Yesterday, the inaugural edition of The Great Relay Singapore took place at the Dairy Farm trails. Organised by elite ultra runner Vlad Ixel and his partner Eti Rodriguez, the event comprised of two distance categories, a 50km and a 100km relay. Runners could register for the event as teams of either two, four or six members.
A very unique race format
This race, billed as a team trail running event, had a very unique race format. Unlike most other relay runs in Singapore where runners could complete their leg and then call it a day, runners at The Great Relay completed one loop (4km) of the race course and then pass the baton to their team mate. Teams would continue to do this until the whole team had completed the entire distance registered for.
Took part in the 100km (Team of 4) category
I took part in the 100km (Team of 4) category, together with Lai Boon, Ling and Ivan – and it was definitely a very long day for all of us. We were at the race venue from as early as 6am to collect our race packs.
Setting up camp
Following this, we set up our camp near the start/finish area. We had prepared ourselves for a run – and a camping excursion. Some teams had even pitched tents, to make themselves at home.
Everyone had brought plenty of food and nutrients, including crackers, potato chips, cupcakes, energy bars and gels. This was to prepare for the long hours ahead. I made peanut butter sandwiches. And Ling had even generously cooked pasta for the team. I must say that this run had brought back memories of my camping days as a school student.
Time to flag off
Soon, the flag off time, at about 7am in the morning, approached. Being the first runner for my team, I made my way down to the starting pen while my team members hung around to chitchat.
Before I knew it, the starting horn blew and I was away. I admit that it was slightly intimidating to see many of the fast runners from the other team whizzing past me at lightning speed, but I stuck to my intended pace and took it slowly. It was a good thing that I conserved my energy – because I quickly found out that the route, though only 4km long, was quite challenging.
The first kilometre, through mud and stones, had comprised of several steep uphills and fast downhills. And the second kilometre was on a road surface, but this was also pretty steep and involved plenty of uphill climbing.
Run got easier after the halfway point
However after the U-turn point, the run got easier and my pace picked up substantially – this was because it had comprised of mainly downhills. As a result, this section felt like a complete joy to run – compared to the earlier one!
Before I knew it, I had completed my first lap, and was back at the start/finish area and handing the baton over to Lai Boon, who was running the second lap.
Catching my breath after the first loop
The one-and-a-half hours break then awaited me, before my next loop. For about the first half hour, the break from running felt good. I re-hydrated myself with plenty of water and did some walking around to catch my breath.
But after about one hour though, I found myself itching to run again. So when I saw our final runner, Ivan, returning, it was time to do my second loop. This couldn’t have come sooner – I had been raring to get out onto the trails.
Each loop got more difficult
But as the day wore on though, I found that each loop was getting progressively harder. By the third or fourth loop, I was beginning to find myself wondering when this would all end.
The extended rest time in between my 4km runs was making my legs feel rather stiff and it was hard to get going again whenever my turn approached. The noontime sun didn’t help my cause and I was feeling more and more lethargic as the time passed by.
Plenty of food around
Fortunately though, there was plenty of food around and that helped to give me the energy to lift my spirits for a short time. My peanut butter sandwiches and crackers, as well as the delicious savoury snacks that race organisers Ixel and Rodriguez had helpfully provided, tasted absolutely scrumptious and I simply couldn’t get enough of them. I found myself wandering around to the food area in between loops, sometimes probably out of boredom.
The downpour arrived at 3pm in the afternoon – my team was about halfway done at that point. It can’t have been fun for the runners who were caught out there at that time, but for me, I was pretty fortunate, because when my turn to complete my fifth loop arrived, the rain had lightened to a drizzle. It felt different running in this light shower as compared to the heat earlier, but forcing my legs to go up and down the slopes, for what felt like the umpteenth time, wasn’t easy at all.
Taking to the trails for the final time
But there was one thing that put a smile on my face though – I had only one more loop to go after that. Loading up on the crackers and peanut butter sandwiches helped to give me the energy I needed to continue.
When I took to the trails for what would be the final time during The Great Relay Singapore 2015, I felt a spring in my step, because I knew the finishing line was drawing nearer. So the uphills felt easier to get through this time. I was half walking and half running now, but compared to the middle of the afternoon, when it had seemed like the race would go on forever, it felt a lot more bearable now.
And before I knew it, I was back at the finishing line. It was now 5pm and I had completed my share of the running. It would be my three team mates, who would now complete the final few loops – to finish up the 100km.
Completing the entire 100km
It felt much more relaxing now at the campsite, knowing that I would not be needed to run again. I could sit down – and didn’t need to think about what would happen if my legs cramped up too much before my next run.
At about 7pm, my team was finally done. It felt great watching Lai Boon, who had agreed to complete an extra seventh lap to make up the full 100km for our team. And we ran the last few metres with him. We had taken about 12 hours to complete the distance – but I was quite happy with our efforts.
One thing though, is that it seemed strange to take a whole day to complete a relay run, rather than just finish my segment of the run and then be free. The experience of camping during a run too, made it very different.
Race organiser pleased with inaugural running event in Singapore
Race co-organiser Ixel, 27, was pleased with how the race went. He explained, “Overall we thought the race went quite well and runners seemed to be enjoying themselves. We always get good reception in Singapore and people here are super nice to us. But there are a few little things that we could improve on – for example, the race route and the venue. Originally, we had thought the location would be a tiny bit bigger. As organisers, that was our main issue and we will definitely be working on that for next year’s edition. But we were super happy with the quality of the food, drinks, tee shirts, number tags as well as the race timings.”
Added Ixel, “This is a promising concept though, and we will learn from the mistakes that we made today. Our next races will be organised in Hong Kong and Taiwan, before we return to Singapore. So by the time we come back here again next year, we will have a lot more experience. We have also built good relationships with sponsors – so the next race in Singapore will be a lot more successful, and we are really looking forward to it.”
Other blog posts
- Interview with Vlad Ixel
- Vlad Ixel’s tips for 100km first-timers
- A talk by Trail runner Vlad Ixel
- A short fun run with Vlad and Eti