Thursday, November 20, 2008

Running in Malaysia

Not a good idea.

I plotted a 7 mile route on Google Maps this afternoon. It was overcast and rainy outside, so I figured this would be my best chance to survive the heat. Only 81 degrees out with 90% humidity. I brought along my smaller fuel belt, some money, and my room key. First mistake: realizing I forgot the paper with my directions a couple minutes into the run. Second mistake: thinking I had a good enough mental visualization of the map inside my head.

Turns out it probably wouldn't have mattered either way, as street signs are pretty scarce. I think I stayed the course for about 2-3 miles. After that, it's a mystery. Since I'm chalking this up as one of my worst runs ever, let me start with some of the positives before I go off on any rants.

Malaysian people are friendly. Men and women of all ages will shout out English greetings as I run by. Some get in a few sentences. "You are jogging. It is raining outside. You are getting wet." It got me thinking about how strange that would be if we did the same thing in the US. If we yelled out "Konichiwa" at every Asian we passed, or "Hola, Como Esta" at Latin Americans. It would be down right offensive. But in less integrated society's around the world, it's perfectly normal to shout out English words at any white person you see. It must seriously piss the French off.

It rained most of the time, which helped keep me from overheating.

I got in 11-12 miles instead of my planned 7.

I didn't get seriously injured or killed.

OK, so those are the good things; here are the not so good:

Traffic. I couldn't escape it. Cars are everywhere, and the exhaust was oppressive. It's like trying to run while breathing through a tail pipe. My throat was burning by the time I finished.

Sidewalks. When they have them, they are in always in a state of disrepair, and oftentimes covering a sewer drain below. Large holes appear out of nowhere. Half the time I was running on grass and dirt paths beside the road, inches from traffic.

Rivers are normally very scenic to run along, but here they stink and are filled with garbage and sewage. In fact, trash is everywhere. Almost everything is in a state of disrepair except for the handful of fancy resorts.

Right of way. As in most 3rd world countries, cars have the right of way. If you get hit, it's your own fault for not being more careful. They won't stop for you. I'm pretty good at being aware of my surroundings, but...

In Malaysia, they drive on the left side of the road, so I had to remember to run on the right side so I could see traffic coming. But sometimes, the left side had a sidewalk, so I'd switch, and then in a moment of forgetfulness, I'd forget which way cars were coming and have a few close calls. I wish I could have had a mounted video camera with me to record the miracle that was making it back in one piece.

In the US, people walk in the same fashion they drive--meaning we usually keep to the right side so those coming in the opposite direction can pass on our left. Not the case here. Dodging other pedestrians on the sidewalk, especially those with umbrellas, often resulted in a little side to side action before passing.

I mentioned the lack of street signs and that I forgot my directions, so I quickly became lost, which for some reason always results in me running much further. Never shorted distances. Once I knew for sure I was lost, and I was out more than an hour, I stopped at a market to ask directions.

Those were good enough to get me in the vicinity, but I got lost again and found myself in a really poor neighborhood along the coast. Wooden walkways led out to little homes built on stilts above the water. These people would have no chance if a bad storm hit, let alone a tsunami.

I asked for directions again, and the girl hesitated before pointing down a tiny road. I soon found out why. It led to the beach that lies between the stilt village and the Shangri-La. The beach was covered with garbage of every kind. There's no trash service--just the rivers and ocean. Very sad. Ran along the beach, dodging iron scraps and broken bottles until I reached a dirt trail through a jungly area.

It was getting dark and just as I emerged into one of the outlying parking lots and could see the hotel in front of me, a bug flew straight into my eye. It stung like mad, and I pawed and poked to try and get it out. I dumped the last of my water into my eyeball, hoping to wash the critter away.

Ran to my room and jumped in the shower where I let more cold water flush out my eye. Took about an hour before it stopped hurting. I was gone for 1 hour 48 minutes. By the time I was showered and dressed, I realized I was running late for our cultural dinner & show. Rushed to the lobby, but the bus had already left. One of the bellmen said they had left 5 minutes ago and called a taxi to take me there.

We caught up to the bus and passed them, so I arrived 5 minutes early. I merged into my group after they arrived, and it seems nobody had any idea I was even missing. Which, is kind of sad. I need to work on making more of an impact.

So, I'm glad I got in a long run, but there's no way I'm doing 20 outside. Breathing in that exhaust and flirting with a hit-and-run is not worth it. I'll see what I can do on the treadmill instead.


the merriest said...

you suck for being in malaysia. but rock on and eat some seriously delicious food. and don't run out of gas on your way back to the airport. missing your flight there would be slightly more complicated than missing it a couple states away from home. plus, i'm not sure if you can use your triple a membership there.

Kelsey K. Hartley said...

Perfectly snide comment on the Frenchies.

HollyRenee said...

see! THAT'S why i don't run:)

Kristin said...

You make me laugh...wahahaha! I enjoyed the french comment and could totally hear you reacting to the bug in your eye. Still, you would lab el this one of your most crappy runs?Glad you made it back in one piece.