YOLO – You Only Live Once
This term #yolo is familiar to most in the younger generation; expressing the need to ‘seize the day’ and to live life to the fullest. It aptly reflects their dreams to make a difference in that one life each of them has. YOLO Run adopts the following hashtags #yolorunsg #runshirtless #freeyourselves; all of which challenge the status quo. The event organiser also supports BRAS (Breast Reconstruction Awareness Singapore) by donating a sports bra for every runner who crosses the finish line ‘shirtless’.
With a slick marketing angle and minimalist look of its event website and appeal to millennials, the run attracted a lot of young runners; even baby-boomers like myself. I checked with my sons whether they would be interested to run together; since I was the one who prepped them for their NS days. They liked the idea; on condition I prepped them again for the 10km run since they had not done a 10km race. I thought it was also a good opportunity for father and sons to bond over the preparation as well as the race itself.
RACE PACK COLLECTION
As the REPC date draws nearer, we were busy logging our mileage in different ways. My older son, Austin, preferred to train with me; while the younger one, Justin, did it at his own time, own pace. The aim was to at least reach 8-9km with a good pace to get ourselves ready for the run. REPC was scheduled for 14 to 16 October. Race pack collection was at OCBC Arena, a convenient place for train commuters or who those who drove. We collected our packs after lunch on Saturday. To our surprise, the setup for race pack collection was neat, organised and appealing.
We were happy that there was no queue and we were in and out of it in less than 3 mins. The race pack was not the usual drawstring bags or carriers but a neat little box to hold the number bib, singlet and tee shirt. No energy bars, no discount coupons for fitness centres – totally no frills pack. I love the box, which can be re-used for daily storage needs.
Since the REPC was just a week before the race, most of the preparation and training had been done prior to this. During this week, all I did was to taper my runs and ensure that I ate well and hydrated properly. Of course, I had run many 10km races before so my body knew how to adapt. I taught my boys how to prepare physically and mentally for the race too.
Then something unfortunate happened two days before race day. On Thursday morning, while exiting the MRT train, my left ankle got snagged by someone’s bag which was on the train floor. In my desperate attempt to free myself from it before the train door closed, I exerted force in the wrong direction and felt a sharp pain at my ankle. Eventually, I freed myself but not before I landed on my right hand and knee to break the fall. Immediately, the pain shot up my left foot and I was limping.
I thought to myself – no, no, no! I would be having a race in less than 48 hours and I was in pain because of a sprained/twisted ankle. The pain subsided after I rested it for a few minutes. So I went on happily for the rest of the day. Long story short, the pain returned with a vengeance that night and I had to desperately iced and taped it. I even offered a quiet and desperate prayer to God to somewhat miraculously heal me in a day.
Faced with this last minute setback, I was grasping at straws. I looked up youtube to see how to tape an ankle sprain for recovery; I texted a friend to standby in case I could not make it (hate to think about missing the run with my boys). I needed to focus on getting well as soon as possible; or I risked missing my Saturday race altogether. After resting for a day on Friday (I was telecommuting from home), the ankle recovered significantly enough for me to call off my standby runner. Thank God for answering my prayers. I continued to ice my ankle and stabilise the ankle from unnecessary movement through taping. After preparing my gears, I turned in for an early night and looked forward to the run.
My boys and I woke up early and got ready with a light breakfast. Thankfully, my ankle felt okay. I popped one painkiller and drove down to Indoor Stadium carpark. It was a beautiful morning. As we made our way to the race village, I checked the weather forecast; and it seemed there would be a slight chance of rain in the morning. No time to worry too much about that, I told myself.
When we arrived at the race village, many were already there. It was well laid out. I needed to make a size change for my XS singlet because it was too small. Thankfully, they were nice enough to make a swap for me. That made my day. I slipped my singlet on, clipped on my race belt with the number tag, before heading to the start pen. While walking there, we heard the count down for the flag off. We leisurely made our way to the front and when I hit my watch start button, we were probably 3mins behind the first runner.
All three of us were running at about the same pace most of the time. We chatted a bit while we made our way to the Marina Barrage. When we approached the ramp to the top; we still had plenty of energy to keep the pace (not sure about the return leg.) I remembered my painkiller tablet, taped ankle and compressions socks; it was sufficient ‘protection’ to give me the assurance that the joint will not fail me half way. I did, however, experienced a bit of pain up and down the barrage slope but nothing debilitating. The first hydration point with isotonic and plain water at the top of the ramp provided the extra oomph to propel us further. A smart move to put the water point on top, which gave runners motivation to get up there fast for some hydration.
The route past Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands that morning was pretty devoid of pokemon hunters or morning joggers; I guessed it was still early hours but it was good for the racers. By the time we got to the 3-4km mark, the runners had thinned out and more spread out for a better running experience. Unlike other races, the event organiser did not stagger the start time, everyone was waved off at the same time. So for those of us who started late or far behind, we had to contend with weaving through slow and sluggish runners at the start. Approaching the 5km turn-around point, we saw the dark clouds looming above our heads. Thankfully, no lightning or thunder threatened to disrupt the race. So, we pushed on.
I was so focused on my running that I missed the photographer sitting inconspicuously on the grass batch at the Promontory around Marina Boulevard. Austin called to me but it was too late to smile at the camera man; but he still managed to capture three of us in a single frame. We made the U-turn and headed back on the return leg with the Marina Barrage climb threatening to test our mettle again. I wished there were more volunteers to cheer us along the route. Generally speaking, Singaporeans are still not so encouraging and spontaneous when it comes to such races and events. The participation from onlookers were almost zero; we runners were all on our own. Zilch encouragement from the sidelines.
The dark clouds did not materialise into torrential rain but it drizzled a bit towards the end of the 10km race. Egged on by the good weather, many runners were ‘flaunting’ their well-toned bodies and some even bared their torsos. For the young runners, there were plenty of eye candies – both male and female!
As the runners left the much dreaded slope of the Barrage for the last time, many picked up their pace and sped towards the finish. Austin was already ahead of me and Justin was just hot on my heels. I wanted to go faster but my legs were on strike. Passing by the 8th mark, I spotted a familiar face; someone who was recently featured by the local running community. I could remember him because he was interviewed by the Run Society this year. His name is Duncan Watt; a veteran newscaster from yesteryears.
I ran alongside him and spoke briefly to him. I said that he was going to just make it slightly over an hour. I glanced at my watch and he was right (he eventually finished under 65mins.) A short conversation with him revealed that he would be 74 next year. Incredible for someone his age to be still running 10km in about an hour. He waved me on, telling me to go get my PB and I wished him well too. What an incredible runner to meet on a YOLO run – a fine example of how to #yolo through this life! I wanted to whip out my phone for a photo with him but decided against it. Managed to find his photo and here’s the link for his interview with Run Society.
I bade goodbye to Duncan and sped towards the finish line; not forgetting to remove my singlet for the final dash. Disregarding my skinny size, I crossed the finish arch in slightly a minute past the hour with many eyes looking at my scrawny frame. Surprisingly, I wasn’t self-conscious at all; could even pose for the camera man. In fact, I silently congratulated myself for bouncing back from an injury two days ago, clocked a sub62 timing and still bold enough to bear a skinny upper body for the sake of charity. Haha! That’s a YOLO moment for me!
I picked up the medal and hydration after crossing the finish line. Collected my drawstring bag and yoga mat, I went looking for my two boys were crossed the finish much earlier than me; at least 3mins faster. Both told me that they recorded a sub60 finish.
After that it was a series of photo taking, waiting to pick up by baggage. I was so engrossed with taking photos and catching up with friends that I forgot I had a bag to pick up; so I ended up having to queue for 45 mins! Argh! Lugging the yoga mat was a bit of a chore even though we had a carrying bag.
So what’s my assessment of the YOLO Run event this year? I would grade it as 4*.
Despite having to walk almost 15 mins to the race village from the carpark; jostling with the starting line-up, waiting in line for the baggage claim for 45mins, climbing the barrage twice – I was pretty happy with the entire event. I felt that one of the unique selling point of the event was the theme design – it was such a compelling way to get young runners to sign up. The psychology of using hashtags #freeyourselves and #runshirtless obviously worked. What’s more impressive was the event organiser’s ability to match the their marketing with an equally sleek, minimalist and hip product. Well done!
The quick shout-out to all volunteers who were there in the wee hours of the morning to man the hydration stations and direct human traffic. Special mention for all the photographers; amateur or otherwise, who covered the event tirelessly; having to sit through almost 3 hours trying to capture the special moments and share these with the runners. A BIG thank you!
POST RACE REFLECTION
This was one medal that almost eluded me. I have planned so nicely that it would be my last race for 2016 and it was meant to be the climax of my running calendar. It was a race with two special people in my life; my twin sons. I took them for several preparation runs before their enlistment just about a year ago. Now they both are accomplished in their own ways; chalking up silver and gold awards for their IPPT. Running together with them for the YOLO 10km race was a fitting finale to another year of running. So this race meant a lot to me.
Looking back over the last one year, I must say that despite my injury earlier this year. You can read it here. Year 2016 was quite different from 2015. I would like to spend a bit more time reflecting on it and write a separate personal blog here. Stay tuned.
Finally, let me reiterate these well known words:
Once the mind conceives and the heart believes, the body achieves!
I totally experienced it at YOLO Run 2016.
Till then, go #freeyourselves & #runshirtless, remember to treasure those #yolo moments.
Follow me on Instagram @twtwriter for more photos and updates on my running journey.