The SAFRA Bay Run & Army Half Marathon took place this morning.
Organised by SAFRA (Singapore Armed Forces Recreational Association) and the Singapore Army, the race featured the signature 21.1km Army Half Marathon, as well as a 10km competitive race. To encourage families to exercise, there was also a SAFRA 5km Fun Run and Families for Life 800m Challenge.
I took part in the 21.1km race.
I must admit that at first I didn’t know whether this race would be taking place though, because of the haze – which was threatening to make a comeback. But fortunately for all the runners, the haze left Singapore’s shores on Saturday afternoon though and had continued to stay away for the reminder of the weekend races.
Many runners thought that the communication from the race organisers was good, in keeping everyone updated on the haze scenario.
Said Simon Thomas, 42, a Project Manager in the Education sector and a 1 hour 50 minute pacer in the 21.1km race, “The communication prior to the race was great. They posted something on Facebook about the haze problem and SMSed all runners in the morning to tell us that the race would go on. They were very professional about all of this and it was clear that they had thought about it in advance.”
RACE WOULD FLAG OFF AS PER PLANNED
It was good news this morning when I checked my phone and saw the SMS message that the PSI reading was in the moderate zone and so the race would flag off as per planned.
But due to a lack of sleep – I had taken part in the 12km Puma Night Run the previous evening – it was quite hard to actually drag myself out of bed to come down for the race. Fortunately I managed to get a cab early enough to reach the race village at about 3.30am.
Then I caught up with some friends in the starting pen while waiting for the race to start. It had flagged off promptly at 5am in the morning.
FAMILIAR CITY ROUTE
The race route was a familiar city route that I am used to, taking runner past iconic local landmarks such as the Singapore Sports Hub and the Gardens by the Bay.
The first few kilometres were quite humid and I found my heart rate rising quite rapidly, as a result. Thanks to the early start time though, fortunately it was not as hot as it could otherwise have been, though.
Added Erich Paulini, 50, a Telecom Engineer, “The challenge is always the heat and the humidity when running in Singapore but that is the same for everyone. At least it was cool today by Singapore’s standards though.”
As the run wore on, I tried to maintain a constant pace and at the same time, resisted the temptation to speed up – my body had been still tired from the Puma Night Run, so running slower would reduce my chances of hitting the wall today.
STREET PERFORMANCES TO BOOST RUNNERS’ MOOD
What I liked about this race though, was the street side performances along the race route. These were positioned every few kilometres apart and had included LED water drummers, cheerleaders and mascots dressed up in colourful costumes. I thought that these were really quite motivating in helping the tired runners to keep going.
Agreed Ling Si Shu, 43, a Design Engineer, “The cheerleader teams were really good. Some volunteers also dressed up and played instruments to cheer us as we ran, and I really enjoyed that part of the race.”
While I did not really experience any bottlenecks myself due to being flagged off towards the front of the pack, some runners had pointed out that there were a few narrow paths along the route, which had led to bottlenecks.
Said Ling, “Due to the large crowds, there were a few bottlenecks along the route.”
One of the main areas for bottlenecks was along the Tanjong Rhu area at around the 8km mark of the race.
And according to Thomas, the Sports Hub area had been another bottleneck. He said “With all runs in Singapore, the course is narrow alongside the Sports Hub, but then again there is not a lot of choice in Singapore when it comes to organising city races. At least it is not dangerous for runners as it’s well-lit.”
PLENTY OF HYDRATION POINTS
But throughout the whole 21.1km route, there were plenty of hydration points, serving both water as well as ice-cold 100PLUS – which had been really refreshing, for my tired body.
In fact in the final few kilometres of the race, I found myself looking forward to the signs which read “hydration station: 300m ahead”… because this had meant that I could reward myself with the ice-cold 100PLUS after surviving another couple of kilometres.
Added Lee Marston, 43, a Communications Engineer, “The hydration was definitely enough. There were hydration points spread out evenly all the way through and that was great.”
Agreed Ling, “The hydration was good, at all the right places. But around the 15 – 16km mark, I ran for more than two kilometres without hydration. I may have missed a water station but other than that, it was really good.”
Besides the hydration station, there was also one banana station towards the latter stages of the race – I didn’t take one, but this would be good for runners whose energy levels were depleting fast. I had spotted a few runners taking bananas and munching these on the way though.
NICOLL HIGHWAY SLOPE
For the route, I had thought that the Nicoll Highway slope at about 16km into the race was quite challenging – it was a bit hard running up this after having done so much running beforehand. I thought it would have been easier to conquer such slopes at the beginning of the race when the legs are still quite fresh.
The final few kilometres of the 21.1km race were also quite mentally challenging – when we had to make a long U-turn past Suntec City and the Nicoll Highway MRT Station. Part of me had been wondering when this long stretch of straight road would ever end!
END IN SIGHT
Eventually though I could see the end in sight, with less than one kilometre left to go. And with the signboards plastered every 100m leading to the finishing line, I found myself counting down… 900m to go, 800m to go, 700m to go, and so on till I crossed the finishing line at the Padang.
It had been a rather slow 21.1km run by my normal standards, but then again, considering that my body was tired and not in the best state to run 21.1km, the most important thing is that at least I had managed to complete the race in one piece.
After the run, I collected my finisher medal and tee shirt and caught my breath before walking around the race village in search for my friends. There was quite a lot to see and do at the carnival, including having sports massages available, getting a free flow of bottled water as well as climbing giant inflatable ladders and having fun with other rubber props – to encourage family bonding.
As well, I also managed to catch up with Singapore’s Olympic marathoner Neo Jie Shi, who had been just as friendly as ever and posed with me for a photo.
However I noticed that the Padang was filling up extremely quickly as more runners had finished their respective distance categories. So my friends and I had then decided to leave for breakfast, after taking a few pictures together.
THE ORGANISATION WAS PRETTY SMOOTH
As a whole though, the organisation of this race had been pretty smooth. This was not surprising with the amount of experience that SAFRA and the Singapore Armed Forces have had, in putting this together since its very first edition in 1992.
Added Lee, “Everything was slick and well organised from the flag off to the end point.”
However he felt that the instructions on the road closures could have been more explicit though. Said Lee, “I got a taxi from the west side and all the roads were closed. They could have stated to runners to explicitly avoid the city and come from the bay side to get to the Esplanade. But everything else was perfect in my opinion.”
Simon also shared his sentiments. He said “It was one of the best organised races in Singapore in my opinion as they have been doing it for so many years.”