I AM one of those travellers that always packs a pair of running shoes in my bag even if I don’t really have space. There are some really good places to run in Malaysia, on the beaches and islands in particular. However, even in the cities you will find nice places to run.
Beating the heat is of course a major concern when exercising in Asia. I recommend you run either very early or late in the day when it’s a little cooler. You also need to consider that Malaysia doesn’t have the public drinking taps of say, Australia, which means you need to carry your own water – or go somewhere you know bottled water is available.
Favourite running locations
The beaches and islands are definitely my favourite locations. I did a lot of running on Langkawi as the roads are really good and there are lots of nice sandy stretches to run on. I also ran on the Perhentian Islands. I stayed on Pulau Kecil and there’s actually a trail that runs between the beaches that most people walk. Penang’s excellent road systems also make it a great running destination.
In Kuala Lumpur there are bikeways used by motorbikes (but also walkers and cyclists) that run along the freeways right into the city centre. I always avoided peak hours (too much traffic) or night (dangerous because people can’t see you). There are lots of little parks in KL and also apartment complexes that you can run around – but it does make it hard to add up the kilometres so you might need to be creative!
My father used to run through shopping centres early in the morning in air conditioned comfort—maybe not something everyone would feel comfortable doing—and around the actual shopping blocks before cars started parking.
PJ Half Marathon, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur (October annually)
I ran this event a few years ago when my parents were living in KL. The entry fees, compared to Australian races, were low and even though I hadn’t really put in the training we entered – for the t-shirt and experience at least. It was and still is sponsored by The Star newspaper. Last year prices were RM 50 for the half marathon. They also have a 3km family run, a 10km road race and 5km. There is no marathon.
The event followed the major roads and expressways around Petaling Jaya which was interesting given the traffic to negotiate. On the most recent race map it still looks similar.
It was well organised and really friendly people manned the water stations who encouraged us. They were singing, dancing and cheering as we went past. In all it was a great experience and a family friendly day. It was also wonderful to see Muslim women joining in. For those visiting KL it’s possible to register and pay online.
Borneo International Marathon, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (May annually)
I haven’t done this event but it’s one I’ve been considering it given how much I enjoyed Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Registration is possible online but the prices are higher than the PJ race. Rates are also different for Malaysians and non-Malaysians with RM 120-150 for the full, RM 100-120 for the half and RM 70-90 for the 10km.
All the events start and finish at Likas Stadium which is just outside town, however shuttle services help get you to the start line. The start of the marathon is an unbelievable 3am but it’s definitely one way of beating the heat and the traffic. The route is mostly flat and well lit although routes vary depending on the distance.
They provide ice at the water stations and sponges to help you beat the heat but according to this really good blog, you should also take a water belt.
Other marathons held around Malaysia include the Penang Bridge International Marathon in November (marathon, half marathon and 10km), The Energizer Night Race in Sepang in April (yes bring your torches – looks fun!), the River Jungle Marathon in Hulu Langat in September that despite the name is a road run, and the Standard Chartered KL Marathon in June.
Malaysia is also starting to embrace triathlon as well – so pack your shoes next time you visit and keep pacing those pavements!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
Joanne Lane (Australia)
Joanne Lane is an Australian freelance photojournalist based in Brisbane. A love of writing from an early age led her to complete a university journalism degree in 1996 with the idea of pursuing sports journalism, but she soon found the constraints of the newsroom too much. The travel bug soon hit and Jo has now travelled to some 40 countries or more and lived in a few as well, writing and documenting her experiences for newspapers, magazines and online sources around the world. For more details, see www.visitedplanet.com.