Taking place on the first weekend of December each year, the StanChart Marathon (SCMS) is billed as the nation’s biggest running event. This year, there were close to 50,000 runners participating in the four categories – the 10km, 21.1km and 42.195km competitive races as well as the 750m Kids Dash.
I took part in the 42.195km Full Marathon category this morning, to raise funds for cancer patients and survivors – as a community ambassador for the SCMS, representing the EAST zone.
Before Flag Off
And when I woke up to take part in the SCMS race, I admit that I had been having some mixed feelings about the run. For starters, the haze-induced lack of outdoor training in the months prior to the run, made me a little worried about how I would fare on race day.
But on the other hand though, with the thought that I would be starting the race in the VIP pen together with the elite runners had been an exciting prospect – being able to stand so close to and rub shoulders with the potential race winners, had enticed me to wake up.
These thoughts were playing through my mind as I caught the train down to Orchard Road, where the race flagged off at 5.00am.
I reached Orchard Road at about 4.15am and after visiting the Mandarin Orchard Hotel washroom, I headed into the starting pen, where I caught sight of several of my friends, including Michael Aw Yong, Jason “Face Of SCMS” Foo and Yi Heng. We chatted and took a photo before the flag-off.
At the same time, the emcee was interviewing another old friend of mine – Singapore’s oldest marathoner, Uncle Chan Meng Hui, who turns 86 in two months’ time. This runner is someone whom I have always had plenty of respect and admiration for. Following his short interview with the emcee, Chan, who was also a community ambassador, was ushered into the VIP pen, where I managed to exchange a few words with him and we took a photo together before the horn sounded.
Starting SCMS has always felt very magical
As the minutes before flag-off ticked by, I found myself gazing at the Christmas lights along Orchard Road – and I must say that the SCMS has always felt quite special to me, because we are usually being flagged off with beautiful Christmas lights in the background.
This always makes the race feel very magical and has a very festive feel to it – befitting of what is the final race of the calendar for many runners.
Focusing on maintaining a conservative pace
When 5.00am came and it had been time to start running, I admit that it had felt a little depressing at the beginning, as all the elites were zooming past me. However I tried to ignore them and focused on running at a conservative pace, as I knew that I still had a very long way to go.
It was a very humid morning but the first few kilometres were still okay as my legs were quite fresh. I spent the time focusing on running conservatively and refraining from not going too fast.
At this stage, we were heading down Orchard Road, Fort Canning Link and South Bridge Road. Running down South Bridge Road in particular, had reminded me of my favourite gelato shop, +39 Gelato Bar, it is in the same area. I think that if the shop hadn’t been closed at this early hour, I would probably have taken a detour to pick up a Gelato!
My motivational cheer quote
We continued running past Clarke Quay and Republic Boulevard and the Formula One Pit Building, before heading towards Nicoll Highway en route to East Coast Park. Along Nicoll Highway, a pleasant surprise greeted me before the 9km point of the marathon.
This had been in the form of a motivational cheer quote that I had submitted earlier to SCMS and this had appeared on the 6km marker of the 10km race.
Running through East Coast Park
We then ran past the iconic Singapore Sports Hub. This is indeed a fitting landmark to pass during the biggest race on Singapore’s running calendar. Then we headed over to East Coast Park, where we would run the next 20kms.
At this point, as a precaution, I loaded up with a gel and a salt capsule, to prevent myself from hitting the wall later on.
Due to my conservative start though, I had still been feeling pretty good – this was about 14kms into the marathon.
I always enjoy running at East Coast Park, due to the cooling sea breeze and the scenic surroundings. And today proved to be no exception.
Despite the fact that the sun was coming out by now, I still felt good and my legs were holding up well despite a lack of outdoor training. The presence of trees had helped to keep the heat at bay in this point of the race. However I can’t say that there was much breeze though – so I wasn’t looking forward to the later stages of the race!
I found myself looking forward to the hydration stations – which were spread out about 1km to 3km apart. They motivated me and the constant supply of water and ice-cold 100PLUS isotonic drinks had really helped to keep me going. Every time i left one station, I would find myself counting down to the next one.
At East Coast park, I noticed aid stations set up by many supporter groups and running clubs – to encourage the runners by their offer of food and drinks. It was at this point that I accepted some juicy chunks of watermelons – which energised me.
Coming face to face with the searing heat
We exited East Coast Park at about 30kms into the race. At this point, I was still able to run and surprisingly my legs did not feel too bad. On most other occasions, I would already be walking by this stage of a marathon race.
However, I was not prepared for the hot, merciless weather that had greeted me afterwards.
As I continued running, the sun really hit me – much more strongly than I had remembered from previous editions of the SCMS. This really sapped me completely and I started to struggle from this point onwards.
Under the scorching heat, I continued running for another two to three more kilometres – but after that, I found that I could not take it any more. Initially the plan was to take a short walking break to catch my breath, but the walking breaks became longer and longer, until I found that I was walking for most of the way after that.
Even the icy-cold 100PLUS at the official hydration stations had not been able to lift my sprits any more.
Unofficial support station by Peirce Reservoir Runners
At the Marina Barrage area, I saw something encouraging though. This was the unofficial support station set up by the Peirce Reservoir Runners and it was located around the 36km mark of the full marathon route. Though I wasn’t very hungry at this point, I was thirsty though, and drank probably about three cups of delicious Coca-Cola, to quench my thirst.
This had spurred me on to keep going and I ran for a short while, before stopping to walk to catch my breath again. Now, my legs were also aching a little bit at this point, due to the exertion of the marathon. At this point, I even found myself seriously questioning my “sanity” of registering for this run.
However just before the 40km mark, I spotted the 5.30 pacers catching up to me. It had been very depressing to see the pacer groups running past me – first the 5.00 hours followed by the 5.15 hours groups, in the last few kilometres or so – when the heat had destroyed me. I wasn’t going to allow this last group of pacers to catch up as well – so I stopped walking and forced myself to jog, despite the achy legs. I figured that the faster I completed the marathon, the sooner my torture would be over.
Relieved to cross the finishing line
Surprisingly I managed to keep up a slow jogging pace all the way till the end of the race despite the searing heat that was obviously doing me no favours as each second passed. But then I saw the 41km marker and the next thing I knew, I saw a sign that told me there was 150m left to go. With sheer relief etched all over my face, I raced towards the finishing line.
Due to the heat, it may not have been a personal best, but the main thing is that I had managed to complete the race in spite of the challenging conditions.
Reloading at the VIP hospitality tent
Upon finishing the marathon, I caught my breath before heading to the VIP hospitality tent to replenish my depleted nutrients. I loved the orange juice there, probably because it had been icy-cold and I had been really hot and thirsty!
Even though I wasn’t particularly hungry though, I also took some chocolate brownies and sausages as I knew that it needed some form of food to repair the muscles – especially after the beating that my body had just been through, this morning.
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Click here to read interviews with the SCMS 2015 winners.
Click here for a runner who solved 200 Rubik’s Cubes during the marathon!