Open Letter to Khairy Jamaluddin
Dear YB Khairy,
As you know, I am a regular runner. I was a regular runner before I was elected as a Member of Parliament and hopefully, I will still be a regular runner when I am no longer a Member of Parliament. I run for many reasons – to keep in shape, to keep the added pounds away, to meet new running kakis, to train for races and to encourage others to exercise. You can often find me running around Lake Gardens when parliament is in session, in the Bukit Tunku and Seri Hartamas areas on weekends, in the Bukit Jalil Park or the UPM track near my current home, in Lake Valley in Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, at Taman Tasik Cempaka and the Section 15 track in Bangi (all in my constituency) and previously, in Taman Tun and Bukit Kiara, when I was living in Petaling Jaya.
When I am running on the road, I am just another runner. Some runners recognize me and say hi but most of the time, I am just another fellow running kaki, trying to reach the finishing line. I feel a sense of peace when I run. The pressures of political life are put aside and it’s only me and the road or me, the road and my running kakis.
I’ve made many new friends since I joined the running community back in 2010 when I returned to Malaysia after completing my PhD in the United States. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of taking up running – getting to know fellow running kakis from all backgrounds and walks of life. We join races together, complain about the poorly organized races and praise the well-organized ones. The running community in Malaysia is a tight knit group especially among the regulars with only one or two degrees of separation.
My positive running experience in Malaysia was one of the main motivations behind my full support for the #FitMalaysians campaign, started by your good self in May 2014. I wrote a column in the Star to express my support for this campaign and to support running in general. I took part in the Team Malaysia Fan Run on the 7th of September 2014 where you launched the Fit Malaysia nationwide campaign. I also made it a point to take part in the Team Malaysia Fan Run on the 31st of May, 2015 as a way to support our athletes who were heading to Singapore for the 28th SEA Games.
To encourage more people to run in my own constituency, I, together with the state assemblyman of Balakong, Eddie Ng Tien Chee, organized a 7km Pesta Balakong Colour Fun Run in 2014. To encourage my own wife to run, I paced her for a half marathon in the inaugural Malaysian Women’s Marathon in 2013.
The only major downside of my current position on my running activities is that I usually have to rush off after a training run or a race because of constituency activities. Sometimes, this can be quite tiring, especially after a half marathon, but I would rather be somewhat tired than to miss out on some of my favourite local races. I am sure that you can empathize given your much busier schedule especially when attending the various Fit Malaysia programs all around the country.
I’ve participated in more than ten half marathons since 2010. My first half marathon was in SCKL back in 2010. I took part in my first full marathon last year at the Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM). I decided to sign up for the full marathon for this year’s SCKL Marathon, which I consider to be my “home marathon” since I was born in KL. I also decided that that I would Run for a Cause (RFAC) – Ecoknights, an organization which advocates for environmental awareness – in order to motivate myself to train harder and raise money for a good cause at the same time. I was looking forward to training (which has already begun) and running for my chosen charity at SCKLM 2015. The charity in question had set up a whatsapp group for all the runners running to support them and was in the midst of organizing a Hari Raya get together. The person in charge was even kind enough to ask us what we wanted at the finishing line – I suggested packets of nasi lemak.
As you can see, politics was far from my mind when thinking about the SCKL Marathon 2015. It was going to be a purely ‘fun’ event for me (that is, if you consider subjecting your body to 42km as fun) and for the 35,000 runners who had signed up.
That was before Monday, 13th of July, when the organizers announced that the date of the SCKL Marathon 2015 had been changed from Sunday, 4th of October, 2015 to Saturday, 10th of October, 2015, at your request so that it can coincide with the National Sports Day.
I think you are well aware of the backlash which ensued as result of this unilateral decision on your part. The SCKL Marathon facebook page was bombarded with complaints as was your facebook page and your twitter timeline. The many legitimate reasons for these complaints have been made clear in the facebook page that was set up to call for the SCKL Marathon to be brought back to the 4th of October. I think you are well aware of them and I am sure that the organizers of the event would have told you of this possibility when you insisted that they change the date to coincide with the National Sports Day.
Please don’t get me wrong. I was pretty excited about the National Sports Day. In fact, I had put it in my google calendar as a reminder that perhaps I could do something in my constituency to encourage more people to exercise. I was looking forward to taking part in the Fittest MP challenge organized by Garmin so that I could perhaps use the funds for fitness related activities on the 10th of October. I had raised in parliament the issue of what MPs would do together with your Ministry in order to encourage more people to exercise more. Now, as you can well imagine, I’m not so excited any more.
Running to me is much more than a sport or a form of exercise. It keeps me sane amidst a sea of uncertainty, especially given the current political landscape. It brings me in contact with other people, some of whom I would never have gotten to know if not for our common love for running. It is one of the few things in life which can get me to wake up at 5am in the morning. As a runner yourself, I’m sure you can relate to some of these things.
Many of the SCKL Marathon runners will support your National Sports Day in various ways. Some of them will participate in the other races which take place on the 10th of October including two ministry supported events – the HRDF run and the Spartan Challenge. Some of them will be walking and running in the various parks and public spaces located all across Malaysia. Some of them will no doubt come out to support whatever else the Ministry has planned for, especially if ample notice is given. You don’t need to shift the SCKL Marathon in order to achieve your National Sports Day objectives. So, I plead to you, as a runner and as a fellow Member of Parliament who wants to encourage more people to adopt fit and healthy lifestyles, please bring back the SCKL Marathon to the original date of October 4th, 2015. And I pledge that I will support the National Sports Day initiative to the best of my abilities.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament, Serdang
16th of July, 2015
Running in the 2015 Team Malaysia Fan Run 15km
10th position in the Men’s Junior Veteran 15km category
Pesta Balakong Color Fun Run organized on the 21st of December, 2014
After the Pesta Balakong Colour-Run together with my colleague, Eddie Ng Tien Chee, ADUN for Balakong
My best half marathon time to date in the 2012 SCKL Marathon. Before I was elected into office.