Ultra-Trail Australia 2019 (100km): May 18, Sat – May 19, Sun, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

The Three Sisters rock formation at Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Image: Terry Tan
The Three Sisters rock formation at Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Image: Terry Tan

IT is already close to 6am and I shouldn’t be deciding right now whether to wear my thermal top. But you usually do in a cold-weather country, a part of my subconsciousness must have been debating with me.

That’s a good point: I did so for past races in Hong Kong and Japan, and now here in Katoomba within the Blue Mountains region of Australia’s New South Wales, it’s a logical choice for a temperature of around 10°C.

Then I consider the perils of getting my base layer soaked in sweat during the daytime of the race, risking hypothermia in the cold night due to wet clothing. The top finally gets sealed in a zip lock bag and kept in my hydration pack.

My concern, though, is more than just about a piece of fabric. With two hours before the start of my wave for the 100km category of Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA), I wonder if I am prepared for this odyssey.

Big deal, which ultramarathoner never have to grapple with his trepidation prior to gun off? But I wasn’t exactly the most methodical of runners, and unlike most of my peers, had almost never gone to Bukit Timah Hill in the last seven months-plus to prepare for a trail race. I life-hacked my training up, running most distances on flat ground and climbing for hours at a 19-floor HDB block near my home.

I expect I could still finish the race but I wonder if I can do so under 20 hours – for that, UTA participants can still get a bronze buckle, if they are not able to complete under 14 hours (silver) or, better still, win the race (gold).

I’m neither going to run any faster or beat all my competitors, so the goal of obtaining the bronze buckle is somewhat realistic.

______________________________

WE are flagged off at 7.54am at Scenic World Blue tourist center after the previous six waves of faster runners have been launched in the past 94 minutes. Almost immediately, we take a left turn to Cliff Drive, passing by suburban houses before u-turning after about 2km to run back the same stretch and through a line of cheering supporters on both sides of the lane.

Before long, we enter a park and head towards Katoomba Cascades, moving on the Prince Henry Cliff trail path en route to Furber Steps which is just at the doorstep of Scenic World facility.

Runners flagged off for Ultra-Trail Australia's 100km race. Image: Sportograft.
Runners flagged off for Ultra-Trail Australia’s 100km race. Image: Sportograft.

Until we reach the 10km mark, the terrain, with its relatively gentle elevations, has been rather kind to our legs. While the rocky sections of Federal Pass track require some cautious footing, I’m otherwise feeling lighthearted as Aussie runners – with their famous, laid-back approach to life – chit chat with each other.

The first test of mettle comes at about 10km, at what’s euphemistically called the Golden Stairs – a very steep 200m climb. After more than an hour since gun off, my body is rudely awakened by this intense, quad-burning push to the first checkpoint, supplemented by a courtesy bump on the head by a boulder on the trail slope.

At 9.36am, I quickly put that episode behind, having arrived at Checkpoint 1 in a still-fresh condition.

______________________________

AS soon as I depart the checkpoint, I begin to struggle to resume my momentum, my body feeling like a troubled car engine starting up. I switch to doing a little more walking at the Narrow Neck Plateau Trail and hope to conserve and shore up some energy for a decently-paced run.

After all, there lies a distance of a near-half marathon 20.2km between Checkpoint 1 and 2. It is not good timing to hit the wall this early.

Lovein Heng, a petite compatriot from Singapore, catches up, exchanges pleasantries with me and gets ahead with her consistent pacing. As it was in some of my past paces, I have found my hare to pace with. Soon, we would be inadvertently overtaking each other several times as we adjust our speed to the changing elevation.

By the time my body overcomes its little turbulence, the Blue Mountains region starts to reveal its signature vista of mountains and escarpments blanketed by verdant swathes of forests. Although an avid photographer myself, I have chosen, in recent times, not to be distracted by my shutterbug tendencies during a race and instead enjoy the spectacle without yanking out my iPhone.

Blue Mountains region. Image: Sportograft.
Blue Mountains region. Image: Sportograft.

At the end of the track, we clamber down between boulders, with one runner being seized by a cramp. A local racer, whom I earlier talked to while running, helps prop the man against a boulder before lifting and stretching his affected leg.

The rest of us descend to Tarros Ladders, where we join a queue of people waiting to climb steel ladders to the base. “I just want to be sure that I’m not winning [the race],” one lady in the queue jokes with a volunteer taking care of the ladders.

From there, we take an undulating route through a forest at Tarros Ladders Medlow Gap Walking Track. Via W7a Mitchells Creek Trail, we go down smoothly on Bellbird Ridge Firetrail and reach Checkpoint 2 – Dunphys Campground at the 31.6km mark.

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BY the early afternoon, I continue through the countryside of private land and on course to the foot of Ironpot Mountain. There, patience is the key – in a laborious manner, we navigate up a slope which rises from 600m+ to close to 800m within a span of around a kilometer.

As we are about to crest Ironpot Ridge, we are cheered by an elderly female volunteer seated on a field chair.

Reaching the top of the ridge, we meet three Indigenous Australian men, one of them blowing a didgeridoo windpipe. The solemn drone emitting from that instrument evokes a sense of peace that exists between man and nature; and here we are now, respectfully enjoying the trails in occasionally painful moments.

We move carefully along a narrow neck of raised rocks on the ridge and shortly turn around to go back the same route. This time, we head down a different path, pounding one of those precipitous slopes that demands ninja footing. Feeling like skiing, the descent is one of the fun parts of the race so far.

It is not so delightful after that – following what’s too hard a run down a gentle, grassy declivity, the wall strikes. Almost suddenly, I’m drained of energy, my pace reduced to a tired walk in a matter of minutes.

Lovein has passed me by then, but now I’m coping with a bad patch which feels more overwhelming than anything I experienced before. I try to remedy it with a food bar but my body refuses to up the tempo.

Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.
Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.

It is now about 8km left of the 14.4km distance between the last checkpoint to the next at Six Foot Track (46km). A slow climb up Megalong Road takes us on a forest trail path and through a plain where farms or ranches of sorts are situated.

Every few minutes, a runner would run past me as it seems more so that I’m left further in the rear.

At this point, it’s difficult to feel any hope that I could finish the race. I wonder about the high possibility of a DNF, the subsequent wasted effort after having undergone months of training coupled with other life challenges, and the post-race shame. By the time I reach the next checkpoint, I assume I will probably come after the cut-off time.

That pessimism aside, the friendliness of the Aussie trailer runners does not go unnoticed. Seeing my weakened state, many of them ask about my well-being as they overtake, expressing the kind of community-spirited care that I did not (or would not have) experience in other races. If I fail this time, at least this compassion is something good to remember from UTA.

Nevertheless, there is some drive in me to just fight through the wall.

Making a right turn off Megalong Road, I advance to a ‘surprise’ mandatory items inspection booth – where the volunteers check runners for a mobile phone in their possession – and then head to Checkpoint 3 which is at a field.

______________________________

THE sun is starting to set at 4-plus in the afternoon as the weather begins to chill. The break at Checkpoint 3 is much needed for me to gradually put the idea of a DNF behind.

A Coke fill-up in my soft flask and a dress-up in my thermal top, and I’m ready to venture into the coming night. By then, I have come across a few people whom I saw in the morning, including the guy who helped another runner with his cramp and a Japanese couple.

What matters now is that I’m regaining my morale. “Yeah, man,” I holler at a cheering volunteer and exit the checkpoint.

At 11.3km, the distance from Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4 at Katoomba Aquatic Centre (57.3km) is the shortest between UTA checkpoints so far. With the darkness slowly closing in, I switch on my headlamp just as I’m entering a narrow trail through the forest at Six Foot Track.

Soon, we will embark on an arduous climb that rises steeply to around 1,000m within about 5km. The only consolation I can find in this grinder is that the trail and steps here are not too rugged and technical – unlike those at Malaysia’s Cameroon Highlands Ultra where climbing really means scaling the slopes with both feet and hands.

Steps climbing at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.
Steps climbing at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.

It gets easier after we pass that hurdle. It’s all trail till we hit a road, but not before I catch up with – guess who – Lovein herself. After helping her to extract a safety vest out of her hydration pack (all runners must wear a safety vest at certain parts of the race), we continue the most of the remaining distance to Checkpoint 4 on roads, Lovein moving ahead of me.

The roads are welcome by this time, even with the occasional passing cars. Cruising past a quiet neigbourhood of suburban houses, I’m somewhat relieved by this fragment of civilisation after hours toiling in the desolating darkness.

Entering the Aquatic Centre at the 57km mark several minutes later feels a little surreal; I walk into a brightly lit sports hall where tables are set up to offer a buffet of refreshments to starving runners.

Many participants are taking a break or short naps on the floor while some of us head to the center of the hall where drop bags are laid and looked after by a volunteer.

I don’t need much, so I just withdraw one or two energy bars out of my drop bag. I’m also thankful that the volunteers are patient enough to cater to our needs as I have one of them to fill up my soft flask.

But there isn’t much time to waste.

About 15 minutes later, I depart from the hall and back to the trails.

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BY 7pm, the vibe of running for hours has settled into serenity. It is nothing more than the darkened landscape while my headlamp exposes the grass, trees and dirt ahead of me.

A half-marathon distance of 21.1km stands between Checkpoint 4 and Checkpoint 5 (78.4km) near the abandoned Queen Victoria Hospital. Fortunately, it is not an all-out push to the aid station; a water point is established in the middle of the route at 69.4km.

The next highlight would be Echo Point, a lookout that overlooks the Blue Mountains range and the famous Three Sisters rock formation. Since it is already night anyway, there is not much luck seeing the scenery in perceivable lighting conditions.

After passing a visitor center at Echo Point, we soon come to the Giant Stairway, a 200m descent via some very steep steps. Running is virtually impossible here, but the slow climb down in the company of fellow runners is a good time to catch my breath. Given that we are descending near Echo Point, one of the runners decides to test its namesake by shouting “Hello!”

The lighthearted moments would eventually fade as we go through Leura Forest and contend the endless, ascending flight of steps near Lila Falls and Marguerite Cascades.

The tedious trek up the steps is an exercise in anguish, but we have been warned enough that stairs will be our bane at UTA. On the riser part of a step, a cryptic message was scrawled in chalk across the rocky surface: “Why?”

An inquiry to the runners for choosing to partake in this act of masochism, most likely.

Minutes later, another message appears: “What would Lucy Bartholomew do?” Lucy is Australia’s ultra-running girl wonder who is racing UTA’s 50km category and will compete in the legendary Western States 100 trail race in June.

Despite having now clocked 60m+ in the race, I’m still maintaining a ferocious pace through some aggressive speed-walks – an effective tactic judging by the number of runners I passed.

Along the way, I tail another runner whose plump form would have one fooled that she isn’t capable of mustering tremendous horsepower to fast hike the slopes and overtake many runners. We have a brief chat and I remark that the steps in this race seem as many as those in Hong Kong’s trails.

Once more, we pound the roads until our arrival at the midway water point located at the backyard of Fairmont Resort. The site does not provide as much food and beverages as the main checkpoints, but it offers just enough. With some chips and water to sustain myself, I quickly leave the vicinity to complete the remaining 9km to checkpoint 5.

The uneventful minutes that follow are what happens when you cannot see much in the dark. The official UTA course description states that we are supposed to head to the 14th tee of a golf course, and if that’s the case, I do not have the slightest idea about my location.

Night running at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019: Image: Sportograft.
Night running at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019: Image: Sportograft.

It’s a near mind-numbing trip of ups and downs, with two key descents at Lillians Bridge and Wentworth Falls before approaching close to the roads leading to Checkpoint 5.

I catch up with Manny, a Filipino runner and, as with some runners I met, strike a conversation with him. As we laugh at our willingness to endure our current predicament, Manny shares that he had to downgrade his initial goal of obtaining a silver buckle after determining he may not be fast enough to reach the finish line. Sensing that I’m picking up speed, he wishes me well before I proceed to take the lead.

A 2km portion of Tableland Road would be the final stretch prior to a right turn towards the checkpoint. I come face to face with a fleet of cars moving slowly on the opposite lane, with some honking in support as they drive past. Meanwhile, my eyes are feeling uncomfortable from fatigue, sweat and the blinding lights from the cars’ beam.

What a sight for sore eyes the big tent of Checkpoint 5 is with its tables of food and portable heaters. Finally here, I’m hungry and cold and in need of both of those things.

______________________________

AT 11pm and 78km later, it’s hard to feel any more energetic compared to the earlier part of the race. My stomach – not used to the spartan amount of food ingested over the last 15 hours – is uncomfortably processing the sandwich that I ate and it would not help much to be taking a bigger portion.

My legs are in a near battered state and the cold is intense at the vicinity of the checkpoint. Before the idea of surrendering to comfort gripes my mind, I decide to end my 15-minute break and leave the tent – I have slightly more than a half-marathon to eventually reach the finish line.

I move off on Kedumba Valley Road and into the twilight zone of the night. Unlike other races, UTA, with its more than 1,300 runners, is seldom a lonely race in darkness. Most folks would not be running with no company or no soul in sight for what feels like an hour. In this race, you will soon catch up with someone else (or be caught up) in less than 10 minutes or so.

Evening at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.
Evening at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.

It’s now the going down part that kills – I descend carefully down a very long and steep dirt road, well aware that one sudden acceleration could have my calves seized in a merciless cramp.

And after that, a very steep ascent. There’s no way of going any faster and I’m getting rather irritated by the coughing of the runner who just overtook and is climbing much ahead of me.

A fatigue-induced crankiness aside, I have been doing some serious estimates since leaving Checkpoint 5. It’s a goal that I didn’t think was possible to achieve since my drastic energy drain in the afternoon: could I make it to the finish line at Scenic World in under 20 hours?

Departing from the last checkpoint, I would have close to five hours to complete 22km of the remaining distance. If I could push myself a little harder, I might just be able to finish this race a few minutes shy of the 20-hour mark.

In other words, the coveted UTA bronze buckle may still be within my reach.

How am I going to do that with all these quad-busting slopes, though?

______________________________

THE emergency aid station – a simple water-point at a saddle – is the final place of our respite before the end. With only 8.8km left from here, the single digit is but a minor relief. The UTA race course is not about to cede the rest of its territory without throwing in a slew of steep slopes and steps for the finale.

It’s one more long climb up the dirt road with its killer gradient after I left the aid station. This route would lead to the cliff lines of The Three Sisters rock formation and then take us to a part of the road which levels out. At last, walking normally or doing some form of running is possible from here.

Concerned that I may not have much time, I take advantage of the more leveled sections of the trail and start to transition to a slow run. Moving swifter than my pace in the past hour, I’m able to maintain the momentum until my gut is disturbed by a strong sensation of hunger. It’s not worth the risk to continue without food – even with the short distance left to tackle – so I lean by the trailside and consume an energy bar.

At this moment, the rush to make it to the finish in less than 20 hours has turned into a knife fight with time. I have now around 3km and less than 45 minutes to do it – a tight deadline in trail running terms.

Finish line gantry at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.
Finish line gantry at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.

I scramble as fast as I could, becoming less mindful of tripping on the rugged terrain. In good time, I arrive at the last hurdle of the race: the slope at Furber Steps with its 951 steps and around 220m of elevation gain.

In the next 21 minutes or so, the race to the Scenic World facility at the top has transformed into a white-knuckle sprint over slightly less than a kilometer of uphill. One flight of steps is followed by another, culminating in a seemingly endless climb which only frustrates me further and threatens to break my pace apart.

I’m getting nearer but my mind appears to be playing tricks with me: have I done a kilometer more to the overall distance of 100km with all these dastardly steps?

I hold onto my momentum fiercely. My legs are increasingly strained. My anguish is rapidly building up. I’m surprised that I have not swear given the intensity.

And, then I catch sight of faint light on a concrete wall – the external perimeter of Scenic World. It’s now around 3.50am.

Turning around a corner, the sound of human chatters becomes more audible as the facility’s facade comes into view. Ahead lies the short lane to the finish line, and without a second thought, I launch into a blistering dash to the destination.

The run suddenly ends in a joyous collapse onto the ground, the concerned event volunteers surrounding and checking on me. They understand what had just happened, and though I did not glance clearly at the clock on the finish gantry as I passed through or have yet to look at my watch, I know I have done what I doubted could be possible. Somewhere deep within my subconsciousness, I know I would one day reflect and think this race is the best ultra-trail I ever ran.

As I receive a pouch containing the bronze buckle from a volunteer, my assumptions are confirmed: I finish Ultra-Trail Australia in 19 hours and 58 minutes that early morning.

The author crosses the finishing line (100km) at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.
The author crosses the finishing line (100km) at Ultra-Trail Australia 2019. Image: Sportograft.
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Race Review: Oxfitt Run 2019 [Half Marathon] by KenJoe

The Oxfitt Run made its debut last year.  I decided to sign up this year to test out the challenge given.  The organizer is Pink Apple Events and the title sponsor Oxfitt (Get Out and Play).

To quote the tagline challenge message they have  :

“OXFITT” is a combination of 2 words “OX” and “FIT” with a double “T”, implying exceptional fitness and endurance. Oxfitt Run will achieve just that together with activities lined up to test your limits and build your strength to conquer the 21KM run. Get out & play with us at the Oxfitt Run 2019  happening on 7 July at the Marina Barrage! Don’t just get fit, but be OXFITT!  Unquote…

Initially I was wondering if there would be obstacle courses with the use of the word ‘play’.  When they released the route information, I realized it would be just running still.

I woke up at 3.40 am and was able to make it to the venue by 5 am.  I could hear the DJ giving some warming up instructions.  By the time I reached there, the exercise had stopped and we were waiting for the flag off.  My mind went back to the race pack collection.  It was straightforward, just a couple of volunteers in front of the Running Lab (Official Retail Partner) at Marina Square.  That was the first indication that this would be a smaller group of participants involved. ‘On’ was the Official Shoe Brand for this race too.  The entry pack was unique as it included not only the running singlet but also a pair of running shorts (or tights rather).  The tights luckily fit true to size for me but as it didn’t have any pocket I didn’t wear it for the race.

Still, it seemed quite crowded at the start line and the race started off on time at 5.30 am.  The hydration stations and energy recharge station were all at where it should be, as stated in the route.  It was BYOB(ottle) as it supports the environmental friendly movement.  (Another additional item in the pack was also the Oxfitt water bottle, so for $50 or $55 this was rather value for money for the distance, in my opinion.)  I brought my reusable cup which I found was adequate for this half marathon race.  Kudos to the organizer and volunteers as I finally get to run the route as announced without any surprises (or shock).  If you want to pick on something, there was a few steps up and a few steps down at one stage.  But then you have to be “Oxfitt’, right ?  What was a few steps up and down, in addition to the Marina Barrage winding slope.

The evening before, I had attended a durian party though I don’t eat durians.  It was more to support the event and my family.  I still enjoyed the nasi lemak that was given.  I had a minor ‘accident’ when I forgot the durian husks were in the plastic trash bag under the table and my right foot hit against it at one stage.  The durian thorns poked a few ‘holes’ on my right fat toe, drawing blood.  Ouch !  When I reached home, I washed the cuts and placed a plaster, hoping they would heal superfast.  Luckily they did and I was able to peel off the plaster in the morning.

The weather was fine, the skies were dark because it was early in the morning.  I crossed the start line a minute after the flagoff.  I checked my Garmin and it was running properly.  I focused on the run, wanting to keep to an average of 7:30 pace.  After a few hundred metres, I became aware of a giant shadow running beside me.  And then, I realized he was silently extending his right hand towards me.  I snapped out of my ‘tunnel’ and looked at him.  Oh, it was a good running friend (from FB) whom I thought was in Hong Kong doing his studies now.  All this was going on with us both running and he didn’t say a word to me too, with the surrounding still quite dark in the early hours of a weekend.  I said ‘Hey !’ and shook his extended hand.  He smiled and then he overtook and ran in front.  I felt the urge to catch up but knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep up anyway.  I went back to my ‘tunnel’ of focus.

After 1 km, when I glanced back at my Garmin, it was trying to tell me the recovery heartbeat.  I pressed the knob and found out I must have accidentally pressed the pause button somehow.  So I resumed the run after more than 1 km, and briefly regretted that my Garmin/Strava wouldn’t be showing the full half marathon distance at the end.  But run on.  Gadget ! What is on Garmin/Strava record may not always be the true story !

After 8 km, I was able to see a group of pacers ahead of me.  I kept them in sight till about 11 km, when I overtook.  I realized they were the 2:40 pacers.  Not long after this, unfortunately I felt something wrong with my insole on my right shoe.  It was crumpling up.  It was extremely uncomfortable.  I sat down on the kerb and removed the shoe which I had tied with double knot and then straightened the insole.  It had never happened before with this model (third pair).  I tried to get back as quickly to pace.  In a few steps, the insole moved and creased up again.  I decided to ignore it and after a while, I tried to tell myself that it was doubling up at the heel for extra cushion.  Then 4 km later, the left insole did the same.  Okay, just run lah.

I must congratulate the pacers for doing a fantastic job.  There was a leading voice (male) who shouted out turnings or rough terrain or point down to the ground when there was unevenness and another female who also gave encouraging cheers to runners and thank the volunteers on the route.  This to me was much better than the whistles blown by other pacer groups in other races.  I just found them piercing to my rather sensitive ears.   But it could be just a personal preference.

Then it was up and down the Marina Barrage and then made my way to the finishing line.  Felt good and I was not as tired after the race.  Collected the bottle of Pocari Sweat, XS Energy (Official Energy Drink), a banana and a cold towel, and the medal.  A good race.  There were a few photographers too along the route but so far, I am usually out of their focus for some reasons or another.  When I checked my handphone, RACETIME had messaged me my preliminary guntime (almost immediately as I crossed the finish line based on the time received).  Thumbs Up.  Now, only if they do have photos of the runners at finishing line too (understood they would have based on their description but usually would take some time for release), it would be double thumbs up!

Run Happy, Run Safe till the next run.

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Try an Ecomarathon in Japan This Fall!

Wish to go for run-cation this Fall and wish to try something new? Eco-marathons in Japan are definitely for you and it is definitely wallet-friendly!

What is an ecomarathon?

A marathon usually involves a large group of people, might even include thousands of people, and because of that, pollutions might occur and damage the earth. However, a lot of marathon events now are implementing environmentally conscious protocols for their event, which makes it possible to have a reduced or zero environmental impact marathons. Thus, leading to a more sustainable and clean environment for our future.

Japan is already known to be an eco-friendly country, and you can definitely catch several eco marathons happening in different parts of Japan this Fall. Here’s a list of what you can expect when you participate in Japan’s Eco-marathons this Fall:

  • All timekeeping chip-based (except fun-runs).
  • All road courses measured with a digital measuring wheel.
  • All equipments are solar-powered.
  • Reusable plastic cups to reduce garbage.
  • Reusable bibs

Aso Cross Country Ecomarathon 2019

Date: 6 Oct 2019
Time: 11:00 am
Where: Aso Cross Country Course, Aso, Kumamoto
Race Category/Price: 10 km (S$35.00) / 3 km Fun Run (S$25.00)
Entitlements: Running backpack (10km) / Buff (3km)

Register Here!

5th Yodogawa Ecomarathon 2019

Date: 14 Oct 2019
Time: 10:30 am
Where: Yodogawa River Cycling Course, Osaka
Race Category/Price: 15 km (S$42.00) / 5 km (S$32.00)
Entitlements: Running backpack

Register Here!

Saiko Ecomarathon Fall 2019

Date: 27 Oct 2019
Time: 11:00 am
Where: Lake Saiko near Toda, Saitama, Tokyo
Race Category/Price: 21 km (S$45.00) / 10 km (S$32.00)
Entitlements: Running backpack

Register Here!

3rd Tondabayashi Ecomarathon 2019

Date: 3 Nov 2019
Time: 10:30 am
Where: Ishikawa Riverbed, Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture
Race Category/Price: 10 miles (S$45.00) / 5 miles (S$35.00)
Entitlements: Running backpack

Register Here!

The 17th Kamogawa Ecomarathon 2019

Date: 4 Nov 2019
Time: 10:30 am
Where: Kamogawa River Cycling Course, Kyoto
Race Category/Price: 10 km (S$32.00)
Entitlements: Running backpack

Register Here!

8th Sagishima Ecomarathon 2019

Date: 24 Nov 2019
Time: 11:00 am
Where: Sagi Island, Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan
Race Category/Price: 32.5 km ($45.00) / 11 km ($35.00) / 3×11 km Relay Team ($80.00)
Entitlements: Running backpack

Register Here!

For more information, you can find at their official website at http://runningintokyo.com/.

Your small contribution today can make a big change to the world in the future. What are you waiting for? Join any of the Japan Eco-marathons today!

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My JustMove! Asia: Singapore Botanic Gardens (by Lingderella)

This time, Willis and I visited Singapore Botanic Gardens as our next place to explore in Singapore for the virtual race in JustMove! Asia. I’m really thankful to SMRT. If not for the circle line, it would be super inconvenient for me to travel to Singapore Botanic Gardens and now, Downtown line can access SBG as well!❤ It’s one of the must visit place in Singapore for the tourists as well for it’s honored as UNESCO World Heritage site!

There are several different entrances into the garden and there’s different zones or different parts or the garden showcasing different and unique types of plants, herbs, flowers, shrubs, trees etc. Entrance to the park is free except for the National Orchid Garden which is actually one of the main attraction of the entire garden, with thousands of different species and hybrids of orchid. I didn’t go in to the Orchid Garden as the entrance fee cost $5 for adults and I remembered going inside the National Orchid Garden a year or two ago for free. It was during some special period like school holidays I think and it was free entrance for all citizens, permanent residents and work pass holders 😍 It’s quite interesting that hybrids of orchids were created for famous people such as politicians and singers such as Stephanie Sun and these orchids were named after them.

There’s a new Ethnobotany garden inside of SBG and Willis and I chance upon it on our recent visits! I’m seriously impressed with SBG as there’s always upgrading and something new. And it’s really so beautiful! 😍


To run the whole SBG, the distance is about 5 to 6km, and the route is quite hilly at certain parts but rest assured it’s very relaxing and entertaining to run/walk/stroll SGB.

There’s pretty white and black swans, huge fishes and tortoises. And at times we may get to spot interesting creatures along the way 😍

It’s really a great dating place to go for a run and hang out. It’s a park very well taken of with good amenities and cafes. Will definitely visit again soon ❤

 

13 Routes to Conquer – 13 Medals to Collect

Use any GPS tracker – Run at Singapore’s most scenic places – Earn amazing medals

Click here to learn more about JustMove Asia: http://justmove.asia

Four of the 10 amazing JustMove Asia medals. Make them yours today!

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Race Review: OSIM Sundown Marathon 2019 (Half-Marathon), by Eddy Chua

 

Remember the day when I was notified that I got my hands on the winning ticket to Sundown Marathon? I attended the launch and fast forward 7 months later, I was starting the half-marathon race right beside Soh Rui Yong. For a non-professional (or I should put it — amateur) runner, it was a dream come true to start ahead together with the seasoned runners.

LEAD UP TO THE RACE

Before I start talking about what happened during race day, I shall share a bit about the lead up to the event. I took part in 2 of their lead-up runs on Saturdays with the pacers from Running Department. From the two runs, I had actually kind of guessed how I would finish my run. The first run, where we supposed to do 15km, was a terrible one. I would hardly complete 8KM without feeling the urge to give up. I eventually decide to end my run after crossing the 12KM mark because I was completely exhausted. I thought to myself, with the race coming in about 2 months time, that should not be the stamina that I should possess.

A few weeks later came the second run I wasn’t sure how much I could do that day so I just told myself to take it easy and follow the 7:07 pacers, staying at a consistent speed instead of going for a fast start. Surprisingly, I managed to go 18KM without really stopping. I took a look on my watch and realised I was going at 7:00 flat – my fastest constant speed ever.

GETTING WARMED UP FOR THE BIG DAY: We gathered together at the 3rd Train with Pacer and the first evening session for a 18KM/21KM run. (Photo: Running Dept)

 

The good thing about having the training session in the evening is that I can roughly gauge how I will perform on the actual night itself. For some reason, our body is programmed to work differently in the different time of the day. For a night owl like me, I tend to perform slightly better when running at night than running before daybreak.

RACE PACK COLLECTION

 

The Race Pack Collection and Expo was held on 24-26 May at Sands Expo & Convention Centre. I went down to help Justin and myself collect our race pack on the afternoon of the 26th. Because I had a few errands to run that day, I was hoping that the collection would be swift. To my surprise, there was hardly anyone at the queue so the entire process took pretty fast. Maybe it was already the last day and everyone else probably had collected theirs on Friday and Saturday.

Of course the race pack was not the only thing I brought home. At the expo, I was looking out for two items: restocking my energy gel stash and a small portable speaker. Thank God I was about to get those in discounted price at the expo.

And hey, guess who I saw in the Sundown Marathon edition of the RUN Magazine! It’s Eugene and Sofie — the creators of adidasRunnersSG.

RACE DAY

Race day finally came on 1 June. And guess what else fell on the same day? CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL! And who is in the final? LIVERPOOL FC! It is not every time when you run your marathon on the same day as your team playing in a continental cup final.

 

In preparation for this memorable night, I decided to race in the 2019/20 Liverpool Goalkeeper Home Kit. The black and gold kit is one of the best jersey New Balance has came out with since signing as the club’s shirt sponsor some 4 seasons ago.

Had a good 6 hours of sleep in the afternoon before heading out at around 8pm. It is important to have adequate rest before a race at night because you don’t want to crash halfway along the route. I am always a fan of night runs but the problem of night runs is that it will somehow mess up my sleeping schedule. But obviously, I am fine with it.

I reached the race village at around 9pm, meeting up with Eugene, Terrence and the rest of the adidias Runners/The High Panters runners at their meeting point. Justin came to meet up with me slightly afterwards. He was taking part in the full marathon event with one of his Sirs from his department. He was telling me how he was not as prepared for the race as compared to Singapore Marathon last year. Yet, I remember telling him that he got the full marathon experience and he definitely trained more frequently than me so he will perform well.

BEFORE THE RACE: Justin and I before we parted ways to enter our respective starting pit.
THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS UP: Everyone was very excited lingering around the race village while wanting for the race to begin.
FUELLING BEFORE THE RUN: Food stores were set up for those who wanted some proper fuelling before and after the run. It proved to be the go-to place for many who stayed back to watch the Champions League final match and Muslim who needs to have the suhoor meal before daybreak.
HYDRATION: Hydration points set up by the Official Hydration Partner Pocari Sweat at the race village.

Making my way towards the starting pen, I witness the excitement that was in every participant prior to the flag off. Everyone was eager to start. While some were busy updating their social accounts (uh-hum I was one of the guilty party), some were focusing on doing their warm-ups. Okay, to be fair to me, I did my warm up when I was outside.

It is not a common scene to see me thrown right at the front of the starting pen so there was some excitement building up within me. Yes, I was eager to start as well but I was more mesmerised by the feeling of being pitched at the starting line alongside Soh Rui Yong and Matthew Smith. That’s some once in a lifetime moment that I couldn’t forget. Ok, maybe if I trained hard enough, I would also be able to compete at this level in 10 years time.

There was some delay to the flag off because the organisers were still trying to get the routes cleared of any obstacles. While those who started from the first pen did not actually feel the effect of the delays, those who were starting from the subsequent pen did — as reflected from the negative feedbacks gathered during and after the race on social media. There were reported delay of 30 minutes which definitely affected those who had signed up for the shuttle service at 0300 and 0430.

To be very honest, having the shuttle service at 0300 when the scheduled flag off time was at 2330. Take note that participants are being pushed out in waves, so by the time the last wave started the race, it could have been 0000. And given those who started last could only finish the half-marathon race in another 2hrs 45mins and beyond, having the shuttle service at 0300 means that they will be rushing from the finishing point to the pick up point, praying that there was no bottleneck and enough time was given for them to take a ‘I’ve-completed-this-race’ photoshoot.

You might argue that they could have chosen the 0430 service. Some people would rather rush than to wait another hour and a half idling and doing nothing — especially if you ain’t a football fan. The shuttle bus could have been scheduled at a half-an-hour interval. I believe that would be a more convenient way for most of the runners.

STARTING POINT: Not every time I could pose right behind the starting point.

After a good 15-20 minutes of delay and the wonderful host trying to keep everyone’s spirit going, the routes were cleared for flag-off. Once we were flagged off, I looked at Rui Yong who spirited off within that nano-second. I tried to pace him for the first 10 seconds before I realised that I’ve depleted most of my energy going at my fastest pace. It was a speed that I was not comfortable and familiar with. That was mistake number 1. I slowed down but still going on at my faster than usual pace. Mistake number 2.

FLAG OFF!: Everyone sprinted the moment the horn was blasted and I went dangerously fast as well. (Photo: Sundown Marathon)

I eventually passed the finishing line 2hrs 38mins later. The good thing about this race was that I didn’t stop for toilet break because I wanted to test how fast I could go without stopping. I did stop and walk because of the inconsistent pace from the beginning. It was evident at the 15th and 19th KM that my pace slowed to a walking pace. I was dead exhausted and my right toe was feeling some cramps. This was obviously not my best race and my search for a sub-2h30mins continues.

While I did stop for water points, I suspected I had spent a little more time trying to swallow my drinks before I carried on running. Anyway, speaking about hydration, there was complaints from most runners (especially those full marathon runners) that some of the hydration points ran out of water before the end of the race. Hence, many of them had to carry on with the race with minimal hydration.

For a race that has been on the local running calendar for years, it is unacceptable for hydration points to even run out of water. I mean, look, hydration is the most basic and important aspect of an organised run. You wouldn’t want someone to pass out due to dehydration during the course of the race. Participants need a wall paced out hydration regime along the way to keep their body going and running out of water is the most ridiculous of all.

Hopefully in the next edition of Sundown, we would see better handling of logistics from the organiser. For example, they could have send for replenishment of refreshments when they realised that stocks are low instead of waiting for things to run out before everyone starts to panic.

Back to some positive points for this race. I need to admit that I loved the creativity behind the design of the finisher medal this year. Can turn one, not bad. At least I could take it out of my medal cabinet and start spinning the medal if I am bored at home.

 

I took a rest by the road side before limping my way to the main stage for the second event of the night — the live telecast of the Champions League Final. Brought to us by bein Sports, it was technically the highlight of the night apart from the main race events. Kudos for the organisers to bring the telecast live at the race village!

To be honest, I was excited but scared as well. After bottling our chance in Kiev against the mighty Real Madrid last season, I was afraid we might lose this one again. As much as I love Klopp, his track record in cup finals was worrisome. But in Klopp we trust. Also, I do see us having a better chance against Spurs after the stunning performance that saw us coming back against Barcelona from 3-0 down to win the second leg and in aggregate. We could believe again.

 

Within the first minute, Salah scored through a penalty won after Mane’s cross was blocked by Sissoko’s arm in the 6-yard box. 1-0. And that prompted an electrifying cheer from the Liverpool fans around me. Game on!

It was a nervous 86 mins before Origi’s strike sealed the victory. Origi has been phenomenal for Liverpool this season although he had only made 20 appearances all season. The 96th minute goal that won us the points against Everton. The 2 goals that sunk the unstoppable Barcelona in the second leg of Champions League semi-finals at Anfield. And now, he had just scored the goal that confirmed Liverpool’s 6th European trophy.

By the time the final whistle was blown, I was nearly in tears. I have never witness Liverpool winning a major trophy since supporting the team in 2006 (Yes, I don’t watch football when I was young until FIFA World Cup 2006 happened). The jubilation was unmatched by any sporting victory I have ever witness. I was so touched to witness this significant moment of a club I loved so dearly and for supporters like me who went through one of the most difficult times the club has ever endure during the turn of the decade (cue Roy Hodgson and the era of Tom Hicks and George Gillet), such moment at the pinnacle of European football was very much of a bittersweet moment for all of us.

Well, Liverpool’s run for their 6th European title taught me one very important lesson, as long as you believe in yourself and work hard, even the impossible can become possible.

Now, it’s time for me to get ready for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2019. I will be working towards a PB for my second ever full marathon race.

This article first appeared on EddyChua.com.

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The Science behind Heart Rate monitors and how to use them wisely

At our weekly Thursday tempo run, someone asked me about my experiment with the two heart rate (HR) watches, why were both of them so out of sync? To be fair, watch manufacturers make great pieces of technology, and it’s usually a user problem, right? It’s Yes and No, in this case. Here’s what happened

The science behind HR sensors

First, let’s understand how the HR sensor works. On the underside of the watch, a LED sensor measures how blood flowing under the skin scatters. When blood flow speeds up because of a heartbeat, or changes in blood volume, your arteries move and expand, creating subtle light intensity shifts of less than 2 percent. Detecting this is a process called photo plethysmography (PPG)

So there lies the problem, physical movements like swinging your arm when running or shaking your wrist are relatively huge movements that causes changes to the light. It’s not explicitly mentioned, but Suunto’s a leading GPS watch maker’s website said that arm movements, crossfit style training, and vibrations will cause issues. Wear your HR watch comfortably loose and the HR reading goes up due to the surrounding light interfering with the sensor, which was what happened in my experiment.

PPG has limitations

PPG Signal losses can also happen if you have a tattoo on your wrist, or during a swim because water flow affects the sensors ability to detect light. Also, high levels of motion can cause a total loss of PPG signals. Not good, especially when you want to know your HR during bouts of more intense exercise like interval or hill training. In fact, it was so bad that Fitbit has faced class action lawsuits because of this inaccuracy.

However, if you wear your watch so tight that it affects blood flow, that will also reduce the sensor’s ability to monitor HR. Also, when it gets too cold, blood flow shifts to the body core and the PPG signal gets too weak.

According to Joseph Chua, a SSTAR.fitness athlete and Ironman triathlete ’’Having completed more than 16 Ironman races, I found no heart rate watch that works well in water, so when swimming I learned to regulate effort by feel – breathing and exertion were my tools.’’

Chest straps are more accurate

A better alternative is to wear a more accurate HR chest strap sensor, but these are uncomfortable against your skin and can cause chaffing and itchiness. Personally, I have a hard time keeping a chest strap in place when I run as it keeps slipping. Try using one and you will soon realize the elastic band has a lifespan of an overweight goldfish. It’s expensive to keep using and replacing this option.

So if you still plan to train with some fairly inaccurate data, take heart (no pun intended) unusually high HR during and after training can sometimes be a false alarm

HR readings are laggy

Besides being inaccurate, HR readings are also laggy – run up a hill and your increased HR doesn’t register until it’s over. Slow down to keep within the zone? It’s too late. Drives you nuts doesn’t it? The good news is GPS enabled watches are relatively accurate at tracking other important data – time and position. The watch uses up to three geo-static satellites, and depending on the mode you set, it will interact with the satellites once every few seconds. This means it is accurate to about 3 meters, and consistently so, even after 100s of miles. At least some things are reliable.

When do SSTAR.fitness athletes use HR?

Occasionally, my athletes track their resting HRs first thing in the morning for two reasons. First, to ensure they are well rested and ready to start a new day. They do this in the morning after an intense training session. If the athlete has a Resting HR of 7 to 10 beats higher than normal before they get out of bed, then that day is a rest or easy cross training day. My Resting HR is a low 43 beats per minute (bpm), so if my HR reads 50 bmp or more, I would switch to an easy spinning or swim session for that day. Using Resting HR takes away the subjectivity of feeling blah, or grumpy in the morning (who doesn’t feel that way sometimes, right?). This data-driven approach to ensures you don’t overtrain and it is not based on motivation or mood.

A better way to use HR training zones

Another reason why Resting HR is useful – it is used to calculate your heart rate zones using the Karvonen method. This calculation takes into account both your fitness level and your age. I mentioned in my previous posts, it does not make sense to simply take a number and deduct your age to get your heart rate zones. Two persons of the same age are not likely to have the same fitness level, so their training intensities should be different. Setting the wrong zones could mean you will train too easy and your progress will be very slow or worse, too hard and suffer. Take your Resting HR every few months, use this formula to reset your training zones as you get fitter and train better. Better yet, join our training session and let me help you plan your training intensities.

I will be posting a third and final part of this 3-post series to explore the relationship between the Karvonen method, HR and RPE and how you can apply it for training and racing.

The HR watch – the good part?

Besides the HR function, the GPS enabled sports watch is a great tool for tracking the important data like time, and position, hence able to calculate distance, speed, and pace. More advanced models can track your running motion as well – from vertical oscillation (your up and down movement as your run forwards), to ground contact time, all these are useful inputs which we use at SSTAR.fitness during gait analysis to help our athletes become more efficient runners.

Train with the right tools

As they say, garbage in, garbage out. If you still plan to train based on the reading from your HR watch, you have to at least ensure it’s accurate. Wear a chest strap for a start, or else choose what the mainstream of runners do – train with time and distance, pace and speed, use your RPE to help understand your intensity, compare your race and time trial results to plan your training targets. Least of all, if I may add, find a good coach that understands how to structure a training plan that is customized for you.

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Compressport as The Official Apparel Partner for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2019

Compressport has announced that it will be the Official Apparel Partner for the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCSM) 2019.

You can expect cooler temperatures during the evening race, an increased number of entertainment zones to keep your spirits high, fantastic crowd support while the city is bustling, and a beautiful view of Singapore’s night light for this year’s SCSM. However, all these experiences will only be completed by donning the official event apparels by Compressport!

Be Part of The Sea of Blue

The race singlet for this year’s SCSM is made up of microfibers and is designed to be ultra-light and breathable to keep runners cool throughout the race, no matter the weather.

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2019 Event Apparel

Your Ultimate Bragging Rights

Wear it with pride when you crossed the finishing line at SCSM 2019 on 30th November. Exclusive Finisher T-shirts for Marathon (42.195km) finishers only! The Royal Blue T-shirts are for the gentlemen and the ladies will earn a Cool Green Finisher T-shirt.

Exclusive Finisher T-shirt for all Marathon (42.195km) finishers

New Evening Race Format 

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) recently announced that the 2019 edition of the race will upgrade the athlete experience with a new evening flag off time at 6:00 pm on Saturday 30 November for the Marathon, Half Marathon and Ekiden distances while shifting to a three-day event format. The Kids Dash will take place on Friday 29 November while the 5K and 10k races will take place on Sunday 1 December providing a distance for everyone.

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Tri-Factor World Championship Launched in China, Quzhou and Registration Sold Out Within 24 Hours

Top Asian multisport brand TRI-Factor has announced a bigger World Championship event in China Quzhou on 21-22 September 2019. 11th year edition with 2 new countries across Asia, Vietnam, and Indonesia saw a bigger demand of athletes to join the TRI-Factor global program. Top 50 winners from the 2019 regional TRI-Factor races will qualify for the TRI-Factor World Championship elite race with a total cash prize purse of more $20,000. All age group athlete slots were sold out within hours from launch.

TRI-Factor mission is to provide everyone deserve a chance to achieve their upmost potential and aspire to provide a progressive and comprehensive platform of races for all athletes across varying capabilities to get together and inspire each other to excel and drives deeper commitment to an active and healthy lifestyle. TRI-Factor launches 2 new iconic races destinations in Vietnam – Vung Tau and Indonesia- Belitung and will be working closely with the National Triathlon Federations and local partners to embed the TF Academy grassroots programs in 2020. This will expansion and initiative seeks to outreach to a wider community and to provide athletes across countries and competency with the opportunity to progress further into the sport and beyond.

TRI-Factor also launches new awards, such as Series World Champions, Best Country Athlete of the Year, Best Country Junior Athlete of the Year, Best Veteran Country Athlete of the Year, Top First-Timer Athlete, and Top First-Timer Junior Athlete. Companies and triathlon clubs can also get on the board with the Club Challenge and Corporate Challenge which has a country and regional categories.

Mr. Elvin Ting, Managing Director of Orange Room Pte Ltd., says, “We’re pleased to announce TRI-Factor Series™ World Champion in Quzhou along with our TRI-Factor Academy program. I am surprised to see the strong demand of our races as the race registration take up was all snapped up within hours from our press launch. I am also humbly honored to have the opportunity to work with triathlon legends like MR Cameron Brown to launch the TRI-Factor Academy programs. Our purpose is to provide our athletes with a platform for the athletes to grow their skills as they progress into races throughout our TRI-Factor season. We launch a 2019 campaign #RaceLikeNoOther in hopes to reinforce athletes experiences and memories that last for a lifetime. We would like to thank all our sponsors and partners for making it happen and we look forward to bringing all our participant an experience they will never forget.

Mr Eugene Lee, Triathlon Singapore Honorary Secretary and Asia Triathlon Confederation Executive Board Member said, “I am pleased to see how the sport of triathlon can be a catalyst in building strong regional relationships with government bodies, federations, local communities and even commercial businesses. TRI-Factor being an established event in Singapore flagships this collaborative initiative and I do look forward to future opportunities across the region.”

12 times Ironman Champion and TRI-Factor Global Ambassador Mr Cameron Brown, says. “I am excited to see how TRI-Factor is growing from strength to strength and I am pleased to have the opportunity to spearhead the TRI-Factor Academy program where we empower age group athletes with the technical knowledge to progress within the sport. With my 33 years of professional racing, I hope to help more athletes become better and stronger. 

For further information about the TRI-Factor Asian Championships and T.A.C.A. status, visit www.trifactor.asia

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My Meiji Run 2019 [10km] and [3.5km] (by Lingderella)

It’s the most delicious run of the year!

I love to drink Meiji’s milk and eat all those chocolates and biscuits especially! That’s one of the reasons I participated in both the 10km and 3.5km category because of the goodie bag and hamper would be super worth it! 😊

It’s very interesting and the first I ever heard of, there’s cash back for runners if runners run below a certain timing! 😍 If the runners runs back the 10km competitive category within 60 minutes, it’s $10 cash back and up to $50 if within 40 minutes! 👍

Though at first I was pretty sian 1/2 because the flag off timing for the 10km is at 3.30pm 😨 I scared scared the Sun 🌚 But while I was on the way to race venue on race day, it was raining heavily at first and was hoping that it didn’t rain in Sentosa. I can’t be pleased easily 😂

Eleanor and I were both late and arrived at Vivo wanting to take the tram in. It’s free entry for Meiji’s runners into Sentosa by showing the race bib when taking the tram in. To our horror, the tram’s not working 😨 It was already 3.20pm and the staff couldn’t tell us when could the tram be working again and told us the fastest way in to Palawan Green is to walk to the bus interchange to take the shuttle bus in. Hoseh liao! 😂 We decided to walk in instead. By the time we are ready to run, it’s almost 4pm and flag off for the 10km was 3.30pm 😆

(Photo credits: Michael Kang)

We asked a volunteer where’s the start for 10km and she look at us in huge eyes with great disbelief saying that they flag off was almost half an hour earlier 😅 But I googled the website beforehand to check any closing time for the start pen but it only stated the cut off time for all categories will be at 6.30pm. Eleanor and I convinced ourselves that we won’t be the last one back because no matter what, we are both regular runners 💪 But we will still be late for the 3.5km run no matter how fast we chiong lah 😂

Luckily there’s no rain nor sun. It’s cloudy but humid, it’s Singapore what can you know what to expect lah 😆 But I must say it’s a rather smooth run for me because the runners were about 30 minutes ahead already but luckily there’s many volunteers and road marshals along the way to direct the route. But I guess still, maybe some runners ran the wrong route as the elites was like only a few minutes ahead of the runners whom I’m familiar with. It’s a hilly course as expected 😂 But I love the route as its a different route than usual, which many races offers the same route.

It was a slow and relax run for me as I already did a 8km run in the morning. After 4km, I stopped a while and opened YouTube, and search for “River Flows In You” a 1 hour loop music. It’s a nice, life reflecting music and it’s my lullaby for the past few nights. We ran towards Tanjong Beach and it’s quite confusing for some runners. As we have to run a loop twice. If runners not alert, they would have ran a shorter distance back. Though still, it’s only about 9.6km when I completed the run. There’s too many water points in this 10km loop till I lost count and best of all, the drinks I had were all cold and shiok isotonic drink to drink in the hot hot weather ❤

(Photo credits: Eleanor Lin)

Eleanor and I head to the start again to run the 3.5km before collecting the 10km finisher entitlements. Maybe I’m tempted to be late for my next races already. It’s a smooth run as there’s nobody else 😆 I must say the 3.5km category was super well done. Distance is exactly 3.5km tallying with my watch, distance board along the way very clear as well. And even though it’s just 3.5km, the route had a 3 water point all spread out 😍 I guess all family run should be well equipped with water points like what Meiji run did. Many families and small kids and must have water for the kids 💗

It’s a run I will definitely want to participate again next year because of the finisher entitlements. So happy with the milks, the confectionery and I think all these items in the goodie bag and hamper covera back at least $20 of the registration fee already 😍 The milk and yogurt etc was placed in a cooler bag and even when I’ve reached home like 3 hours later, the items were still cold! I was so excited with the food stuffs that I even forgot to take my mandatory narcissistic selfie photos with the finisher medal that I usually do at the race village 😆 The medals is so cute lah! Love it! 😍

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Your Ultimate Guide to Bangkok Midnight Marathon 2019

The third edition of the Bangkok Midnight Marathon (BMM)is back! It will take place on 25th August 2019, starting at Sanam Chai Road and finishing at Sao Ching Cha (Giant Swing) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Earn Your Entitlements

Add these race entitlements to your collection! Finishers of all categories will receive a race singlet, a commemorative finisher’s medal, and a goodie bag. Additionally, participants for Full Marathon 42.195km and Half Marathon 21.1km will receive an exclusive finisher shirt.

BMM 2019 Full Marathon 42.195km Entitlements
BMM Full Marathon 42.195km Finisher Shirt
BMM 2019 Half Marathon 21.1km Marathon Entitlements
BMM Half Marathon 21.1km Finisher Shirt
BMM 2019 10km Entitlements

Familiarize yourself with the route

BMM Full Marathon 42.195km Race Route
BMM Half Marathon 21.1km Race Route
BMM 10km Race Route

Event Details

When: 25th August 2019
Where: Sanam Chai Road
Flag off time: 00:59 am onward
Registration fees:

Enjoy exclusive registration/discounts for all JRL members when you register here with the promo codes below:
~ Full Marathon 42.195km Promo Code: JR42-71974
(200 baht off Original Price of 2,400 baht)
~ Half Marathon 21.1km Promo Code: JR21-16394
(200 baht off Original Price of 2,200 baht)
~ 10km Promo Code: JR10-24322
(Exclusive registration: 700 baht)

To read more about the upcoming Bangkok’s largest night run, click here!

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Is It Better to Run in A Group, Or Solo?

Keeping company when you’re out for a run – or even by yourself – can impact your overall performance, and affect the quality of your performance. If you are an introvert, does running with someone alongside stress you out and limit the peace and recharging time you might be getting from your training? Or if you are an extrovert, do you find that being out on a run by yourself to be less motivating?

Let’s break down the pros and cons of running by yourself, as well as running with others. Then you can determine what works best for you and your training, and what makes you a more effective and balanced runner!

Solo Running

If you enjoy running by yourself, you aren’t alone! With almost a quarter of the United States population taking up running as a fitness hobby, over half of those prefer to run by themselves. This isn’t surprising, seeing as how the daily hustle and bustle of life rarely allows for some moments to reflect and relax a bit, and running solo can be a good avenue to do just that.

Running alone can also help you focus more on the stress-relieving benefits of the exercise that you’re doing, and can help you get more in tune with how your body is moving and working.

Listening to your breathing and keeping track of your pace is easier to do alone – especially if you’re doing a recovery run – and can get you mentally prepped if you’re going to be participating in any running events where you might not have others running the same pace as you.

Group Running

Between running with one other person or running with an entire group, 30% of runners would rather have some company while pounding the pavement. One of the biggest bonuses of running with someone else – or an entire group – is the accountability factor. Let’s be real, it can be hard to wake up at the crack of dawn to go for a run, especially if you had a late night or are just not feeling it. However, the person that is waiting for you at the park for your morning run will be there, which means in the end, you probably will be, too.

The accountability factor doesn’t have to be for just showing up, though; with a partner or in a group, they can tell if you’re selling yourself short on a run, or not pushing at your normal pace. This can be positive (and helpful) pressure from friends and peers that you might need to get a little extra boost or to stay on track with your routine.

Which Is Best?

For many runners, especially folks who are new to the running community, they begin by themselves – for several reasons, but some being that they are embarrassed or don’t quite know how to program effectively to achieve their goals. When this happens, running solo can eventually become an enjoyable pastime, while others might find it necessary to team up a bit, even just for days that are longer runs or where you might need some speedwork done with a faster friend.

Even so, solo running can be modified to suit an individual’s specific goals, instead of a group goal. Alternating in between runs by yourself and runs with a group can be beneficial as well – the encouragement and teamwork from a group can be highly motivating, while some days you could feel the need to want to go by yourself and bump up that mental toughness game – after all, your mind can get in the way of goals you want to achieve – and the quiet solo runs will give you no other choice than to push through those mental blocks!

What Type Of Training Will Fit Best With Your Goals

In the end, it’s a personal decision as to whether to run by yourself or run with a team (or partner). Both can be beneficial, and getting in those miles and boosting your mental and physical health can be obtained, regardless if you’re with someone or not. However, if you’re needing the occasional accountability factor – because let’s face it, we all have days that we’d rather stay in bed as the sun comes up – then finding a running mate is a great idea.

Aside from that, you might find that you’re inspired by the person or group that you’re running with and this can lead to better running times, improved mental focus, and an overall healthier outlook on life. Positive support from others that you’re around, especially for physical activities like running, can help goals turn into a reality and can give you a cheering squad that you wouldn’t have had otherwise if you were by yourself!

Now it’s time to strap up those laces, and hit the pavement!

Guest author bio: Kevin Jones is a full-time professional fitness expert. When he isn’t in the gym, he is offering practical research, fitness plans and nutritional tips to the world. Kevin regularly contributes to many fitness and health authority websites. With a passion for family, fun, and fitness, Kevin has found a way to manage and combine these three aspects in an effective and successful way.

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Running In the Rain – Everything You Need To Know

Running in the rain can be fun and even therapeutic. If you’ve found the proper running plan for beginners, don’t let rain derail it.

Exercises to get faster at running often work better in the rain because of the added challenges. Running in the rain can function as overtraining for when you get back to dry runs. You could even try hill sprint workouts in the rain if you really want a challenge.

In this article, we’ve got everything you need to know on running the rain. We have tips on gear, running safety, and what to do after your run in the rain. Let’s get started!

Let’s Talk Gear

Gear becomes critically important when running in the rain. And it is important to know what you are shopping for when you select your gear. To begin, let’s go over a few key terms.

Water resistant gear will keep the moisture away for a while, but eventually the water will get through the fabric.

Waterproof or water repellant gear should keep you totally dry underneath. GORE-TEX technology is well known in this category. GORE-TEX guarantees that the water stays away, and it also keeps you insulated and holds warmth inside.

A favorite brand here at The Run Experience? Gore. The gear is lightweight and keeps you dry start to finish no matter if you’re running a 5K or an ultra marathon.

And for those of you who like to run with music on, the award-winning engineers at xFyro audio created the most advanced pair of waterproof earbuds on the market, bringing next-generation technology today’s active listener.

Let’s Get Specific

Head: A hat is helpful when running in the rain if for no other reason than it keeps the water out of your eyes. Finding a water resistant or waterproof hat is also helpful to stay light while you’re running, otherwise the moisture can weigh you down.

Neck: A buff is also helpful in the rain. There are lots of different ways you can wear it. Many runners prefer it around their neck to keep moisture away there. You can also wear it around your wrist, which is helpful if you need to wipe moisture away from your face or elsewhere; you have a ready-to-go wipe.

Shirt: If you’re running in cold weather, a base layer with merino wool is likely your best bet. It is moisture-wicking, but you’ll stay warm.

If you’re running in hot rain, find a light, breathable shirt that wicks moisture and won’t weigh you down once it gets wet. And adhere to your own preferences when it come to things like sleeve-length and style.

Image credit: Gear Patrol

Jacket: This layer is arguably the most important layer when you’re running in the rain. It’s important to find a jacket that is light and waterproof, stretchy enough that it doesn’t interfere with your stride, and simple enough that it doesn’t interfere with your other gear. GORE-TEX will be a good option here.

Bottoms: If you have a favorite running bottom already, it’s most likely moisture-wicking. Check to make sure and you can probably stick to it in the rain. If you like to run in shorts, you may want to bring a buff with you to wipe your legs if need be.

Socks: Socks rival jacket for most important layer in your rain gear, because with rain often comes blisters.

Even if your shoes are getting wet, we want to keep moisture away from the skin. Socks with merino wool in them will be great here. Brands we love? Darn Tough, Balega, and Smart Wool.

Shoes: If the rest of your gear is working for you, there is no big need to change your running shoe for the rain if you already have a shoe you like. Having said that, there are waterproof running shoes out there, which might be a good option if your feet are hypersensitive to chafing or blisters.

Let’s Talk Safety

Visibility is bad in the rain. If it’s bad for you, it’s also bad for cars. Because of this, it is so important to make sure you are seen.

Bright colors, reflective gear, and lights are all good options. No need to re-do your wardrobe because of this.

Instead, invest in some good reflective bands to put overtop of your clothing, or a light handheld flashlight. Accessories can get the job done here if your clothes aren’t bright and reflective on their own.

Blinking bands for your shoes and headlamps are also popular among runners.

Something else to consider: roads get slippery. This one may not seem obvious, but it’s important. Roads and particularly the paint on them get quite slippery when it rains, and you’ll want to slow down on turns.

No need to alter your overall run strategy, but pace yourself accordingly as you navigate turns on pavement in the rain.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to bring your phone when it’s raining, just in case anything happens. An easy way to protect it is simply to put your phone in a Ziploc or insulated bag. If you run with corded headphones, slip the cord through a small unzipped part of the bag.

Otherwise, zip up the bag, and either hold it or throw it in a pocket somewhere on your gear, and your phone will be safe from the rain and available if you need it.

Let’s Talk Post-Run in the Rain

After your run in the rain, you may need to take some extra steps to dry your shoes. A good trick: take the insole out of your running shoe and stuff the inside of the shoe with newspaper or something that can absorb the water.

Place the shoes upright against a wall overnight with the newspaper in them, and they should be pretty dry by morning.

Most running shoes are machine-washable, so feel free to throw muddy shoes in the wash, and let them air dry afterwards.

Also, don’t forget to hydrate. Often times because we are already wet on a run in the rain, we do not drink enough water while running.

Know this ahead of time, and keep track. If you don’t hit your hydration goals, be sure to drink more than normal after your run. 

And there we have it. Stay dry out there!

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The Best Way to Measure Training Intensity

I did an experiment and wore two heart rate watches, one on each wrist. See the picture – same human, same brand, at the same time but I got different heart rate readings. The difference is almost 30 beats per minute, which is a gap of a few HR zones! Is HR a reliable way to measure your running intensity? Let’s find out.

Heart rate is a fickle mistress

Heart rate is very sensitive to many external factors like ambient temperate (on a hot day, your HR goes up, even when running at the same intensity), hydration (thirsty and your HR goes up even if you are running at the same speed), stress (feeling excited at the start of a race, and your HR goes up). Lack of sleep, your HR goes up, so you train slower and end up letting your mindset, work, family and social commitments affect your training!

Why? Because we are human

Here’s another key point–when you exercise, the longer you do it, the higher your HR. Called cardiac drift, and it affects beginners to elite runners, all humans. So to maintain your HR zone during runs, you end up going slower and slower, which is not the best way to train and race. As a coach, I have seen runners set higher HR zones for the later part of their race, to maintain an even effort or pace. That seems to be a round-about way of trying to run an even paced race. Why not just set the right pace in the first place and stick to it?

If not heart rate then what?

I am part of a global network of coaches from the Road Runners Clubs of America and the IAAF. When most runners and coaches that I know world-wide train, they use pace, time and distance, matched with the Rate Of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to measure training and racing intensity. RPE is very comprehensive because it takes into account a range of feelings, plus mental and physical inputs like breathing, heart rate, sweating, muscle fatigue, and overall discomfort.

RPE is easy to learn and use

While exertion levels may seem subjective, matching that with a scale makes it accurate and easy to use. At SSTAR.fitness we use the BorgCR10 scale which is widely used in the exercise industry across many sports and activities, from running to resistance training.

Here is what some beginner runners have to say. Eliza Pang who didn’t start running until four months ago, and recently completed a half marathon said ‘’I started training with the rate of perceived exertion method and found it very easy to understand and follow. You simply start by paying attention to how hard you breathe, and how easy you can still talk and run.’’

How to measure exertion with RPE?

Cheryl Chen, who started running 3 times a week, less than three months ago said ‘’ RPE is easy to understand by using a scale of 1 to 10, with 3 being jogging at a pace where I can still talk full sentences, 5 is when I can talk but a few words at time like “I am still feeling ok”  and 8 onwards is just one or two words like “keep going” or “a bit more” All my friends who are also beginners find this easy and reliable’’

How do more advanced runners use RPE?

We are all different and there are many ways to train. SSTAR.fitness training programs use both RPE and Heart Rate, to develop training plans based on time, distance and pace that are customized to each athletes fitness level and goals.

Muru, an experienced runner aiming for a Boston qualifier, was following a heart rate training program said “I used to train based on HR but found the training intensity too low. There were too many days that my runs were slower than previous runs. I was running slower, as a result, my races were slower. That wasn’t progress. With a training plan based on pace and realistic race goals, I feel now every run has a purpose, I am building something, towards race day”. He added ‘’ training using a heart rate monitor alone may be holding me back from reaching my full potential’’

Goal setting based on your current fitness level

Setting each training session at the right training intensity and goals is key. At SSTAR.fitness we match RPE with Heart Rate zones using the Karvonen formula, which includes your Resting Heart Rate. that takes your current fitness level into account. More about SSTAR.fitness training zones and this formula in future posts.

Going beyond just RPE, heartrate and intensity

Regardless of whether you are using heart rate or RPE, to measure training intensity, a good training program should also consider the duration, frequency, and the type of training. At SSTAR.fitness we believe in the holistic approach so strongly that we even trademarked it SSTAR.fitness Holistic Running, where we go beyond training to cover Nutrition, Core, Flexibility, Strength, Nutrition, Running Gait and Mental Toughness.

Join the SSTAR.fitness Crew every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday as we train using the Run Less Run Faster methodology to help beginners to seasoned runners achieve their best race outcomes. Register on our Facebook for free training sessions.

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Running around Luang Prabang

Wat Sene & Wat Sensoukaram along Sakkaline Road

When going for a run in Luang Prabang, the ideal option is to wake up early and go out.  The small hotels there likely will not have any gyms, much less treadmills.  Outside, its quite hot in the day, not humid hot but burning hot. Evenings will have the main road closed for the night market, and the other roads hardly have any lamp posts.

Being out at sunrise also lets you observe the alms giving tradition where saffron-robed monks in procession walk past houses for locals to share a bite of food into their baskets.

Though I heard one can also wait out on the side streets, its best seen on the central Sakkaline and Sisavangvong Roads where tourists can also sit on the neatly lined low stools and have their food baskets for a fee on a table on the other side of the road.  Its a weird contrast of old and new.  The monks and locals continuing their tradition since the 14th century, while the excited participants from out of town have their equally excited friends paparazzi the whole event because it needs to be on social media or it never happened.

View atop Mt. Phousi – old French bridge over the Nam Khan, nearby mountains

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO heritage site, at least the old town part on a peninsula jutting out by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.  Its a place stuck in time, or at least a reminder of what it once was.  The national museum was once the royal palace.  Ornate temples and stupas here and there, line up with old houses and shops in a mix of indigenous and French colonial architecture.  The rugged mountains beyond the rivers seem to be hiding this town from civilization like a mythical lost city of gold.  The women walking by with their silk patterned skirts completes the somewhat regal at the same time provincial charm of the place.

Fellow runner under colorful flowers and trees by the Mekong river

Looping on the roads along the rivers, and an out and back on the centre road easily takes 8km of scenic views, or can be longer depending how far you stretch the loop.  There are small roads and alleyways that cut across, running these short paths is good if you want additional elevation as its from one riverbank to another, and more hidden shops and cafes to discover too.  There are no traffic lights, its hardly busy so its quite safe to run anywhere.  As with other places in the region, there are dogs here and there.  In Phnom Penh I was startled by an angry dog that’s about to lunge at me from behind and luckily it was chained to a gate, while I remember a small dog give brief chase in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.  But Luang Prabang being very laid back, that may have rubbed off on its canine residents so no growls from behind.  I did run purposely slower in order to not trigger them

You can also do a short loop going out of town crossing the Nam Khan river over 2 very different bridges.  Going out there’s the “Old French Bridge” as its called in Google Maps.  If Hanoi have Cau Long Bien, then Luang Prabang have this not-as-grand, much shorter, and equally relic-looking bridge.  Its better to walk this as the wood planks actually flex on each step, like your foot sinking on a trampoline.

Then return to town via another bridge upstream.  Instead of huge chunks of metal hanging high up, this is a temporary bamboo bridge that’s closer to the water.  Its seasonal as when waters of the Mekong rises this gets swept away.  Make sure you have LAK 5,000 with you to pay the toll fee which will be used to rebuild the bridge when the waters recede.

So if you are planning to visit Luang Prabang, you definitely can bring your running gears, as long as you don’t mind the heat.  Speaking of which, drinking ice cold Beerlao from the bottle is a great way to deal with it.  Not necessarily to beat the heat, but the coffee there is great too.

Cafe by the Mekong riverbank

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Proton HSN21km, Malaysia’s Favorite Half Marathon, is Back on 13th October this year!

Known for being the best half-marathon event in Malaysia, HSN21km is back again this year – bigger and better! The 2019 edition offers a wide range of distances – 21km, 10km and Yakult 5km. It is set to flag off at 5:00 am, 6:15 am and 6:45 am respectively on 13th October 2019 at Anjung Flora, Putrajaya.

HSN21km is an event initiative, with the support of the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports, to promote healthy sporting Malaysia. Not only the event attracts the locals, but runners from all across the globe have also been participating in HSN21km. Witnessed over 12,000 runners during its last edition in 2018, HSN21km is on its way to becoming one of the biggest running events in the country with 18,000 passionate runners expected this year.

Brand New Course This Year!

PROTON HSN21KM 2019 will for the first time, introduce a competitive race category for its 5KM distance. Participants running the ‘5KM Competitive Race’ will be timed officially in accordance with Federal Territory Amateur Athletics Association (FTAAA) standards and are entitled to compete for rewarding cash prizes.

The event will also open its doors to junior competitors in the ‘Junior Race’ category for its 10KM and 5KM distances. Runners participating in the categories will be timed and are entitled to compete for the respective category’s cash prizes. Junior entries are open for youths ages 16 – 20 years old for the 10KM Junior Category, and the 5KM Junior Category are open to youths ages 12 – 15 years old and 16 – 20 years old respectively.

Read more about the introduction of this year’s new course here!

Try the Yakult 5KM

Those contemplating joining the 5km category now have one more reason to do so! Yakult has been announced as the Official Probiotic Drink, and the 5KM distance at the PROTON HSN21KM 2019 is now officially known as the Yakult 5KM. This applies to both the fun run, as well as the competitive!

Don’t miss out, boost your immunity with Yakult drink before and after the run. Good health starts with strong immunity!

Entitlements for Everyone

Finishers of all categories will receive a commemorative event T-shirt and a finisher Medal, unique to their race category. Additionally, 21km participants will receive an exclusive finisher shirt.

HSN21km Event T-shirt
HSN21km Finisher Shirt and Finisher Medal

HSN21km: Categories and Fees

Prepare yourself for an amazing day of fitness and fun times for all ages at THE running event of the year!

Register for HSN21km with JustRunLah! and enjoy exclusive 5% OFF!

PROMO CODE: HSN21KMJRL5

Click here to find out more

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Adidas Singapore Takes A Stand For The Oceans, Raises More Than US$10,000 In the Fight Against Marine Plastic Pollution

  • More than 320 runners in Singapore took a stand for the oceans, joining adidas’ global fight against marine plastic pollution at adidas Run For The Oceans 2019
  • adidas runners have clocked over 3 million kilometres globally since 8 June, raising
    US$1.5 million towards educating the next generation on the threat of plastic pollution

SINGAPORE, June 11, 2019 – Bright and early on World Oceans Day (8 June), more than 320 runners in Singapore rallied together at the adidas Run For The Oceans 2019, running in unison along the city’s Marina Bay waterfront to take a stand against marine plastic pollution.

Members of public, adidas employees, the local adidas Runners community and the brand’s creators (the brand term for ambassadors) were mobilised in adidas’ global fight for the oceans, literally taking steps together to raise awareness of the threat plastic waste poses to our oceans, and up the pace of change for future generations.

Running along the water’s edge, participants including musician Benjamin Kheng, actor Danial Ashriq, and host of the event and 987FM radio personality Kimberly Wang, chalked up between 4 to 7 kilometres each through the Run For The Oceans challenge via the Runtastic app. For every kilometre run, adidas contributes US$1 to the Parley Ocean School (capped at US$1.5 million).

Globally, adidas runners have clocked over 3 million kilometres since 8 June, reaching the target amount of US$1.5 million raised for the Parley Ocean School to educate youths on the issue of plastic pollution and inspire long-term behavioral change. In Singapore, runners have racked up more than 10,000 km – that’s US$10,000 – to date!

At the event, local singer-songwriter Inch Chua and food and travel writer Victoria Cheng, both advocates of environmental sustainability shared their personal experiences and encouraged participants to take action by incorporating sustainable habits in their day-to-day lives. Through educational zones at the venue, participants also learned more about the impact of their participation in Run For The Oceans and the transformation journey of ocean plastic waste into an adidas x Parley product.

Reflecting on his own journey towards sustainability, adidas Runners Singapore captain Eugene Lim shared: “We can each play our individual small roles to make a huge positive impact on our oceans together. I’ve started to be more mindful about not taking plastic straws or plastic lids when I can, bringing reusable tote bags when grocery shopping and when I do receive plastic bags, make the effort to reuse them.”

Petr Stastny, Country Manager, adidas Singapore, said: “We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives. With adidas Run For The Oceans 2019, we harness the power of sport to raise awareness about the state of the oceans and inspire positive action. We are extremely heartened to see the strong turnout at Run For The Oceans 2019 in Singapore, and the enthusiasm and ownership among our runners for this cause. Every kilometre, every step counts; together, we can make a marked difference and create change.”

Join the movement and spread the word!

The fight against marine plastic pollution does not end here. We can only fight plastic pollution together. You can help spread the word about the issue of marine plastic pollution by inviting your friends to sign up on the Runtastic app and join the Run For The Oceans movement, between now until 16 June! Click here: adidas.com.sg/runfortheoceans to get involved.

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