were now making their way onto the circuit. I feel sorry for what they were about to face. After busting their asses for 42k, they would not be getting a medal, a t-shirt or even a drink. In fact, by then, I heard even the organisers had left.
The company responsible for this shamble is called Expose. How appropriate for on this night, they had exposed themselves as being incompetent, money-grabbing fucks. A friend told me they charged RM3 for a bottle of mineral water after the race! Who brings money to a run? And those things were supposed to be given free!
Beside the organisation, or lack of, the MC, a Josie Huang, I believe here name was, was utterly rude. No professionalism at all. She flat out called the runners hooligans and claimed that the runners were the ones causing a riot. And she did this over the PA system for all the world to hear. Fact is, had she gotten her shit together, none of this would have happened. And instead of being apologetic, she chose to instead shift blame to the runners, the very people that helped fund the event. Professionalism at its best.
I have been to many races in the past 5-6 years. Some have been well organised, some badly organised but I have never been to one this badly done. Even the KL Marathon of 2009 wasn't this badly organised. I worry about how the backlash of this will affect future running events in Malaysia. Already a lot of people are turned off by running events here and this may lead to less participation, local and international, which in turn will lead to the number of events decreasing and the growth of the sport stunted. I hope it doesn't happen, but we are well on the way.
Thanks a lot Expose, you have single-handedly ruined running for Malaysia.