Hello everybody and Happy New Year.
This is the first post on my sub-blog “The Running Angmoh”, and before I get on with my running year’s review, let me get the opportunity to introduce myself.
I moved to Singapore in mid-2013 to join the National University of Singapore, and I have been loving my time ever since. I had visited Singapore before as a tourist and fell in love with the place, and after about 2 years of trying to get a position here I made it in 2013. As far as it goes about running, I started doing it a few years back to get in shape, but it was not long before I got hooked on.
Singapore’ running community is huge, and it is an amazing place to run (if you don’t mind the humidity and heat, that is – which I don’t); there are plenty of routes to take for training, both in urban environment and trails, and the city offers an amazing selection of running events to participate.
During my first year here, I took part in a total of 8 races (even though I registered for 9, see below) and covered a total of 108km. Here is how it all went down.
Adidas King of The Road 2013, August 11th.
This was supposed to be my first race in Singapore, and I had registered for it before I’ve even arrived. I was really excited to take part in this race, as the route would take me through key landmarks. Running pack collection was at Suntec City, it was well organised but very crowded and it took about 30 minutes to collect.
At the day of the event, I took a cab and went down to the starting point on time. Everything looked fine and people were warming up for the race. Pretty soon though it started to drizzle, and within minutes it evolved into a full-on storm. We all tried to take shelter under the bus stops, the MRT stations and the underpasses. There was lack of information and no updates from the organiser for hours. Only by word of mouth we found out that the race had been delayed twice, before the final announcement for cancelation was delivered. This was a rough welcoming for me, and I still find that the decision to cancel the race was not fully justified. By the time they announced it there was not a thunderstorm ongoing. Adding weight to my point of view is the fact that another race on the same day was carried out as planned.
To make things worse, the organiser offered to send the “finisher” medals of registrants by mail. I received their email asking for my postal address, to which I replied that I would rather get a partial refund or coupon, as finisher medals are for race finishers and is something more to runners than just a race memorabilia. As expected, they said that sending me the medal was all they could do, to which I kindly refused. Seeing now NTUC’s plan for race medal recycling, I regret not having accepting it.
Nestle Love Your Heart Run 2013, August 17th.
Running pack collection was at City Square Mall, it was a breeze and included a handy shoe-bag filled with delicious Nestle products. I remember being really nervous about the weather when I went to sleep the night before the race. Luckily though, when I woke up the sky was clear and I could only hope it would stay the same. I took the MRT (early opening of lines is a huge plus for Saturday races) down to Bayfront station and proceeded to the starting pin. It was a no-frills, race with just the right amount of participants. Everybody was lax and enjoying the run. We ran by the Garden’s By The Bay, the Marina Bridge and the Promontory, and I got to enjoy the amazing view of Singapore’s skyline.
RunNUS 2013, August 25th.
I couldn’t miss my own University’s running event. The organisers were pretty generous with the race pack, which included a variety of handy items and vouchers. The race started at the sports complex and took us all through Kent Ridge campus, including the newly built “UTown” complex. I enjoyed the chit chat with people I had met during Love Your Heart run, and fellow colleagues. The run was challenging, and the number of slopes adding to the heat made this a rather slow course; luckily hydration was plenty and the volunteers did a great job.
Tri-Factor Run, October 6th.
This would be my first run on East Coast Park. I had only been there before for cycling. I went for the 10.5km category and arrived at the event site quite early. The ongoing expo offered good deals on many products, and the flag-off was on time. For many participants, Tri-Factor run is the last part of their triathlon challenge and they couldn’t hide their eagerness to receive that final piece of the medal-puzzle. The run was well organised and smooth, with plenty of sports drinks and goodies for everybody at the finishing line.
Newton Challenge, October 20th.
Time to return to East Coast Park, for a 18-km race this time. I took the organiser’s shuttle bus from Dover very early in the morning. We arrived just in time for a quick hydration and stretching, and soon proceeded to the starting pen. Turnaround number was huge, but the event was well organised with plenty of hydration points and good crowd control. It got a bit too hot and sunny at the last few km’s, but it was a rather enjoyable run. I should add that both the singlet and finisher medal were of great quality. On a personal note, the black pepper crab waiting for me at the nearby Jumbo was definitely a motivation to cross the finishing line faster.
Chua Chu Kang BIG Farm Walk & Run 2013, October 27th.
A “neighbourhood run” which turned out to be one of the best value-for-money events. I decided to take part in this as it would offer a unique route in a part of Singapore that would otherwise be not readily accessible to me. On top of that, there was no big sponsor behind it. Race pack collection was held at Chua Chu Kang Community Center, it was a breeze and consisted of a t-shirt and a (not timing or named) bib number. The turnaround at the day of event was overwhelming, and it feels like it exceeded all organiser’s expectations. There were some bottleneck problems at the first kilometre of the race (mainly due to construction works), but as we moved onwards the road cleared and we then entered the farm area. A very generous goodies bag was waiting for us at the finishing line including fruits, biscuits, buns, golden rabbit candies and plenty of other product. There was even a Mr Bean truck giving away delicious soya bean milk to all finishers. I should mention that the registration fee was only S$10 (or S$8 for PAssion Card Members).
The Trailseeker, November 9th.
I had heard a lot about the Green Corridor, but I never got the chance to visit. I joined The Trailseeker for a 22km run stretching from Portsdown avenue to the Dairy Farm and back. It was a misty and cloudy morning, and the sun was only half way up when the flag was waved off. It was the first trail race for me and I really enjoyed all the greenery and running along the abandoned rail. Things got a bit too crazy after the 9th kilometre or so where we had to pass through various natural obstacles such as streams, logs and slopes. Needless to say we were all pretty soon covered in mud knee-deep, which made the remaining half of the race particularly hard. Hydration could have been better, and there was no food at the finish line. Apart from that, it was a well organised and not overcrowded event. Funny fact, for some reason it felt like this race had the largest angmo-to-local ratio.
Brooks Run Happy, November 16th.
This would be my first night-time race. I by far prefer running after sun down, and I love Singapore’s lit skyline, so it wasn’t a hard decision for me to join. On top of that, I got a fairly good deal through Groupon. The organiser offered free shuttle buses from Marina Bay MRT station which was a very convenient service.
Even though parts of the event were enjoyable, I am not very happy with this run. It was overcrowded, crowd management at the starting pen was very bad and confusing, and most of the volunteers hadn’t been briefed about the locations of amenities. The first half of the course was at Gardens By The Bay East. The route was lit very poorly and there were plenty of non- participants hanging out. Kids on bikes and families with strollers made things dangerous, and I am glad that to my knowledge nobody was injured. Things were made worse due to the fact that this event attracted a lot of inexperienced runners and party-goers. I have nothing against people who decide to walk at races – I am not a pro athlete or very fast runner myself, after all – but to suddenly freeze, pose and take a selfie in the middle of the run, just feels wrong to me. The second half was somewhat less crowded and easier to run. Admittedly, the party at the finishing area was good, lots of drinks, alcohol-free beer and food.
Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, December 1st.
The last event of the year and a must for almost every runner here. Race pack collection was held at Singapore Expo; I went to collect on Friday morning, and it luckily didn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Unfortunately, apart from the singlet and bib, the bag was only filled with useless flyers. I didn’t have time to explore the rest of the expo properly, but a wide variety of exhibitors were present.
I found the route for Half-Marathon (which I ran) excellent. The starting point at Sentosa boardwalk was readily accessible thanks to the early starting trains. There were plenty of volunteers to help people around. Flag-off was on time, and we made our way into Sentosa island. Running by the beach during sunrise was inspiring, and passing through Universal Studios was particularly fun. Mascots would greet and encourage runners, and many people stopped to take a photo with their beloved heroes.
On our way out of the island, we had to run through the underground parking lot. I don’t know if this was an absolute necessity logistics-wise, or who came up with this idea, but it definitely wasn’t a good one. Ventilation was poor, and to make things worse, some of the tourist buses had their engines on. I believe I was within the first 15% of runners at that time and it was already uncomfortable; I don’t want to imagine the situation later on, as the number of oxygen-gobbling runners increased.
After exiting Sentosa, we were already at our 9 or 10km mark. The next 7-8 kms before entering the city were smooth. A huge merge occurred with runners from the Full Marathon and the 10km run. Arguably, this was a poorly executed plan, as there were no barriers between runners of different categories, and made the last few kilometers of the -already struggling- Full and Half marathon runners much more difficult.
The final stretch near The Padang was very enjoyable to me; the cheering crowds* and feeling of completeness gave me a boost as I crossed the finished line with a time of 2h08m. Not a personal best, but definitely a run to remember.
* “There will be a day when you will no longer be able to do this, but today is not the day” and “Smile, your toenails will grow back” were two of the best banners I spotted!
It is now time to prepare my race schedule for 2014 and focus on training. See you all out on the streets!
Did you run any of these events? What’s your take on them? Let us know your opinion below.