When twenty-four-year-olds end up owning the franchising rights for the world’s first zombie run – Run For Your Lives – you know this is going to be an interesting story! Here’s what R.AGE learnt from childhood friends and self-confessed adrenaline junkies Desmond Yong and Leong Delon about what goes on behind the scenes of this gory zombie-infested marathon.
They started small
International obstacle course franchises do not just simply fall into lucky laps! Yong and Leong started off by organising marathons in their hometown of Kuantan – the Kuantan Run 2013 and then the Brooks Kuantan Half Marathon 2014 under their events company, Dusty Monkeys. With all that experience under their belts, they started dreaming of bigger things. “Our dream is to create a yearly event in the east coast, like the Standard Chartered marathon,” said Leong. But life sometimes has grander plans in store, and one fine day, their partner from Singapore called to tell them about Run For Your Lives, an internationally-renowned zombie obstacle course.
Good things don’t come easy
“The weeks leading up to our purchase of the Malaysian rights to Run For Your Lives were crazy!” said Yong with a laugh. “When we got the call, we were preparing for the Brooks Kuantan Half Marathon, and we ended up juggling that and communicating with the Singaporean team every day, ironing out the details of the purchase” With the Brooks marathon and deadline to wire the money looming only two days apart, the two had to multitask and sprint to raise the necessary money (the total amount
was in the six-figure region). They were unable to wire the money by the deadline, causing them to almost lose the opportunity. “We ran to the bank on the date, but it was closed!” recalled Leong. Deadline aside, they were also having trouble raising the funds: they were still short of about RM30,000 even after raising RM100,000 on their own. Thankfully for
them (and the rest of us!), they managed to convince investors to put their money and trust into the venture, and ended up paying up in full three days late.
Determination pays off
The road to the Run For Your Lives obstacle course was full of, well, obstacles. For one, Leong had to drop out of his Business Administration course at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) due to his parents’ divorce. “My mother had a saw mill company, but it was difficult for one woman to handle the whole business on her own, so, as the eldest son, I had to step in to help out,” said Leong. Yong, who was enrolled in the same programme, went on to complete his degree,graduating two years ago. He started in a sales position in Kuala Lumpur, but found himself extremely unhappy with the KL lifestyle. Years after their individual paths diverged, Yong and Leong reunited in Kuantan, and Dusty Monkeys was born. Marathon success didn’t come overnight, though. Dusty Monkeys’ first run, the Kuantan Run 2013, was completely self-funded, which dug a huge hole in the pair’s savings. For its second marathon, the tiny events company sought financial help from Tourism Pahang. But even that took a lot of effort. “We printed a formal letter, put on nice pants, and walked into the office asking ‘Can we see the YB (YB Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin)?’” said Yong. “But the PA pushed us aside.” Undeterred by the cold reception, the determined duo returned about seven times.
Finally, after two months, the minister’s PA informed them that there was a meeting for companies to pitch for funding for their events. So, there were two 23-year-olds with only their dream of organising large scale marathons in the east coast, pitted against other, larger, companies who were all fighting for a slice of the same pie. Two companies got the desired funds. One of them was Dusty Monkeys.
What sets Run For Your Lives apart
With the increasing number of zombie-themed runs around, the important question is “How is this different from the others?” “For one, our run is the original zombie run. Being the franchise of a hugely popular, international obstacle course, we have certain benchmarks to meet,” said Yong. “That means no cincai (sloppy) work!” he added with a laugh. The benchmarks to meet include the ten obstacles, the distance (Run For Your Lives is a full 5km), the medals, and performance running T-shirts (no run of the mill, destined-to-be-pyjamas T-shirts here!). Safety is also a major focus. “We will have at least one security guard at each of the eight zombie zones,” said Leong. “We don’t offer cash prizes, so people come for the fun and experience, not to get too competitive and start pushing and kicking,” added Yong.
Run For Your Lives Malaysia will be held on Dec 13, 2014, at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park, Serdang. While there are no cash prizes for finishing first, there are cash prizes for the best dressed group (RM1,000) and best dressed male and female (RM400 each). And the best thing: everybody’s a winner! All participants go home with a Survivor (or Infected, if all your lives get stolen by those nasty zombies) medal each. Zombies – yes, you can also participate as a zombie – also go home with Infected medals. And everybody gets goodie bags containing Ubermen perfume and the awesome performance T-shirt.