Her gorgeous photographs are soulful. Her energy is non-stop—reason alone to want to know more about Ena Riduan, a beautiful young woman with boundless energy, talent and enthusiasm, not to mention a zest for life that’s so intense, just being in her presence is a spirit lifter. Sure, she’s young—just 30, thus her entire life lies before her—and if her past 29 years are any indicator of what we can expect from this talented photographer/runner and all-around creative soul, you’d better move out of her path when she heads your way because you could be run over by a human tornado on a mission to taste everything life has to offer in the years ahead.
RS: You hold down a job, pursue your passion for photography, undertook actuarial training at university and have embarked on what you describe as a “soul searching” journey. What in heaven’s name made you add running to your crazy schedule?
Ena: I credit my friend Emma with convincing me to start back in 2011. She had just caught the running bug and I think she wanted a running buddy. Believe me, I was ready to be converted. Working out at the gym was so boring I could hardly motivate myself to go there, so you might say that I was primed and ready for Emma to convince me to try running.
RS: Sounds like you owe Emma thanks for introducing you to the running scene in Kuala Lampur, but it also sounds like you took that introduction one step further by jumping into races and marathons on your own.
Ena: You bet. It’s hard not to embrace the marathon scene in a nation that prioritizes staying healthy and fit. Besides, people I meet at races are so fascinating and dedicated that I look forward to seeing my competitors as much as I like reaching the finish line.
RS: Can you tell us about your favourite race thus far?
Ena: My first half-marathon—the 2013 Malaysia Women’s Marathon—is thus far most memorable. I religiously followed a three-month plan to prepare and I’m glad I trained so hard because when I reached the finish line, I felt so good!
RS: How about your toughest race?
Ena: The Bromo Marathon in 2014. Though I did an equally efficient job training, the environment was daunting. It took me 4 hours and 30 minutes to complete the half marathon. I had to push through a 900m elevation change while traversing a trail covered with volcanic dust. It took all of my stamina and sheer will to finish!
RS: How would you describe your running style—what type of runner are you?
Ena: I refer to myself as what John Bingham calls a “Penguin Runner” because if you see me running across the landscape, I look like a penguin. Jokes aside, I would describe myself as a casual, relaxed runner who would rather undertake a fairly slow pace to achieve my goals. When I race, I do it mainly for the experience and the medal, not necessarily to set records.
RS: You express enthusiasm for trail running and call 2014 the year you prioritized trails over roads. Can you tell us what the difference is between the two?
Ena: The first difference—the most profound one—is the terrain. When you run on roads, things get boring. Trail running is dynamic and fascinating. I’m forced to stay aware of my surroundings so I don’t misstep and injure myself. Trail running is easier on my knees and that’s a bonus. Finally, as a photographer, it’s terribly exciting to commune with nature and enjoy scenic vistas on trail runs.
RS: Based on your experience and love of nature, can you recommend trails to our readers and tell them why you picked each of them?
Ena: I have four favorites:
- The Bukit Kiara Trail. This is a magical place at night, so for those wishing to try a nocturnal adventure, this area is the ultimate thrill. The elevation is considered “intermediate” so it may not be ideal for first-timers. My very favourite part of this trail is the final run downhill. Talk about a powerful ending to a wondrous experience.
- Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM). This area is a fitting tribute to Malaysia’s commitment to provide interesting trails for runners. Find a mix of intermediate trails within this splendidly green preserve offering distances that range from 5km to 20km. There’s something for everyone — both experienced and newbies.
- Kemensah. Readers fascinated with the forest primeval will love with Kemensah. It’s lush, dense and primitive—the ideal place to journey with a large group of friends. For me, the culmination of any trip along this trail is cooling off in the reserve’s stream, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn readers to watch out for leeches!
- Taman Tun Abdul Razak Trail. Also known as Taman TAR, this wild and lovely area is a favorite because it’s only five minutes from my home, so when the urge to commune with Mother Nature strikes, I’m there in a flash. This short, flat, 1km loop around an abandoned dam gives any runner a short respite from life’s stressors.
RS: You started the Klang Valley Running Club. Why start a running club—and can you share your philosophy?
Ena: I realized that I needed a one-stop place to share running information — like dates, registration fees, closing dates — with friends. The Club took on a life of its own and grew so fast, people began contacting us for tips on how they could start running. We even started matching up people with training partners and helping new runners get their techniques down. It’s become a hub of information and sharing for runners. I inadvertently became a matchmaker!
RS: You’re so enthusiastic, vivacious and spirited—we’ve got to ask this question: How do you keep going when things get tough and you run out of energy?
Ena: My friends keep my spirits up when I go into a downward spiral, but what helps most is taking a therapeutic run with friends followed by going out for good food after that run. Who can feel down after that? Not me.
RS: What running gear would you recommend to readers since there’s so much on today’s market?
Ena: My list of five indispensable items is:
- Brooks PureFlow 3 (running shoes for the road),
- Salomon Speedcross 3 (shoes for trail running),
- Bicbands to keep my hair off my face,
- Wrightsock Coolmesh II socks and
- a Garmin Fenix 2 GPS watch so I don’t get lost.
I can conquer the world with these five items.
RS: Do you keep track of how many races you have run to date?
Ena: If my record keeping is correct, I’ve competed in 38 races.
RS: You said that when you first started running, you established a routine. Has it remained the same since 2011?
Ena: The art of running changes and runners must embrace change and stay abreast of trends in everything from gear to training rituals. I embrace change. For example, I just started to cycle and I so enjoy it. My running days remain Fridays, Sundays and when I can, I squeeze in a Wednesday. I used to keep track of my mileage, but I’ve stopped doing that cause I’m juggling too much. That doesn’t mean I won’t return to keeping tabs on my mileage in the future!
RS: Do you have resolutions for 2015?
Ena: I’m committed to participating in a duathlon or a triathlon in 2015, so that’s at the top of my list. I’ll compete in the 25km TMBT 2015 run in Sabah, too. Every year I pick one destination race, but I’ve yet to find the right one for 2015. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy while I wait for the perfect destination race to present itself, at which point, I’ll pack in a flash!
Ena moves at the speed of light, yet keeps promises to herself that include staying true to her inner artist and enriching her life with new friends and experiences. Her search—for an ideal destination race—is sure to occupy many waking hours in 2015, so we’d like to pose a question that’s sure to get your brain cells swirling as you plan your year ahead: If someone were to pay all of your expenses for a destination race, where would you go and why would you choose that venue above all others? We want to know, so don’t be shy!
To keep up with Ena, you can follow her photo blog.