Nur Adriana Batrisya Mohamad Sharom hopes to someday represent Malaysia doing what she loves most – running. The 12-year-old trains every day, coached by her father and No.1 fan, Mohamad Sharom Ishak.
“I fell in love with running after competing in my first race at school when I was six,” said Nur Adriana after a training session with running coach Ben Pulham at the Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon (KLSCM) Junior Running Clinic in Kuala Lumpur recently.
“I love the feeling I get when I run. I also love competing and these days, I love sprints. I want to improve my performance so that I have a podium finish. Of course there are days when I feel lazy to train, especially if I come back from school late but I know that if I want to get better, I have to train.”
The Year 6 pupil will be among the 1,000 children participating in the Kids Dash event in conjunction with the upcoming KLSCM. The clinics, says Mohamad Sharom, are a great opportunity for Nur Adriana to train under a professional coach.
“She loves running, and I often go online to research drills and training programmes for her. But this was a great chance to get some professional coaching tips from a professional athlete,” says Mohamad Sharom, 36, an amateur runner himself.
“She has the talent so I see it as my duty to try and nurture that interest and ability. It takes quite a lot of sacrifice for her and for us, too, as parents but if it’s important to her, we don’t mind it.”
The Kids Dash has been a staple of KLSCM and is open to children between the ages of six and 13. The younger children (six to 10) take part in the 1km run while the older ones run the 3km.
The aim is to encourage children to take part in sports activities like running. This year, race organiser Dirigo Events has decided to include more participants in the Kids Dash.
“We have expanded the numbers for both categories from a total of 500 in previous years to 1,000 this year,” says Rainer Biemans, project director of the KLSCM.
“The take-up was extremely encouraging and in fact, the race entries for the kids’ categories were balloted, similar to the adult categories. They ended up being fully subscribed.”
The event will take place a day before the actual marathon, so that the children will get to have their own “race day” as opposed to just being part of a supplementary race for adults.
Explains Biemans: “Starting last year, we arranged the Kids Dash categories a day before, making the race a two-day event. This was intended to give more limelight to the kids’ categories by staging their event at Dataran Merdeka and getting them to start at the Start/Finish race arch.
“Previously, the kids’ categories ran on the same day as the main events and had to be held at a separate location. We have also introduced ‘speed’ categories for both the 1km and 3km runs to separate the competitive runners from the kids who are participating for fun.
“While we want to encourage children to take up running and to show that the fun element is important, we also want to encourage them to get used to competitive situations.”
At the running clinic, children from as young as six were made to do drills and relays aimed at improving their basic running skills.
“The most important thing about training children is to keep things fun. I grew up in New Zealand where fun was the core behind any sports training programme for children,” says Pulham, who is based in Singapore.
“If you make it fun, they will want to do it and the more they do it, the better they will become and then they will have some success in their runs. And once they experience that success, they will want to run more – that’s when the real training kicks in.”
Pulham was an elite triathlete who has represented New Zealand in international triathlons before becoming a professional coach. Teaching children to run, he reckons, is important because running is the fundamental component in many different sports.
“Even if they don’t want to become runners, you have to be a runner if you want to play football, basketball, hockey and lots of other sports. Running drills are really important because they not only teach you to run better but also reduce the likelihood of injuries,” he explains.
Unfortunately, Pulham says, the most amateur runners fail to incorporate drills into their training.
“Professional runners do a lot of running drills. But amateur runners tend to focus on distance more than drills maybe because drills look a little silly,” says Pulham, who has been conducting clinics for adults in conjunction with KLSCM that’s happening on Sept 29.
“But drills are crucial; 79% of (amateur) runners get injured each year and that’s a massive number. This is mostly because they don’t do enough supplementary training work like drills.”