Organising Virtual Marathons Promotes Health, Awareness and Productivity

“Let’s conquer the kingdom!” is a motto created by Arman Arshad, a local sportsman who is passionate with his ultra-marathons. Under his company, The Comrades, which hosts ultra-marathons, his mission is to incorporate marathons and eco-heritage-tourism together. Arman emphasises that since Malaysia has an abundance of interesting hidden and historical gems especially in or around forests, he thought, why not introduce runners to these unique areas? Hence his ‘King Run’ series was born, with his first project being ‘King of Kampung Kemensah’. And now Arman wants to ‘conquer’ Lenggong too.

Why was the Lenggong Valley chosen as Arman’s next stop? Bouncing off from combining eco-tourism and marathons, he thought it would be the perfect venue as it checks all the requirements he needed in his list. This includes the nature aspects such as a lush rainforest environment with rivers, waterfalls, and of course the recognised status this valley holds. The UNESCO World Heritage Site status is certainly a name to be reckoned. Surprisingly enough, the Lenggong Valley seems to be under-the-radar amongst general travellers.

Therefore, the ‘King of Lenggong’ event was born as Arman’s effort to promote the valley, among all his venues. The virtual run is to be recorded or submitted through Strava, an exercise application by using GPS data. This method allows runners to record the duration it took and number of kilometers they ran, which will go into the King of Lenggong run database. The virtual run is split into three categories, 50km, 100km and 150km, which are typical categories for most runs.

The virtual run runs from 15th of August to 15th of September, 2021, giving participants ample time to finish their selected categories throughout the one-month period. In the registration website, aside from paying the runner fee of RM15, runners will also be able to purchase finisher tees and other merchandise as mementos of their participation.

How Popular Are Virtual Runs?

People’s interest in joining ultra-marathons are often tied to the fact that they are able to experience the physical rush of running in a new environment. However, due to the pandemic in the last couple of years it has resulted in many organisations and companies turning towards virtual runs instead.

The issue for The Comrades in this case is the extra steps they have to take to ensure virtual runs are able to be recorded truthfully. Not only that, the marketing of the series to ensure people sign up and participate in the virtual run isn’t an easy feat as not everyone is keen to pay for a ‘non-experiential’ run.

Despite the reduction in fees and added offers such as an e-bib, e-certificate, and even finisher tees, the prizes outlined by the company may not be deemed enough for some. As a result, the company had to put in the extra effort in various online promotions to garner people’s interest to participate.

Various Initiatives to Stay Productive Despite Going Virtual

As more business owners onboard their businesses onto digital media, it is often hard to compete with other brands online whether major or minor. Therefore, being social media savvy is a must to ensure the establishment is constantly enticing visitors and promoting its products and productivity. This is to also ensure that their customers and new visitors are aware of the business operations and updates.

A good modus operandi of a majority of The Comrades’ King Run Series is to always have a separate social media account for each of its runs. A quick search on popular social platforms such as Facebook shows a page for King of Kampung Kemensah, their most popular run, and King of Lenggong, their latest virtual run project.

The page for King of Lenggong which was created in May earlier this year saw frequent postings by the Facebook page’s administrator on updates of the run and introductions of its collaborators. Weeks leading to the official start of the run saw the admin of the page frequently posting checkpoints or hotspots around Lenggong for the followers of the page. This includes geographical landmarks such as Gua Harimau cave, archaeological highlights such as the Perak Man, and gastronomy unique to Lenggong such as Kiah Pekasam.

These highlights would often include a brief description of attractions around Lenggong while also promoting its Run by including a registration link. As a result, the majority of the comments found under the series of posts have mostly indicated interest on visiting these places.

We have been to Lenggong many times, why didn’t we know about this? Put it in our bucket list for next time!

– One commentor referencing Sumpitan Glamping, a glamour campsite with an array of water activities.

Aside from the special highlights found around Lenggong, Arman himself participated in many online talk shows as an opportunity for him to promote the run. For example, he was invited to Tourism Productivity Nexus’ Let’s Talk about Lenggong series and also Ruang Tamu’s We Are the Heroes series, which affords Arman to talk about King of Lenggong. In the latter talk show, two of his repeat participants were also invited to talk about their experience participating in The Comrades’ running events.

Additionally, as the topic of mental well-being became widely discussed due to the extended lockdowns in Malaysia, Arman was invited on a talk show which debates the issues in trying to maintain physical and mental health. This in-depth discussion with Dr. Zulfikar Ahmad, Director of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Counselling Centre talks about the importance of staying active while staying safe at home.

His involvement in talk shows as a form of brand exposure for his company and his runs has further solidified his relations with repeat participants as well as new ones. In the Let’s Talk About Lenggong series, other Lenggong operators were also present during the live talk show whom Arman had met during a Familiarisation Trip to Lenggong with industry experts between 5th to 8th of March 2021.

Arman’s collaborative efforts certainly do not stop with online talk shows. He also collaborated with TamuAsia, as the run’s official media partner, by providing three complimentary tickets. The company used this opportunity to do a giveaway activity to its followers and has regularly seen winners providing frequent updates of their virtual runs including hashtags such as #kingoflenggongtrail.

Networking amongst other players is deemed to be an important aspect when going virtual. Given the good reputation, The Comrades had met with past participants and the attractive idea of virtual runs, more and more runners do not mind participating in a non-experiential run, as people who are active and aware will want to stay active throughout the lockdowns, this alternative method gives them the extra motivation to avoid succumbing to non-physical activities.

According to Arman, this is to also encourage non-runners to start picking up a healthier habit. As the virtual run can be done within a one-month period, the power given to the runners to run at their own pace will certainly be beneficial for them in the long run due to increased stamina.

Not only that, the idea of promoting giveaways is often an opportunity to provide exposure for runners who aren’t aware of the various virtual runs available in Malaysia. The benefit of these initiatives will often return back to the organiser, as exposure is an important aspect of remaining productive. 

Arman’s effort has certainly been fruitful as a quick update from him as of August, 2021, shows a total of 700 participants from even the international community including Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines and even Switzerland. The youngest participant is only 13 years of age while the oldest so far is 68 years old. According to Arman, the most popular category participants chose is the 150KM run. The positive effect the virtual run has on the organisers, industry players and runners in Arman’s case, has indeed promoted a healthy productivity for all involved.

To watch Arman talking about King of Lenggong in the Let’s Talk About Lenggong series, click here.