When I started running back in 2011, there would be an average of two events per month. Nowadays, there are four to eight runs monthly.
This is good news because the hobby/sport promotes good health. The bad news is the deluge of marketing materials from event organisers which can be confusing.
So allow me to offer 12 tips on how to choose a running event that will give you good value for your hard-earned ringgit.
1 Know your organiser. Ask questions like, “Do they have a good track record?” and “Who is the race director?” If you stick to proven yearly events, then you will know exactly what to expect.
Having said that, I have witnessed some major foul-ups even at events staged by big and well-known organisers. One such example occurred during the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014, when the venue was switched to the longer new bridge.
Poor management and crowd control caused frustrating bottlenecks when thousands of 7km fun runners blocked the passage of the 42km full marathoners a few kilometres before the finish line. There was also confusion about where long-distance runners could collect their medals and unbearably long queues under the hot sun for refreshments and goodies.
In other words, some events can become too popular for their own good if not planned properly.
2 Avoid organisers who provide late and sketchy race information. A good race organiser will provide a detailed description of their event when they launch it.
An inaugural marathon in Putrajaya last year was a big disappointment from start to finish. Information provided to the public was inadequate and slow, and things got worse on event day for the 42km runners.
According to my wife, Maryati, “By the time I reached the last few water stations after running for more than 35km, there was no water left. All the volunteers went missing. I was really thirsty, but I had no choice but to push on until the finish line.”
Thankfully, she finished her race in one piece, and was lucky not to have suffered from heatstroke or dehydration.
By the way, there is always an indemnity clause which basically assigns all race risks as the sole responsibility of each runner. Hence, to be safe, I always carry my own water bottle for races with unfamiliar organisers.
3 Stay away from events which are promoted exclusively online without any legitimate operating address. It will be very difficult to track them down if anything goes wrong.
4 Too good to be true? The costs and procedures of organising a public run are pretty standard. So, if the event offers an unbelievable deal, then be extra careful. On the reverse side, if the race fees are higher than the market rate, then make sure you will get your money’s worth with better runner’s perks.
5 CON-fidence. Some crooks gain runners’ confidence and trust, before disappearing with their registration fees. Be particularly wary of any new or unknown organisers. Based on my experience, it is rare, but there are one or two cases every year.
6 Charity? Many events claim that “part of the proceeds will be donated to a worthwhile charity”. Call the declared charity directly and clarify exactly how much of the funds they will receive.
7 Seek advice from regular runners if you have any doubts. There are many online forums where runners can ask each other about a particular event or organiser.
8 Easy to contact. Deal with organisers who are helpful and transparent. When I find it difficult to contact an organiser to obtain information, then it’s a warning sign for me to look for other races to join.
9 Check the terms and conditions. Always double check before making any complaint.
During last year’s hazardous haze period, several runs were either postponed (e.g. the Mizuno Wave Run), or cancelled (e.g. Standard Chartered KL Marathon, or SCKLM; and the Putrajaya Night Marathon, or PNM).
Organisers can postpone or cancel an event if the race director deems the conditions will endanger the health and safety of the participants.
Apart from the haze, lightning is also dangerous. During the Puma Night Run 2015 in Setia Alam, Selangor, the race was called off shortly after runners had already started. Many rain-drenched runners then ran helter-skelter to find shelter from the relentless thunderstorm which also knocked down a huge backdrop near the finish line. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that incident.
Many SCKLM and PNM runners demanded a refund after the race cancellation was announced. However, refunds are totally at the discretion of the organisers.
In these two cases, although no refunds were given, the shows and festivities went ahead without the runs and participants could still go to the race venue to collect their medals and goody bags.
10 Complaints. If you have been conned, collect all your evidence and lodge your complaint to the authorities dealing with consumer rights under the jurisdiction of the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (http://www.kpdnkk.gov.my/ or 1-800-886-800).
After that, you can warn all your mates to avoid joining future events by that dubious organiser.
11 Don’t be shy. Directly ask the organisers important questions. How do they plan to manage the event? How many water stations will the route have? How many medical personnel will be on duty? What are the parking facilities?
A good event organiser will provide all the important information in a race guidebook, and they will continuously share with the public their event itinerary, the course map and details on runners’ goodies. Furthermore, organisers are often a great source of venue information such as hotel rates, best local eateries and must-visit attractions.
As a rule of thumb, the more detailed the information provided, the more likely the event will happen without hiccups.
12 Don’t rush into a decision. Be a smart shopper. Take a step back and ask yourself every time: Do I really want to sign up? Why? If your reasons are compelling enough, only then should you go for it.
Gus Ghani is the founder of Running Toons and a HIIT fitness coach. Like Happy Runner on Facebook and follow gusghani@Instagram.