Running in Different Countries: The Lion City vs The Green and Gold
I've recently come back to live in Australia after spending 18 months residing in Singapore. And what a blast I had. The recreational running scene in Singapore is at an all time high with a record number of events in 2014. And skoot over to Australia and I'm not to be disappointed. Recreational running is one of Australia's most popular sporting activities now spawning it's own dedicated facebook page promoting events across the country.
With more and more Singaporeans travelling over to Australia for events such as the Gold Coast Marathon, I reflected on some of the similarities and differences between these two running mad countries. Here are my top eight:
1. Type of Races
Singapore - Scan the list of upcoming races in Singapore and not only are you presented with your traditional 'serious' road races but you also can chose from more running adventure, niche events with all sorts of themes. Novelty runs such as Hello Kitty, The Music Run and The Tom and Jerry Run have increased in popularity alongside a multitude of trail, adventure obstacle and ultra races on the event landscape. Races in Singapore also tend to be pretty large scale. Rarely will you find a race that attracts less than a few thousand runners.
Australia – The scene in Singapore is mirrored in Australia where a crowded market of over 400 races per year presents opportunities for the more creative events to make their mark. This year sees the return of the Colour Run and Neon run alongside Tough Mudder, the Stampede, Warrior Dash and the Tough Bloke Challenge. One difference is that there tends to be a broader size of races with some accommodating just a few hundred runners.
2. The Goody Bag
Singapore - It's not just the race you sign up for in Singapore. It's the goody bag you receive before you've even laced up your trainers. Everyone is guaranteed an event bag in Singapore with the ubiquitous race T-shirt (often of very good quality), memorabilia and running tat to fill it out. And of course, you can't complete your race without a fancy medal to celebrate your achievement at the finish area. Some of the medals I have collected are a real work of art, so much so a small number of participants have gone so far as to sell their loot on the internet post race! Make sure you keep the weekend free before your designated event so you can hop on down and queue up to collect your race pack at one of the many malls around Singapore.
Australia - A little more simple in Australia with the offer of the not-so goody bag. If you are lucky you may get a complimentary T-shirt. And you may even get a medal. The likelihood is that you will pay extra for your T-shirt and for the finishers medal, don't expect anything too ornate. There is no travelling to a mall a week before here. Expect nothing more than your number bib pre race which will either be posted out or you can pick up on the race day.
3. Location, Location, Location
Singapore – Covering an area a little shy of 720km2, Singapore is a tiny dot compared to the 7.7M Km2 expanse of Australia. In fact the whole of South East Asia could comfortably sit within the island of Australia. There are no excuses in Singapore for not being able to travel to your destination by MRT, bus or taxi. The downside though is don't expect anything new scenery wise. You'll soon become very familiar with the paths of East Coast Park and roads around Marina Bay.
Australia – It's simple. You need a car or a plane. Whilst the major races are based in the city centres, smaller events can be located in remoter locations. The last run I did I travelled 300km, 3 hours away up a mountain for a 12km run. On a plus, with such a vast area to explore, you can be guaranteed to pick a race with brand new scenery every time.
4. The Early Bird
Singapore – With a climate that year round offers temperatures no lower than mid 20s and humidity in the high 80 to 90 per cent, starting a race before the sun has risen is the norm in Singapore. Set your alarm clocks early for that 5am start.
Australia – Whilst there are regions in Australia that certainly mirror the climate of Singapore, for the most part a more reasonable lie in is permitted. Look forward to a starting your race in the daylight in Australia and with generally cooler and more running conducive conditions.
5. Club Land
Singapore – Over the last few years, running clubs have been popping up and stamping their footprint in the training scene ranging from casual meet up groups to more professional fee based set ups with coaches and personalized plans in place.
Australia – Here too there are an array of coaching options and clubs to join. The biggest difference to Singapore is the number of dedicated clubs affiliated to the National Athletics body, Athletics Australia. In Australia, Athletics clubs in Australia have a long, established and successful history, many with Little Athletics clubs, nurturing youth through the ranks with distance running playing a prominent place. Cross country and track events are commonly held on weekends for club runners attracting a broad range of participants. This is in contrast to Singapore where there is a much smaller running athletics club scene.
6. Results on Time
Singapore – Depending on the race, results are generally available online within in a day or so of completion of the event. However if you want to see how you faired against the people who finished either side of you, you may be stuck. On the whole, most races give you access to your result only with no comparison against other competitors.
Australia – It's a little bit easier to compare where you finished in Australia with all results of all participants publicly listed.
7. No Frills Races
Singapore – It's not the prize of your finishing time that tempts many in Singapore. With an expectation of not only participating in a race but the memorabilia that goes along with the event, it can be challenging for smaller, no frills events to survive in such a competitive market. No Frills Run, MacRitchie and parkrun are examples of events and groups that are slowly making their mark on the local running landscape to compliment the larger commercial events.
Australia – Historically Australia has a strong community movement for free, local running events. Whilst there are a fair number of commercial, big budget events, what is taking Australia by storm right now is the boom in bare, bone, basic runs that encourage community participation rather than appeal to those looking to add some bling to their running medal collection. These pocket money events offer a great opportunity to complete a time trial, bag a PB and not pay the often obscene entrance fee.
8. Social Media Savvy
Singapore – Get your selfie sticks out and get ready to share your photos on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Whether it's posting your memories or your after race opinions, social media is increasingly an important tool to engage participants in running events in Singapore.
Australia – Whilst perhaps not to the same scale, Australia too has realized the importance of utilizing social media to involve participants and their supporters. Many larger races have real time tracking online and like Singapore are using Instagram and Twitter to encourage participants to share their race day experiences.
Singapore or Australia?
With cheap flights a plenty and time difference minimal, hoping over to experience the race scene overseas should be on the bucket list of every runner. Sharing new experiences and giving constructive feedback will ensure that the running scene, participants and races continue to improve which can only benefit us all in the long run (no pun intended).