Tuesday, April 11, 2017

In the footsteps of a SCKLM pacer: Choi Chik Choy

Participants of Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Full Marathon 2017 may know one of the 6:00 hours pacer as Choi Chik Choy. The running community however knows him better known as Choi, a semi-retiree who provides runners with their running, hiking and triathlon needs. Heck, even my mum and I turn to him for our OCR and trail run needs.

1. How long have you been running?
I have been running since I was around 22-23 years old. After I got married, I took a break for about 2-3 years before rekindling my passion for running. All in all, I probably have been running for almost 25 years.

2. And how did you start running long distance?
To cut the story short, I started running to get rid of my big fatty body.  Then as time went by,  I found that running actually release work stress, got healthier along the way and slowly was able to make new friends that share the same passion or interest with.  I found that as the body became fitter, there is always a personal challenge within ourselves to up the distance.  To merely running 5k, 10k, 21k and 42k races, you got to train hard for it and finishing these races are always great accomplishments for me.

Then comes the ultra distance races like the 50k, 84k and the 100k.  These are considered very long distance races and when you have done what you need to do and achieved, the next platform is to up the personal challenge in running road and trail races where the distance is more than a Full Marathon (42k).  That was where I got started running in these longer distance races.

3) As your passion for running grows, what do you find yourself loving and hating about it?
Hate:  Waking up very early in the morning to start training (especially you have a long and tired day before the training)

Love:  You really feel good after completing the target distance in your training. Moreover when you do it with a group of people that have the same passion as you.  That really makes me feel good and motivates me to continue doing it.

4) How many marathons have you run?
To date, I have probably have done close to 80+ full marathons, not counting those shorter races.

5) What and when was your first marathon?
I can never forget my first virgin Full Marathon and it was way back in 1985 when I attempted the KL International Marathon.  I was a rookie in running back then.  Ah, the sweet memories of the suffering that I endured during the race.  No guidance what so ever, just train and run, then hope for the best.

6) What is your personal best (PB)?

Did it at Cathay Pacific Penang International Marathon 1988, clock a time of 3:30

7) What was your most memorable run and why?
I have a lot of memorable runs throughout my running history, but there was one that stands out like a sore thumb and was considered the most memorable run to me.  It was none other than the inaugural Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2009.

This race was not for me to run my personal best time but rather, a commitment to someone that I had promised to pace her to finish a sub6 in her virgin full marathon.  It was a task, a job, a training regime I had to chart and train differently in which I had to run much slower than my usual pace and not to fail on race day as a personal pacer.  On race day we both nailed it with a sub6 timing and the achievement from both the pacer and pacee was something to shout about till today.  That actually kickstart my role as a Full Marathon pacer and had never look back after that.

8) How do you train for a marathon? Tips?
It is always important to have a good base to kickstart my marathon training irregardless of how many race that I have ran.  A good base is that you have been running regularly before that, and the minimum distance are at least between 10k to 15k without having any problems at all. Once you achieved that, your fitness level will be much better when running those LSD during the weekends.  When your body is stronger that translates to having better momentum in the training plus better prevention of injuries along the way.  Hence I always emphasize that one should have a good base before charting themselves into the marathon training regime.

9) How many SCKLM races have you joined so far?
I started running the inaugural SCKLM in 2009 all the way till 2016 with the exception of the 2011 race where I pulled out as their official pacer due to injury and in year 2015 when it was cancelled due to haze.

10) How many times have you been a pacer for any marathons?
Probably 10-15 marathons as an official pacer

11) Why did you volunteer to become a pacer?
Giving back to the running community is what inspired me to volunteer as a pacer.  Helping runners out during the race and getting them to finish within their target time really motivates me to continue volunteering as a pacer.  With a pacer in place, I would say that those first timers who are attempting to finish the race can use the pacers as a guide.  Moreover the pacer are there to run at a very consistent pace, hence the pacee can follow them without running too fast and burning out before they reach the finishing line.

12) What do you look forward to for this upcoming SCKLM?
Obviously a well organise race for all participants and great weather.

13) What is your pacing plan for SCKLM?
The pacing plan is very simple.  Just run at a very consistent pace towards the target finish time.  This will allow the followers to run at a steady pace rather than we go very fast in the first 21k and then start to run very slow or even walk in the second part of the 21k.

That is a big NO in a pacing strategy as a pacer.  Consistent pace sounds simple but not everyone can do that.  Hence as a Pacer, we got to train to run at that kind of pace over and over again during our own training.  We got to perfect it. The pacer role is a job, a task, an important assignment that you are running for others and not for yourself.

14) Will you be participating in the Friendship run prior to the main day? 
Yes, I will be participating in the Friendship Run.  This will give me the opportunity to meet more runners especially those coming from another country. I think it's a good way to show our warm Malaysian hospitality and support towards their participation.

15) What advice would you have for runners trying to meet their targets and virgin marathoners? 
Train well and be ready.  Or else you will suffer.  Seek advise from more experienced runners on what they should do on race day.  There are no shortcuts in running a full marathon. Respect the distance. It is not a walk in the park.

16) Your three must do or must have items for a race.
My three must do for a race -
1) Let go of the pressure,
2) run in a relaxed mood and
3)enjoy the experience.

Three items that I must have during a race are 
1) wear my most comfortable running top and bottom that I normally used in training,
2) my running pouch to carry items that I need to consume during the race and
3) well seasoned running shoes and socks so that it does not cause any problems eg blisters during the race.

For those gunning for a sub 6:00 timing, keep an eye out for Choi and his giant balloon on race day and rest assured that you will be accompanied by a constantly smiling and encouraging face throughout the run. Check out the other pacer profiles on the official SCKLM website.

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