The first Sunday of December heralded the biggest running event of the year – the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014! This was my sixth consecutive year participating in Standard Chartered Marathon ever since it marked my first full marathon in 2009. As usual, I had trouble falling asleep the prior night due to the pre-race jitters and yet, immense anticipation to lace up my running shoes.
It was a beautiful sight at Orchard Road with the glistening lights of the Christmas decorations looming over the sea of blues at the familiar starting line. First in line were the Kenyan and Ethiopian elite runners who were all ready to dash. The hovering helium balloons and bright neon gears complemented the infectious laughter and high spirits of the official pacers from the Running Department. These are the crew whom I have been training with on Saturday mornings that made long distance runs seem so much shorter.
Coloured Wristbands for Community Bonding
On my wrist were my trusty Garmin watch, a 4:30 hour pace band, and the yellow community wristband. This year, coloured wristbands were slotted into the race packs for fun rivalry amongst the respective communities (North, West, North East, East and Central). This means that you can immediately identify your neighbour based on the colour of their wristband!
After being stuck for thirty minutes at the baggage deposit counter, I hastened anxiously to the starting pen of the Full Marathon which was located outside the Mandarin Gallery. This was my first time depositing my items and I made a mental note to reach at least an hour earlier in future. At 5.25am, it was finally my turn to be flagged off.
Only upon crossing the starting line did I feel slightly more relaxed and tucked all the nervousness and sleepiness to the back of my mind. Jogging through the human crowd at a comfortable pace, I told myself to stick to my race plan to finish strong by persevering till the event split. The morning breeze on my face cooled my sweat down while I feasted my eyes on the picturesque city scenery that took me through the distance with a smile.
As I continued running, I quenched myself at the hydration stations which were manned by friendly volunteers. The adequate and strategically located water-points were my energy-boosters and small milestones that kept me motivated throughout the run. I was delighted to finally spot the colourful balloons and catch up with the energetic pacers. These are the selfless ones who have pushed the runners forward towards their desired timings with their blasting music, loud cheers and encouragement.
Revised Route to Reduce Congestion
The revised route this year was a pleasant surprise and I definitely did not mind the opportunities to take in the magnificent sights around the Sports Hub. Besides that, the amendments to the race route were targeted to reduce congestion especially at the last 3km which was traditionally a bottleneck concern in previous years. The Half-Marathon runners now get off the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) via Robinson Road at 18km, effectively separating from the Marathon and 10km runners.
The easy first-half of the race flew by and soon, we entered the familiar East Coast Park which many have a love-hate relationship for. The gorgeous sunrise distracted me from the U-turns and monotonous flat route stretch. It was a heart-warming sight with runners offering their cheers for the elites and top local runners who were pounding effortlessly on the right pavement. I was enjoying myself so far while keeping check of my pace against the useful pace band that was offered at the race expo.
My stomach started to growl after the 25km mark and I started to look out for the bananas booths but it was in vain. It didn’t help that I missed the first gel station as well. Coke and oranges slices that were offered at the unofficial stations by generous volunteers were the best things I have sunk my teeth into that morning.
Merciless Heat was a Real Challenge
The blistering heat and lack of trees ahead were the real challenge and showed no mercy at all with the sun sapping all my remaining energy. Most of the runners around me started to walk while some stopped to stretch or sought for muscle rubs from the race volunteers. At the 30km mark, I started to slow down my pace with the race getting increasingly arduous. To beat the heat, the only thing I could do was to keep running towards the ending point and resist all urge to walk or give up. A step forward means a step less to walk.
“It’s not 42km, it’s just a 1km x 42 times.”
The quotes on every distance marker contributed by the running community were what kept me going. I was determined not to give up and was simply thankful that there were no cramps or aches in my legs at that point in time. As I hit 35km, I realised that my timing was 15 minutes slower than the targeted time and decided on aiming for a sub 5 instead.
It was a constant cycle of wallowing in self-pity at certain points and then continuously persuading my mind that the finishing line was just ahead. While struggling with the scorching heat, I managed to continue running till the 38km mark. The upslope at the Benjamin Sheares Bridge was not a welcoming sight and I decided to just drag my weary legs up before the final home stretch. And true enough, there were no bottlenecks at all due to the new diverted route.
I couldn’t agree more when a fellow runner beside me remarked,
“This seems like the longest 42km ever!”
This was not the time to give up, we were so close to completing this arduous marathon! The loud music at the finishing line spurred me on and I picked up my pace towards the finishing line.
“You are a finisher!”
With open arms, I ran past the finishing line with all the remaining energy I had in my aching legs. That was the best feeling that morning! I did it, with my grit and aching legs!
Time check: my watch displayed 4hr 49min. No personal best time achieved this round but still, I am proud of myself for pulling through the tough race and braving the broiling sun that morning.
The medals and isotonic drinks collection went by smoothly though I was disappointed by the lack of energy food. Also, the baggage deposit collection for the full-marathoners was at least 2km away, something which could be looked into next year.
Overall, it was a well-organised race that morning to end my running calendar on a high. This race also marks my tenth marathon and once again, I’m humbled by the distance and all the external factors that make victory so bittersweet. I will definitely be back for next year’s edition!
- Diverse categories to suit different age groups
- Coloured wristbands for bonding among various communities
- Revised race route to tackle last year’s congestion issue
- Enthusiastic and motivating pacers to spur the runners on
- Merciless heat was the real challenge during the race
- Sufficient and strategically located water points