Suck it Up Runners or #SCKLM4October

I have never participated in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon event though I do have one unused half marathon bib (due to injury) from 2013. I no longer live in Kuala Lumpur and I have not registered for this year’s marathon. All of this makes me perfectly qualified to post a detached and well-reasoned post on the decision, announced yesterday, to move the race day back a week to Oct 10, 2015. Yet, I can’t, because even here in Perth, I find myself getting angry over the obvious disdain this decision shows towards runners, towards 35,000 runners who have committed their money, time and training to an event long-scheduled for Oct 4.

The change of date (and day, from Sunday to Saturday) is a political one, to allow the international event to coincide with the newly conceived National Sports Day run by the Malaysian Ministry of Youth & Sport. The National Sports Day has amongst its objectives: ‘promoting unity, stimulating economic growth, growing sporting knowledge and recognising sporting talent.’ Well congratulations, Dirigo Events, you’ve certainly managed to promote unity; unity of anger of thousands of SCKLM registrants who have taken to Facebook, Twitter and blogs to voice their outrage over the mixing of sport with politics with little apparent consideration for the people without whom the event couldn’t exist.

I’m astounded that Standard Chartered Bank would allow their brand to be tarnished by such shoddy treatment of race registrants, surprised that event organisers Dirigo didn’t anticipate the backlash, and very glad that I personally didn’t book flights and accommodation for KL for the race. I feel very bad for those that did.

There have been many reasoned comments made online about the consequences for overseas runners, including many Malaysians who have already booked travel from Sabah and Sarawak. Many commentators have also rightly voiced their dismay over allowing a politically-neutral sporting event to be hijacked for political purposes. There’s also the worrying issue of staging such a major event on a Saturday, a working day in KL, and the fact that the new date clashes with several other running events. How any of this serves to promote ‘economic growth, growing sporting knowledge and recognising sporting talent’ is beyond me!

What bugs me most is the apparent disdain SCKLM organisers have for the commitment made by runners to their event. It’s like organising a secular wedding then, once thousands of loyal friends have bought their outfits, booked their hotels and organised a babysitter, changing the date to suit one wealthy, but distant, acquaintance who is insisting on a Church service to help promote their parish. Well, stuff your wedding I’d say – and don’t bother inviting me at all next time!

There are plenty of races in Asia for those who want to travel. Plenty of races in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam that, as far as I am aware, value their runners and don’t flip flop over things as fundamental as race dates. There are plenty of races around KL for those who don’t travel too. Since 2009, SCKLM has been considered the premier running event in Malaysia, adhering to international standards that runners could rely on, and other event organisers could aspire to. Dismissing the commitment of 35,000 runners to keep politicians happy, as SCKLM has done this week, was a misguided move and one from which the event’s (and main sponsor’s) reputation will fail to fully recover. Unless of course, thousands of runners voicing their opinions online get their way and the original date is restored. Everyone can mistakes. The trick is in recognising and rectifying them.

UPDATE: July 16, 2015

Over the past three days there has been no statement from the organisers of SCKLM while runners continued to lobby on social media for the marathon to be returned to its original date of Oct 4. This afternoon, the Malaysian Minister for Youth & Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, released a statement on his Facebook page announcing that the event would indeed revert to Oct 4. So, common sense prevails, the power of social media seem unassailable and Dirigo Events have been peculiarly mute throughout the whole debacle. Perhaps, silence in this case, speaks a thousand words.

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