This year, instead of single obstacles along the route, the obstacles for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon 2017 are grouped into four mega zones. Instead of a fixed route, participants have to navigate themselves to each of the mega zones in the specified sequence; this means everyone can choose their own route as long as they arrive at the obstacle zones in the correct sequence.
Despite the name, the race is open to both male and female. Prior to the race day, a race guide was published online, highlighting the locations of each zone and a brief explanation of the obstacles.
Before the Race
During registration, participants get to choose their preferred flag off timing, starting from 9:00 a.m. onwards. My race mates and I signed up for 3:00 p.m. flag off.
The weather had not been friendly on the race day, 4 March 2017. Rain poured heavily in the morning. At 10:00 a.m., organiser sent an SMS to alert participants that certain zones of the race may be closed due to wet weather. At the same time, there was also an announcement on their website and FB page stating that for participants who have yet to flag off, they may choose to flag off at a later time, or forego the race and collect medal with finisher towel from Information.
I arrived at Ngee Ann City, the start line, at 2:20 p.m. with anxiety thinking about whether my flag off time would be postponed or cancelled due to the inclement weather. Fortunately, the heavy rain slowly turned into a light one. Organiser announced that 3:00 p.m. flag off will go on as per scheduled. Relieved, we got ourselves ready for the race.
Obstacle Zone 1: Vertical Heights at Tanjong Pagar Centre
Right after we crossed the start line at Ngee Ann City, we were stunned for a moment. We didn’t know if we should run towards Somerset or Scotts Road. There were no other participants in front of us and behind us that we could follow. We hastily open Google Maps app on our phones and followed the recommended route to Tanjong Pagar Centre, passing through the bustling Somerset, the quiet Oxley Road, River Valley Road and Clarke Quay.
At some point in Clarke Quay, we followed a group of 5 in front of us. They looked confident, so we abandoned our Google Maps for a while. Suddenly the race felt like an episode of the Amazing Race show.
Eventually, we arrived at Tanjong Pagar Centre 40 mins after our flag off. After hydrating ourselves at the drink station, we went to tackle our first obstacle: run up 37 storeys in the Singapore’s tallest building.
Tired from the earlier run, I chose to walk up instead of running up. The strenuous race started to take its toll on me as I found myself dizzy and nauseous halfway through the climb. At 31st storey, I had to sit down and catch my breath for a few minutes before the final push to the top.
We were soon rewarded with an awesome view of Singapore cityscape at the top of Guoco Tower (office portion of Tanjong Pagar Centre). We spent some time resting and taking photos with the wordings on the glass wall that said, “I conquered 37 storeys of Tanjong Pagar Centre, Singapore’s Tallest Buildings!” We then took the lift down to the 1st storey and proceeded to the next zone.
Obstacle Zone 2: Road Block at MBFC
The journey from Tanjong Pagar Centre to MBFC was quite short and straight forward. After 1.3 km walk, we found ourselves at Obstacle Zone 2.
Zone 2 consists of 3 obstacles. We passed the first obstacle, Container Tread, smoothly. The second obstacle, Road Barricades, was quite challenging for me. We had to climb over a series of waist-high water barriers, scale shoulder-high metal barriers, and lastly climb over 2 nos of two-tiered metal barriers. The last part required me to seek help from the marshals.
The third obstacle in this zone was Tyre Ladder, which was manageable in my opinion. I really enjoyed this zone’s obstacles because they tested the limit of my fear and confidence.
Obstacle Zone 3: Maze Runner at Golden Landmark
This zone requires participants to go through a maze of obstacles. When you meet an obstacle, you can either attempt to do it or choose another way to avoid it. The three obstacles in this zone are Monkey Bar, Tyre Grab and Pole Traverse.
As I have zero upper body strength, I had no chance of completing any of the three obstacles. Luckily, there is a way to get out of the maze without having to pass a single obstacle. So, that’s what I did.
Obstacle Zone 4: The Urban Warrior at Ngee Ann City
The organiser surely saves the best for the last. The final zone is undoubtedly the toughest one. In Quad Steps, you need to hop on four angled boards without stepping on the ground. Then, in Peg Board, you use 2 wooden pegs by hand and traverse across the board.
To pass Horizontal Salmon Ladder, you have to raise the metal bar to the top of the 5-step ladder, without touching the ground. Finally, you have to run up 3.6m high Warped Wall to claim the title of Urban Warrior. Should you fail any of the first three obstacles, you will face a penalty of 40 push-ups.
The Warped Wall was closed due to the slippery floor condition. So, we were left with 3 obstacles. As expected, I didn’t complete any of the obstacles, so I did push-ups instead.
As we crossed the finish line, we were given a can of isotonic drink, finisher’s medal and finisher’s towel. Right on the left of the finish line was the Beer & Food section, where we rewarded ourselves with Singha beers and light bites from boxgreen.
Despite being battered and bruised, I truly enjoyed the race. The race challenges many aspects of a person, both physical and non-physical, such as endurance, strength, navigation skill, fear of height, social as well as problem-solving skill.
A lot of time during the running portion, we had to make various important decisions, such as whether to follow the group in front of us, because they may not know the correct route. Sometimes, Google Maps led us wrongly by telling us to cross the road where there is no zebra crossing, so we had to come up with alternative ways to reach our destination. I actually love how the race challenges me in ways I didn’t expect before.
Rooms for Improvement
Many participants, including my friend, didn’t get the instruction right. The race guide said that the race involves free-form running where participants create their own route to the 4 locations, to attempt the obstacle zones in this sequence. Probably they missed out the last part. They presumed they could choose which zone to visit first.
When they arrived at zone 3, they were told to return to zone 1. Some were frustrated and decided to quit the race. The organiser probably should have rephrased the sentence to make it clearer to participants that the sequence of obstacles is fixed, only the route is flexible.
Another observation I made is that some obstacles are not suitable for short people, such as Peg Board and Monkey Bar. As a short person, I think I could pass Peg Board if it were lower. It would be good if the height of obstacles were adjustable to suit shorter participants.
- The race consists of approximately 12 km run and 4 obstacle zones. The running route is not fixed, participants have to make their own way to the obstacle zones in the correct sequence, from 1 to 4.
- Drink stations were available at every obstacle zones, providing participants with water and isotonic drink.
- The marshals were very friendly, helpful and supportive. Some went the extra mile to help participants pass the obstacles. Participants’ welfare and safety were well taken care of.
- Participants have to complete the whole run and obstacles in 150 mins in order to be qualified as a finisher.