Race Review: Mizuno Ekiden 2017

More than 4,000 runners thronged The Promontory @ Marina Bay for the third edition of Mizuno Ekiden last Saturday evening – to take part in the Full Marathon or the Half Marathon team categories.

Runners in the Full Marathon team category completed 10.5km each while the runners participating in the Half Marathon team category had to run 5.25km per person.

Event was graced by The Ambassador of Japan in Singapore

With a strong emphasis on teamwork and camaraderie, runners completed the race in teams of four amidst loud cheers coming from the supporters and spectators.

The race was attended by The Ambassador of Japan in Singapore, His Excellency Mr Kenji Shinoda, who was the event’s guest of honour and had also flagged off all of the categories of the event.

Said Mr Shinoda, “Ekiden is a long-held Japanese tradition and it is an honour to share this piece of culture with the runners here in Singapore. It is very encouraging to see Singaporeans and runners from around the region, support a run that promotes the Japanese spirit.”

Took part in the Full Marathon

 

I took part in the Full Marathon category and Grace Ng, Siu Siu Lee and Andy Pang were my team mates.

Raining

The race had been scheduled to flag off at 4.30pm in the evening. But at about 2.30pm, it began to rain near my home. So, I found myself getting quite worried about whether the race would still carry on and if the rain could clear up on time.

Fortunately for us and the race organisers though, Marina Bay had pretty much seemed to escape most of the rain. After checking the event’s official Facebook page for news and updates regarding the weather and not seeing anything there, I decided to head down to The Promontory @ Marina Bay anyway to try my luck. I found that it was drizzling lightly there, but the drizzle eventually cleared up for us, about half an hour before flag off.

But unfortunately though, the grass at the race village was quite muddy due to the rain, and my shoes got quite dirty as a result!

Meeting up with my team mates

After spending some time checking out the race site and seeing what there was to offer, I met up with Grace and Andy, who had reached the race site.

There were plenty of tables at the race site for runners to congregate and we found one to deposit our belongings and to chit chat while waiting for the race to start.

Siu soon arrived at about 4pm.

Race Starts

Grace was the first runner, so she had headed into the start pen to begin running while Andy and I went to the spectators area to watch the official flag off taking place. The start of the race had been delayed by about 5 minutes.

To flag off the race, runners had been greeted with the resounding beats of Japanese Taiko drums.

Siu was our team’s third runner and Andy, who was the fastest runner amongst us, was the last runner.

I then headed back to our team’s table to sit down and calm my nerves before beginning my leg. I was the second runner. In the meantime I was also trying to track Grace’s progress with the live tracking system that the race organisers had provided for us. However I was having a bit of trouble accessing the tracking system at the beginning. For example, I only found that that Grace had crossed the 5km mark about 20 minutes after she did.

But I think the problem had been because the 3G network reception was quite slow and sluggish in the area, rather than anything to do with the timing chip, though.

I must also point out that Andy found the timing chip to be effective when it had come to his turn to track Siu’s progress. He said “The timing chip was very accurate. There was no fault with it.”

Chaos in the transition area

I estimated that Grace would take roughly about an hour to run the 10km distance. So I headed into the transition area approximately about 50 minutes after she had flagged off. At the transition pen, there was supposed to be updates on the giant screen to notify the runners in transition of when their team mates were about to finish their leg.

However due to the congestion and chaos in the transition area, I was unable to see anything on the giant screen. It also did not help that I am so short!

As well, runners were also crowding around the transition pen and blocking the exits, thus potentially preventing runners who wanted to come out to meet their team mates, in order to make a speedy transition.

Said Andy, “The transition area where we get the sash was chaos and after the sash was handed over, some runners even ran to the wrong lane.”

In fact, it was only thanks to Andy, who was taller than me, who had spotted Grace on her way back and had notified me that she was coming.

I think that the transition area could have been better managed and that the system to notify runners when their team mates were coming in could be improved.

My leg begins…

My leg began a bit after 5.30pm. At this hour, there were still sections of the race route that were quite hot due to the sun such as the stretch along the Gardens by the Bay, after exiting the Marina Bay promenade. But fortunately thanks to the earlier rain, I had thought that this year’s event was not as sweltering as the previous edition, when I had really been suffocating under the heat, even as the second runner.

Grace however, had mentioned that as the first runner, she had found the heat to be a challenge during her leg though. She said, “I have to admit that dealing with the heat was quite the challenge.”

She added, “It was a warm experience for runner 1, but I understand it can’t be helped. If we started too late, we’ll end the race way into the night.”

Maintaining my heart rate

Nevertheless I focused on maintaining my heart rate in the easy zone for this 10km run, which had fell somewhere between a rather comfortable 6.30 to 7 minutes per kilometre pace.

I was able to do this for most of the run, but in the final stages, I chose to speed up, thus letting my heart rate hit the low to mid end of my Steady zone. I didn’t want to run too slow a timing for my team, after all.

Out-and-back race route

The race route had been a simple out-and-back one and it took us from the Promontory @ Marina Bay and through Gardens by the Bay before u-turning back to where we had come from, and then handing over to the next runner.

Route not closed to outsiders

However the route was not closed to outsiders though; instead it was still open to other users.

So as a result, I had to occasionally weave in and out of walkers, cyclists and other pedestrians who were also using the park connectors too. Some were quite inconsiderate too, walking in large groups and refusing to move aside, so the runners had to weave around them.

Andy also had the same problem. He said, “The route was full of tourists and other people. When the volunteers asked them to move aside, they refused. It could have caused accidents.”

Agreed Grace, “The lack of lane closures meant having to look out for and avoid tourists and pedestrians along the way. That was exceptionally difficult at the part along the outside of the floating platform, where the path was narrow and the human traffic was heavy.”

The sheer volume of the tourists and other crowds in the vicinity were especially apparent when we were directed up the Helix bridge towards the Marina Bay area. I thought that it also didn’t help here, because the paths were quite narrow, as well.

Said Siu, “I was disappointed that I was directed up the Helix Bridge to Marina. From then on, the route was narrow and crowded with tourists especially on Saturday night. Luckily the volunteers’ outfits were easy to spot as they were in bright orange and that helped a lot in my direction.”

Agreed Grace, “I didn’t like that part too. It was too narrow and crowded.”

In terms of the elevation though, it had been a mostly flat route with gentle enough slopes, and none that I had found particularly difficult.

Plenty of hydration 

And along the way, I counted three hydration points, which were serving water and Lucozade. During my running leg, I thought that these had been well stocked and that there had been sufficient hydration. I was also happy too, that the Lucozade was ice-cold when I drank it. That was really good.

Said Grace, “The amount of hydration points was good. There were more water points than expected and they were well manned.”

As well, due to the relay style format of the race, it had also meant that the hydration stations were not congested, so I could simply grab a cup without stopping, and drink it while carrying on with my run. This was quite good because it meant that I did not need to slow down when I was running.

Alertness of the volunteers

The volunteers had been still relatively alert during my running leg as well as Grace’s, and they used their hand gestures to tell me when to go straight or make a turn at the crucial junctions, for example, at the split point for the 42.195km and the 21.1km runners – the marathoners would go straight while the half marathoners would be required to make a u-turn.

But unfortunately, our last runner, Andy, felt that the volunteers were too tired when it had been his turn to run. He said “The volunteers were all so tired that they did not even stand at the hydration tables.”

In terms of the lighting issues, Grace and I did not have any problems because there was still natural daylight when we were running our legs. However Andy and Siu had both mentioned that parts of the route was quite dark when it had come to their turn.

Route was dark

Said Siu, “On the return leg from the barrage, suddenly the lighting was turned off and the path went into darkness. I had to look out for oncoming pedestrians and be aware of children barging in from nowhere. Of course I also needed to be mindful of my footing and not trip on the dark path.”

Added Andy, “The route was so dark that I had almost knocked down one or two little kids.”

Accurate kilometre markings

Overall though, I had felt that my Mizuno Ekiden run had been a easy enough run for me, but passing each of the kilometre markers along the way still felt good because each marker I passed meant that I was one kilometre nearer to completion.

The kilometre markers were positioned very accurately, according to the readings of my GPS watch. My readings also measured the overall route as being exactly 10.5km so kudos to the organiser on this part.

As well, I also liked reading through the motivational messages at each of the markers as these had helped me to keep on moving.

Finishing my run leg

The last kilometre felt especially good, when I was running past the Esplanade en route back to the transition area, because it meant that my run was almost finished. I increased the pace slightly in the final few hundred metres before passing the sash to Siu.

Upon finishing my leg of the race, I took a bottle of water and can of Lucozade isotonic drink, before heading to the Matsuri race village to take a good look around.

Matsuri Race Village

The Matsuri race village is a Japanese themed carnival to treat not only the runners, but also spectators and members of the public, to a wide range of Japanese food and beverages such as ramen, takoyaki, ice cream and beer.

I bought myself a couple of Japanese style An Pan red bean buns to bring home to try – as I’d had a good impression of these types of buns when I had eaten some, on another occasion. Also, as I had been feeling hungry after my run and also because dinner time was approaching, I got a bowl of ramen to eat for my meal.

I admit that I wasn’t expecting much more than a tiny bowl but to be honest, it turned out that the size of the portions weren’t small; it was probably no wonder that the ramen stall was also the one that seemed to attract the longest queues!

Siu and Andy had also bought themselves Japanese soft-serve ice creams, but I decided not to try one, because I was running 21.1km at the Safra Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon the next morning and I didn’t want to eat too much food just hours before a race, for fear of facing a stomach backlash.

Besides the food, various Japanese themed activities also kept runners occupied while they enjoyed their evening bonding with their team mates. These included fishing and balloon catching games for entertainment.

Lots of photo opportunities were also available for runners to immortalise the memories of a great night out with, such as a giant sized inflatable Mizuno running shoe, as well as several standees and life sized cardboard cut-outs.

Lucky Draw

As well, a lucky draw was also being conducted at the race site where five lucky runners could walk away with a pair of Mizuno’s latest running shoes as part of an Instagram lucky draw, but the winners were actually announced before everyone had actually finished running. And runners had to be present in order to pick up their prizes.

 

My team mate Andy had been actually drawn one of the winners of the shoes, but because he was our last runner and was still running when the draw was made, he was disqualified and another name was re-drawn, simply because he was not present at the time of the draw. This had been despite Siu’s attempts to try and claim the prize on his behalf. Andy had been rather disappointed by this, though it had been through no fault of his own.

A great way to bond with friends 

But despite the shortcomings here and there in terms of the race organisation, the Mizuno Ekiden 2017 was indeed a great way to bond with friends over a common shared interest such as running.

I could see many other groups of friends having fun, chatting, eating and snacking as they waited for their team mates. Some running clubs that I recognised, also had multiple teams taking part in the event.

I took the chance to mix and mingle with runners whom I knew, and who were representing different teams at the race; it was truly great to see so many familiar faces at the event.

As well, groups of friends who do not normally run, were also at the Mizuno Ekiden, simply to soak up the atmosphere and also have a great time with their kakis.

In fact, I think that I would probably have stayed around for longer, if I didn’t have another running race to do, the next morning!

Our team’s official results.

Organisers were pleased with the event

The organisers were quite pleased with how the race went. Said Kiyoshi Tatani, President of Mizuno Singapore, “Having held the event for the third consecutive year, we are happy to see the participants’ continuous support for the race. We hope that through this friendly competition, friendships can be deepened and Japanese values such as perseverance, resilience and teamwork can be fostered.”

He added, “We look forward to seeing participants display such values not only at this event, but also in their everyday lives.”

Winners of the Mizuno Ekiden 2017

Besides fostering friendship and camaraderie, the Mizuno Ekiden race also fosters healthy competition amongst those who prefer to run for timing and placings.

Emerging as winners in the 21.1km Corporate Category was Team COL, consisting of Cleeve Mu, Ramesh Palaniandry, Yew Meng Tan and Zainul Arrifin, clinching the top prize of S$2,000 worth of cash and vouchers. The quartet represented Singapore Prison Service and finished their race in 1 hour and 24 minutes, defending their first place win from last year. They have been winners of this category since the inception of the race.

Said Palaniandry, 41, “Compared to last year, the competition this year was much tougher and we were not in the top position for the first half of the race. Thankfully we closed the gap and eventually emerged as this year’s champions.”

Winning the 42.195km Open category was Shufflers 1, consisting of Mark Callon, Takuya Sawadi, Creighton Connolly and Yuta Suda, who had a timing of 2 hours and 36 minutes.

Said Connolly, 29, Team Captain of Shufflers 1, “This is the first time that we beat the Gurkhas and we weren’t expecting it at all. We kept our spirits high throughout the race even though things got pretty competitive. We definitely would like to be back next year to retain our title.”

And picking up the title in the 21.1km Open category had been Mizuno Team 02, consisting of Jacky Ong, Tuck Seng Chee, Alan Cao and Vanja Cnops They finished in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Here is a full list of the winners of the 2017 edition of the Mizuno Ekiden race:


Click here for photo gallery

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