When Scouse Pete, Shug and I invented Mount Sinai Striders 18 months ago, it was just a joke. A non-running club of three mates who did a bit of training together and entered a few races. Over time, we’ve added friends, created a Strava Group and recently a Facebook page – but still, we weren’t exactly sure what the point was, other than a bit of fun.
Until 2015, when Singapore suddenly went Relay crazy! From nowhere, this year we have three relay events already (The Great Relay, The Mizuno Ekiden and ASICS Relay). All of a sudden Mount Sinai Striders makes sense – it’s a Relay Team! And so it was that through a rigorous (not) selection process, we chose the first ever Mount Sinai Striders Team to enter the 100k Great Relay as a mens team of six.
The team selected itself in truth and until last week we were in good shape.
Then disaster struck as Strider Big Rob stuck his foot in a drainage ditch on Sentosa and broke a bone in his foot.
A few frantic calls later, we had enlisted the services of local Ultra King Paviter Singh to step in and take Rob’s place. So far, so good.
Another Strider Down!
Then two days before the race, Strider Jezza gets an MRI scan on his troublesome left leg only to find he has been training on a hairline stress fracture (and probably had it when he did Ironman 70.3 Vietnam last month!).
Even more frantic calls and Eleete Pete finally comes up trumps with his neighbour and fellow liverpudlian Jason. The team is now 1/3rd Scouse! Apart from that all is good, we are ready to go.
Talking to running friends, there has been an air of anticipation about this event since it was announced earlier in the year. Lexus and the F1 gang ran the inaugural Great Relay in Hong Kong in January and the elite combo emerged victorious in the Mixed Team of 4 category and gave the local Mizuno Athletes (Mens Team of 8) a good run for their money overall.
Then Vlad and Eti came over from HK for their running clinics in April and the anticipation rose again.
The concept is simple. 50k or 100k, Teams of 2, 4 or 6. A loop of 4km from each member of the team in order, repeared until the distance is complete.
We entered the 100k category and settled on a running order. Ben to set things off, Pav to follow, Jason & Pete in the middle section, then Neil (aka The Claw) and me last. One extra loop is required to get to 100k and we elected Ben to run that one.
Runners in the 4 and 6 person teams doing the 100k will run between 16 and 24k each, but the long gaps in between each effort mean that all competitors are onsite all day. This is unusual for a running event, where usually you see people for a quick ‘good luck’ before the race and then a (usually) slightly longer ‘well done’ afterwards.
At The Great Relay you can catch up with old buddies and get into the action and the spirit of the event. Since this sort of event is few and far between, I think this format makes a nice change up from usual races and based on my interactions during the day, most agreed.
I finally set off for my first loop at around 0900 (having arrived onsite at 5.30!), a short flat starting section, then a short, steep climb, followed by a long technical downhill before things get more straightforward with an out and back to the quarry along a closed road. This second section had a combination of rolling hills that was both tough (uphill towards the end of the event) and rewarding (downhills to build speed) so personally I thought the course overall was decent. It wasn’t as much on the trail as Vlad and Eti would have liked, but it was demanding enough to make everyone work hard.
My second and third loops were tough, in the heat of the day, I slowed slightly on each, but still maintained a decent pace. The heat of the day and the waiting around took it’s toll a bit….
Finally at around 2.30, Neil came round the bend and I set off for my final loop. It was pouring with rain, which meant cooler temperatures, but also demanded careful footing on the downhill trail section in particular. I pulled a few seconds back on my lap 3 time and caught a few runners on the way in, then Ben set of for our 25th and final lap.
A nice tradition in this event is assembling the whole team to run the last 100m with the final runner. We did this, complete with a can of tiger each and then managed to grab a quick photo with Vlad (and injured Jezza, who came down with the beer!). We’re all done, 100k in 7 hours 58. 3rd place in our Category and 11th overall.
In summary a great day out, everyone had a blast. Struck the right balance between competition and camaraderie.
Well done Eti and Vlad and good luck with the next Hong Kong and Taiwan editions.
Mount Sinai Striders will be out again in team formation for the Mizuno Ekiden. ‘Ave it!