When is a run not counted as a marathon? Avid runner Safiah Galgo had previously completed a few marathons, but she made a crucial mistake and failed to complete the marathon in the Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon Virtual Race (KLSCM VR) this year.

The 40-year-old Filipino insurance manager loves running, which led to her creating a group on Facebook for like-minded lady runners. Since 2019, the Malaysian Woman Runners have attracted almost 7000 members who actively discuss women-related running issues.

Safiah can often be spotted running in her neighbourhood ‘playgrounds’ and Jalan Gombak Lama. Mixing it up between running on tarmac and trails, occasionally she runs in the trails of Kemansah, Sungai Pusu and Taman Melawati in Kuala Lumpur.

ToughASIA: What inspired you to run the marathon in this KLSCM virtual run?

Safiah: My friends on social media, especially from Malaysia Woman Runners Facebook Group, are definitely a huge inspiration to me when it comes to joining running events.

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ToughASIA: How many marathons – full and half – have you completed prior to this?

Safiah: I have completed 2 (live/physical event) marathons, and 4-5 half-marathons, and 3 unofficial marathons, and countless of unofficial half-marathon distances.

ToughASIA: How many times have you participated in KLSCM in the past?

Safiah: In the past, I had participated in one marathon event and another virtual marathon.

ToughASIA: What route did you choose for this KLSCM VR 2021?

Safiah: I chose Federal Route 55 / Jalan Kuala Kubu road towards Frasers Hill as I would like to experience a new route. I started my run at 7:50am.

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ToughASIA: How did you plan your ‘water and refuel stations’ and did you have any support during this race?

Safiah: I did not prepare for a specific schedule for my hydration and refuelling. For fluids, I packed 600ml x2 in my flasks, 1.5 litres of mineral water, chicken essence, 300ml coffee latte and 3 x 600ml bottles of 100plus. Additionally, I also prepared 1 pack of peanut butter, bananas, electrolyte formula and Himalayan salt candy.

During the first 21km, I was running with a friend, and I consumed at least 300ml of water, 1 banana and 100ml coffee. After completing 21km, I refuelled with 1 banana, 600ml 100plus, electrolyte mixed in water, 1 shot of chicken essence and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. From this point onwards, I ran alone with my friend supporting me with hydration and nutrition from her car.

After 30km, the Water Station in my friend’s car was out of reach, as I could not contact my friend as there was no telecommunications network. So, I struggled a bit to conserve my remaining water, coffee and electrolyte mix. I was a bit worried with my blood sugar level because I was aware that I did not pack sugars while on a low carbohydrate training.

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At KM35, the water that I packed had ran out. Luckily, there were few small streams along the roadside during this rainy season and I refilled whenever I heard the sound of water nearby. As a note, I am used to drinking direct river water without side effects, but I do not recommend this as others may have sensitive stomach issues.

At KM37, I was really struggling with low sugar, as I had finished my coffee and my electrolyte mix. Furthermore, I still could not contact the Water Station car until KM38, and I managed to refuel with one banana and a 100Plus drink.

Continuing on to KM39, there was a heavy downpour which proved challenging. The last 3km was the most difficult in my entire life. The route was uphill for roughly 850m, plus, I was wet and cold. It was at this point that I made a crucial mistake.

In the heavy rain, I looked at my running watch and thought I read “42.2”, when in fact, I had only ran “42.02km”. Therefore, I did NOT managed to complete the KLSCM VR of 42.195km, to be exact.

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ToughASIA: How do you find completing a marathon in a real life race, compared to a virtual race?

Safiah: In a real event, it is so much easier as all you need to do is focus on running and nothing else. In a virtual run, there are many things to worry about, especially on hydration and refuelling, and carrying an extra load while running.

Plus, now I have discovered that you are responsible for making sure, you complete the accurate distance too!

ToughASIA: Are there any proud moments which you experienced during this race?

Safiah: I improved much this year in terms of stamina and endurance. Finishing 42km with a 1000m elevation gain is a huge success for me.

Also, I am feeling proud that despite the MCO I managed to keep running consistently. During the run, I experienced minor inner thighs cramping towards Km38, but I just ran through it after stretching those muscles. The best part of this run was that I was able to have a dip and cool down at the Semangkok Waterfall by the roadside.

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