Have You Heard of The Voice of Singapore’s Running Events?
His voice is music to runners' ears.
Jerald Justin may only be 28-years-old, but the man’s something of a Singapore legend despite his youthful age. If you’ve been on hand when he emcees a running event, you know he’s not a dude who goes unnoticed. His distinctive voice is his trump card and fate has taken him to a career that’s nothing short of fabulous. How much fun was it to interview him? How much time do you have?
RS: We see you most often when you emcee running events and we’re curious: is this your full-time gig or do you do something else when you’re not at athletic events?
JJ: When I’m not doing my best to motivate runners from behind the microphone, I’m on the air every weekday morning @ Power 98FM, hosting the Power Breakfast Show. I’m up bright and early every morning to do my radio show from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. You might also spot me at events, roadshows held to promote car brands, household necessities, banks, sports gear and more. I also do D&Ds, carnivals, product launches, MINDEF/SAF events, corporate events and NDP. Give me a minute and I think I can come up with more!
RS: When do you sleep? Seriously, how many running and commercial events do you host per year?
JK: On average, there are between 80 and 100 events on my calendar every year. The mix is eclectic; between 15 and 25 running/sports events and the rest of the list is made up of all sorts of appearances, some of which are huge and others are small and intimate, so things never get boring.
RS: You have such a distinct voice, Singapore runners need hear only one word from your lips to ID you. Is this the reason you chose to become an emcee?
JK: Looking back, falling into my career was serendipitous because it happened by chance. I was lucky enough to have been "arrowed" by my teacher to host the Teacher's Day Celebrations when I was in Secondary Two. I realized that this came naturally to me, so it made sense to think about hosting as a career and I’ve used my voice to announce events since then. I even hosted events as "extra duty" when I was a medical instructor in the NS for my unit.
RS: How did you start doing running events?
JK: A university friend worked for a battery company that staged trail races. They needed an emcee and next thing I knew, I had been roped into being that announcer. I often refer to this bit of luck as my big break because that’s where and how I met Pink Apple, one of Singapore’s biggest race organisers. I still have to shake myself when I realize how much luck I’ve had over the past five years. To be honest, just breathing the same air as some of the great runners I meet is enough to energize me. #high
RS: Do you ever get out from behind your microphone, put on running shoes and compete?
JK: I did. Before my knee gave out on me, I ran 5-to-10km distances four days a week, but three knee injuries (Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Medial collateral ligament (MCL), and a whole host of problems!) sidelined me by 2009, though running wasn’t the culprit! I owe those injuries to my impatient and old football injuries. These days, if anyone asks, I give runners who injure themselves unsolicited advice: Don’t rush back into the fray until you’re completely healed or you’ll regret it big time.
JK: I’m going to risk sounding cheesy, but in my humble opinion, every event is a memorable one because each is distinct, new and exciting. Just taking the stage is a huge blessing and I don’t take anything for granted. I try to remind myself how lucky I am every time I emcee, because part of my job is to motivate huge numbers of runners at one go, ensuring a timely flag off, safety and (hopefully) lots of participants clinching personal bests and satisfaction with the event.
RS: Nice diplomatic answer, but we want specifics! What running event(s) stand out?
JK: Since you insist, I’ll describe five memories that I'll never be able to erase.
The first was the 2012 NIKE WE Run SG. As the sun rose over the horizon, excitement was palpable. I stood looking across the Esplanade Bridge awaiting 20,000 runners decked out in dark red NIKE tops. Because of the way the bridge is designed, heads appeared on the horizon first, then bodies came into view like regiments of soldiers. Finally, 40,000 legs appeared! I swear, it was like watching a scene out of Lord of the Rings. Absolutely jaw dropping.
RS: Are you saying that other events can compete with that image?
JK: [laughs] I am. The 2014 Sentosa Gateway HELLO KITTY RUN was a rush. Imagine 20,000 grown adults laughing and cheering when Hello Kitty flagged them off. I wanted to take credit for the moment, but I’m afraid the iconic cartoon cat triggered the applause.
That same year, I worked the North Face 2014. It was memorable because I not only emceed but tagged along with a camera crew hosting video reports at checkpoints, in addition to flagging off the 100km, 50km, 25km, 15km and 10km races. There was magic in the air that day and I likely remember it also because we worked 17 hours non-stop.
RS: Okay, you owe us two more.
JK: For sheer joy, nothing competes with the Energizer Night Trail where mummies and daddies from all walks of life hold their kid's hands while tackling the obstacle course! The ENST is one of the most tiring events ever for a host as I was on duty from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.+ Long day with literally hundreds of flag offs since starts came in waves.
Finally, I’ll add the Newton Challenge, not necessarily for the race itself but for the carnival after the race. In my opinion, the race has the best welfare. Imagine this: everywhere you look, there’s food! Subway. Subway, Nasi Lemak, Ice Cream, Tau Hway and heaps more... Plus lucky draw MacBook and iPad. Watching runners kick back and refuel their spent bodies is always a hoot.
RS: Does that mean you joined them and indulged your taste buds even though you didn’t run?
JK: What do you think?
RS: What type of information do you need before hosting a running event?
JK: Every event is unique. I meet with clients and event organisers before the race to get details on how the program will flow; discuss specifics like flag off times, which VIPs will attend, where they want me to be and how many prizes will be awarded. I must know emergency and crisis plans, too. Afterward, organisers e-mail me draft program versions until it’s firmed up. Of course, there are always changes on race day; ALWAYS!
RS: Sounds pretty easy!
JK: It always looks that way because part of my job is making sure the event seems effortless. To make sure I’ve got the schedule right, I resize the program on the night before (usually 2 hours), inserting fun facts and anecdotes, to make my own cue cards so I know everything like the back of my hand.
JK: Lost child is a common one, as in “Can you help me find my friend?” Don’t laugh, but marriage proposals are very trendy at marathons these days. I’ve witnessed five and it's always sweet to give a shout out to the couple. So far, every girl has said yes. (Thankfully haven't seen a girl say no yet!)
RS: What’s the most difficult part of hosting a running event?
JK: Dealing with complaints. Crises are bound to arise in any event, and since we’re on the stage, we get the brunt of frustrations (from delayed flag offs due to debris/obstacles on the running routes to lack of medals due to theft or staggered flag offs due to over crowding). I spend a lot of time apologizing, because these frustrations can affect thousands of people, not just one or two.
RS: What’s the most dramatic crisis you recall?
JK: The day runners started stealing medals (cute ones I must say) - and not just a few, but boxes and boxes. They pushed aside race marshals and helped themselves. Obviously, we had to stop the medal distribution temporarily, but it was a scary scenario: Grown men and women screaming at me at the top of their lungs; some getting physical, not understanding the situation or dilemma. So yes, as a host we have to rise above the black clouds, adapt to changes that happen on the fly, be informed of the latest developments real time, explain and share the information in the most easily digestible way possible. We have to be prepared for anything!
RS: What advice would you give those who want to follow in your footsteps?
JK: Don't be a diva; there are so many emcees who walk on air and fart roses. It’s important to be part of the audience and soak up the experience. Communicate with the audience and don’t be afraid to conduct short interviews. My favourite is conducting LIVE chats with happy race goers - and, oh yes... always smile, no matter what happens.
RS: Nothing’s worse than silence during a race - is there such a thing as emcee’s block? What do you do?
JK: Happily, I can’t relate to this because it hasn’t happened to me. It's my daily KPI to talk non stop on air. Jokes aside though, it’s a matter of confidence. I do so much research, I never run out of things to talk about in front of the microphone. I usually Google, read up, watch videos, and just scour through social media before any event I'm hosting to get a feel of the theme/day/expectations. Find out what people are most likely to be talking about, the background of the VIPs, the sponsors, the hot girls who'll be there on event day (HAHA) and so much more.
Actually, I think we could apply this to all aspects of our lives and jobs. Research is the secret to success.
RS: In addition to 2016 running events, where else can we find you?
JK: I’ll be doing tons of events and road shows, but if you tune in to Power 98FM every Monday through Friday mornings on your way to work you can hear me! For those into social media, follow me at snapchat @JeraldJustin or Instagram @Power98JK. One more note: Happy Running, Readers. May you surpass your PBs with gusto in 2016!
Despite being a well-known personality, Jerald Justin is funny, kind and real. If you had the chance to have lunch with him, what’s the one question (no holds barred) you would ask him to answer? STANDBY! GET READY GET READY!