I have been in Langkawi for a week, or nearly so, and have moved in a loop round the SW corner. I came for a few nights, but the guesthouse is friendly and sociable, the beach is beautiful and despite the solitude of the guesthouse (possibly soon to be changed, as construction goes on around us), the main road is just 300m away, with shops, bars and restaurants.
Perhaps because more or less everything in this area is tourist-oriented, there are even pavements on an 8k or more loop, so running here has been relatively straightforward, too.
There are plenty of people out paragliding over the sea; some on short trips for 29RM, others on longer, dearer, ones. I loafed along this beach. Once the tide is out, you can walk past these rocks, but even with the tide in, you can walk over them.
To the right of the view above is the (cheaper) paragliding base.
Crabs scuttle around on the beach, disappearing into holes if you worry them enough. They move quickly, and can change direction at impressive speed.
Then today, a remarkable moment. I was up early for a run, but otherwise hadn’t left the guesthouse, despite hunger creeping in. Eventually I left and walked along the strip, choosing to go right to head towards town. Any of those decisions could have been different, and had they been, I would not have bumped into Ali, with whom I worked at Birkbeck for 11 years. When he first waved, I just nonchalantly waved back, knowing I recognised him, but thinking only that this was someone staying at The Crowded House, or that we’d had a chat on the beach. But no; he is only here for a few days, visiting from Penang. Remarkable.
Malaysia, where there is now a parkrun. I was at event 4, which was still filled with the excitement of the novelty. It took some time, and at least two locations tested, for parkrun to start up in Malaysia, but if the enthusiasm of Harry – who was born here, studied (and ran parkrun) in England – and an international crew of volunteers are any guide, it will go from strength to strength.
If you follow their page on Facebook, you’ll know that the meeting place is the white structure in the middle of the park, and to be there for 7.15am for a first-timers’ briefing. You can’t miss the structure – there it is, in the picture above. It isn’t that big a park, so as long as you find the park, you’ll be fine.
Thanks to a miscommunication, I had stayed at a hostel I believed to be about as close as I could get, 5km from the park. You can get closer than that, and anyway, a number of people there drive, or get a Grab ride there (there’s an app for that). I ran, with the usual idea of being under my own steam and not reliant on anyone, so was soaked through from sweating by the time I got there. I’d also had to dodge across a couple of biggish roads; not a huge problem before 7am, though the city isn’t exactly sleeping even then. There’s a bridge over the stream and highway at the North of the park, mind.
The run itself sounds more complicated than it is. From the meeting point, head out left (up and right in the map above), then go right twice to do a full loop of the bottom-left section. Head out on that loop again, but this time at the bottom left, once through a wooden pergola, turn left. That takes you on to the ‘big loop’, which has marshals and arrows throughout, other than (when I ran) leaving it to you to turn right to get back onto that first loop, rather than heading out of the park. Pretty obvious. Do the big loop again, and this time you’ll come back to the pergola and again turn right to head back to the start/finish.
It was warm. Really warm. Not boiling, but it’s the humidity that punishes running, and as I stood and chatted with various lovely sociable people, I occasionally wrung another sploodge of water out of my t-shirt. The course isn’t totally flat, either, with a noticeable descent as you start the big lap that has to be followed by a bit of a climb later on. Twice, of course. It’s not huge, in fact eminently attackable, but it all adds to the effort needed.
It seemed as though everyone stayed around to talk afterwards. The two runners in the picture above are teachers from an international school, both decamped from Britain and loving it here. Particularly the Drama teacher, for whom working life is simply much more straightforward in a school without its budget pared to the bone.
Before the run I spotted Shaun, above, with his suitcase and went over to chat. Him turning up like that reminded me of my run at Westerfolds, Christmas Day back in 2013, when I hopped off an overnight bus in Melbourne and took all my stuff to the run. He was travelling with his sister and mother to visit places he used to live in Malaysia, but having discovered parkrun in Tasmania just a couple of months before, he didn’t want to miss out. He is hugely enthusiastic, and ran the whole thing with a smile, before taking his team back to hop on train or bus to Ipoh.
Volunteers and runners wandered across Jalan Perdama Utama, hustling to avoid cars, to the breakfast spot, where we could all have a traditional Malaysian breakfast. Roti for breakfast, highly recommended. I picked up all sorts of tips for places to go in country. More importantly, with no further options for parkrun in the area, I’ll be back to KL next week for another go.
A follow-up. While touring Malaysia, I visited this parkrun four times, and it was great every time. I felt a proper part of the community as a result, enjoyed the breakfast several times and made some friends. Also, from a performance point of view, my best run here came when I didn’t jog to the start (and barely warmed up). Not being as sweaty beforehand worked for me!