Making Road Marathons Safer and Better

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Driven to Stern Action

In a bold and unprecedented move, the former Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has instructed the Sports Commissioner (SC) to take the organizer of the Klang City International Marathon (KCM) to court for not obtaining prior authorization from the SC and thus, for having staged their race illegally. Furthermore, the Minister is seeking to increase the penalty imposed on event companies that defy the law and stage any sports or running events without the mandatory SC permit, from a current maximum penalty of RM5,000 to RM500,000!

What exactly has stirred up the wrath of normally cool and collective YB Khairy Jamaluddin? This story had begun last December…

  • Reckless Driver Rams Into Hapless Runner

In the wee hours of 10th Dec 2017 morning, a running buddy of mine, Evelyn Ang was hit by a wayward car along Jalan Kapar while she was running in the Klang City International Marathon (KCIM). As a result, Evelyn had suffered serious head injuries and a broken jaw. Three months after the accident, unfortunately, she passed away on the 1st March and was laid to rest on the 4th March.

  • Questionable Safety Measures

Almost immediately after the accident, many shocked runners went on social media to express their sadness for Evelyn and her family’s predicament, as well as vent their anger to the KCIM Organiser, Earth Runners. Some Participants blamed the organizer’s lack of proper safety measures – such as inadequate marshaling of road traffic along the running route, insufficient water at drink stations, and the absence of public lane closures information and signages – for exposing runners to the risks of death or injuries. Such bitter irony, since the majority of people picking up running as a way to lead a healthier lifestyle.

  • The Honeymoon Is Over

Every weekend, since 2011, the running industry has seen a meteoric rise in the number of running events to records level today. The ensuing lucrative profits, to be made by staging much-in-demand races, combined with lack of strict regulation enforcement, and with little financial and litigation risks, have attracted many companies and entrepreneurs to jump on the bandwagon and organize their own running events. Unfortunately, some of these organizers, are clearly more concerned with making a quick buck than giving Runners quality road races.

In turn, these greedy organizers will maximize their profits by compromising on race safety and giving their paying customers, the runners, shoddy products, and services. Of course, those runners who are cheated will complain a lot on social media, but with no real and effective official channel to seek justice or compensation, the unscrupulous organizers always get away scot-free.

It is high time that the National Sports Body put their foot down, and prevent maverick running event organizers from further endangering the lives of the public and runners, as well as weed-out non-compliant organizers who deliver poor services and lower the standards of Malaysia’s running sports and industry.

The real challenge now is to create a system which promotes quality in running events and at the same time, give genuine commercial event management companies enough leeway to conduct their business freely without too many restrictions and with minimum time-consuming bureaucratic red tape.

This will be a hard task because more often than not, the race organizers have purposely avoided approaching the Sports Commissioner (SC) for advice because they see SC more of a hindrance than a service, not to mention the associated sanction fees imposed by SC.

  • Finding A Workable Solution

With the backing of the Sports Ministry, the Sports Commissioner has invited the country’s race directors for a long-overdue roundtable talk. On such occasion, I believe that the SC will take on board the views and suggestions of the race directors before proceeding with measures on how to curb illegal races, and start working closely with event organizers to ensure that running events are held according to our national aspirations from now on.

Believe me, the SC will not let this opportunity pass without also putting into place a regulation or by-law which will make the race organizers more accountable for their future actions and poor-judgments.

  • Same Old Problems

As an avid amateur runner who spends way too much time participating in events every weekend, I really want to see a substantial improvement in the safety and regulations of all running events in Malaysia. However, I am afraid that inflated egos, vested interests and personal agenda among the negotiating parties might threaten to derail the potential progress and development of Malaysia’s number one mass participation sports of running.

  • Identifying And Overcoming Stumbling Blocks

Malaysians are a smart bunch of people, and we have all the necessary skills and expertise to not only make road marathons safer for everyone, but we can also, potentially, be the best running destination in Southeast Asia.

However, to reach these ultimate running goals, we need to recruit the help of all the key running industry players, namely, the Sports Ministry, Sports Commissioner, Malaysia Athletic Federation, race organisers/directors, runners, running associations/groups, local councils, the police, medical service providers, and relevant event sponsors.

The weakness of Malaysians is that although we work well as individuals when it comes to coordination and communication between different parties, companies, and groups, we really suck at it!

So, as a free-thinking and independent Runner, I would like to give my humble suggestions on how the above-mentioned industry players can put their differences aside and work together well for the sake of all those people who love to run.

  • Set-Up A Running Council

Building a strong foundation on which everyone, in the public and private sectors, can freely talk about, suggest and propose ideas will be key to the future success of running events. Here are some suggestions to make running events in Malaysia better and safer:-

  1. Give Sports Commissioner (SC) adequate budget to match its expectant increase in workload for closely monitoring the thousands of sports event companies and sports events nationwide.
  2. Invite not only race directors to the roundtable talks but also reputable representatives of the running community, running event sponsors, race registration portals, local councils, Traffic Police, medical service providers and any other key industry players.
  3. Set-up a Running Council with the SC as the Chairman and appoint one representative member from each of the key industry players mentioned above. Membership is renewed annually, and the Chairman reserves the right to dismiss any non-performing council member within 24 hours
  4. Make the roundtable talk minutes of meeting available to the public, to help others to follow and understand the important issues.
  5. Any major decision must be voted democratically by Running Council members without fear or favor.
  6. The Running Council must meet bi-weekly to discuss and take action on outstanding issues, and update the permit application list.
  7. There must be a clear guideline made available on what constitutes a permissible sports event, and exact information on how to apply for permits from SC must be made public.
  8. All sports events must submit an application to SC for consideration in advance. Only the SC reserves the rights to waive the SC permit in line with pre-agreed guidelines.
  9. All permit fees payable and paid must be made public to ensure transparency and prevent corruption and favoritism.
  10. Every major sports event with more than 2,000 participants must appoint a Race Safety Officer at their own expense.
  11. Since time is money, the Running Council must utilize IT as much as possible, and every proposed action must have a date for completion.
  12. Last, but not least, all of the Running Council members must take an oath to uphold the high standards of running events by dispensing their duties with the utmost integrity and professionalism.
  • Improving Safety And Impacting Lives

If we want to seriously improve the safety of running events, everybody needs to unite forces and play their respective roles to replace ignorance and greed with knowledge and goodwill.

This mission will certainly be challenging and tiring, but if we can save the life of just one runner, all of our hard work will pay off…


About the Author:

Gus Ghani is a HIIT Fitness Coach and Running Malaysia Magazine Columnist. You can follow him at www.gusghani.com or Instagram @gusghani.