There were loud shouts of motivation, encouragement and even high-fives at the second qualifying session for the Run For Cover challenge – held at East Coast Park last weekend.
The runners at this 10km time trial qualifier were all enjoying great camaraderie as they laughed and joked during the run. The mood was so infectious that even though I was only there to cover the event, I wanted to join in too.
This vibrant atmosphere was unlike other mass running events, where runners simply shoot out of the blocks as fast as possible, gunning for a personal best timing for themselves.
Not an ordinary running event
But then again, the Run For Cover event, which takes place at Ngee Ann City’s Civil Plaza on the 21st of this month, is no ordinary mass running event.
Organized by Mount Elizabeth Hospital, this is a 24-hour treadmill challenge, where qualifying is required. Out of the original 50 teams, two qualifying sessions, comprising a 5.5km and 10km time trial, were held over the past month, to choose the fastest ten teams.
These final ten teams of eight runners each, will then compete against each other during the challenge, to clock the most mileage on the treadmill. The winning team receives 10 years of free health insurance.
Said the event’s chief officer, 46-year-old Alvin Neo, “The two qualifiers before the event provides a build-up to the day itself. Avid runners may also think it is more professional, compared to when 20,000 or 30,000 people elbow each other (in big runs) to the finishing line.”
An innovative and creative idea
Where did such an innovative idea come from? Said Alvin, “We were looking for something to engage the public and we thought of a run. But there are so many running events in Singapore already.”
So the organisers then tried to think out of the box and they came up with the idea of a 24-hour event where people could push beyond their limits. The team factor also came in too because they had wanted people to work together, rather than just run, which is an individual sport.
Runners definitely support this idea of having a run with a difference, where they work together to achieve common goals. Said a participant, 31-year-old teacher, Sebastian Soo, “Compared to a typical mass run, this is a more relaxed atmosphere and will be a fun run without any stress.”
Looking forward to the finals
And even though the event is still two weeks away, runners are definitely relishing the day of the treadmill challenge – even though they may have no treadmill running experience.
Said 32-year-old Jackson Lim, who works in service delivery, “This will be my first time running on a treadmill. All along, I have been running on track and off-road. I feel that this is a new challenge for me. But of course I will try to fit in a few sessions of treadmill training and get myself ready for it, if we qualify.”
Camaraderie and teamwork
But even though there is an attractive prize carrot dangled in front of the runners, Jackson doesn’t see this as a competitive race. Rather, he is more interested in the bonding sessions with his fellow runners at the event. “This final is all about teamwork. We won’t challenge each other. Instead, we’ll learn from each other,” he added.
Agreed marketing student Goh Chang Teck, 21, “I love the camaraderie and the spirit of running at this event. Friends always come and go, so it is important to use chances such as this event, to connect and bond.”
Boredom of treadmill running
But one thing that Chang Teck and his team may not be looking forward to though, is the likely boredom of treadmill running. He said, “Long runs on the treadmill are really mind-blowing. You cannot stand it for long periods of time. The longest I did on the treadmill was 15km and I gave up.”
So his team’s strategy will most likely be to do short runs, so that they don’t become bored. Chang Teck said, “We will probably do 15-minute runs and then switch people. It will be more energizing and help us to stay focused – without losing our minds!”
Taking your mind away from the running
But in order to cope with the apparent boredom, 20-year-old rugby coach and charity runner, Jayve Goh, has some useful tips. She said, “I would cope with the boredom by taking out your electronic devices to take your mind away from the running. Also, if you have to sing a song, so be it. And if you need to talk to your friend, go ahead.
“But the best thing is that Run For Cover has organised for movies to run through the night – as well as the World Cup matches! So with the World Cup going on, there is no reason to feel bored!” Jayve added.
Jayve is one of the event’s running celebrities. Together with other well-known local running figures such as the Singapore Blade Runner (Shariff Abdullah Peters), Ah Siao (Gerrard Lin) and Mohan Marathon (Mohandas Kandiah), she will add her star power to the event, as one of the running captains at the treadmill event.
Safety is important
Despite this event being an endurance running challenge, Alvin added that safety is very important, and one of the top priorities at the Run For Cover.
“Every runner should look after their health and safety first and foremost. It is no point winning a race, but suffering an injury and not being able to run for weeks after that,” said Alvin. He felt that the main problem at running events is that many of the athletes go for timing rather than their own health.
So at the Run for Cover event, every treadmill will be equipped with a heart rate monitor, to ensure that runners will not over-stress their hearts. Explained Alvin, “When indicated by the umpire, they must do a heart-rate check to make sure runners stay within the safe range.”
A cardiologist will also be at hand during the event, to monitor the situation and answer any questions too.
Doing their part for charity
As an added incentive for the participants too, they would also do their part for charity, simply by engaging in their favourite activity – running. For every 30 kilometres clocked in total, the Mount Elizabeth Hospital would give a needy patient a free cataract surgery.
Said another running celebrity, 56-year-old stockbroker Mohan Marathon, “What Mount Elizabeth is doing is fantastic. A cataract operation is usually expensive, but with our ageing population, more and more people are going to need it. I think all runners should come in and support this.”
Runners definitely agree too. Said 33-year-old Ben Pulham, the coach and co-founder of Journey Fitness Company, “I got introduced to this race by a friend and I heard it is for charity. I am always up for a good cause. As I haven’t been doing much running lately, I decided this was a good opportunity to get myself off the ground.”
Clock up the miles to give needy patients free cataract surgery
But even if you haven’t signed up for the race itself, you can still do your part for charity and help to clock up the miles – to give more needy patients a cataract surgery.
This is because according to Alvin, there will actually be five public treadmills as well, for other runners to support the cause. Together with the 10 teams who have qualified, members of the public are free to bring their sports gear and run on these public treadmills and add some extra miles to the cause, during the 24 hours that the final event is taking place.
“So do come to Ngee Ann City to run, instead of at East Coast Park. I think there will also be a party atmosphere during those 24 hours – so you can join in the festivities too,” Alvin added.
The run will be staged from 2pm on Saturday 21 June all the way till 2pm on Sunday 22 June.
To find out more about Run For Cover, please visit their event website. http://www.runforcover.sg