Last Saturday evening, there had been a massive disturbance in the Force at Singapore’s Bayfront Event Space and many Force users coming from all over the galaxy had answered the calling. For the sinister Kylo Ren, a warrior from the dark and mysterious Knights of Ren, had descended upon the area, together with thousands of his loyal Dark Side followers from the First Order…
Kylo Ren and his troops had scanned the Marina Bay area in search of rebel forces, creating fear wherever they walked with his loud, sinister breathing under his mask, and at the same time eliminating masses of rebels from the Light Side, who had dared to stand in their way. Swinging his red lightsaber like a madman, Kylo Ren ensured that mass chaos was created wherever he had walked. Clad their white shirts, the frightened rebels tried to hide or make a run for it…
Did the wookiee Chewbacca and the rebellion manage to stop Kylo Ren in time? Or did the First Order succeed and plunge the Galaxy into darkness?
The first Star Wars run in Singapore
Oh don’t worry, Marina Bay was not the centre of an intergalactic war last evening. Kylo Ren’s appearance in Singapore was part of the inaugural Star Wars Run Singapore. This run had marked the conclusion to the three-day Star Wars “May the 4th” extravaganza and the event had attracted more than 15,000 local and overseas Star Wars fans.
The event had consisted of two categories, a 4.5km Fun Run and a 10km Competitive Run, to cater to the different types of runners. I had thought that it was an interesting idea to have both a competitive run as well as a fun run category in a themed running event as this is generally a less common initiative.
Mood at Bayfront was buzzing
The mood was already buzzing at Bayfront in the early evening, with many runners having come for the event together with their friends or family members. Everyone was enthusiastically waiting for their turn to get into the start pen and at the same time, hoping for photo opportunities with Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, the two “faces” of the event and representing the Light Side and Dark Side respectively.
To add to the mood, several runners were dressed up in costume too, with Jedi knights being the popular choice, in addition to both old and new Star Wars characters – such as Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and Rey.
Said Nico Hiort Af Ornas, 31, a software engineer, “The theme songs were interesting and it was nice to see characters walking around and people holding lightsabers. Getting the music pumping along, it really brings back the memories. I also really liked all the references to Star Wars.”
Nico has been a fan of the franchise since the early days, when “A New Hope” had first come out in cinemas in 1977 and sheepishly admits that his favourite character is the much maligned Jar Jar Binks. He said, “I was not here to run but rather, to experience Star wars.”
4.5km Fun Run started at 8pm
The 10km event had flagged off earlier at 7pm; the 4.5km run was scheduled to be slightly later at 8pm. Due to the large crowd, the start pen was quite full and as a result, the flag off had been done in multiple waves.
Said Lee Siu Siu, 45, an accountant, “The 10km had flagged off when I reached the Helix Bridge. The atmosphere was infectious as I saw how much they were enjoying the run and I was tempted to join them. So I walked to the start point looking forward to start my 4.5km run.”
Siu, who is the only Star Wars fan in her family, has been a fan of the franchise for the past 12 years. She may have been representing the Dark Side at the run, but her favourite character is Yoda. She said, “He is wise and has many inspirational quotes which we can learn from. Without his guidance, I might have really gone to the Dark Side.”
Pyrotechnics at start line
A spectacular display of pyrotechnic fireworks at the start line had ensured that the flag off for both races was a very colourful and spectacular one. Awaiting the flag off, the mood in the start pen was buzzing with eagerness and excitement. The participants could not wait to start their run – and have the opportunity to either save or to rule the galaxy.
Loving the fireworks had been nine year old Eli Sobo, a student at the Overseas Family School who a fan of Yoda and was proud of himself for having completed his first 4.5km running race. Eli said, “It was very festive and it was great with the fireworks at the beginning creating a lot of hype and excitement.”
Chewbacca and Kylo Ren flagged off the run
Light and Dark Side runners had been flagged off by Chewbacca and Kylo Ren respectively. The two characters had stayed with the fans in front of the start gate in order to build up the atmosphere prior to the flag off. They then left to go back to the stage to count down in rhythm with the fireworks.
Said Siu, “It was very crowded and humid. The start pen was full when I got there. We had to queue outside for our turn. Everyone was waiting patiently though, and many were enjoying taking pictures with their family and friends.”
She added, “There were many more Dark Side participants than Light Side ones.” Due to the large crowds, she began her run about 45 minutes later, at 8.45pm.
But still, she had no complaints about the huge crowds though. Siu said “The massive turnout and waiting time was not unexpected considering that there are many Star Wars fans around. At least the Force was with us and everyone had a great time with their loved ones.”
Different running routes for Light and Dark sides
For the 4.5km run, the Light and Dark side had slightly different running routes. The 4.5km Dark Side route had brought runners southwards towards Marina Barrage and then back towards the race village, which had been located at the Meadow, at the Gardens by the Bay.
Siu did not feel that there were huge differences between the two routes though. She said “It was a fun run and most of us walked. It was difficult to run throughout due to so many walkers. Anyway it was not an issue for us, being a fun run and everyone just wanted to soak in the atmosphere. I don’t think there’s much difference between the Light and Dark mood of the routes.
She added “There was this short stretch after the Helix Bridge where the Dark Side went to the left lane and the Light Side went to the right lane. The lighting for the Dark Side was red for that stretch. Then there was Star Wars music which got us into the mood.”
Some paths were a bit narrow
At a few places, such as the Marina Barrage and heading towards the race village however, the path had been a bit narrow at times.
There had been two fan engagement zones during the run and the first one had been located at the Helix Bridge – with Star Wars characters giving high fives and taking photos with participants. The second one was at the Marina Barrage and Siu pointed out that there was even a queue for taking photos with not only the Light Side characters, but even Darth Vader too. While these parts of the race were interesting, more colourful characters could have been added.
Fan engagement zones
The fan engagement zones were the same for both the Light and Dark routes; as such, the run did not really have separate Light and Dark Side zones to create a specific atmosphere like I admit that I had been initially expecting. As such, many runners also often crossed the path to the opposite side of the route, especially towards the fan engagement zones and this did not exactly help with the congestion though.
However the designs of the kilometre markers were specific to which side of the Force that runners were representing though; for example, one of the Dark Side kilometre markers had included an image of the Death Star.
Runners relaxed and soaked up the mood
Said Siu, “Everyone relaxed, walked and enjoyed the run. Many of us took pictures with the Star Wars characters like Storm Troopers along the route. The water point was at the Barrage after the 2km mark. There was ample UFC Coconut Water and plain water for all participants. There was no rush; everyone lined up and drank to their fill.”
However another participant, Andrea Nieto, 17, an International Baccalaureate (IB) student from Overseas Family School, had felt that the hydration was not cold. Said Andrea, who had run the 10km on the Light Side, “It was pretty nice to have points to drink, but I was upset that the water was not cold.”
Siu added, “After drinking three cups of chilled coconut water, I continued my Star Wars journey to the finish point. The rest of the route was peaceful and orderly. Medal collection was smooth with different counters for 4.5km and 10km, each with light and dark sides. The Force is within us!”
Many activities at the race village
Overall the race had met the expectations of many of the Star Wars fans who had been present, especially those who have been fans since the 1970s and 80s and had grown up playing with lightsabers, R2D2 and C3PO.
Said Juergen Tutekunst, 46, an insurance agent, “It was a great event and was well organised. I was running with my daughter for the first time and we both enjoyed ourselves and had lots of fun today.”
And upon finishing, there were many activities in store for runners at the race village. These had included lots of photo opportunities with Star Wars scenes, as well as characters like BB8, Chewbacca and the Star Wars Run signage. As well, food and drinks were available for purchase at the race site.
As one of the highlights at the Star Wars Run, the movie, Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens had been screened. And fans could also queue up for their chance to take pictures together with Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.
Said Siu, “The mood at the race village was peaceful. Many of the participants stayed behind to watch the movie under the stars. I felt that the movie screening was a great idea to get into the Star Wars mood. Luckily it did not rain.”
She added, “There was also free Vitagen and coconut water at two of the booths too. Unfortunately the coconut water had finished by the time I got back but I managed to get two bottles of Vitagen Less Sugar to try out.”
Andrea, who has loved Star Wars since her father had “brainwashed” her as a child, also shared the same sentiments. She said, “I loved the atmosphere at the village. Everyone is here for the Star Wars movies and it felt great to see the good vibes here, and so many people gathered together for their love for Star wars.”