Ever been in a situation where the escalator wasn’t working at the MRT station? Do you remember cursing at the maintenance guy for not doing his job properly while you clamoured up the steps? I remembered there was this time at Boon Keng MRT station where this individual cursed at our PAP government because the escalator broke down. Well, I don’t blame him because the escalator at the station was particularly long, something like three storeys long. After climbing three storeys, I think some people will start to think irrationally.
What happens when you add another 60 storeys? You get yourself a National Vertical Marathon. So far I have been running on flat ground, never gone vertically up before. This will be an interesting new challenge. This will again be another solo challenge. There is no way the kids are going to make it and the wife don’t have a thing for doing any physical activity in an enclosed, hard to breathe kind of claustrophobic environment.
What I love about the National Vertical Marathon is that everything is done on the very same day. You get your t-shirt and race bib upon registration. Proceed to race and collect your goodie bag later. Logistically, this is only possible if you are dispatching people in small groups. This is simply not possible for large scale running events where you are dispatching thousands of people at one go.
I was there slightly early, probably around 30 minutes before my start time. Since, there was a free slot available I proceeded to go ahead. No point waiting 30 minutes right? We were grouped in a detail of 5 or 6 and I was the oldest in the group.
Once the airhorn was sounded, everyone was off. Those guys in my detail were really fast and before we hit the staircase, I was the last man behind. Am I really old or unfit? Peer pressure thoughts came into my head and I pondered for a moment if I should pick up speed to catch up with them. Since I was really behind, I decided to take 2 steps at a time. This only worked for the first ten storeys before I realised there was no way for me to keep up this pace. This activity is unlike running where you could slow down into a comfortable pace and catch your breath. Every step you take will send your heart racing. In fact, it has been a while since my heart rate was going that fast. Definitely, not an activity for pregnant women or people with heart problems.
That may also explain why for every 3 or 4 storeys, you would have a volunteer stationed to assist you if case you needed help. Most of them were very encouraging and cheered me on as I climbed up the monotonous grey floor and the white coloured walls. Yes, the wife was right. It was stuffy, boring and mildly claustrophobic. But the sheer intensity of the exercise will also give you an incredible adrenaline rush. You get so high that you actually look forward to constantly go up. This coupled with the music from my earphones actually made it enjoyable as I looked at the constantly changing floor numbers in an otherwise unchanging environment.
Somewhere around the 40+ storey, there was a super helpful volunteer who held an electronic fan at me while I was going up. He even followed me up for 2 entire storeys. What a passionate young man who gave his whole heart to this volunteer job. Whoever you are, you will do great in life. Keep it up! This was also the time I overtook the 2 younger chaps in the same detail who were way ahead of me earlier. Now, I may not have the speed and agility of my younger days but I do have the grit and determination to continue onwards. These traits will show especially if you are competing in a longer distance.
It is not exactly 63 storeys, you need to add another 2 more levels to go up to the roof terrace. When I finally reached the top, what greeted me was a service entrance of the roof top restaurant. Not particularly impressive if you ask me.
Once I cross the finishing line(which is another flight of stairs up), I proceeded to the medal collection area. Just beside the counter, you have some models giving out Gatsby wet wipes. I was already sweating profusely and a dry towel might be more suitable instead. Then again, if you are a young chap and don’t sweat as much as me, the wet wipes will be perfect.
You are not only rewarded with the medal but also the breathtaking scenery of a 360 degree view from the top. Clearly visible was the southern part and core central region of Singapore. It was so breathtaking that some participants were just sitting there, chilling out and drinking their 100 plus.
How do you get down after climbing all the way to the top? Take the lift of course. A short while later, I was back on the ground. This time round to collect my goodie bag and grab something to eat. A coupon issued earlier during registration entitled me to a slushie and a hot dog. They didn’t mentioned that it was only half a hot-dog. Perhaps that was why the queue for the free flow corn cup and churros were a little long. But who cares about half a hot-dog when you have a goodie bag filled to the brim. In that very instant, I realised there was a difference between a goodie bag and a race pack. Goodie bags are filled with goodies and race pack is technically a pack with racing stuff in it.
There were also other fringe activities as well. You could fire off a couple of arrows, engage in a sword fight or simply chill out in one of those old school swing sets.
As I was leaving, I spotted some people with the Straits Times Run T-shirt. You mean you ran horizontally in the morning and is now going up vertically? If you think about it, it is possible even at my fitness level. The vertical climb is more of a heart and lung exercise, it doesn’t strain your leg muscles as much as running does. And the heart and lungs do recover much faster than those legs. Should I join the ranks of these adrenaline junkie next time? Maybe. Until then, it is time to take stock of what’s actually inside my goodie bag.
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