Reminiscing and Looking Into the Future of Malaysia’s Running Industry with Linasbackyard
You may already be familiar with the Linasbackyard blog and Facebook page Cik Arnab & En Kura-Kura. But do you know the person behind these popular sites? ToughASIA got in touch with the humble 45-year old Marlina Ibrahim, the brains from Pahang behind these two sites. With a daytime job in the office and freelancing as a translator, Marlina initially started working out to keep fit. She used to go to the gym but stopped. In 21, she decided to try running and “the rest is history”!
ToughASIA: What inspired you to start linasbackyard?
Lina: I initially started a blog called Urutoranohihi way back in 2006. As the name implies, the blog was about Ultraman.
After few years of writing about Ultraman and our numerous trips to Japan, I thought I should write about our normal life here in Malaysia too so that’s how linasbackyard blog started.
ToughASIA: When did you start linasbackyard and what kind of stories do you cover?
Lina: I started the blog in 2008. At first, it was more of a lifestyle blog, writing about places we visited, food we enjoyed, hotels we stayed in, activities we did and so forth.
Later on, we discovered Putrajaya public parks in 2009, and I started to write about our visits to Putrajaya parks. At the time, the parks were not as popular as they are now so I thought it would be good to write about them.
I started joining road races in late September 2011, to celebrate my 36th birthday. Before I started, I read many running blogs written by fellow Malaysian runners. Nick Arthur, Jamie Pang, Yim Heng Fatt, Neoh Suen Ho, Dr. Julin, Mastura Light, Amilita Zaini, Nannoor Abd Hamid, Nor Juliana Ali and of course the late Evelyn Ang Loo were among the first few running bloggers whose blogs I read. They are the bloggers who both inspired me and got me intrigued enough to start joining road races. So it was then that I decided to also chronicle my training and race experiences.
But actually, my first running post was of Hubby’s participation in Siemens Run in 2009. He did this running thingy first and I was only “sucked” into it much later.
So, the blog had evolved all through the years but it started and pretty much still is about me blogging about what happens in, around and beyond my backyard.
Tango Ultramarathon 2015
ToughASIA: What keeps linasbackyard going into 2020 and beyond?
Lina: I am glad to note that I am still blogging about running, walking, hiking, and things that go hand in hand with those activities such as eating and travelling.
As long as I still enjoy doing these things, I will have stories to share. However, I am updating our Facebook page called Cik Arnab & En Kura-Kura more often than updating my blog nowadays. The Facebook page is also where we put race photos that Hubby and I took. For the time being, race photos are only those that either I or Hubby entered so we do not turn up to every race in town.
ToughASIA: What is your proudest achievement or moment with linasbackyard?
Lina: I have three proud moments.
Being introduced and meeting the then mayor of Kyotango city in 2015, when I joined the Tango Ultramarathon in Kyotango, Japan.
I was also privileged to meet with a renowned sports magazine editor in Japan, in 2016. A trail race that I helped to promote, The Magnificent Merapoh Trail was featured in a Japanese magazine so I was pretty proud about that.
Being part of the Ironman Langkawi crew 2018 and was involved in the live updates via their official social media account on the Ironman race weekend.
ToughASIA: With your experience, you would have witnessed the transformation of the running industry. Based on your opinion, can you tell us a bit more on how it has changed over the years since your involvement in the sports industry?
Lina: Truthfully, it hasn’t been that long since I started. But I have to say, the changes over the past 9 years has been huge.
In 2011, it was hard to find races to join each week and there may be some weeks with no races at all. Nowadays (which I meant, pre-MCO days), organisers are fighting over weekend slots to hold their races and runners have way too many choices to choose from too.
In a bid to have their events be more attractive to runners, organisers have been keeping up with runners’ demands and be more professional. Can’t be so cincai anymore nowadays.
Gone are the days where runners are satisfied with cloth bibs, cotton t-shirts and races that offer no timing chips. Runners now demand the whole experience – pre, during and post-race! It’s not just about running a certain distance and clocking a certain time anymore for a lot of runners out there.
But it comes with a price because it is hard to find any race that cost RM50 and below nowadays, even for a 5K!
ToughASIA: Personally, what were the most memorable running moments that have happened in the industry?
Lina: When runners band together to protest over the postponement of KL Standard Chartered Marathon from 4th October 2015 to 10th October 2015 by KBS to accommodate the inaugural National Sports Day.
Runners, both local and abroad did not take too kindly over the decision and rallied together and made our voices heard.
I had even blogged about my dissatisfaction over the decision on 13th July 2015.
KL Standard Chartered Marathon’s date was later reinstated to 4th October but the race was later cancelled due to haze.
Despite the haze, runners still came down to Dataran Merdeka on race day, not only to collect our race entitlements but to show our support. A number of hardcore runners went ahead and did their own “mini-marathon”. Some even play host to overseas runners who came that weekend.
Putrajaya Night Marathon was another casualty of the haze in 2015 but runners are pretty stubborn lot so despite the event being cancelled, some of us went ahead and did our run albeit at a lesser distance with the knowledge and go-ahead from the organiser.
Despite being cancelled, Putrajaya Night Marathon event day and site were still abuzz with activities, with sponsors’ booth still open but held indoors instead.
In 2017, the running community was jolted and shocked over the news of Klang City International Marathon 2017 6:00 hours pacers being hit by a car during the run.
Sadly, one of the pacers and a dear friend suffered serious injuries and passed away a few months later.
The incident brought new measures by the Sports Commission to regulate road races in the country.
Local authorities are stricter too now, limiting the numbers of races held in their municipality for each weekend, for instance – Majlis Perbandaran Sepang.
ToughASIA: Moving forward, how do you think the local running industry can innovate and improve?
Lina: Truthfully, race organisers are quite innovative and are very responsive to runners’ needs and demands. There has been surge not only in the “normal style” races but also those with themes and coming out with attractive medals and race entitlements.
I do not think our local running industry is short of innovation and ideas when it comes to creating a great race experience for runners.
Even during MCO, there are so many free or paid virtual events popping up to keep runners motivated and stay fit while being cooped up indoors.
Race organisers cannot be complacent and insist on doing thing the old-school way. Of course tradition needs to be honoured but everyone have to move with time. One example is, organisers cannot get away with offering limited medals anymore nowadays. It is one of those things that almost all runners want and covet.
ToughASIA: With COVID-19 affecting races, what do you think should be the organisers’ priority in ensuring a safe race should it resume in the near future?
Lina: It is hard for me to say. If we cap an event to a certain number of participants, there will still be a risk. There is definitely a bigger risk involved for a bigger event.
Even if we social distance ourselves, organisers also need to think of the safety of not only the participants but also those who work tirelessly to ensure an event runs smoothly – the crew, the volunteers, local authorities, etc. So I truly don’t know how to answer this question.