How have Singapore’s top marathon runners been coping with the haze?

Over the past couple of weeks, the haze has shrouded Singapore like a dark cloud, with PSI levels hitting the ‘Very Unhealthy’ range of 200+ last week. This was based on the three-hourly average readings published on the website by the Singapore National Environmental Agency (NEA).

It has been very hazy over the past week.

It has been very hazy over the past week.

And this bout of serious haze has not gone down very well with the running community – because it means zero outdoor running, marathon training or even jogging, due to the negative health effects of the haze for runners.


Said Evan Chee, 34, Research & Project Manager at OSIM and a top-ten podium finisher at 2011’s StanChart Marathon 42.195km race, “The haze sucks! But I have to make do with it and find alternative ways to train. That means less hard sessions outdoors and more mileage runs indoors on a treadmill. Otherwise it’s outdoor running with a mask on.”

Some runners have been using a treadmill indoors. Photo Credit:

Some runners have been using a treadmill indoors.
Photo Credit:

Agreed JieShi Neo, 30, assistant manager in HR & Admin who represented Singapore in the South East Asian (SEA) Games Marathon, “The haze has definitely affected most runners’ training plans, mine included. I have switched to working out in the gym – attending spin classes and using the treadmills or elliptical cross-trainers to replace my runs.”

For Melvin Wong, 31, Sales Associate and Singapore’s SEA Games 5,000m and 10,000m representative, he admitted that he had initially been confident of running outdoors when the haze began to appear about three weeks ago. But the worsening haze over the past week had forced him to shelve his outdoor running plans.

Said Melvin, “When conditions worsened last week, I started to replicate more of my runs on the treadmill in my gym last Monday. I needed to get used to running on the treadmill again after a long hiatus from treadmill running, but aside from that, it has not been too much of a disruption to my running schedule. In fact, I saved some time as I can swing by the gym which is very near my office. My wife is definitely pleased with this arrangement.”


Devathas Satianathan, 27, a Legal Service Officer who was placed in the top ten in the 42.195km race at last year’s StanChart Marathon, still tries to do as much outdoor running as possible during the haze period, by monitoring the PSI. He said, “I try to monitor the haze in the mornings. I have recently downloaded an app by NEA, called myENV and that’s quite useful for this purpose. If the PSI and pm2.5 readings are below 100, I’ll give myself an extra 30 minutes of sleep before running to work.”

Some runners have been monitoring PSI readings. Photo credit: NEA.

Some runners have been monitoring PSI readings, such as these readings from 2013.
Photo credit: NEA.

He continued, “But if the readings are bad, I’ll have to force myself out of bed earlier, take the bus to work and run on the treadmill at my workplace. I am extremely fortunate to have a gym at my workplace.”

As well, Devathas added that before the haze kicked in, he used to run home from work too. He explained, “In the evenings, the haze tends to get worse so running back home is usually ruled out. Instead I spend some time in the gym doing strengthening exercises or alternative forms of cardio, using the rowing or elliptical machine. Then it’s the bus back. So the haze has taken a toll on my transport expenses!”


On the other hand, assistant marketing manager Andy Neo, 36, admits that he would still risk going outdoors for runs, if the haze is marginally in the ‘Unhealthy’ range, that is, if the PSI is just above 100.

Said Andy, who was placed sixth at last year’s StanChart Marathon 42.195km race, “I still run outside but with a slower intensity and duration. But if the pm2.5 levels are really high, I will have to compensate with indoor gym training or strength work. I will also run earlier in the mornings, especially for my long runs, as the haze usually gets worse later in the day. Also I would consider running in the MacRitchie trails, as the air quality is usually better there, compared to on the roads.”

The haze does not bother him

For prisons officer Ramesh Palaniandy, 40, however, he does not bother at all with the haze when he does his training runs. Continued Ramesh, who finished third in last year’s 42.195km SCMS Full Marathon, “I still train as normal everyday. Only two weeks ago, on Saturday morning when I do my 30km long runs, I felt more dehydrated than usual and stopped a few times to drink water.”

He added, “Only later after training did I know why it was so difficult to run – because the three-hourly PSI was between 160 to 185 when I had been out there. Since then, I have been drinking more water everyday to keep myself hydrated. So far, I have been fine and have continued to train as per normal.”


Besides doing their regular training runs though, there are also races to be done, and these runners would take part as long as the competitive races are still on. Said JieShi, “I will still run, but would take these races as my training runs if I don’t feel ready to race for a personal best – due to disruptions in my regular training from the haze.”

Many still consider taking part in races during the hazy spell. Photo Credit:

Many still consider taking part in races during the hazy spell.
Photo Credit:

Melvin also agrees that he would still run in a race – as long as the event is still on, despite the PSI levels. He added “There were five races last weekend (Yellow Ribbon Prison Run, Race Against Cancer, POSB Passion Run for Kids, SAFRA Celebration Run & Ride and the Clementi Vertical Marathon) but most of them were either cancelled or had their competitive events removed.”

Continued Melvin, “I believe the event organisers have done their part to ensure safety for the running community so I am not too worried about having to think about whether to run in the race. If the competitive event is still on, I will be happy to run in it.”


That said though, Melvin quickly adds that different people have various thresholds in their response to the haze. Explained Melvin, “If you find that there is an increased level of difficulty in breathing while running outdoors, you should reduce your outdoor activities. Always be vigilant for abnormal reactions if you continue to exercise outdoors.”

Monitor your health when you run outdoors during the haze. Photo Credit:

Monitor your health when you run outdoors during the haze.
Photo Credit:

Added Melvin, “Sometimes it is the slightest discomfort in the eyes or the itch on the skin, that may be the warning signs of your body’s reaction to the haze. If unsure, always consult a doctor.”

  • Click here for haze tips from Dr Derek Li
  • Click here for how to protect yourself from the haze.
  • Click here for good indoor workouts during the haze.


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1 Comment

  • Matthew says:

    Fast-food deliveries have been cancelled, the army has suspended field training and even Singapore’s top marathon runner has retreated as residents try to protect themselves from the smog that has descended on the city-state.

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