Nike continued the legacy of one of their popular running shoes with its 8th and latest iteration, Nike Air Zoom Elite 8. The shoe is marketed as light and fast. In conjunction of the release, Nike launched an 8-week program called Find Your Fast to challenge runners to run their fastest mile. For those who are not familiar with imperial measurement, 1 mile is equivalent to 1.61 kilometres, equivalent to 4 laps of 400m track. 1 mile race is most popular in United States.
At the end of the program, Nike Malaysia invited two running crews in Kuala Lumpur to go head to head in a one-mile race. Each crew was represented by roughly 25 runners and I was fortunate to be a part of Kyserunkrew to go head to head against Run89 Crew in the Nike 1 Mile Challenge.
On the race day, participants were asked to gather at Nike’s flagship store at Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur at 5:00PM. Apart from the gathering time and place, Nike Malaysia were very discreet about the race. Runners were given either a running singlet or tee and a bib each to be worn during the race.
After bib collection, runners were still not told of the venue of the race. There were chatters among us that since there was a fitness centre at the mall, we might be racing on treadmills. While waiting for further instruction, to get in the mood, I watched and listened to a Youtube video of Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes.
Watch the video below which includes the narration by Roger Bannister himself. I find it very inspiring.
After a while, the person in charge instructed us to board buses to the venue. Still, they did not tell us where we were heading. Some sneaky runners asked the bus drivers where they were bringing us to but they played a part and did not tell us.
After 30 minutes on the bus, we finally arrived at the race venue. It was held at Kuala Lumpur Velodrome. Running in a velodrome which is for track cycling? It did not make any sense.
It was my first time in a velodrome, and the banks were so steep.
“How do we run on the steep banks?”
“Have they lost their minds?”
The organiser briefed us that we would not be racing on the track itself, but on the inside track instead, which was flat. We would have to run 5 laps, which meant that the length of the track was approximately 320 metres. Refreshments were served and runners were given the newly-launched Nike Air Zoom Elite 8 to be worn for the race. I thought it was compulsory to wear the shoes for the race until I saw some runners wearing their own running shoes including non-Nike shoes.
I tried the shoes on anyway and they felt clunky. It was very ironic since Nike are marketing this as a go to shoe to run fast. So I decided to run in my Nike Air Zoom Streak 5 instead, which is a lot lighter (and faster I believe?).
The race would be raced in heats with 10 runners in each heat according to our bib numbers. Luckily, I my bib number was 033, so I would be racing in later heats. Track cycling team pursuit format was used for the race where 5 runners would start at one end and another 5 at the other end.
I got hyped up while waiting for my heat. This would be my first short distance race in a long while. I ran 800m, 1500m, and 5000m during high school and it was more than 10 years ago. I had never raced such distance since. Since I was preparing myself for my next full marathon, I was not in shape to run fast. I did not know what to expect either. My fastest mile on Strava was 6:10 (minutes:seconds) that I did running downhill during Hasuu Tasu Night Trail Run. My goal was to run faster than that, possibly a sub-6 mile.
In my heat on my end, excluding myself there were two guys and two girls and one of them was Zaki from Kyserunkrew. Other three were from Run89 crew. Before the gun, I told him that I would try to run 4:00 min/km pace in the first two laps. He would try to latch on to my pace, he said.
I started on the outer lane according to my bib number. My strategy was simple. Get to the front as quickly as possible and run by feel. The race was flagged off and I tried to run to the front and inside lane to secure my position. To my surprise, I was jostled by a girl next to me. She might have the same strategy as mine. I managed to wriggle away from her before being passed by James (I learnt his name because people were screaming his name) from Run89 crew.
He was running so fast. I glanced at my watch and we were running at 3:10 min/km pace and below. Way faster than my initial plan. I did not know what he was capable of but I knew I would not be able to hold the blistering pace set by him. So I eased off and ran my own race. I was running at about 3:30 min/km pace and to my surprise Zaki was still latching on to me. I held the pace and maintained the gap between me and James. I did not want him to get away too far.
The surface of the tarmac that we were running on was degrading so there were many uneven sections. There were manhole covers along the tarmac that made things difficult. I lost my footing and almost tripped over a couple of times.
My pace was slowing down but the gap remained. I knew he was tiring as well. My heart was beating so fast and there was an instance that I wanted to quit. This was not really a race and it would not do anything good in my preparation for my next marathon. But the cheers and screams kept me moving. I would not want to let my friends and Kyserunkrew down.
I kept on running.
In spite of a slower pace, I was still redlining. If there was a tachometer on me, the needle would be broken into two. I was at my pain threshold. The pain was real and it was a pleasure. If I had continued my pursuit of James earlier, my lungs might have bursted by now. But I kept pushing on aware of my limit.
The distance was getting closer. I was sensing blood and I believed that I could pull this off. I quickened my pace. The distance was getting smaller and smaller. My confidence was growing with every inch gained. By the end of fourth lap, I was just behind James and we had already lapped few runners who started at the other end.
There was no bell to indicate the last lap, so my timekeeper yelled at me to remind me it was the last lap. We got a timekeeper each. I ran past James and he would not let me off easy. It was expected. He nullified my threat and surged past me to regain the lead. He was a tough nut to crack.
The start of the last lap was only a gauge. It told me that he had more in his tank. I changed my strategy to go gung ho in the last 150 metres. So I was happy to let him lead the race.
Half a lap left, I raced to the front to take the lead. I could sense James’ fight. It was going to be an exciting finale. I ran as fast as my legs and lungs allowed me to and never looked back. I crossed the line as the winner of my heat in 5:39. It was my fastest mile yet. James came second and the girl who were jostling me for position earlier finished third. She was the fastest girl of the night.
However, 5:39 was not good enough to be in the Top 8 overall and Top 3 among Kyserunkrew. The Top 3 guys and girls from each crew qualified to the second race to determine the best crew of the night.
Awan of Kyserunkrew owned the night by clocking the fastest mile of the individual heats. He went on to better his timing in the second leg by winning the race in 4:47. Roje had a good outing as well and became only the second person to dip below 5 minute.
In the individual standings, among the Top 8 of men’s category, 4 of them were from Kyserunkrew and another 4 from Run89 crew. Men’s top three fastest time of the individual leg belonged to Kyserunkrew. Awan was the undisputed winner, second was Jepah, and third was Roje.
While the girls of Run89 crew won the women’s heat, the boys of Kyserunkrew built sufficient gap to crown Kyserunkrew as the fastest crew of the night.
It was an enjoyable race. Despite the distance, I had never run as hard as I did for a very long time. My time was not exceptionally fast, but I was satisfied with myself. One thing I learnt about the race was the importance of running against fast runners. Without James, I would not have pushed myself to the limit. If I had led the race by my own, I would probably run a much slower time.
Thank you Kyserunkrew for giving me the opportunity and thank you Nike Malaysia for the running singlet and a night to remember.
Credits to Nike Malaysia, Syah, and other runners for the photos.