Women empowerment can come in many forms, from getting your hair done for yourself to running a marathon with discipline. Regardless of the process, the end goal is usually to build a woman’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
For 9 years, Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM) has been organising marathons with the objectives of providing a less competitive atmosphere for women to run longer distance races, full marathons, and to celebrate International Women’s Day with a difference.
But I still found myself puzzled over how marathons encourage women’s self-empowerment.
To this, the MWM team answered, “A marathon requires a great amount of discipline, dedication as well as passion. To complete a marathon often brings about an overwhelming sense of achievement, and enhanced self-esteem instils the ‘I can do it’ confidence.”
“Women from all across the world are often challenged in their personal pursuit of excellence, at varying levels, with the lack of these positive values,” they explained the importance of what they do.
In the past, these marathons could be held physically, but with COVID-19, everything had to be taken to the virtual space. This needed support from the right parties.
Going online doesn’t mean it’s easier
Since 2020, MCIS Insurance Berhad (MCIS Life) has been a sponsor for MWM’s marathons. In March 2020, the first MCIS Life MWM race was supposed to happen, with over 8,000 participants signing up.
However, the committee made the decision of calling off the physical race a few days prior to the event following the rising trend of COVID-19 cases in the country. This was well before the MCO 1.0 announcement.
Participants were disappointed as they’d been looking forward to it, but MCIS Life MWM assured them that come 2021, they’d be presented with an option in line with the new normal.
Therefore, MCIS Life MWM 2021 was a fully virtual event that took place over 1.5 months and saw about 1,000 participants.
With a major shift in how the marathon would be held, changes had to follow. The marathon was tailored to have distances between 50km to 250km, compared to the 5km to 42km distances for the physical one-day marathons in the past.
The team also welcomed cyclists to participate this year for the first time in the annual event’s history.
To track their progress and share the results, participants were required to sync their Strava app (which monitors their activity distance, etc.) to MWM’s registration portal while using their GPS watches during workouts.
Alternatively, participants were also allowed to submit results from their smartphone’s health app which offers statistics on their activity ratio.
The information that was collected daily was then fed to MWM’s leader board that displayed participants’ progress and completion of their workouts, whether it was running, walking, jogging, or cycling.
No better time to support one another than now
MCIS Life is the title sponsor of the MCIS Life MWM race from 2020-2022 as it found this opportunity to be the right medium through which women, men and children can become aware of how even common issues like shared responsibilities in a household can empower women.
It gave away hundreds of free and heavily discounted entry tickets for the race, but its financial contribution to the programme is just one part of its support.
As it wants to position itself as an advocate for women’s empowerment too, its team assists MWM to ensure the race has an extended outreach.
This means bringing together a larger number of fitness-oriented individuals who are mainly women (though men and children aren’t excluded) of different age groups.
The actual race aside, the event is a month-long affair behind the scenes, involving other activities such as:
- Candid conversations on present day issues affecting women and our society,
- Knowledge sharing sessions involving matters related to sexual harassment and personal safety tips,
- Providing an avenue for women entrepreneurs to showcase their work (a majority of MCIS Life MWM’s race kits and merchandise are made by them), and more.
Glimmers of inspiration amidst the bleak pandemic
Bringing the event online had further advantages too—more first-timers were able to join from the comfort of their own homes.
Those who are still WFH have been looking into changing their lifestyles to make time for exercising and achieving personal fitness goals.
The pandemic was also a stark reminder that one’s own health and immune system play a huge role in protecting us from illness, creating an urgency to change for the better.
While seeing an improvement in one’s health is rewarding enough, a marathon usually rewards winners with medals and other prizes too.
In line with that, the winner of MCIS Life MWM 2021, Chong Mei Sze bagged a sponsored trip to participate in the Shenzen International Marathon 2021.
It’s scheduled to take place in December this year, though with the team keeping a cautious eye on how COVID-19 cases around the world are developing, it’s offered Chong the option of joining 2022’s international event too.
The team also saw inspirational cases from this marathon, such as a woman who was 34 weeks pregnant completing a 10km run, and a woman under rehab care for a sports injury surgery completing a walking distance of 100km.
Overall, the MCIS Life MWM team considers its first-ever virtual marathon a success and is already brainstorming for upcoming events. Depending on how Malaysia’s national COVID-19 vaccination programme goes, the team will tweak its plans.
- You can learn more about MCIS Life here, and MWM here.
- You can read about other virtual marathons we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Chong Mei Sze, winner of MCIS Life MWM 2021