Run For Cover, Singapore’s very first 24-hour treadmill running challenge, took place during the weekend. Read on, to find out how the event went.
Sunday, 22 June. 1pm. Ngee Ann City Civil Plaza. Sweaty bodies were pounding hard on the treadmills.
Runners were fanning and misting each other. Some were belting out songs – to stay motivated. Others were laughing and joking – to keep the vibrant atmosphere alive.
1.30pm. The mood grew tenser. And there were rotations on the treadmills – to provide fresher legs for the final showdown.
The emcee was screaming into the microphone. Cheerleaders took to the stage to spur on the runners to provide them with a much welcome distraction.
1.35pm. The participants were giving everything that they had, for the final 25 minutes. Some even cranked up the speed on the treadmill – to close the gap between their competitors.
1.45pm… 1.50pm… and then there were only five more minutes to go.
Then only seconds left.
The clock struck 2pm. The horn sounded. Golden confetti rained down from the ceiling. Everyone suddenly went completely nuts.
Sweaty bodies stopped running and runners collapsed – into a heap.
The inaugural Run For Cover, a 24-hour treadmill challenge, organized by the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, had officially ended.
This challenge had required the ten teams of eight participants each, to clock the most miles on the treadmill, within the stipulated 24-hour time frame – to help needy patients get free cataract surgeries. (Cataract is a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy with ageing – to cause cloudy vision).
Over 3,000 kilometres were clocked
Throughout the whole event, some 3,500 kilometres were clocked. This was the total distance run by the participants as well as members of the public – who had dropped by, to help clock miles on the six public treadmills too.
Team DTCC emerged as the champions. Their members, who are all students or alumni of the National University of Singapore (NUS), had run a combined distance of 318.79 kilometres.
Said the victorious DTCC team captain, 23-year-old NUS Business and Finance student Tay Chen Beng, “We worked really hard throughout the entire 24 hours, which is a really long time. The team deserved to win. We supported each other a lot, by fanning one another and ensuring that we all stayed hydrated.”
For their efforts, they had each won SGD5,000 worth of free health-care insurance from Mount Elizabeth Hospital. This will cover them for up to SGD700,000 a year for 10 years.
Short bursts on the treadmill
DTCC’s winning strategy had been to do shorter intervals of about half-an-hour each on the treadmill. So this meant that each person ran six times – during the 24 hours.
Added Tay, “We tried to maintain fast but consistent splits throughout the entire six sets. But some of us went too fast at the start. We still pushed on and tried our best to achieve a better timing for the team, though.”
Their strategy of keeping down the treadmill running time per session was spot-on, according to Captain (Doctor) in the Singapore Army, Mok Ying Ren, 25, who was one of the running celebrities at the event.
Agreed Mok, “Keeping the time portion shorter (30 minutes per runner) is good – because of the heat. But hydration is very important.
“I ran on the treadmill for half an hour and I already lost two to three kilograms from sweat. So you really need to drink to replenish the fluids and electrolytes,” he added.
Together with the other celebrities, including his running buddy Ivan Low, as well as the Singapore Blade Runner (Shariff Abdullah Peters), Ah Siao (Gerrard Lin) and Beast Runner (Sky Khoo Zhihao), Mok’s role was to give the runners some motivation and support. As well, they also ran on the treadmills themselves.
Weather was very hot
Tay admits that his team had initially expected to cover more than 319 kilometres – based on their treadmill training sessions at the gym. “But we didn’t expect the race to be so hot, so that really affected our running,” he said.
Besides the weather, the long time frame of this endurance event was another major challenge that his team faced, on their path to victory.
Lack of mental stimulation
But for other teams, the lack of mental stimulation on the treadmill was the biggest challenge. This was true for some members of the second-placed MR25 team, such as 35-year-old Thomas Eng, who works in pharmaceutical quality control.
He said, “Running on the same spot for so long really affects you mentally. But I tried to counter this by focusing on the running and pretending that I was running on the road.” However, his team did well to push DTCC all the way, clocking up about 305 kilometres in the process.
Agreed Mok, “Treadmill running is definitely challenging. At the same time, you also get a bit self-conscious about ruining the treadmill though, when you get all sweaty and leave a puddle behind.”
Friends help to counter these mental challenges
“But I think it is fun to do this as a team, though. It is a great form of team bonding. I came with my running buddies and we each ran half an hour on the treadmill and it was really enjoyable,” Mok added.
Agreed 26-year-old industrial relations officer Raymond Goh. “Having your friends talking to you and supporting you definitely makes the running part slightly easier.”
He was participating with his Rundee Dundee team
Important to have sufficient rest between reps on the treadmill
However, if there aren’t enough friends and teammates to support and take their turn on the treadmill too, it can be very trying – as the third-placed Team Tze Char found out.
Said Ah Siao, a 31-year-old fitness instructor who was the team celebrity supporting Team Tze Char, “I think it is quite incredible that Team Tze Char finished in the top three. They really amazed me and I am humbled by this team’s achievement.”
That is because at one point during the event, Team Tze Char were down to four members – out of the original eight, due to reasons such as members having heat exhaustion, stomach problems and a runner being overseas.
“I was trying to keep my team going by giving them water, fanning them, misting them and buying ice, and so on,” said Ah Siao.
Humidity did not help either
He added that the humidity did the runners no favours either. “The air is very humid and we were under a tent. There was no ventilation too, so the air was just circulating in the tent itself,” Ah Siao said.
Celebrity runner Ivan Low, a 29-year-old admin officer, also agreed that the humidity made things very tough going. He said, “The last time I ran on a treadmill was a couple months back when it was raining.
“But that was in the gym where there is air conditioning and that helps a lot. Here at the event, there is no air conditioning and it was humid, so we were all sweating even more than usual. It’s quite hard to run too long on the treadmill, in this type of weather,” he said.
Added fellow celebrity, 31-year-old track and field coach Sky Khoo Zhihao, “Personally, I agreed that this was a tough run. But focusing on their running stride and breathing helped the runners with being able to last longer distances, though.”
Teams did a commendable job
And these teams must certainly have taken Sky’s advice, as they had all managed to persevere and last the entire distance.
Celebrity athlete, the Singapore Blade Runner, a 45-year-old runner and motivational speaker, is particularly proud of all the participants, for not contemplating giving up, despite the challenges.
He said, “I am proud of these runners. As they showed, you should never give up, no matter what the weather is like. As a marathoner, you must run in the day and night, or in good and bad weather. But no matter what, always do your best and finish strongly.”
And these runners certainly did finish strongly.
Running for a Cause
And for many, the charity factor may have given them added motivation to keep on going till the very end to help them finish well.
This was because for every 30 kilometres clocked at the Run For Cover event, a needy person would receive a free cataract surgery. With some 3,500 kilometres done by all of the runners, this meant that 117 sufferers would eventually benefit from a free eye operation.
Said Team Passion runner, 31-year-old consultant Tan Pin Yong, “The charity bit is fantastic. To have this opportunity is really good, compared to just running for ourselves. It helps the community and it is a team effort, so that is great.”
Added his team-mate, Fabian Pwi, a 31-year-old civil servant, “Everyone was working together to clock up as many miles as possible. We were all doing our best and cheering on our friends too. So it became a fight against cataract and not a fight with one another. I found that really motivating.”
It was not just the participants though, who were moved by the charity factor and being able to help the less fortunate.
Explained 28-year-old Tan Wei Hao, the co-partner of Cum. creative agency, “When you run for your own self, that is one thing. But if you run for a cause, that brings people together and you can really bond over that sort of thing.”
His agency was the creative juice behind some of the artwork and photography for the event.
And Tan did his part too, by running for half an hour on the public treadmills. “I can’t say I am a good runner, but I tried my best and my legs are hurting right now!” he said.
Every kilometre counts
Added 43-year-old eye surgeon Dr Chua Wei Han, who is one of the surgeons doing the cataract operations, “Every kilometre counts. Our participation in this Run For Cover event lets those who have the physical ability help those who do not have – that is, those with poor vision due to cataract.
“I feel so moved by the kindness exhibited by all these people here today, who have decided to take out their precious time on a weekend and use their legs and lungs to take part in Run For Cover,” he added.
Besides doing the eventual eye operations, Dr Chua also contributed to the miles, by adding about five kilometres to the total distance tally. “This is just the icing on the cake. I want to help out as much as I can,” he said.
Watch this Run For Cover video !
Having trouble playing the video? Watch it here. http://youtu.be/rcVVkxrUAc0