Race Review: Mizuno Ekiden Race 2015

The inaugural Mizuno Ekiden Race concluded with a flurry of activities and an exciting finish at The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay – yesterday morning.

Flag off! Credit: Mizuno Ekiden 2015.

Flag off!
Credit: Mizuno Ekiden 2015.

Nearly 2,500 runners got ready in their teams of four for the first flag off at 7am, with more than just the usual hype awaiting us. This was because Taiko drummers (Taiko is a traditional Japanese instrument), were lined up along the start pen to flag off the participants in style and grandeur. Runners could select from either the Full Marathon distance (Open category) or the Half Marathon distance (Corporate or School category).

To set themselves apart from the competition

Said Mr Kiyoshi Tatani, President of Mizuno Singapore, “Singapore has a lot of running events and we used to have the Mizuno Wave Run, which was a normal 10km run – but this year, to set ourselves apart, we wanted to come up with something new. Mizuno is a Japanese company so we decided to incorporate the Ekiden, a famous Japanese running concept, into our run – and the inaugural Mizuno Ekiden was created.”

Transition point.

Transition point.

The race route was rather scenic, taking participants past the Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and the Esplanade, before returning to The Meadow at Gardens by the Bay.

Took part in the 42.195km Open Category

I took part in the 42.195km Open Category with my three team-mates – Ethan, Steven and Eleanor. As the second runner, this had meant that I could arrive at the event site slightly later. So I reached the race village at about 7.20am – a good time for me to arrive. My team’s first runner, Ethan, was estimated to be finishing his leg just after 8.10am.

Giant Mizuno shoe.

Giant Mizuno shoe.

Upon reaching the race venue, I deposited my bag and then took time to casually explore the race village and to see what was available there. Though many of the stalls were not yet open, I could see many types of food available and these ranged from ramen to sushi and sashimi, to green tea ice cream, Japanese confectionary and even Japanese fish-shaped taiyaki. It was all very interesting and unique.

Japanese fish-shaped taiyaki.

Japanese fish-shaped taiyaki.

Entered the transition pen at about 7.45am

I made my way into the transition pen at about 7.45am to wait for Ethan’s return. It was a rather nervous wait and I found myself constantly looking out in case he returned early. I saw many runners coming back in, firstly from the 21.1km and then the 42.195km categories. Many of us cheered on the faster runners of our category as they streamed in at breakneck speed.

These colourful balloons were part of the carnival games.

These colourful balloons were part of the carnival games.

Then at about 8.15am, I spotted a red tee shirt. It was Ethan. I made my way out of the pen and got ready to take the team sash from him. The timing chip was in this sash, so this was where our team timing was recorded.

My turn to run

And then it was my turn to run. I took off and found myself running out of the Gardens by the Bay in the direction of the Marina Bay Sands. I was feeling rather fresh and energetic at this point and the adrenaline and music from the race village was keeping me going.

Runners lounging around on chairs at the race village.

Runners lounging around on chairs at the race village.

However, due to too many late nights during the last few days, I quickly found myself getting more exhausted from the running exertions. Also, the high humidity did not help my cause either. By the 2km mark, I wasn’t feeling too good – so the break and the Pocari Sweat at the hydration station was a welcome relief for me.

This kept me going for a while until the next hydration station at 4km. I stopped for a few sips of Pocari Sweat again here. The sun was already beginning to come out though, and this showed in my running. My pace slowed down and I tried my best to maintain a steady, slow jog.

Slopes did not help

As I continued running, the slopes during the race didn’t help my cause. There were several of these – for example, at the bridge connecting the East Coast Park/Gardens by the Bay to the Marina Barrage, which we had to cross twice.

Runners await their turn in the starting pen.

Runners await their turn in the starting pen.

Moreover, there was also another slope at the Marina Barrage area which we had to conquer about 8-9km into the race, and I must admit that this one had reduced me to a walk.

Finishing line was a huge relief

Spotting the 10km marker at the Gardens by the Bay area was a huge relief for my tired body. I passed this, feeling more enthusiastic than I had probably ever been, during this whole race. I sprinted another final few hundred metres to the finishing line. Upon reaching the changeover point, I quickly spotted our third runner, Steven, in his green tee shirt and passed the team sash to him.

A runner hands the sash to his team-mate. Credit: Mizuno Ekiden 2015

A runner hands the sash to his team-mate.
Credit: Mizuno Ekiden 2015

Now I could finally have a good rest – but our team was not quite done yet. The weather was also getting hotter, so I was hoping that my team’s third and fourth runners would be ok and well-hydrated as I collected my Pocari Sweat, water and a packet of energy jelly from the post-run refreshment station.

As I wandered around the race village again, I tried my hand at some of the Japanese games at the race village and took photos with Eleanor, our fourth runner, who had arrived and was awaiting her turn – as well as some of my other friends who were also taking part in the race. It was fun and this helped to pass the time while waiting.

Sumo wrestling at the race village! Credit: Mizuno Ekiden 2015

Sumo wrestling at the race village!
Credit: Mizuno Ekiden 2015

Post-race activities

One of the more interesting post-race activities at the village had included playing with the Kendama, a traditional Japanese toy consisting of a Ken (sword) and tama (ball) connected by a string. The ken has three cups and a spike that fits into the hold in the ball – and participants had to catch the ball in the cups and on the spike with a condition of luck and training.

With Steven and Eleanor.

With Steven and Eleanor.

There was also shateki, a popular Japanese carnival game where participants had to use toy guns to knock over prizes set up on shelves or on a rotating stand.

As well, a cosplay showcase and a meet & greet session with well-known cosplayers in Singapore was also available at the event.

Our first runner, Ethan.

Our first runner, Ethan.

Of course, the food was now ready and available too – and I could see many runners tucking into scrumptious bowls of ramen, chowing down sushi and sashimi and treating themselves to sweet treats such as Japanese green tea flavoured ice cream and milkshakes. It all looked really appetising.

The four medals can be put together to form a doughnut!

The four medals can be put together to form a doughnut!

And the race participants really enjoyed themselves. Said a runner, Debbie Peck, “Having been to a few races before, this race village was certainly a refreshing change. It felt like I was momentarily transported to a carnival in Japan and it was really interesting to see some of the games, not to mention the excellent food and beverage options available to us as well.”

Team finally finished the race

Our team finished the whole race a few minutes before 12 noon – under the scorching sun. At this point in time, we were all rather tired, but at the same time, quite happy and fulfilled that we had successfully completed our first Mizuno Ekiden run without any major mishaps.

Running route.

Running route.

Race went well

According to Mr Tatani, the race went well and he was pleased with the event as a whole. He said, “With today’s event kick starting the beginning of something new for the running scene in Singapore, we are pleased with the commitment shown by participants from all the categories. To take part in a race consisting of four members shows not only dedication, but also the camaraderie required to run a good Ekiden race, which comprises of teamwork, performance and perseverance.”

Japanese paper cranes.

Japanese paper cranes.

He added, “I think everyone really enjoyed the Japanese Matsuri race village – I am really happy to see runners tucking into the food and having fun. The Matsuri race village was definitely the thing that stood out – for its range of food & beverages after the race.”

Improvements to the race

And based on its success, Mr Tatani is keen to bring the race back to Singapore again next year.

However, he felt that there could be some improvements to the race – in terms of the transition points. He said, “In the future we want to have more exciting transition points, so that runners can come in and cheer their team-mates on and also try and incorporate a more lively atmosphere – to bring in the true spirit of Ekiden from Japan.”

The Matsuri race village.

The Matsuri race village.

Winners of Mizuno Ekiden 2015

The winner of the 42.195km Open Category, with a combined time of 2:36:39 hours was a team of Gurkhas who are regulars in the Singapore marathon scene. They had sent in two competing teams for the event, with their compatriots finishing third in 2:38:38 hours.

Said 21-year old Hum Bahadurgurung, the winning team leader, “We knew we were going to win because we have been winning regularly in other running events in Singapore. We train twice a day every day, in the mornings and evenings, clocking in distances between 10km-15km each session, so we are very happy with the results!”

Claiming top spot in the 21.1km corporate category were participants representing the Singapore Prison Service, with a timing of 1:29:10. Students from ACS Independent and the Singapore Institute of Management clinched the top spots in both the 21.1km School Categories.

Here is a full list of the winners of the inaugural Mizuno Ekiden run. (See Tables).

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