If you miss running or participating in marathons, JomRun has a virtual event to keep you fit indoors. The run began on March 15 and will last until Monday
By AZALEA AZUAR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
IN 2016, the augmented reality app “Pokemon GO” took the world by storm. The game, which was developed and published by Niantic Inc, became the most-downloaded game within the first month of its release.
It also broke the record of being the fastest in the market to earn US$100 million (RM425 million).
Fanatic players and users would actually go out of their homes and walk long distances just to catch “Pokemon”.
It was “Pokemon GO” which inspired Chang Yi Hern to come up with JomRun, an app that rewards people when they participate in running events.
“When I first had this idea of starting the company, I wanted to start a company which rewards people when they run and walk, similar to ‘Pokemon GO’ that inspired me,” Chang said.
Initially, he wanted to give out cash as rewards. He, however, later realised that it wasn’t a logical idea as it would be difficult to sustain the business.
“We started thinking of working with partners, such as fitness companies, health companies and sports companies, and giving out vouchers and freebies when the user runs and walks,” he said.
JomRun was launched in December 2017 on Apple Store and Google Play. However, they only incorporated their company at a later date which was in January 2018.
“When we first launched our app, the response was not bad. I think in two weeks, we got about 2,000 users. That was why we attracted companies like Sunway Group to have the interest to invest in us,” said Chang.
Sunway invested in the company two months after it was incorporated. Due to the time of the launch, JomRun managed to get 2,000 users in two weeks without any marketing.
“I think people generally like free gifts and discounts in Malaysia. So, that’s why I think the users actually promoted the app by word of mouth which they bring up during conversations with their friends,” Chang added.
Running Events are Popular among Malaysians
Shortly after the company was launched, Chang noticed that even with vouchers and free gifts as giveaways, it is quite hard to sustain the business.
The company then moved on to selling tickets that promoted sports events on the JomRun app.
“And the reason why most of the events you see now are related to running, walking, marathons or cycling events is because these events are the most popular in the country. Malaysia actually has more than 2000 running events yearly,” Chang said.
JomRun is now looking at a wider horizon with the potential to include a variety of sports events such as yoga classes, gym, and badminton and basketball competitions.
“I think so far, based on the numbers that we are getting, we’ve managed to encourage a lot more people that normally wouldn’t engage in any fitness activities to start doing some fun runs,” Chang said.
JomRun’s running events are not only held in the Klang Valley, but also other cities and rural areas all over Malaysia from places like Kota Kinabalu, Port Dickson, Keningau and Limbang.
“We do it in many rural areas such as Lim- bang, which is between Brunei and Sarawak. In Peninsular Malaysia, we are doing it a lot in places like Nibong Tebal, Bagan Serai, Taiping, Ipoh, Muar and Segamat. Many of the places are locations that we might not have been to.”
Although it is more challenging to host events in rural areas, Chang felt that there are already many events in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Johor Baru.
Hosting events in rural areas is more expensive as most of their items come from their warehouse in KL.
“A lot of times, we organise and we work with local partners to come up with 5km fun runs and we attract the people who have never started joining any fitness activities by giving them a very low price.
“Sometimes, the ticket can be as cheap as RM20 and they get a very nice t-shirt and medal. So, I think there is a way we can go and attract people who are normally not active.”
According to a report last year conducted by show review site Run Repeat and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Malaysian runners are the slowest when it comes to half marathons (HF) and full marathons (FM).
The graph showed that they take an average of two hours, 36 minutes and 20 seconds to complete HM, while five hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds for FM.
“I used to study in the UK and I know there is a very big difference between runners in the UK and runners in Malaysia. In Malaysia, a lot of people are not athletes and they are never trained, but they still join run- ning events, sometimes, even up to HM,” Chang explained.
He also believed that Malaysian runners are generally supportive and very enthusiastic.
They would run for only five minutes and then they would walk throughout the entire race until they reached the finishing line.
“I think Malaysians are quite active honestly compared to countries like Cambodia and Myanmar for example — especially the ones in the city. They have people that join running events, like twice every month and without any training in Malaysia.”
The Unicorn Fun Run
Last year, JomRun organised the most “magical” series of fun runs in Malaysia called the Unicorn Fun Run which managed to receive over 25,000 sign-ups on the first day of its registration.
“The first session of the Unicorn Fun Run was actually held in Cyberjaya at Persiaran Flora. We had more than 10,000 people joining us for the first time on June 20, 2019,” said Chang.
The fun run was held at 40 places all over Malaysia. The participants received a unicorn running shirt, a cute unicorn medal, bib number, timing chip and refreshments. However, an additional finisher tee is given to those who participated in the 21km run.
To make the running experience feel more magical, some of the participants exercised their creative imagination by wearing tutus and even a unicorn head.
The name of the event was inspired by the “unicorn start-up” term which is a company valued for US$1 billion (RM4.25 billion).
“We are working very hard to try to achieve that. That is why we thought about organising an event called Unicorn Fun Run and we also wanted to tell people that if you work hard enough, miracles will happen,” Chang mentioned.
Some 70% of the participants were women and they brought their kids to join the event. The finale of the Unicorn Fun Run series was supposed to be held at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang, Selangor, on March 15.
Unfortunately, the event had to be cancelled as of the Malaysian government’s decision which bans all gatherings, including international meetings, sporting events, and social and religious assemblies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Initially, the finale was going to be the largest fun run in Malaysia and making its way to the Malaysia Book of Records.
So far, they were able to accommodate about 55,000 participants.
“We have no choice, but to cancel the event. As much as we want to break the record, I think that public health is more important. If one of the participants is carrying the virus, then it would be very bad,” Chang said.
They had to give all the entitlements back to the participants in which they promised them a shirt and a medal.
“So, for people who want to get back their medals, they can come over and take their medals, but there is no run on the event day,” he added.
Still, there’s a possibility that they might organise another Unicorn Fun Run in the Klang Valley, but it won’t be too soon. Perhaps, next year.
Where There is a Will, There is a Way…
Due to the government of Malaysia’s decision to implement the Movement Control Order, Malaysians have been spending their time at home since March 18.
Being cooped up at home for long periods, especially four weeks, can be daunting to some.
With the comfort of television, Netflix and snacks, it is tempting to turn into a couch potato.
However, staying at home for four weeks doesn’t mean fitness is out of the window as there are many ways to keep fit at home without going to the gym or jogging in park.
For instance, YouTube is offering many virtual lessons on yoga, aerobics and workouts.
According to a statement made by the Ministry of Health, Malaysians are advised to keep active at home, either through exercise or physical activities.
If you miss running or participating in marathons, JomRun has a virtual HM to keep you fit indoors. The run began on March 15 and will last until Monday (June 15).
“In the wake of the coronavirus, we hope that this virtual run will help our runners stay fit while practising social distancing,” Chang said.
JomRun also recommends its virtual participants to pair their daily step counts with a few other strength and cardio exercises. Henceforth, the app introduced a few visual aids to enable users to exercise properly and safely at home.
In order to help the JomRun’s Covid-19 virtual run participants maintain good hygiene standards while exercising, they will be entitled to race packages which contain health and sanitation products such as hand sanitisers and face masks which will be delivered to their doorsteps.
Part of the proceeds from the virtual run that has been used to purchase these sanitisation products will be directed to schools once they reopen, and local private hospitals which are lacking in face masks and protective gear in light of the pandemic.
To participate in JomRun’s Covid-19 virtual run, you can register via the JomRun app or visit https://www.jomrun.com/event/Covid-19-Battle-Virtual-Half-Marathon.