Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2011

20,000 full marathon runners on the road. That is an indication just how popular this sport is in Singapore. I am not sure they pick it up because they love running or to escape (some for 8 hours) from the small HDB flats that most of them grew up in. I guess "private time" is sometimes construed as time away from home.
Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore or SCMS for short, marked my 10th full marathon in my long running history of 8 years. It is nothing to brag about as i average a marathon a year. Unlike some hardcore that does one a month. They are the real hero and heroine.
Wifey attempted her second full marathon (FM) and she was anxious about it naturally. I can understand that as the training frequency was not as frequent as her first FM in June this year. We drove down to Singapore on Friday. Decision was based on cost consideration as flying down would cost twice as much. More over, the time spent in the car with wifey would be good too. We have Mac with us on the way down and the long drive (with food stop) was not tiring. More of that in previous post.
For some of you that want to experience the SCMS but is careful or unsure about logistical, race route, crowd and organizer, i will share as much information needed as possible.
Race Kit Collection and Sports Expo
The organizer had 82 counters serving the participants for 3 days. That include one day for kiasu participant to collect race kit earlier than everyone else. You can/have to book a "time" for it. The other two days are opened for public, which falls on Friday and Saturday. Race kit collection this year was at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre. The venue allowed visitors like me to have an opportunity to see this building that is turning iconic in this region.
SGD400/night.
The race kit collection queue will remind you of the immigration queue in Hong Kong where it snakes in zigzag fashion. Despite the high number of FM participants, my line took all but 15mins. I believe the air-cond and the fact you can see what is happening at the counter helped. The collection time at the counter was swift at less than 5-mins. Crowd control was good. No havoc and did not hear about complains while i was in line.
All dolled up and lined up
Apparently, Saturday's race kit collection was faster as the crowd has taken theirs the past two days.
There was no issue with race vest sizing unless you did not denote it in the registration website. I managed a L vest and it is 2 size bigger than expected. Maybe i did shrunk in size.
Needless to say, the "goodies" bag has sponsor-obligated pamphlets and useless items. Into the bins they went. Comparatively, KL races could have a bit more stuffs that you can use, though they remain irrelevant to the race (like soap sample, instant noodles etc)

The Sports Exco see retailers from Singapore well known sports shop plying their trades. Dollar for dollar, the items are cheap. Energy gel goes for SGD4 compared to Malaysia's RM8. If you are earning the money there, sports is within everyone reach. If you are from Malaysia, you will be spoilt for choices with varieties and constant offers and clearance sales that is hard to resist even after conversion.
See all the smile?
Pros - great venue for kit collection. Fast collection.
Cons - no MRT to Marina Bay Sands. Nearest requires you to walk from the CDB about 5 mins away - that is assuming you know the place well.
The Race
The SMRT or Singapore Mass Rail Transit was operational 24hours in support of the SCMS. Service was however limited to 15mins interval from 12-midnight to 6am. Good enough if you ask a visitor like me. It was a good experience seeing how at 4am, a whole bunch of runners congregate at the MRT station to head to the starting point. It was a different experience altogether.
We were not the only one at 4am in the morning.
only one girl NOT in running attire at 4am
The FM were scheduled to start at 5am. Bag drop was provided but we dis not utilise it as we do not want to have any delays at the bag drop. It proved to be a good choice as some Runners reportedly had their race delayed due to this.
This is how it will look like if your day job is to run, run, run.
Runners were segregated by their bin color which represent the "target finishing" when they registered. Mine was red and it says i will complete it above 6-hours. The starting line too has segregation (pen) with the faster runners up in front and the slower behind. The start line was a long 1km that stretches along the whole of Orchard Road.
Predetermined during registration
However, crowd control was not too good causing slower runners that was kiasu to be in the sub 5 pen. There was also no countdown to the start gun off and i only knew the race started because everyone seems to be moving forward. It took me almost 8minutes to walk from the end of the pack to cross the first timing mat.
It wasn't new year's eve party
I could not believe that i was or of the claimed 20,000 runners that morning. The whole scene looked like a migration of nocturnal animal if seem from above.
With 20,000 runners, it get difficult to run at your pace as there will be someone stopping (as early as KM1) to walk or someone coming too close behind kicking your shoe as they tried to overtake you from the left or
right. A stampede could had happen if the condition is conducive.
Race start. Space, like the HDB flats in Singapore, is a commodity.
As the running route was narrow, runners naturally will find a place to run - and most choose to go off the road by running on the shopping mall footway or building sidewalks.
Water station was at every 2km and manned by at least 15 volunteers with about 8 tables line up. Mobile toilet was available at every other stop and medical was around every water stop location.
These are the back half of the 20,000 runners.
Almost reaching the starting line...took us 8 minutes!
Water and isotonic were in excess and no incident of supply running out was reported. Kudos to that.
The first 10km of the run brought us through the concrete jungle of Singapore which includes the F1 pit stop and also the Marina Barrage (in completion stage). Apart from the central Fire Station, there was nothing else worth mentioning while running on the road except the FM runners outsize the barricaded road for us to run.
Now, imagine this is SMART tunnel and the flood mitigation failed....
From the concrete jungle, the route brings the runner into East Coast Park or ECP (damn the Singaporean loves abbreviation). I found out while running that ECP is a long 10km one way route, making the runner clock a good 20km in and out of ECP. The park is next to the sea overlooking large container vessels, a sight for tired and sore eyes? Not. What made it worse is the whole route, equivalent to a one way street (with appropriate road buffer) has that 20,000 FM running on it. The width were enough to fit 6 runners shoulder to shoulder and it get increasingly difficult to run around or go around those already in walkathon mode.
The largest portion of ECP

I noticed that many runners failed to pace themselves and outran their pace like a 10km or 21km race - only to bonk by the time they run into ECP. So "fast" runners that managed to clock a decent 1hour or less for the first 10km were already walking by then, adding in the crowd that was arriving from the back. I was running with Wifey the first 15km and was on a consistent pace up to 21km, which will allow me to finish the race close to 6hours or 6.30hour at most.
Last i saw wifey...
Then, sciatica sets in like a schedule train. In a way, i am happy it stayed off much later compared to PJ Half, but it was heartbreaking. The right hamstring starts to get taut and presses against the nerves, which radiated the pain from the pelvic-femur point to the back of knee, down to my calf and my toes started to feel needles and pins. It got numb. Running made it worse. It was also then i last saw Wifey at KM21.6 or the u-turn. Encouraged her to move on and i know it will be a painfully numbing 21km i need to "negotiate" with my mind and body to HTFU.
The crowd seems to stop running at KM21 too, even walking became increasingly irritating as most turned on their "leisure shopping mall speed stroll". I was pushing myself to walk at my usual marathon pace of 8:00 per KM, which is about the same speed as some one's jog. In short, i was power walking.
ECP was a torture for me as it gets even more boring the more one has to walk to get out. Quoting a fellow Marathoner (Irwan) "sudah fedup nak lari" (fed up to run), it also became a challenge when the leisure participants decided to just stop in the middle of the path to chit-chat or even stretch. Do learn to get out of the way!
How to run past them?
I managed to overtake many on my walk. Saw a couple of friends along the way and encouraged to go on whatever it takes. Biggest consolation was that the sun decided to sleep in until 10am.
I covered the 20km in ECP in a decent 3:10, just 10mins more if i were to run it.
boringnyer...
Exiting ECP brought us to a construction ground for the future Marina Causeway Expressway (MCE). By then, the sun woken up and the heat of the day starts building up. Walking along the MCE, you will be flanked by the Marina Bay golf course that will lead you into the garden facing Marina Bay Sands. With width about a normal sedan car, it gets more challenging to walk as the slow became slower. My pain became almost intolerable as i keep grabbing my ass and pressing my fingers at the joint of my pelvic and femur. It seems to help me relief the pain for a while. I know i will look obscene standing by the road side, in full sight, grabbing and pressing my ass.
So hot...the plant dried.
I noticed that (sorry to say) Singaporeans that took part in the FM threw the paper cup everywhere. It was quite a contrast that i know or was made to know of them as law abiding citizen - as you know, Singapore is a fine city. Only a handful actually took the trouble to throw into the designated bin. Compare that to Malaysians, the attitude had changed as seen during PJ Half where we consciously land the cups in the provided bins.
With about 8km to go, we exited the park and walked towards the Marina Barrage (in construction as well). I was looking out for Kash and Kak June between KM34-36. I was not disappointed when i saw them by the road near a bus-stop at about KM36. I was so happy to see Kash and Kak June that they too started jumping up and down. My joy were amplified when Kash opened a can of Coke...ice cold.
Kash handing over the ice cold coke. :D
Coke Angel! Thank You Kash and Kak June!
I gulped it down in less than 5seconds and found renewed energy. I ran or rather, forced myself to run but i could only sustain it for 2km before the pain got increasingly difficult to bear again.
It was almost every KM i stopped and massaged my sciatica. A lot of standing hamstring stretches and i figured out the best place to do it is behind large trees where i can maintain some dignity as i might be misconstrued as digging my own anus.
believe me when i said these people were sitting by the road side at KM 38!!!
The final 1km passing Esplanade was long. I could only muster up a brisk walk. The final 200m, for the first time, i walked to the finish line. I saw Tey in his usual way of taking photos and then i saw wifey and Adeline by the side. I hobbled to finish in a slow 6:51(official) which got to be my worse FM ever. But there was no shame, as i intended to clock a 7-hours. I found out that wifey improved her timing by 15mins to finish the race in 5:55. That was including lining up for 10mins for toilet before ECP.
Looking for familiar face....FOUND IT!
If only Nike sponsor running couple...
I know the limiting factor was me, as she was worried about my well being after i told her my chest felt tight a week ago after i ran 2km. She was there over the 8 water stations till KM15 to make sure i am ok. If she did not follow my slower pace, she would had ace it with a 5:30 finish!
Gun time :6:58. Chip time:6:51. Yay!
Pros - if you train for the run, you know what to expect running into ECP and around the area. The volunteers are super helpful. They smile and were apologetic when they were scolded for serving water slow (they really don't have to apologize, really).
Cons - No sponges on the run. Runners/walkers ended up using water meant for drinking to cool themselves down. 
Medal and Finisher-T collection
For the first time, the finisher T ran out of size L and larger. Must be kiasu-ism at work again. Wifey told me that S for me is still big and i told her i will take XS for her. So while others mulled over their (largest available) M size, and some cried over the pajama sized L and XL (it is none-exchangeable), i am happy to announce i fit into S size ;).
A bottle of water and isotonic was given as you exit.
The medal was pretty nice with Standard Chartered colored ribbon and decent weighted cast iron. The design too is good. Now i just need to find ways to show all the medals i ever collected over the years. Any suggestion?
Will I Return?
This is a race to come if you want to be known as a marathon finisher. There is almost no cut off time. I was told the last runner/walker came in at 9hours...i salute his/her spirit. If the finishing is any stricter like in KL Marathon, there would certainly be only 50% or less that will be "official" finisher. Whatever it is, you race your own race - you deserves the bragging rights.
Post Race
Compression wear is a saviour. I wore my CW-X after showering before returning to KL. Drove in it for 4 hours and i was walking like normal the day after. Perhaps the 21km recovery walk actually helped. Sciatica pain reduced after i stopped running. Night stretching helped to improve things further and there is still some pain at the joint but it is more bearable. I guess the pain threshold has increased as well. Onward to the next race!

10 comments:

  1. We must have looked funny jumping up and down lol .. It was a great place to seek friends out ..congrats on finishing, still better than my pw hihi .. On to the next one ..hope u will be able to heal soon. Cheers!

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  2. I was grabbing my ass too. Should have walk/run with you, then we will be the ass grabbing couple...hahaha.

    You sum up very well...its my first time seeing runner just walking, sitting down, napping, and couple walking hand in hand...for 42km!!!! Maybe its all the shopping training they have been doing...

    Well done, bro. You wrote like a very season athlete and your wifey is amazing!!

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  3. hey babes... you have never and will never be limiting factor in fact your are my main supporter and the reason why i m still running..

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  4. Well done bro!
    Half marathon no geng la... i only bumped into Mac.

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  5. that was a very detailed account of the race.
    congrats to you and wifey!!!!!!
    and dude....you should NEVER run with chest tightness EVER!!!!!

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  6. Kam: U sounded regret seeing me ;-). Hahahaha

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  7. Kak June - Funny? nola! it was a welcome sight than seeing people walking!

    Daryl - you grab mine, i grab yours? The paktoring was the most i kenot tahan!

    Aileen Babe - :) I promise to run faster ok?

    Kam - next year buat full...more people ;-)

    Doc PS - Yeap. I told myself not to, ever. :D Your report damn funny, i will link it up to this one soon.

    Mac - I was happy to see you. :)

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  8. Nice report and photos, and congrats to the both of you! Costs aside, the crowd is just another reason why SCSM no longer holds any appeal to me. I did it 3 times 2003-2005 when it was just starting to get big. But really, the scolding of the volunteers takes the cake - at the pace (race time window) they were doing, how many minutes were those hateful runners hoping to shave off by the slight delay? 6:30 hours down to 6:25? Just for bragging rights at the office ? C'mon!

    To put into perspective: The NYC Marathon had close to 40K runners (only marathon category) but due to the wave starts, everyone was moving at quite a similar pace to you. Lots of people for sure but not to the extend of how you described SG. No walkers in the middle of the road, you're cheered like a rock star thruout, nice weather, wider roads. SG seriously needs to look at wave starts.

    Closer, the GC Marathon had 12K marathoners but it didn't feel claustrophic either.

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  9. I saw the sweeper car with 2 Large Van...

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  10. Jamie - i agree with you. Wave start would be good. But you know, there will be kiasu from either countries that want to be right in-front eventhough they will only be able to clock in at 5hours. Gavin Bong mentioned the same thing about NYC Marathon. with 40,000 people, wave start is the only way to go!

    Isaac - :) There were actually 4 busses and 2 vans infront of Marina Bay Sands. They should consider to put one at the Marina Barrage to sweep up any runners that already has medical issues, instead of asking them to "walk back". Anything could had happened in between then.

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