The second edition of The Great Relay Singapore took place yesterday and there were teams of either two, four or six runners taking part. Each team was required to complete a distance of either 50km or 100km.
3.3km loops at Bishan Park
Co-organised by two seasoned ultra runners, Australian Vlad Ixel, 28, and Singaporean Jeri Chua, 41, yesterday’s race began at 6.30am in the morning and took place at the scenic Bishan Park. Runners each completed 3.3km loops of the park, according to their running order.
In The Great Relay, as soon as each runner had completed the loop, he or she passed the baton on to the next one, based on their chronological running order. This went on continuously, until the entire team had successfully completed the distance that they had signed up for.
I took part in the “50km Team of Four” category together with Alex Khaw, Johnson Lim and Jenefer Perdido from the TLC (Train Live Compete) group. Besides mine, which had been TLC’s “leisure team”, the TLC group had two other teams running in The Great Relay and both had both been aiming for a podium placing.
Reached the race site at 6am
I had reached the race site at about 6am in the morning and other teams, including mine, were still on their way down. The organisers were also in the middle of setting up their tents and preparing for the race carnival later.
At around 6.20am, I eventually found my team mates and the rest of the TLC gang and we set up our picnic mat in a large tent. After a short briefing, we were flagged off at about 6.36am. I was the second runner, so while Johnson, our first runner, was out on the course, I hung around the transition area to wait for him to come back.
Running my first loop
Roughly about 20 minutes later, it was my turn to run my first loop. The 3.3km loop around Bishan Park was definitely a lot easier than my experience at The Great Relay last year, which had featured the rather challenging trails at the Dairy Farm area.
Said Vlad, “Last year the course was really tough especially under the Singapore heat, so this year we wanted to make things easier and also to give runners more shade. That is why we had picked Bishan Park. We also know that this park is not used too often in Singapore races.”
Each loop was pretty flat, with the occasional gentle slope, and I think I completed the first loop in around 17 to 18 minutes. It was also quite scenic at the same time, with the greenery and trees surrounding me, and because it was still early on in the race, I could see plenty of other runners on the course – and they were all encouraging each other to keep on running.
At about 3km into the loop, the route took us past the race village – where runners were cheering us on, as they waited for their team mates to finish running. This was quite motivating and spurred me on to complete the final few hundred metres of the loop.
In addition, there were also plenty of supporters and photographers on site, who had not signed up for the race themselves, but their presence also added to the festive party-like atmosphere.
Before I knew it, I was finished with my first loop and it was then time to take a break for about an hour before I was due to run again.
Lots to keep runners entertained on-site
There was plenty to do, to keep me entertained at the race carnival while waiting for my turn to run again. These included 10-minute recovery yoga sessions to recharge my energy. We were served bee hoon for breakfast, and snacks such as bananas, apples and muffins, energy bars and chocolate cake. There was also Tailwind sports drinks and water, for runners to replenish our energy in between loops.
Our TLC group had also brought other food, including home-made muffins and packaged snacks. I also decided to contribute some home-made carob butter cookies.
The toilets were also nearby – about a few minutes walk down from the race carnival area, so this had been quite convenient.
In short, it felt more like a picnic and a day out with friends rather than a running race. And all too soon, it was time for my second loop, which wasn’t too bad going.
Weather was kind to us all morning
The weather had been really kind to us during the entire morning. We had a slight drizzle and nice, cool weather all around. The sun hardly came out, and so I am sure that everyone really loved it.
Though it did threaten to rain at one stage, with the sky getting a little dark, fortunately there was never a downpour. Instead it was only a moderate bit of rain which came and went quickly, stopping in time before I was to set off on my third loop.
Even the organiser acknowledged that the weather this year had been great. Said Vlad, “If we have this sort of weather evert year, then it will be excellent.”
Running the third and final loops
Doing the third loop made me feel slightly weary – due to seeing the same scenery at Bishan Park during each loop, but thanks to the cool weather, I was still feeling quite okay to keep on running. At least I was familiar with the loops by now though, and did not need to rely on the marshals to direct me anymore.
And after my third loop of running, I munched on some peanut butter muesli to keep my energy levels up for the final loop. Also, I refilled my bottle of water as I knew that I would need the fluids in preparation for the final loop.
I admit though that when I was running the final loop, my legs were beginning to get a little weary of the running, but it was still quite bearable because I told myself that my final loop would end very soon.
I managed to pick up some speed in the final few hundred metres of the final loop because I knew that I would not be running again for the rest of the day. I could then simply sit down, rest and munch on some more food, while waiting for our last two runners to complete the race.
The other two TLC teams had already completed their runs, eventually coming in first and second, in the 50km Mixed Team of 4 category.
While waiting, I took a packet of the mee goreng as well as a muffin for my lunch. This was quite delicious probably because I was getting hungry after all of the running.
About 40 minutes after I was done running, our fourth runner, Alex, was speeding towards the finish line to complete the entire race for our team – so Johnson, Jenefer and I headed down to join him to run the final few hundred metres together for some form of camaraderie and teamwork. Many other teams were also doing this; and it was quite a meaningful gesture after having worked well together all morning – to get the distance completed, cumulatively.
When we crossed the finish line together, we received our finisher’s medals, and hung around the race village for a while, to wait for the awards ceremony for our category. I thought that the medal this year felt quite heavy.
50km is about right
As a whole, I felt that running in a 50km relay was quite good – and it didn’t wear you down and the day did not feel too long and tiring – despite the early start. We ended around lunch time. And there was enough food and entertainment to keep me going in between my loops when I was waiting for my turn to run again. With a 100km relay though, it may have been rather tiring and exhausting heading into the early afternoon and the evening.
Many other runners taking part in The Great Relay had probably thought the same way too. According to Vlad, many runners who had taken part in the 100km categories last year, had chosen to downgrade to 50km this time round.
Said Vlad, “Talking to the runners, a lot of teams who did the 100km last year, dropped to 50km. In fact there were double the number of teams this year, in the 50km race, as there had been in the 100km categories.”
He added, “In last year’s inaugural race, there had been twice as many 100km teams as compared to 50km teams. But we hope to find a balance next and in future editions of the race.”
Organiser was pleased with how the race went
Vlad was also quite pleased with how the event had panned out this year.
He said, “I think that overall the event was good. It was a lot better than last year when we had a few hiccups with the laps. Things went quite smoothly and Jeri coming on board really helped, because of her knowledge of the Singapore running scene.”
Continued Vlad, “But we hope to keep on improving on our race and hopefully not too long soon, we will have this race close to perfect. We have a couple of things we want to add, but nothing too major. For example we need to make sure that there are a couple of marshals for the first few laps. But we did quite well in choosing the route and with the transition area being in the middle of the loop so runners can watch their peers in action.”
Organising races is rewarding
Vlad finds organising the races to be quite rewarding despite the challenges and hiccups and that in fact, he is already looking towards the 2017 edition of The Great Relay Singapore. Said Vlad, “From an organisation viewpoint there is quite a lot of work, but when you see teams crossing the finish line together then it feels like everything is all worth it.”
He added, “So we hope to see even more people next year joining this sort of event, where it is less about the running and more about the teamwork, friendship and the fun.”
Race Route may change in next edition of The Great Relay
And for next year’s edition of the race, Vlad has also hinted that he is thinking of shaking up the race route and making things slightly more challenging. He said, “We are not going to go with a course as tough as last year’s but maybe have something slightly harder than what we had this year. We may go to the coast (beach) and maybe have 500m of the route on sand, to change things and give runners a variety.”
He continued, “With the format of our race, it can easily be adopted to many locations and terrains, such as trail and road. We are always open to new ideas though.”