Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon (KLSCM) was recently listed as the world’s worst marathon by a UK-based trainer review site called The Sole Supplier, and the study was dramatically being discussed among the community.
The parameters that were outlined to determine which were the best marathons in the world to run were altitude, air quality, average finish times, average temperature and rainfall, starting entry fees, refreshment stations, medical aid, toilets and quality of city accommodation.
The study showed that KLSCM was the lowest score out of 81 marathons worldwide, and therefore named the worst marathon in a global ranking of major marathons.
Due to the parameters used, the study also leaned heavily towards events in cooler climates which was why the top ten in the list are all from Europe. The bottom ten however were all either from Asia, Africa or the Middle East which are generally hotter places.
These are the reasons why KLSCM should be called tough.
Average temperatures and rainfall, air quality and slow finishing times are all beyond the control of marathon organisers and are largely dependent on the geographical locations of these events, while quality of city accommodations is subjective at best.
Kuala Lumpur has a wide array of accommodation choices to fit every budget and how it scored lowly in that particular parameter is not explained.
As for starting entry fees, KLSCM is one of the lowest in the world, definitely cheaper than the events listed in the study’s top ten.
And for criteria such as medical aid (the organiser has an equivalent number of stations to the Chicago Marathon, which is tenth in the list), refreshment stations and toilets, the KLSCM has always strived to provide more than adequate numbers of these (according to IAAF specifications), without much complaints from the participants themselves.
According to the organiser of KLSCM, Dirigo Events, the study was not based on input by participants, which should be the highest indicator of whether a marathon event is good or bad.
Over the last few years, in independent post-event surveys with participants, conducted by Nielsen, KLSCM has consistently rated above the 90 percentile mark in areas such as “loves the event”, “would definitely recommend the event to friends and family” and “will likely attend the next event”.
This is also evident in the event’s growing numbers year-on-year, making it a sold-out event in recent years and forcing the organisers to resort to a ballot for public registrations this year due to the overwhelming demand. Participation was at 36,000 in 2017, 38,000 in 2018 and 40,000 this year.
KLSCM was also in the final shortlist of the ten best marathons in Asia in a poll conducted by Mass Participation World (MPW) for this year’s conference in Singapore and has previously won a Gold and a Silver for Best Mass Participation Event in Asia at the SPIA ASIA (Asia’s Sports Industry Awards and Conference) Awards.
In conclusion, without taking into account the organisational aspects of a marathon as well as input from participants themselves, this study is inherently skewed in favour of the marathons held in temperate climates and biased against those held in tropical ones.
It is also rather disingenuous to call a marathon the “worst” due to factors like heat, humidity and elevation when “tough” would be a more appropriate adjective. A sold-out event of 40,000 participants can hardly be considered the worst in any category.