The HomeTeamNS New Balance Real Run 2012 is organised by the very people that keep our country safe from within. So naturally, they are painstakingly familiar with the cross-terrain running options our sunny island offers.

At 5:30am, Changi Exhibition Centre was packing up with activity. Runners were engaged in their pre-race routines, others were busy snapping up a storm, and contingents of SCDF and Police recruits gathered in neat squares lining the event perimeter. The start line of the 21km race category featured serious leg muscles and strong determined looks.

The 21km race was flagged off at 6:30am. Runners shot past a sign that said, “The ultimate cross terrain challenge.” Pavement flowed steadily for a few hundred metres to a steel fence marking the beginning of sand. Compacted was the choice of most runners, with small bumps and puddles featuring heavily on this leg of the race. Past the two-kilometre mark, sand spun to gravel and runners started to feel the bane of shifting ground.

The spur of dim light in the heavy blanket of sky was beautiful. Forest on the left and the calm morning road on the right, one would forget that they were in a race. After all, “Running is 90% mental, 100% real,” as the organisers claim. Other than the obvious lack of proportion, the mantra was well maintained with the dreaded Changi Coast Road. A dream to cyclists and race car enthusiast, this line of road lends great terrors to one’s mental fortitude. Imagine road disappearing into the still morning fog no matter how hard you squint. With no landmark in sight, your only measurable judge of distance is the road you have left behind.

The magnificent U-turn came just before the ten-kilometre marker. From pavement to road, runners started to feel the toll. A great pick up were planes lifting off into the sky! “Should such giant mechanical birds not be grounded, why then should we?” This was, possibly, the most popular thought on that stretch of seemingly endless tar.

21km runners and 10km runners converged at a T-junction just past the fourteen-kilometre mark. 10km runners were merrily making their way back while the 21km runners sped on past the Changi Logistics Park. “Beach!” the sign shouted as the stream of runners poured on the shores of Changi. Swapping road for sandy whites, many started to walk.

Though the beach incline did discourage a few, many took comfort in the fact that they only had three more kilometres to go! Past road and a massive car park, the end gantry called all Real Runners home.

The weather was perfect and the route fantastic. With 6,500 registrants and all the space to run, HomeTeamNS – New Balance REAL Run 2012 offered a challenge no other race could on 21 October 2012.

Kegan Tan

Run. Review. Repeat.

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