I’ve attended all 3 years of the YOLO run since its inauguration. First year, I was impressed by the call to run free – to run unhindered. Liberating oneself by being shirtless while running was probably just symbolic. It wasn’t easy to be shirtless somehow for me. Especially when he had reached beyond 50 and had only started to run a number of months before the event and still have body fats in the wrong area. But still, I decided to do that in the first year because I wanted to contribute in my small way to charity – dollars donated to charity for each shirtless body.
Second year, I wasn’t feeling that well and I was also made more conscious of body fats by friends. But I did manage to get some new friends to run who had gone shirtless near the finish line. But I started to notice and wonder how exactly the organizer was counting the number of shirtless bodies. Third year, I almost did it again. Except that the whole marketing focus seemed to have shifted.
The marketing communication is, I believe, one of the more attractively worded ones :
“The YOLO Run is a fun and performance run event where participants are encouraged to free themselves, be a part of a run that gives back and also partake in a mass yoga session after the run. The spirit of the YOLO Run draws from the aphorism “You Only Live Once” and encourages participants to seize the day, not care about what people think, and free themselves from labels, stereotypes, body types and inhibitions. This action of liberation is signified by participants running shirtless and is supported by X-Change Republic (the creators of the YOLO Run) or the sponsors, through donations to the adopted beneficiary for every runner who runs shirtless. YOLO Run believes in the appreciation of life. Everyone only lives each day once, therefore when one is able to, he should always help those in need, simply because there could never be another chance for it.”
I believe in helping others whenever possible through whatever means. If you earn a lot, then chip in money, if you run a lot, then raise funds by running etc. Now, there is however another part to the equation, communicating well is one thing. Execution is the challenging part of it.
The first year it was just a fun event, the second year it incorporated the competitive run and this year there is the inclusion of the half marathon as well as the challenge to break the national record, with the possibility of taking home the Alfa Romeo. This, when one were to read closely the terms and conditions, would actually preclude the majority of the local running population. Still the hype was built perhaps.
When I turned up to collect the race pack on Friday, I was greeted by a long queue. I wasn’t exactly surprised because I have seen longer queues before. I have probably participated in around 24 events each year since 2015 when I took up running. So I thought this was also an indication of the crowd that would be appearing on race day. I was only reminded of the ‘lengthiness’ of it because I was collecting on behalf too, of a FB friend.
I explained to him the queue I was facing and at the same time too, I decided to share the queue status online so that other friends could be more prepared for the wait. It probably took me more than an hour 15 minutes or thereabouts, in the end. Still, I didn’t think that much of it because I had queued for longer in the past for other events. When I left, I thought the queue had reduced in volume somewhat.
But subsequent reports and updates by friends showed that the situation was getting worse, for its long wait and for the wrong sizes/unavailability of the ladies’ apparels. I read also the offer of alternative collection dates and then the cancellation of one of the days. This didn’t seem like a good sign of things to come.
On actual race day, I was early again, and was able to participate in the first wave of the 10 km race. But I saw in the distance that a crowd was still at the starting point. It turned out to be the half marathon runners. Their start time was delayed for more than 50 minutes. The one thing that struck me was that the F1 Pit was shrouded in darkness when I reached there before 6 am. Usually it would be all lighted up even with earlier start times.
For ‘popular’ races (and the size of the race pack queue is usually a good indication), I would follow my own checklists of what not to do. One, don’t use the deposit baggage if possible, so don’t bring too much stuff. Two, don’t depend on the toilet cubicle – so try and release yourself on the way to the venue at other public toilets if possible. I therefore didn’t go through the hassle and frustration that many runners experienced that day before and after the race itself.
We were flagged off after waiting for about 20 minutes after the start time, one of the longest I experienced. The explanation given was that there was a held up at the Sports Hub area. The organizer also apologized for the past week’s of frustration and unhappy experience due to the waiting time and availability of right sizes of the apparels. I thought that was a good gesture.
It was still a pleasant morning, weather had held. To me, the weather was better than the week before at Newton’s Race. Then a few hundred metres on, I saw a sign that said 1 km. I would have been blur as sotong if this was my first few races because I didn’t even wear a watch then. I looked at my Garmin and knew the sign was wrong. So I just dismissed the accuracy of the signs for this race (apparently it was because some of the signboards were meant for the GEWR race).
Then soon after we hit a hydration stop. As it was only 10 km, I didn’t worry about hydration as much. So I continued with the run. There were narrow stretches along the bridge but probably because I was near the front of the wave 1, I didn’t encounter any stoppages. But as I was running back in the loop, I did notice the narrowness of the route as I saw the oncoming crowd from the later waves.
There were a few more signs that seemed a bit out but I wasn’t depending on the mileage sign anymore as I looked more at my Garmin for this race. That aside, the run experience while it lasted for me, was still probably fairly ‘routine’ as in other races. Perhaps I have little expectation too. I noticed too there were more than the usual photographers too on this race.
So suddenly, when I made a turn, it seemed like the route was ending. It was just only 6 plus km ?! 6.94 km, my Garmin read as I suddenly saw the familiar scene of a finishing line and the counters. If it was 9.64 km, I would still probably think I was cheated of a 10 km race though more acceptable. 6.94 km was definitely a disappointing turn of events. Sudden Death, I termed it. I thought maybe there was an incident or something and runners were diverted. But everyone seemed calm and the volunteers were just handing out the medals as usual. I commented to another runner, the distance is only around 7 km ? Yeah, and most folks were just shaking their heads.
I took my hydration (Lucozade Sports and I believed there was Ribena too though I skipped that) then and walked off to cool down. That was when I saw a solitary figure behind the building, my friend Chris. We chatted and I would spare you the frustration we vented. We also talked about my recent races and some of his next year’s focus. So it was a pretty good chat amidst all the unpleasantness. I had to take a walk to Swissotel Stamford to collect the race pack for the Vertical Marathon since I didn’t want to take the long journey back again after going home. It was still early. I decided then I would just run the rest of the 10 km race and did another 3.5 km, also as part of the challenge I was still doing. After that, I walked back to the car park to take some hydration before I walked off again to Swissotel Stamford to collect the race pack.
I read all the ventings and the attempt to explain also by the organizer. I thought perhaps if there was time to cool down and have clearer explanation of what happened to cause the major delay of the half marathon, and the severe shortage of the distance meant for 10 km, it would perhaps put the ‘fiasco’ in the right perspective. It had its merits in its lofty vision though it might have somehow gone a bit wilder with its expansion into the ‘performance’ goal. I messaged the organizer on FB and emailed too, after being told that I should email instead. After waiting for a week and not receiving a follow-through response, I decided that I would just leave things as they were.
An explanation had been given about an external consultant giving the instruction to divert the route. I am guessing the consultant would have been given authority to make such decisions in the event of a ‘crisis’. It didn’t seem to be clear what the crisis situation was. The organizer needed more time to investigate probably too. Hopefully some lessons could be learnt from this situation still.
So the race pack collection, the handling and logistics of the ladies’ apparels, the queue management, the reported shortage of cups at hydration stops, the delay in the start time of the different categories and the unexpected diversion of the route for 10 km race, resulting in a severe gap from the planned distance would have contributed to a unsatisfactory rating for this race. And unclear accounting on the failures made it worse.
For runners, perhaps this was one of those ‘expect the unexpected’ race. I chose to run off the frustration that day to make up the shortage of distance. It was my way of handling my own frustration. After that, I would not let this mar my day. The running while we didn’t know that it was going to end at 7 km, had been the usual ‘experience’ for me. I was lucky to be in the front and not get caught up in the bottleneck and also not in the half marathon race. Everyone’s experience would be different and there would be different ways of handling the situation. Running parallels the life situation even as shown in such races. The organizer would need to resolve the crisis satisfactorily or hope perhaps with time, memory fades somehow. Still, lessons would and should be learnt.
YOLO (the phrase) extorts you to live your precious life wisely. That comes with all your perceptions of the different situation you had been through and how you want to live it. So make the wise decisions. Still, run safe and run happy in all situations. (Disclaimer: I have paid for all three years’ race entries and I’m not related to the organizer.)