SCMS 2016, a milestone year !
15th year since Standard Chartered took over as title sponsor back in 2002 !
It’s also the first time race organization comes under the helm of Ironman Asia which acquired Spectrum Worldwide (SWW) in the middle of this year. SWW had been the organizer of SCMS 2013, 2014, & 2015
But it would also be remembered for a number of other factors:
- No SMRT to take runners to race sites. Chartered buses to get the job done
- HM does not start from Sentosa
- HM / FM same start time and place (flagged off together)
- Earlier start time of 0430 (instead of the usual 0500)
A combination and the uncertainties of some of these factors upset the running community and saw a higher than usual number of people trying to sell off their bibs on social media sites, some even giving away for free
With regards to the HM no longer starting from Sentosa, i like that Ironman Asia had taken the initiative and put paid to the issues as stated in their quote off CNA :
“Sentosa was always a fantastic start point, the athletes love that. But the tunnel, where they had to run through, and the heat factor there, and the long stretch on the highway was always a negative,” said Mr (Geoff) Meyer (Ironman Asia’s managing director). “There was also the big long stretch of West Coast Highway in the sun, which had no shelter or cover, (and this) was also a big negative.”
On a personal note, this year’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore would forever have a special place in my heart, having been selected as the eventual Male winner of the SCMS Facebook 3-part contest held in Nov 2015
My female counterpart was Grace, who unfortunately was not in town to participate this time around
Standard fanfare, but seemingly smaller than previous years’ (sales booth pertaining to running related stuff)
Collection of bibs was smooth on both days I was there; collected mine on day 2 after accompanying a friend the day before
GETTING TO START LINE
no SMRT trains. Reason : scheduled track maintenance (i’m not going to cover whose at fault for runners not kept in the loop till closer to race day)
Instead chartered buses would take runners at a cost of $5 from predetermined fixed spots islandwide
Crucially overlooked was a pickup point in the city. One that would have served to take those who would park close to The Padang (Finish Point) ! In past year’s they merely had to hop on board the MRT to get to the start line.
Not this year. They had to make their way on foot. I saw quite a number of them running towards the Orchard Start Point from the bus I was on
The Good :
• From where was closest to my home – CCK, buses were faster getting runners there than trains
But having taken me 25 mins at least to walk to the stop, it was about the same traveling time for me as any other year
• The designated 2 (different) drop-off locations was good too
The Bad :
• pickup points were too generalized in many heartlands. Many had to walk some distance in the wee hours. Myself, i had to walk 2k just to get onto the bus, where any other year i just needed under 5 mins to get to my station at Yew Tee
• Buses also rule out the possibility of meeting any friend along the way where the train would pass enroute to Orchard
CHANGE IN ROUTE
Likely we will not see a return of the HM to Sentosa as cited above
The initial fear of congestion and confusion over FM / HM Pacers (i think) in the end did not materialise
The FM route (specifically the direction) was altered probably more so out of necessity to accommodate HM / FM starting at the same time and place, to prevent confusion and crossovers of runners of the different categories, and to avoid congestion and bottlenecking
The change, a positive one was overshadowed by the uncertainty surrounding the plan to start the HM together with the FM
The split point between HM & FM was well handled. The marshal was diligent in his duty, repeatedly saying over his loudhailer : HM Left, FM Right !
Closer the point of separation, painted onto the right side of the road in blue was : M 42.195 km, and for added effect, a steel cage-like barrier was situated right in the middle with 2 volunteers seated on either end
The change dispels (the myth) that what many believed : SCMS IAAF Gold Label Race is generally confined to the original route that has been the template of the past few years
This year’s modifications in the route although not all that drastic did make a significant improvement and had an impact on the overall race experience. It is only in retrospect that this was fully appreciated
The Bad :
• 19-21 km, approaching the first u-turn at ECP …i’d imagined was pretty demoralising for most if and when looking to the left and seeing the snaking lanes of runners; 3 lanes … it’s one u-turn after another .. and that the first one was still some distance ahead
• Same old bottlenecking of 10k and sub-5 FM runners at Republic Blvd – this needs looking into !
The Good :
• Personally, i love the change in direction on the ECP the most ! (i’m still not keen on running a large chunk of our premier marathon going around the East Coast Park) … at last, many were able to catch the beautiful coastal sunrise (running next to the beach) ! This wasn’t possible previously as runners would enter the ECP from the (inland) service road which isn’t by the beach
• I love the stretch of running on the actual ECP Expressway too !
• I like that the MBS / GBTB (in the dark) has been spared ! And also the latter stages of returning to it in the reverse direction … running along the narrow boardwalk, sharing the congested walkways with not just fellow racers … but tourists as well as visitors to this attraction
• Last but not least, done away (hopefully for good) is that torturous u-turn before and the ascent up the Sheares Bridge !
• Special mention : 34-38 km stretch … running along the roads, sharing it with passing vehicles, with passengers holding out their mobile phones to snap shots, others cheering, waving, and best of all seeing the smiles of drivers going by in the opposite direction … priceless !!! Perhaps a sign of things to come in future SCMS … more roads, less ECP !
Maybe taking it one step further. Incorporate the heartlands into the course … run through the various neighborhoods … perhaps even taking turns with subsequent years !
Everyone loves the NDP … why not make our marquee Marathon the running equivalent of the NDP ?
Hydration Stations, Medics, Marshals, and other volunteers
Outstanding, the official isotonic drink 100Plus at every designated station was not just cold, it was served with ice !
Medics – i think there were more of them this year too
Tiger Balm Active Muscle Rub – still an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) item of the SCMS ! I felt this was often taken for granted by runners. Just for the sake of comparison, Sundown Marathon SG does not have this practice. You’re pretty much on your own if you are down with cramps !
Having said that, it was great to see that the heaping of this cream into a molehill on a platter had finally stopped. I always felt that was wasteful, and unnecessary
VOLUNTEER (UNOFFICIAL) SUPPORT STATIONS
These were set up by runners for runners ! They were heaven-sent, providing not only drinks, but also cut fruits, sng baos, crackers, etc
They not only helped to perk up the runners, they also added to the atmosphere and joy, as did the many volunteer photographers
This year, i benefitted from not 1 but at least 3 non-official support stations. They’d definitely played a huge part in aiding me through the journey. They gave me the focus to look forward and ahead and pushing forth to get to where they were, and that can’t be a bad thing as they were there for all, not there just to motivate, encourage, cheer or cajole their running kakis only
So it was pretty baffling to learn later that some of these volunteer support stations were told to pack it up by the officials of SCMS.
The one thing that a lot of local runners who have gone (and will continue to go) overseas come alive whilst recounting and sharing their experiences is not how well they had done but more often than not the atmosphere, the experience … one which they could not or had not experience so before back home in Singapore races … and a lot of times these were due to the supporters who’d come down to support bearing food and drinks with them (Japan, HK, etc).
And so on that note, i could not comprehend why our local unofficial support stations could be so detrimental to an event such as SCMS
SCMS 2016 is an improvement over recent editions. The change in route (FM) was the clincher. Running next to the beach, gorgeous sunrise treat, running along the expressway, running along Mountbatten Road and then Nicholl Highway late on in the race, being next to supportive motorists brought back a sense of deja vu for me of the ’91 Mobil Marathon. I really enjoyed that, and hope to have more of it in future editions. And the extra bit of thoughtfulness of providing runners with icy cold 100Plus was a masterstroke ! One that really paid off since this year’s SCMS was the hottest in recent years yet
HOPES AND PRAYERS FOR FUTURE EDITIONS
SMRT trains to take runners to SCMS restored. At least we now know that a viable alternative is in place – chartered buses. There’s room for improvements though.
Have a pickup in the city area for those who’ve parked and ride in previous years – City Hall station.
Have pickup points at every heartland MRT stations. Follow the examples of Newton Run, NTUC Income Run 350 ….
Tackle the issue of congestion of 10k walkers and the FM sub-5 runners at Republic Blvd Rd … perhaps the 10k event could be held a day earlier, after the Kids’ Dash event ?
No more ECP as part of the FM route ! No more loops and u-turns too please ! 1/2 of FM in ECP is not fun ! Time for a change please
Sports Singapore and the Singapore Government to give Ironman Asia and SCMS full support for making it a reality and a dream to take the marathon back to the heartlands
Like the good old days, use the Sports Hub as a venue for the finish site. The Padang has been good for a number of logistical reasons, but it does little to attract supporters down, does little to ‘trap’ runners to stay on and cheer for the slower finishers … loss of atmosphere ! The Padang ground is hellish if it’d rained hours or a day before SCMS. There’d be mud all over the field ! Not fun scraping and washing mud off my road shoes after a road marathon !
A stadium surrounding would be ideal ! The sound would reverberate around the venue, it provides a 360 view, and there are more than ample spaces for runners to chill out after the race ! The sun roof would also shade one and all alike.
Ironman decisiveness in ringing in the changes to an ever growing stale route of the SCMS was like a breath of fresh air ! They’re off to a great start ! Year 1 of 10 !
They’d said they would improve SCMS … and i believe they have !
The future of Singapore Marathon (presently SCMS) looks bright … and i am really hopeful, more so than i’ve ever been since publishing a blogpost back in 2014 : History of The Marathon in Singapore, pleadingly calling for our marquee running event to be brought back to the heartland at the end of that post.
I am hopeful that one day before too long we Singaporeans might experience something very few have had the opportunity to : run through the housing estates in a major event, and have our compatriots cheering us on !
I think i can safely speak for my fellow Singaporean runners … we do not want to run yet another race around the ECP (park) !
There have been too many events choosing this route. What we truly want is to be able to experience the kind of support atmosphere that so many overseas marathons offer. It’s not just the cheers and sideshows from the volunteers and crew … but from the everyday people, the families, the friends, the strangers. Fellow Singaporeans !
Running half of our FM at ECP does not do it ! It is monotonous, and mentally draining. There is not much of a change in scenery. On the contrary, we see hordes and hordes of people … tired, stone-faced runners … going through the very sections that no one really enjoys and yet have to, simply because as Singaporeans we think it is not worth the time and effort giving feedback cos we think that nothing would be done in the end
Ironman has the opportunity to go down into the local running folklore ! Take this marathon back to the streets from whence it started all those years ago !
There is no better avenue to let not just local runners but overseas runners experience and see what Singapore truly is, and the HDB heartland is what defines Singapore and surely not the skyscrapers that every other modern city in the world boasts too !
Imagine if you will, asking a foreign participant of what he’d seen on his first SCMS FM Race :
Xmas lights, dark roads, dark buildings, volunteers, sunrise, the sea, the park (ECP), same park, few u-turns in the park since 12k, tired runners, friendly motorists, 0 spectators on the streets, skyscrapers, Singapore Flyer, The Durian (Esplanade), at last … Spectators … Finish Line !
I for one remain upbeat and optimistic with Ironman Asia being at the helm of this marathon. They’re off to a great start already, and there’s 9 more years of their contract left. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year !
Only thing i pray is they do not consolidate and stick to what they see as a success of this year and do nothing !
The event has to evolve ! And perhaps that might inevitably see the u-turn in the mindset of many whom have chosen to boycott their nation’s very own marathon !
A sad fact, but one that cannot be ignored !
We can’t allow history to repeat itself as in the early days where the Singapore Marathon came so close to being no more ! … however unlikely given the numbers in this modern era, but one that should never be taken for granted
Last but not least, job well done Ironman Asia on SCMS 2016 !
I now am looking forward to SCMS 2017 … and to think that this year could and should have been the last SCMS since i returned to running again after a 21 years hiatus (with SCMS 2012).
I challenge you to keep me and the majority motivated and fuel our desire to wanna continue running and more importantly, supporting our nation’s marquee Marathon event !
- Footnotes & References :
Ironman Asia is also in charge of these other marathons, besides IronMan races :
Marathon of Bordeaux Métropole
Hawke’s Bay International Marathon
Queenstown International Marathon
- IAAF Road Race Label Events