Having taken up running in hot and sticky Kuala Lumpur, I didn’t know any different. While American and British running magazines have offered advice on keeping warm and treadmill training in winter, I have been grateful not to have to worry about layers and shielding fingers from frostbite.
Yet, running in year-round heat and humidity isn’t without its drawbacks. Staying hydrated can feel like a constant battle. And anyone who has run Personal Bests in temperate climates can lower their expectations when running in Malaysia; tropical humidity demands that your body uses a lot of energy on regulating your body temperature, energy that would otherwise be directed to your lungs and legs.
That said, running in Malaysia is booming. Whether you are a recreational jogger or an ambitious racer, a newbie or experienced marathoner, there will be a group of runners ready to welcome you.
Here are some tips for new arrivals, or just new runners, on getting the most out of tropical running.
1. Rise and shine
Running before sunrise (around 7am in Kuala Lumpur) is standard practice. It never gets cool, but at least before the sun comes up the temperature is only in the mid-twenties celsius. Evenings are also popular. Wear sunscreen and a cap during daylight hours, even when it’s cloudy.
2. Forget ‘slimming black’
Invest in lightweight, light reflecting, high visibility clothing, especially if road running. A reflector or light is also a must for those early morning weekend LSDs (long slow distance). All the big sports brands have stores here so there’s no shortage of gear.
3. Make friends with electrolytes
Electrolyte replacement is a must as no matter what time of day you run, or how far, you will create puddles of sweat. GNC, Athlete’s Circle and the Marathon Shop all sell gels, electrolyte tablets and sports supplements. You’ll have to experiment with what works best for you as the heat and humidity aren’t always kind to the digestive system so what might work for fuel back home, might make you nauseous here. Always hydrate before, during and after a run.
4. Stock up on shoes
If you run several times a week, buy at least two pairs of running shoes. Not only does alternating your shoes make them last longer, it also gives sweat a chance to dry before you slip them on again.
5. Always carry a RM10 note
Iin case you need to stop to buy a drink or if you twist an ankle and need to hail a taxi home. A wet RM10 note is better than no RM10 note when an emergency thirst or injury situation occurs.
6. Leave the loot at home
Avoid carrying phones, MP3 players, jewellery and wallets. Mugging by motorbike is a problem in Kuala Lumpur so the less attractive you look to a thief the better. Being smelly and sweaty simply aren’t deterrent enough unfortunately. It’s also best to keep your eyes and ears on full alert for traffic as even early in the morning, the roads can be busy. Avoid running alone in the dark or in secluded areas.
7. Rinse your clothes while you shower
To minimise the stink that is inevitable from running in the tropics. Anti-bacterial washing powder/liquid is highly recommended if you can get hold of it.
8. Leave a towel on your front door
Puddles of sweat on marble or wooden floors are not only hazardous (and kind of gross) but they will not improve relations with your cleaner. If you do your own floor mopping, why make a chore to deal with when you come down from your post-run high?
9. Cool down with coconut water
Coconut water is available in most supermarket chill cabinets for around RM3. It is a fantastic electrolyte replacement and a very satisfying, sweet but natural, post-run drink. It always feels very tropical and exotic to drink from a coconut – just in case you were in any doubt about where you were living.
10. Adjust carefully to the climate
It takes a few weeks for the body to adjust to running in this climate, but once it does, you can look forward to running all year round. Be cautious on distance and pace to start with. It’s better to build up your humidity miles slowly than bonk on your first day out.
So, you don’t have to hide away from the heat and humidity on a treadmill – unless you really love running on a conveyer belt better than outdoors. The upside of running regularly in Malaysia is that when you head back to cooler climates, running will feel easy; well relatively easy at least.
Homepage Highlight Photo Credit: will ockenden, Flickr
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