The second edition of the Mizuno Ekiden 2016 took place last night at The Promontory @ Marina Bay with more than 4,000 runners.
The first full-fledged relay style race to originally be organised in Singapore in its debut year, the Mizuno Ekiden had featured teams of four runners each competing in a relay race over the same race course. Teams could choose to complete in either the 42.195km Full Marathon (10.5km per runner) or 21.1km Half Marathon (5.5km per runner) distances.
I took part in the 42.195km Full Marathon relay with my team mates Andy Pang, Grace Ng and Han Yong Hu.
Reaching the race village and meeting team mates
Grace and I reached the race village together at about 3.30pm and the first thing that we noticed when we were there, was how hot it was – so we were both hoping that the sun would settle a little before our respective legs were due to start.
After a few minutes of searching, we found Han. Just before flag off, we caught hold of our first runner, Andy, in the starting pen, and we took a quick group photo before he started running at 4.00pm.
While waiting for Andy to finish running, the rest of us found a well-shaded place to sit around and chitchat before it was our turn to run. We monitored our team mates using a live tracking smartphone app that the race organisers had provided for us.
When Andy had completed about 7.5km, based on the app, I headed to the transition pen to wait for him to come in, so that I could start running.
At the transition pen, it was quite interesting to watch the runners, seeing the first runners coming in and doing the exchange of the sash with the next runner.
In the transition area, I saw a runner faint upon passing the sash to his mate… I think that he had been dehydrated possibly due to the heat and he had pushed his body past his limits. But fortunately though, another runner was able to catch him before he fell and a wheelchair was brought out for him.
My turn to run
Just after 4.50pm, I could see Andy approaching. When he came in, I took the sash from him and began my own 10.5km leg. It had been a simple out-and-back route. We started running from The Promontory and in the direction of Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay before returning.
Less than 2km into the run, I could already feel the heat! It didn’t help that there was not much shelter along the route. But at least I could tell myself that the first runners in each team, had experienced hotter weather than I would be going through.
Due to the heat, it took me forever to reach the 3km mark and my pace was already slowing down quite considerably. But I could not quit – if I did, then I would be letting down the entire team.
As I continued running, other running kakis called out to me, and we exchanged quick hellos before carrying on running. It was quite motivating and seeing familiar faces had helped to keep me pushing, despite the heat.
I also took the opportunity to stop at every drink station along the route and grab a cup of the chilled Lucozade. I had felt that the drink had been colder at some stations as compared to others but nevertheless, each stop had provided me with an opportunity to catch my breath and hydrate myself.
The halfway point had been somewhere along the park connector between East Coast Park and Marina Barrage near Gardens by the Bay. When I saw this marker, I told myself that I was already halfway there – so I motivated myself to go on.
The killer slopes
But the worst was still yet to come though. Around the 6km mark of the run, we had to run up the infamous Marina Barrage bridge. And if that was not bad enough, we later had to take a detour up and down the slope beside the Helix Bridge – connecting the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade with The Float @ Marina Bay.
This section of the already challenging and humid race had really deflated me.
Grace agreed, “The barrage slope was bad enough. But the one next to the Helix bridge was brutal. The last 2km was really painful.” My team mate Han had also agreed.
Coupled together with the merciless heat, I felt at this point, that I had almost wanted to call it quits and simply go back home. But I kept on going… for the sake of the team. I told myself that I was almost done by this point of the race… so I willed myself to finish the run.
But at least now I knew exactly what it felt like… to be a roasted piece of Bak Kwa, I had consoled myself.
Just after the 10km mark though, the Lucozade Motivation Zone – put together by Lucozade isotonic Drink, had really cheered me up. This hydration station had consisted of cheerleaders and motivators to spur on the runners.
As well, a whole 500ml bottle of Lucozade was also given out to the runners here. I took one, drank some and ran with the Lucozade bottle all the way to the transition point – where I then happily passed the sash to Grace, relieved that it was over.
On my way towards the refreshment area, I caught sight of national Singapore marathoner Mok Ying Ren, who had been waiting for his team-mate in the fourth runner transition pen. Mok had recently returned from his training stint in the United States.
Upon my completion, I returned to the race village and took a quick look around the race village before re-joining my other two team mates and chatted for a while.
Checking out the Matsuri Race Village
This was the Matsuri race village, a Japanese themed carnival where runners could look forward to a wide variety of Japanese themed food & beverage options, such as ramen and udon, sushi rolls and burritos as well as some buns, ice cream and coffee. I bought myself a bacon bun because I was feeling a bit peckish after my run.
Games were also available at the race site, including a Sumo Wrestling game and a balloon one whereby runners and their supporters had to capture balloons using paper fishing hooks. All in all, I had thought that it was quite interesting.
As well, thanks to sponsors Lucozade and Brand’s, there was also free Lucozade and Brand’s Essence of Chicken at the finishing line, which I had also helped myself to as well.
It took another couple of hours before our team had completed the entire 42.195km marathon. But there were plenty of other running kakis to chat to and friends to take photos and selfies with.
While waiting for our team’s fourth runner, I also had the chance to catch the National Day Preview fireworks coming from the Singapore Sports Hub, which had spectacularly lit up the night sky. Unfortunately it was quite hard to get a decent photo of these though!
At about eight o’clock, Han completed the final 10.5km leg for our team. We then caught up and shared our running experiences and other things amongst ourselves and with some other running kakis – before then all heading off together for a late dinner.
Race Organisers are happyThe race organisers are happy with how the event had turned out. Said Kiyoshi Tatani, President of Mizuno Singapore, “We are happy to see the number of participants increase significantly this year and it shows that many people are constantly looking for platforms for health and wellness. That is what the Mizuno team had in mind with the Ekiden.”
He added, “The Mizuno Ekiden requires a great amount of teamwork, camaraderie and dedication in all of our runners and that is exactly what they had showcased this evening.”
Some possible improvements for the Mizuno Ekiden, according to my team mate Andy, were that the Ekiden could perhaps comprise of shorter but more frequent running legs, rather than a single longer one, for example, in a similar format to the recent The Great Relay running race.
The Race Winners
Emerging as winners of the 2016 Mizuno Ekiden’s 42.195km Open Category event were a team of Gurkha runners, Bjay Sunuwar, Jite Gaha, Nims Gurung and Robert Raj of GC Team, with a timing of 2 hours 40 minutes and 26 seconds.
Desmond Ang, Evan Chee, Marcus Ang and Chew Jee Keng won the 21.1km Open Category in 1 hour 16 minutes and 46 seconds.
In the 21.1km Corporate Category, the winners were Team COL, consisting of Cleeve Mu, Ramesh Palanidany, Yew Meng Tan and Yong Heng Cher. Representing the Singapore Prison Service, they won over SGD 2,300 worth of cash and vouchers, defending their first place from last year’s win in the process.
Said Ramesh, 41, “The competition this year was much tougher and we were not in the top position for the first half of the race. Thankfully our third runner managed to close the gap during his leg and we are happy to emerge as this year’s champions and defend out title.”
Here is a full list of the Mizuno Ekiden 2016 winners in table format.
Subaru Endurance Challenge
In addition, a new category taking place this year at the Mizuno Ekiden event, was also the Subaru Endurance Challenge whereby three of the fastest runners to complete a marked-out 2.4km route during the actual Mizuno Ekiden, were given a direct pass to the Subaru Challenge 2016.
Looking forward to next year already
Overall my team mates and I had agreed that we’d had a great time at the Mizuno Ekiden this year, bonding and catching up with each other and also meeting other running kakis who were also running in the event.
And in fact we are already looking forward to this running event in 2017.