Sometimes all it takes is a gadget to spark our interest. For Azrul Osman Rani, all it took was a watch to ignite his running spirit and set his feet pacing to the finish line of a marathon.
Initially, the Managing Director and CEO of Petronas Dagangan Berhad did not expect to be running marathon after marathons. Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Azrul, a proud father of two sons and a daughter, is longing to race again. While his late father was into badminton, his elder brother does IRONMAN races and his sister also loves running.
ToughASIA just had to find out how Azrul maintains his cadence and running form towards his next marathon.
ToughASIA: What inspired you to take up running?
Azrul: I wasn’t big into running until I had my first taste of running a full distance marathon.
Prior to signing up for my first marathon, I had never run past 7 kilometres in my life. To say that I underestimated the feat was a huge understatement.
My wife bought me my first smart watch – a Fitbit – for my 43rd birthday, and I started to get hooked with the statistics. When I heard my brother-in-law was planning to do his first marathon in Paris for his 42nd birthday – 42km @ 42, I decided to sign up as well.
I thought I may have almost died trying to complete it but when I crossed the finishing line near Arc de Triomphe after 5 hours and 59 mins … I knew I was hooked.
ToughASIA: What keeps you motivated to train now, even when there are no races?
Azrul: Up until Ramadan, I was doing about 80km per week with about 90% of it at heart rate level below 133 bpm, as I estimated that to be my Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) heart rate according to the method by Phil Maffetone. During the fasting month, I normally take a break and cut my mileage significantly.
In my mind, I am secretly hoping that with the vaccines being rolled out, I can sign up for my sixth full marathon in December somewhere. I am thinking of Chiang Mai, as I had done the half-marathon there a couple of years back and enjoyed the city. For me, without some goals of a big race, it would be difficult to stay motivated.
ToughASIA: Where are your favourite running locations?
Azrul: In Kuala Lumpur, my most regular running spot is Desa Park City, although I think Putrajaya is a much better place to run. I like flat routes so that it is easier to keep my heart rate low and do longer mileages. However, I also run closer to my home such as Bukit Damansara, Bukit Tunku, and Lake Gardens.
ToughASIA: What is the most memorable race you have competed in?
Azrul: The most memorable one has to be my first marathon in Paris. Since then, I have also completed the Greater Manchester, Tokyo, Chicago and Singapore marathons. Chicago was great because some of my old university friends came to cheer me on (I studied in the US). Therefore, I enjoyed Chicago the most.
ToughASIA: How do you manage between training, racing and family?
Azrul: My wife likes to travel. She too completed the Paris Marathon with me, but swore she would never run a marathon again. On occasion, I still run with her as doing MAF training which is at a much slower pace than race pace, so she enjoys that pace too. My children – 21, 19 and 13 – are big enough that it is easy to manage.
ToughASIA: What is the most difficult part about running and how do you overcome it?
Azrul: It is actually very addictive. I enjoy it, so I have no issues about keeping my motivation up. And because I do mostly MAF, the risk of injury is low. However, I admit I do not warm up and stretch enough afterwards. I have picked up yoga recently and I think that helps with my running.
ToughASIA: Do any of your children participate in running too?
Azrul: Only my oldest son does dabble in running a little bit. He has completed two half-marathon races. However, he prefers doing other sports such as ultimate frisbee.
ToughASIA: We saw your post in the MAF Malaysia Runners group on Facebook. What inspired you to run with the MAF method?
Azrul: Based on my research about a year or two ago, it is the best way to develop your aerobic fitness.
Most long distance running distances are about 90 – 99% aerobic. So, it makes sense to spend most of my running time at that pace and heart rate. However, every few months I do feel the urge to hit it hard, just for fun.
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ToughASIA: What keeps you going into 2021 and beyond as a runner? Are you looking forward to any race in particular?
Azrul: I am hoping for Chiang Mai marathon in December if the borders open up. I have many more places I want to do a marathon someday, such as Gold Coast, London, Berlin, New York, Boston, KL, Istanbul, Valencia, and many more.
ToughASIA: How are you celebrating Father’s Day in this year?
Azrul: I have not thought about it. Normally, I go out and have dinner with the family, but with MCO maybe I will just go for a morning run. LOL!