Last night, OSIM Sundown Marathon, Singapore’s iconic home-grown night race, celebrated its 10th anniversary with 27,000 runners enjoying the thrill of racing through the night to beat the sunrise.
The Sundown Night Festival and race pack collection
And to mark the momentous occasion, the Sundown Night Festival – the largest sports carnival in the country – was introduced, boasting an art box night festival concept comprising of an exciting slate of programmes lined up over the past five days leading up to race day. These had included Yoga, Pilates, BodyCombat, Zumba, and live performances by bands such as Shigga Shay, Inch Chua and Sphaeras.
The race pack collection expo had also taken place at the Sundown Night Festival, held at the F1 Pit Building, this year. Due to the introduction of some new environmentally friendly measures, such as printing out of the bibs on the spot rather than pre-printing them out in advance, to avoid wastage from those who did’t collect their packs, there had been complaints on the event’s Facebook page on the amount of waiting time and poor logistics during the pack collection.
As a result, some runners had been required to wait for as long as 2-3 hours to collect their race packs, and some runners declaring later on Facebook, that it would be their last-ever Sundown Marathon as a result of this. The outdoor location of the Night Festival also meant that runners queueing for their packs had been completely exposed to the elements such as rain, and no wet-weather plans had apparently been made at the beginning when the downpour arrived on the first day of collections.
Cees Brouser, 45 a banker from the Netherlands and living in Singapore, had been one of the runners caught in the long queues. He said, “Yeah the queue was very long due to technical issues. On the first day, there were only 10 counters. Most other races have at least 20 to 30 counters.” He had to wait for about two hours to pick up his race pack.
Because of the complaints, Adrian Mok, Managing Director of HiVelocity Events – the organisers of the OSIM Sundown Marathon, had posted a public apology to the runners on the Sundown Marathon Facebook page – about three days after the Night Festival had opened for pack collections. It definitely takes guts to post a public apology and agree that things were not going smoothly. So I admire Adrian for doing so.
Fortunately for me though, I didn’t have to wait long to collect my pack though. As I had gone down in the afternoon on the second-last day, my experience was quite smooth, breezing in and out of the Sundown Night Festival in about five minutes and hardly having to queue up too.
Sherlynn Tan, 24, a licensed pharmacist, also didn’t need to wait. She said, “Before I went down to collect, I saw the complaints of the long queues on Facebook and so I went there on the third day. I knew the Night Festival closed at 10.30pm at night, so I went at 10.15pm and only waited for 25 minutes, which had been much shorter than what I had expected.”
She added, “I understand the initiative and the need to save trees on the part of the organisers but because it was their first time doing it, they did not expect such logistical issues. That would be a point to work on for future editions.”
Because of the race pack collection queue experienced by many runners, I admit that I was a bit worried about how race day itself would go. But fortunately it had turned out to be better than expected.
Sundown Marathon this year had the 10km, 21.1km and 42.195km competitive categories, as well as a Sundown 5km Earth Hour Run that took place as part of the Earth Hour celebrations for the first time.
At the 5km Earth Hour Run, the event had piloted alternative sustainable solutions for marathons events, such as reusable bottles and edible water molecules as extra options at the hydration stations, as well as medals that could grow into basil plants when planted in a pot.
Participated in the 42.195km Full Marathon
I had participated in the 42.195km Full Marathon category. Despite having come down with a stubborn flu that was still not recovered by the time that race day had arrived, I was not in the right frame of mind at all to run a marathon. But I figured that since I had already committed and signed up for the event, I must as well just go for it and give it my best shot. After all, the worst thing that could happen to me would be a DNF (did not finish) status if my body was really not up to the task of running.
The full marathon was scheduled to flag off at midnight and I reached the F1 Pit Building (where the Marathon started from) at about 11.15pm and caught my breath before heading towards the start pen. But the actual flag off had been delayed by about 10 minutes.
Said Cees, “They started the race a bit too late.”
When the horn blew to signify the start of the race and I started running, I knew that something was wrong with my body and that my flu had not completely gone yet. So I began my run at a very conservative pace, well within my Easy heart rate zone, with the sole aim of completing the distance before the cut-off time of eight hours. And I could only hope that my body would be up to the task and would not break down halfway.
At the same time, my stomach had also started playing up in the early stages of the race, no thanks to a larger-than-usual pre-race dinner that I had eaten. I then knew that this race wasn’t going to go well for me at all.
First part of the race took us through the city fringes
The first part of the race route took us from the F1 Pit Building through Republic Avenue, Nicoll Highway and the National Stadium. I tried not to focus on my tummy discomfort and flu symptoms, attempting to try and look at the scenery to take my mind off things.
Along the way, there threatened to be some bottlenecks due to some narrow roads, but fortunately these didn’t really hold me up for more than a few seconds each time, probably because I was running so much slower than usual.
Said Cees, “Some of the roads were narrow. They need to widen the roads a bit and open up more lanes for the runners.”
As well, we also bumped into the Half Marathon runners, as their route had clashed with ours. This could have resulted in congestion, but fortunately in my case, it didn’t seem to be as bad as I had otherwise expected.
The Gardens by the Bay and East Coast Park
The second part of the marathon took us through the Gardens by the Bay and to East Coast Park. This was the most mind-draining part of the race, due to the early hour that I was running, when my body was supposed to be sleeping, and I found my pace getting slower, despite the already conservative start. It was quite hard to push my body to run any faster, as I would feel a bit out of breath if I pushed, no thanks to the flu that I still had.
Hydration was well-stocked
At least the hydration stations were well-stocked throughout the route and none of them had run out of water or the 100PLUS isotonic drink, even though I think that I was probably amongst the tail end of the runners during this race.
So this had been good on the part of the organisers, at least, as the back-of-the-pack runners are the ones who would need the hydration the most.
My body was feeling worse now and it didn’t seem to want to co-operate with me, as the race continued, and it became harder to keep on going. In fact, when I had passed the East Coast Park underpass that would lead me back to my home, I was seriously contemplating on calling it quits and going home to sleep, but in the end, I chose not to take the easy way out as I thought that I could still make it within the cut-off time after all.
But I admit that I did turn on my Pokemon Go game and played during the race, in a bid to remain sane and awake, and at the same time prevent myself from losing my mind completely – when the going was getting tougher. It had also helped to provide a welcome distraction for me, to keep moving and take my mind off the pain, when my music no longer was sufficient.
Race leaders were sent the wrong direction
In the meantime, for the race leaders, a large group of them had been directed in the wrong way by the volunteers, and many of them ended up doing an additional 1.5km.
Said Cees, who had been amongst the frontrunners, “We were sent in the wrong direction. The first runners, including me, ended up running 1.5km the opposite way and when we came back, we had to merge with the second group of runners, and that became quite congested as a result.”
He added, “I don’t know how this could have happened but the frontrunners probably didn’t look at the race route beforehand and the crew had not been alert.”
Final part of the race
After East Coast Park, we were supposed to head towards Sheares “HeartBreak” Bridge upon exiting Fort Road. But we were directed back towards the Gardens by the Bay en route to the F1 Pit Building. This was a surprise to me, as it had not been clearly communicated to the runners that there would be a diversion at Fort Road.
I also later heard from other friends, that this diversion had been put into action way in advance, and was not just for the slow runners – even some runners who had completed the marathon after the five-hour mark had been diverted in this manner. This should not have been the case. And it could mean that the 5:30hour and 6:00hour official marathon pacers may have possibly been affected too, but they had taken this in their stride.
But the diverted route and the actual route were the same distance though; my Garmin had still measured 42.2km when I crossed the finishing line. So I suppose that despite the different route, the main thing is that we did manage to complete the marathon distance that we had all set out to achieve, and that is the most important thing.
I must point out though, that the diverted route should have had clear signages. There were no kilometre markers here or other signages that were pointing out the direction to the runners, so I found myself following the crowd and relying purely on my Garmin to help me with my fuelling strategy in the final stages of the marathon.
During this stage of the race, I also met a runner from Brunei – who had been taking on the marathon in memory of his brother who had passed away about six months ago. He kept me company for a few kilometres and we chatted to each other in order to stay sane – despite the pain that we were experiencing during this difficult period.
Speeding up at the end
I sped up slightly in the final kilometre of the marathon, primarily because both my iPhone and my earphones were running out of battery, and I would probably have lost my sanity if I didn’t have my music with me – despite the fact that I was approaching the end of the race already.
Crossing the finish line
And crossing the finishing line was more of sheer relief rather than anything else. My mind felt completely numb as I collected my finisher entitlements. Despite the pain and everything that had been threatening to go against me throughout the marathon, I had survived the race and made it to the end point without getting swept up by the sweeper bus – I was having real fears during the race that it may happen to me.
Added Sherlynn, “It was nice to see the finish; I was so glad! I went too hard at the start and that took a toll on me. I couldn’t feel my legs after 30km.”
I was so spent and had felt really awful after completion of the race that I didn’t have any energy or stamina left, to look at what was still available at the Sundown Night Festival. But I did see some food booths open for sale, and runners rewarding themselves with food after completion of their marathon. But I had to come straight home to rest, and allow my body the much-needed chance to make a full recovery from the flu.
Organising team did a good job
Other runners had felt that the Sundown Marathon organising team had done a great job in making race day a success. Said Jan Darmovzal, 26, a PE teacher, “It’s hard to think of improvements because they did a really good job. There’s not much to improve and I had really enjoyed myself.”
Agreed Sherlynn, “The race was well organised. The markings were ample and clear and accurate to my Garmin and there were plenty of hydration points. The only down point was the race pack collection process.”
Adrian Mok’s Thoughts
According to Adrian, the Sundown Marathon strives to constantly open up new experiences for their runners. He said, “Our 10th year was a landmark event for us, and we wanted to open up new experiences for our participants this year. Although our focus has always been providing the best experience possible for our runners, we’ve always wanted to cater to more than just the runners.”
He added, “This includes the supporters and the mass public. It was also about engaging them during the race pack collection, all the way up to event day, which was the aim of the Sundown Night Festival. We want to ensure that there is always something for everyone at the race village regardless of whether you are a participant or not. That’s the beauty of the Sundown Marathon.”