The 15th edition of Singapore’s biggest marathon race – the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), took place this weekend, with a total of 46,000 runners from 110 countries pounding the pavements across the five different race categories – the 42.195km Full Marathon, 21.1km Half Marathon, 10km Race, Ekiden Relay and the Kids Dash.
Ran in the 42.195km Full Marathon
I took part in the 42.195km Full Marathon – which had flagged off at 4.30am with the iconic Christmas lights of Orchard Road in the background. The half marathon started off at the same time and venue as the 42.195km run.
The start time this year though, had actually been adjusted. Previous editions of the marathon had began at 5.00am and the half marathon had started at 6.30am last year.
Race organisers IRONMAN Asia had hoped that the earlier start would improve the race experience by giving runners a cooler, more conducive environment before sunrise.
Some runners had found the different start time pretty chaotic though. Said Patrizia Di Lorenzo who had posted on the SCMS Facebook page, “Please separate the half marathon from the full marathon runners; it was really chaotic this morning.”
However I did not have any trouble with the chaos – even though I had been originally placed in Pen D. This was because thanks to one of my running friends, I had the opportunity to begin the Marathon from the front pen – together with the elites and the Kenyan runners.
But that said, I had just told myself to focus on my own race strategy to start conservatively – and not get caught up in the fast start – and I would be okay.
Runners in the first few starting pens also had no problems with the start. Said Mark Cabrita, 42 a civil engineer, “The start was good with the new start time seeding. That was the biggest plus and helped to alleviate the congestion.”
Marathon runners who were in the last two pens, Pen G and Pen H, however, had faced some bottlenecks at the starting line. Based on what I had later heard from my running kakis, runners who began their race in these two pens, had been reduced to walking at the starting line, thus effectively diminishing any chances of sustaining a personal best for them.
But the event pacers however, were spread out quite well. Said Mark, “The pacers were also seeded based on their start times and that was good.”
He added, “Usually in Singapore races, you have all of the pacers up front which in my mind is pointless, as people who are running a 2h30min half marathon may be starting up front with the elite runners and we usually cannot catch them. But SCMS has spread it out in the field this time, which is good.”
No MRT trains
I must also point out that because the MRT trains were also not in operation this year, I took a cab to the starting line.
And due to the road closures, there was no direct access from my house, so I had been dropped off at Tangs Orchard and had to walk for what felt like ages, to get to the starting line. I reached Orchard Road early enough though, so the traffic had been pretty smooth going.
For Clare Mullenger, 38, a Management consultant, she also pointed out that she had to walk a lot. She said, “We were stuck on the wrong side of the pens at the beginning and it was hard to cross; we had to walk a long way to get back.”
There had been shuttle bus services available to cater to the mass exodus of runners heading to Orchard Road but I could not utilise these as they did not go to my area. But from what I had heard, the shuttle buses had been double-decker SBS buses, and were sufficient for runners to arrive punctually at the starting line.
Race started promptly for me
The race was flagged off by Lim Teck Yin, CEO of Sport Singapore.
As I was in the front pen, my race had started quite promptly at 4.30am in the morning. I started an an easy pace, with the focus on maintaining an easy pace at least till I had reached East Coast Park at the 12km mark.
However probably due to the humidity this morning, my heart rate had seemed to be on the higher end of my easy zone, and it had taken some monitoring to ensure that it had stayed down.
New Marathon Route
The Marathon route, which was a new route this year, took us past Istana Park, Fort CanningPark, Shenton Way, Marina Bay and the Marina Golf Course in the early parts of the race.
There was a section at Gardens by the Bay that was a bit dark and I had to focus on my steps when running there, so that I did not trip. But the organiser did put in some efforts to have spotlights at in the area, though.
Said Clare, “The course had been nice, well marked out and well separated for the various runners.”
Saw friends along the way
In the early stages of my run, I also saw some other friends along the running route, including the “friendly neighbourhood SpiderMan” and it had been quite nice to see some familiar faces.
I focused on my race strategy, and took my salt tablets and gels as planned.
Half and full marathoners split up at 12km
At the 12km mark, the half marathoners and full marathoners were split up. I thought this segment was clear enough; volunteers had constantly shouted out, several times, for the half marathoners to go on the left and the full marathoners to go on the right so that runners would not end up going the wrong way.
Hydration was great
Reaching East Coast Park at the 12km segregation point, I was still feeling relatively okay. Along the way, the hydration stations were great – each one was stocked with ice cold water as well as cold isotonic beverage, and they were really refreshing.
The hydration stations were also well spaced apart, with clear signages to tell runners how far away the next hydration station would be, too.
Added Mark, “It was very well organised with nice water stations at regular intervals.”
But other runners felt that the water tables were not long enough. Said Paul Worsnard, 39, a finance director, “The hydration tables were a bit short. It would be good to have an additional water table after the 100PLUS isotonic table.”
For the tail end of the Marathon runners, there had been some issues with the event running out of hydration, though.
Said Danny Mark III – who had commented on the SCMS Facebook Page, “The isotonic drink ran out at water station from 20km onwards. Many runners were still struggling at this point and these are the ones that would need the isotonic water the most.”
Added Patrick Yap, who also said on the SCMS Facebook page, “There was not enough water at some of the water stations at the end, and I was extremely dehydrated as a result.”
Running through East Coast Park
East Coast Park is always a familiar running ground for me, as I train there quite often. So during the Marathon, I was pretty much able to tune out, listen to my music and focus simply on my running.
Said Clare, “I loved running along the edge of the water at the East Coast Park. I also liked running up and though the park.”
Challenge of the Marathon
After the halfway point, I tried to push the pace a little, but even though my heart rate was increasing, my legs were not cooperating and I could not really seem to run faster.
Added Clare, “The challenge of the Marathon came after the 21km halfway mark.”
There was one hydration station at East Coast Park that we had to do a bit of a detour to get to… for marathon runners, any amount of detour is too much, but the need to hydrate myself motivated me to get a cup of isotonic drink.
Said Mark, “The water stop at 23km was off the route so we had to deviate. It was also not signposted that well.”
Live timing on some kilometre markers
I also noticed that at the 21km kilometre marker, as well as the 10km one, there was live timing attached, so that runners could have a gauge of how fast they were running and if they were on track to make their targets.
This had been a nice and interesting initiative on the part of the organisers.
Unofficial aid stations by running clubs
As I continued running, I tried to maintain a steady pace and keeping my heart rate from soaring too much at the same time. But the more I ran, the harder it seemed to be.
But the “unofficial” aid stations, put together by various running clubs such as the SAFRA runners, the Gei Gei Running Club and the Pierce Reservoir Runners, providing an assortment of food and drinks, had really great in encouraging us to keep on going.
I took a Milo sng bao from the Gei Gei Running Club station at the 31km mark – and this was probably the best sng bao that I had ever tasted, considering that I was quite hot and exhausted by this point in time.
I also gratefully accepted a cup of Coca-Cola from the Pierce Reservoir Runners during the last few kilometres.
The last few kilometres
After exiting East Coast Park, we headed past the Sports Hub, Beach Road and Republic Avenue before turning to the Padang, where the race would end.
The good thing about this year’s marathon route, was that the “Heartbreak bridge” – aka Sheares Bridge – had been taken out of the Marathon race.
But with the merciless Singapore heat beating down on us during the latter stages of the race, it was still quite a challenge to run by this point in time. My legs were also quite stiff by then and I simply could not seem to go faster, no matter how I had tried.
Said Mark, “This year there were no hills so that was a plus. At 30-32km into the race, I had realised it would be a tough 10km more to go. So it is always a mind game. I don’t think I went too fast at the beginning though; I did some good prep and held it steady, so I don’t really know what to put that down to. It just didn’t work for me today.”
I also quickly realised that my timing target was also going out of the window.
Merger with half marathon and 10km runners
During the final three kilometres of the Marathon, we were merged with the half marathon and the 10km runners. For faster Marathon runners, this was a problem.
Said Clare, “There was a bit at the end where everyone merged together; these were the fast marathon runners with the slow 21.1km and 10km runners. To separate out the distances so there would be no merger would have been better. It was hard because my legs were tired but I had to run around everyone. But everything was good for me apart from that.”
Agreed Paul, “It gets really congested at the end and that was not great.”
Sheer relief to complete the race
It was torture for me in the final stages, when I saw the kilometre markers slowly passed by. The 40km marker came past me, and it was an eternity before I saw the 41km and 42km markers respectively. But then eventually, I saw the finishing chute ahead of me.
So I had picked up the pace a little bit and eager to finally be able to rest, I completed the race. It was not a personal best, but I had been glad to simply complete the 2016 edition of the SCMS – rather than anything else.
Said Mark, “The most memorable thing for me was finishing the marathon and the cold drinks at the end were great. I thought it was an extremely tough race.”
VIP tent and catching up with friends
After the run, I caught up with some of my running kakis and we chatted about our race had went for a bit.
I then made my way to the VIP tent in order to help myself to some of the items there. It had been rather well stocked with food this year, ranging from hot food like pizza and dim sum items, to sweet stuff like frozen yoghurt, cupcakes and eclairs.
There was also 100PLUS isotonic drink and cold water as beverages.
I helped myself to some of the frozen yoghurt, cakes and drinks there.
For the the non-VIP runners, there was a Uber Eats food village at the Padang, where runners could buy a large variety of food items courtesy of Uber Eats. These had ranged from sandwiches to hot meals and ice cream.
Plenty of photo taking opportunities were made available at the race village to runners as well.
There was also a massage service too, for runners to relieve their sore muscles after the race.
Organisers were happy with the race
The organisers are pleased by how the event had gone.
Said Geoff Meyer, Managing Director of IRONMAN Asia, the organisers of the event, “I am pleased with the turnout and success of the event this year. The event is one that has been largely popular among the local and regional community and the numbers certainly showed.”
He continued, “This is our first time at the helm of the SCMS and whilst we are happy with the outcome, we will strive to make it even bigger and better and work towards our goal of making SCMS a leading marathon globally.”
I had heard some news filtering in later though, that a 29 year old male runner had passed away whilst taking part in the Half Marathon, despite the best efforts from the race organiser to quickly tend to him and rush him to the hospital. My condolences to him and his family.