For want of a better name, I decided to title this post “Anniversary Run” for a good reason. Back in Dec 2014, I ran the first 10k race of my life. This year, it would be my third time running the 10k in StanChart Singapore Marathon. Back in Oct, thanks to a fellow blogger and running buddy, Kenjoe, who managed to secure from Peter Ong of JustRunLah, a free slot for me to join SCSM 2017. I picked the 10k category as I just recovered from a long drawn PF injury. I was looking forward to join the other runners on 3 Dec; in the largest event on the running calendar in Singapore.
This year, for the first time in SCSM history, the running apparel was sponsored by Under Armour. The event organizer, Ironman Asia, was helming it for the second time. I was planning to be just there, run the 10k and be done in less than 1.5hours and head home. No baggage deposit. No hassle. However, I was mentally expecting the huge human traffic on race day though. But it was worse than I could imagine.
Race Pack Collection (REPC)
Normally, I would collect my race pack personally as it usually happened on a weekend way before race day. But SCSM REPC has always been different; it is planned to happen a couple of days prior to the event. And so I asked a colleague of mine and also running kaki (thanks Tony Halim) to pick up the race pack on my behalf. I told him to help me take a couple of photos of the REPC venue too.
Since I had just run the Performance Series Changi about a month ago, there wasn’t much preparation I had to do. I just needed to make sure I didn’t over-train or strain myself too much to cause injury again. Hence, my pre-race preparation was mainly confined to short runs, tempo runs plus a bit of strength training. No runs longer than 10km.
Since I wasn’t gunning for a PB, so there wasn’t any pressure at all. Having done a couple of 10km post-injury, I knew that completing the 10km wasn’t a problem. I did check the 10km route and found out that midway I would be climbing the Sheares Avenue and that might slow me down considerably. Mentally, I set myself a reasonable target of 62-65mins, considering my current condition. Here’s the #flatlay I did for the race.
As usual, I would get pre-race jitters but this time it wasn’t that bad. I slept pretty well and woke up at 5am. After the usual morning routine, I wolfed down what I called “happy trio” breakfast – a banana, a slice of peanut butter bread and a cup of coffee. These would suffice for the 10km run. I was out of my home at 5.30am and took me a whole 20mins just to walk to the train station which I could have done in 10min if I were to run there. The better part of me said not to run, so I did a slow stroll. I hopped onto the first train and to my surprise, there weren’t many participating SCSM runners in the train compared to previous years.
I made a mistake by alighting at Raffles Place station, thinking that it was nearer to Fullerton Hotel where it was the designated start point. I ended up having to make a big detour and walked all the way to the Esplanade side to join Pen C (which my bib indicated.) This was rather unusual because in all my past 10km races, runners were never segregated into pens. How much difference in timing can the runners be, I thought to myself? For the HM and FM, I can understand. Never mind, let’s see how they do this.
Shortly after I joined the Pen C runners, I realized that I was so far back from the starting line that I could not see the starting arch/banner at all. Oh, this is bad! This would mean a late start if each wave was going to be flagged off 5mins apart.
So the waiting game began.
The 7.15am official flag off time for the first wave for Pen A was on time. 10minutes passed; we hardly moved. 20minutes, the start point was nowhere in sight. 30mins, I could barely see the START arch. I didn’t know how many waves had passed. Then I heard people cheering the first runners of the 10km category coming in fast and furious – and I had barely started. Argh!!! I had to wait a full 45mins to be flagged off! I swore that I had lost all the hydrating fluids I partook before the race
The first 1-2km was not easy. There were far more walkers and strollers than runners right from the beginning. Weaving through the human maze wasn’t easy. I had to zigzag my way through a sea of blues and greens to get myself into empty space. I could not find my rhythm; my body was not warmed up enough and I was going at an unnatural fast but erratic pace. I was barely settled into my race pace when I was confronted with the foreboding Sheares Avenue climb. The steep incline reduced many of the runners to walkers but I was determined not to be intimidated by it; knowing that if I were to walk, I would lose precious minutes and probably also break my momentum. When I checked by GPS watch, I was doing 6min/km up the slope. Not bad, I thought.
So far so good.
I caught a quick breather as I crested the top and hit the down slope. Then sun decided to peek out of the clouds. Even though gravity was on my side, the heat from the sun from 6km onwards was enough to slow my pace considerably. I dug deep and continued to press on despite the sudden surge in heat and humidity. I could feel my body overheating and my heart racing. I was probably dehydrating. At the next two water points, I gulped down two cups of 100plus and soldiered on. By now, I could feel myself dialing back the pace. This was going to be a positive split race for me.
Making sure that I did not lose my running form completely, I began a quick mental check from head and toe and tried to get connected with the rest of my body again. When I hit Republic Bouvelard, I knew I was already near the home stretch. The open space with the direct sun in my face and the heat from the F1 pit ground reduced me to a 7min/km pace. There was nothing in my tank to go any faster. Even the mist tunnel did not help. A runner of friend later complained that it was spraying hot water at her. Haha. The only saving grace at the F1 pit was the team of photographers from “Running Shots” who braved the heat to capture us in action and helped to take our minds off the heat temporarily.
Thank you and kudos to all the photographers.
The last 1-2km was just plain mind over body as the heat was overpowering. I had to stop at the last water point to pick up another drink. I made a mental note to remind myself never to run the 10km category anymore if this multiple waves flag-off were to take place again in future. I will either do the HM or FM with an earlier start time. The 8am flag off time for a 10km race under Singapore weather was not only impractical but cruel.
Nudging myself to climb the last slope over the Esplanade Drive before turning right into Anderson Bridge and into the Padang, I had to draw upon every ounce of energy I had to make that final surge. Crossing the finish line just inside of 64mins was indeed an achievement under such adverse conditions. I picked up my medal, a cold towel, my fair share of banana/apple and isotonic drink and made my way to the race village; which was actually packed to the brim as most runners from the HM and FM were also streaming in. It was a huge mass of humans bathed in sweat; but thankfully we were all too exhilarated and oblivious of the smell that enveloped the Padang that morning. Sometimes I wonder how the non-runners and supporters could stand up to the stench!
Post Race Routine
The race village was so packed with runners from all categories at 9.30am that there were no way you could locate any of your running buddies if there were no prior arrangements made. Anyway, I was too engrossed in cooling myself down from the overheating. I downed one bottle of water and a can of 100plus before I could feel myself again. I didn’t bother to walk around and just went straight to a nearby grass batch and watched the remaining of the runners streaming into the finish line. It was a hard race for me.
Oh yes, a BIG shoutout to all the volunteers who toiled tirelessly throughout the wee hours of the morning till noon. Without you, we will not be properly hydrated along the way, marshaled to the right place and the many stations that provided information, medical aid and logistical support to the tens of thousands of tired runners that day.
As I sat at there waiting, I realized that many of my friends were in the HM or FM category. They had either finished earlier (for HM) or still haven’t completed (for FM.) I was happy to bump into a fellow colleague, Kartini (also an ex-student) and her friend, Lorine. We chatted for a while before we parted ways.
On my journey home in the train, I was thinking to myself. So this marked the 3rd anniversary of my racing journey which began in Dec 2014. During those years, I had eight 5k races, fifteen 10k races, two half marathons, one Ekiden and three virtual runs; despite sustaining two injuries which plagued me almost half of 2016 and 2017.
What did I learn from these 3 years of racing and running? T
The races kept me on my toes, literally; while the injuries kept me humbled. Some runners are defined by the number of races that they participated and the PBs that they erased time after time. To me, my best times, although painful, were experienced while recovering from injury. The days and months of rehabilitation and patient waiting thought me many lessons. The downtime was spent reading about running and learning from others who had done more mileage than me. Strange as it may sound, I also get to know more of myself this year.
Finally, I want to thank the people who came alongside me during the last one year; Coach Sham from Team Runfanatics who was there to help me pick the right shoes, Emily who assisted me with deep therapy in the early stages of the PF injury, Dr Ivy and the physiotherapists at the Sports Clinic at Changi General Hospital who guided me through a solid 5 months of regular consultation and care. And to friends and fellow runners who gave me much encouragement throughout 2017, I am deeply grateful for your friendship and support.
Please allow me to dedicate this last race of 2017 to all of you who had contributed in one way or another to my recovery – Thank You!
As I told a running friend of mine, I hoped to re-visit the plans that I had put on hold in 2016 and 2017. I may not fulfill all that I set out to do but at least I can make a comeback to the running scene again in 2018.
This time, I hope to be stronger.
N.B. For those who want more of my running journey, please follow me on Instagram @twtwriter.