I had been meaning to join a KLCC Runners Group (KRG) activity ever since I mentioned them in one of my articles in The Star about how to choose running events (https://goo.gl/oKHz5B).

As their name implies, their training ground is at the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) Park. This location is convenient for members who work downtown to join their training sessions on week nights.

What captured my attention initially about this running group was their refreshing outlook on running. They encourage their members to adopt a more holistic approach to fitness by mixing distance, speed and hill running sessions as well as other forms of exercise such as yoga (to improve one’s flexibility) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT – to improve one’s muscular strength).

The long term benefit of mixing up these exercises is to increase both muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness. This will help prevent typical running injuries caused by heavy wear and tear on knee joints, legs and feet.

Moreover, the willingness of the founding members to accept all kinds of runners, from wily old hands to clueless beginners, into their running family is the right kind of open-door policy for a multicultural society such as ours. After all, the last thing we need now is another group of elitists who will alienate runners who do not look and think like them.

The KLCC Runners accept all kinds of participants, from wily old hands to clueless beginners.

So, when the KLCC Runners Group leader, Matthew Barsing, posted an open invitation to the running community to participate in an organised 7km run, I took-up his offer eagerly. My intention was to make more new running friends, and at the same time, observe the group’s dynamics for myself.

Red balloons

I reached the gathering area in front of City Hall (DBKL) just past 6.30am, and already there was a large group of runners queueing up to register and collect their running bibs – which came with a timing chip sponsored by MyLaps.

I met a veteran runner who asked me, “What are you doing here?”.

He was probably really meaning to ask why I was not at some other bigger event on that same morning.

So, I replied, “This is free!”. His facial expression told me that he had joined the event for similar reasons.

After the small talk, I pinned my bib to my T-shirt and collected a red balloon (which all participants were required to bring along while running).

The presence of 500 runners running with red balloons through the city was certainly a striking picture to behold, and it added a party mood to the usual proceedings of the KL Car Free Morning (KLCFM), which was being held at the same time.

Basic training

The Under Armour fitness team did a great job pumping up the crowd with a highly animated warm-up routine on stage just before the start of our 7km run, which followed the KLCFM route.

Pumping up the crowd with a highly-animated warm-up routine before the run.

While the participants were busy mimicking the actions of those fitness gurus onstage, I interviewed Running Captain Sam, a full-time IT manager who is also a certified running coach.

He explained, “Many runners training programme only cover tempo, speed, distance and hill running. In our case, I teach the members the rudimentaries of ‘how to run’, ‘how your foot should strike the ground’, and also ‘how to correct your running posture’ too.”

We started our run at 7.15am to avoid the KLCFM crowds, which were routinely flagged off at 7am every first and third Sunday of the month.

Another helpful feature was the availability of several pacers, and I chose to run along with the two 8-minute pacers – Andrew Kwan and Daniel Moon. While running, we exchanged opinions about GPS watches, running shoes and injuries all the way to the finish line with our balloons still intact.

At the finishing area, we exchanged our bibs for a goodie bag of drinking water, a banana, a wristband and vouchers for free fitness workouts.

Everyone was feeling pretty relaxed, while enjoying a glorious sunny day. The top five male and female runners were rewarded with special tags and limited edition KLCC Runners Group Dri-fit Tee’s. Meanwhile, the non-elite runners waited eagerly for the announcement of the lucky draw winners.

I bumped into a few running buddies who have been noticeably absent from the running scene lately due to injuries. I must say that the post-race atmosphere was the same as one would find at any good running event, and looking at all the contented faces, I am sure that everyone had an enjoyable outing.

Limbering up before the run.

Running revolution

KLCC Runners Group, which celebrated their first anniversary on May 1, have grown to 25,000 members and held 83 free events.

They have captured the imagination of the public with their ideas of making running holistic and fun.

They should be commended for finding friendly commercial partners to partly sponsor free organised runs and goodies for their members in exchange for some brand loyalty: it’s a win-win scenario for both parties. Moreover, running event organisers are willing to give huge discounts on race fees to their group members, because of the large numbers.

The KLCC Runners mix different types of running routines and even yoga in a holistic fitness approach.

Personally, I insist that the successful growth of any running group will hinge on its ability to benefit the members first and foremost. It’s also important to keep up with the changing times.

The influence of social media on runners is phenomenal, and KLCC Runners Group’s rapid success can be largely attributed to their ability and willingness to embrace social media to communicate with every member effectively.

By leveraging on the low-cost and mass appeal of Facebook to recruit new members quickly, they can also mobilise existing members for new events or group activities. They also have their own #KLAPP app (on both Android and IOS).

Yes, although the basic principles of running remain unchanged, the expectations of runners today are more demanding – they not only want to run with each other, but they also want to be able to interact constantly with other members and share their personal running experiences and stories on social media.

Thus, there is a huge paradigm shift occurring: people are regarding running as a whole lifestyle rather than just a hobby confined to weekends.

How can you join the Running Revolution? That’s easy, just “Like” KLCC Runners Group at https://m.facebook.com/klccrunners.

Happy running!

Gus Ghani is the Founder of Running Toons and a HIIT Fitness Coach. ‘Like’ Happy Runner on Facebook and follow gusghani @Instagram for daily updates.