On Saturday, 19 August 2017, thousands of runners gathered at The Promontory @ Marina Bay for Mizuno Ekiden 2017, a relay-style long distance running that focuses on Japanese values, such as perseverance, teamwork and high performance.
Each team consists of 4 runners. The first runner is flagged off while wearing a traditional Tasuki sash. At the end of the first leg, he/she will pass the sash to the second runner at the transition area. This procedure will continue until the fourth runner crosses the finish line.
Teams may choose to sign up for either 42.195km or 21.1km. My teammates and I signed up for 42.195km, which means that each of us has to run a distance of 10.5km. We named our team MM SpeedRunners. And I volunteered to be the first runner.
The event site, The Promontory @ Marina Bay, is quite accessible by public transport. It’s within walking distance from Raffles Place MRT, Downtown MRT, as well as Bayfront MRT.
When I arrived at the race village, the atmosphere was lively. Groups, big and small, were taking photos, chit-chatting, joking and laughing. The start pen was easy to locate as there were signages pointing to the start pen. Ten minutes before the flag off, I wore the Tasuki sash, said goodbye to my teammates and headed to the start pen.
The emcee was hilarious. As he reminded runners to keep left when running slowly, he played a sound clip, “to the left, to the left” from Beyonce’s Irreplaceable song. The flag off for first runners was done in 2 waves. I belonged to the second wave which was flagged off a few minutes after the first wave.
42.195km Ekiden Race
The race started from The Promontory towards Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and eventually Gardens by the Bay (East).
Even though it looked like it was going to rain prior to the flag off, the weather got better as the race started. It was mostly bright and hot throughout my leg of the relay. It was good and bad for me; good because I could take bright photos, bad because it made me thirsty much earlier than I would’ve liked.
As I started running, I felt my sash sliding down my left shoulder. I tried to make another knot to shorten the sash, and the situation improved a little bit. Other runners were a bunch of creative people; they wrapped the sash around their wrist, wore it like a belt, squeezed it with the palm, wore it like a medal; there were just so many different ways of wearing the sash!
There was a total of 4 hydration stations along the race route: near Helix Bridge, at Marina Barrage and at Gardens by the Bay (East) near the U-turn, and just before the transition area. All stations provided both water and Lucozade isotonic drinks.
The refill was done well, and the quantity of cup was more than adequate. In my opinion, the distance between Marina Barrage and U-turn hydration points were quite far apart, but I understood that the organiser wanted to avoid bottlenecks and place the stations under shade.
As there were no road closures, runners had to share running paths with members of the public. Volunteers were doing a great job in controlling human traffic. The final portion of the race, from Esplanade to the transition area was quite crowded with pedestrians and cyclists, but it was still possible to run at a slightly reduced pace.
I sent messages at 8km and 9km to alert the second runner of my team. Shortly after I passed 9km mark, she replied that she’s waiting at the transition area. Suddenly I felt the rush to run fast as I didn’t want to keep her waiting for too long. I sprinted to the transition area and handed over the sash to her at around 6 p.m. Then, I proceeded to collect a can of Lucozade and mineral water at the exit of the transition area.
While waiting for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th runner to complete the race, I wandered around race village to soak in the race atmosphere. Near the exit of the transition area, volunteers were distributing cups of water and Lucozade, as well as Amino Vital energy jelly.
There is a giant inflatable balloon of Mizuno shoe at the centre of the race village, great for selfies and group photos. Other photo opportunities include a mini finish line gantry, event signboard, as well as Marina Bay Sands in the background.
The Matsuri Race Village saw plenty of delicious F&B stalls, such as Tonkotsu King Ramen, Watanabe Coffee, Asanoya Bakery and Queen Takoyaki. Tonkotsu King appeared to be pretty popular among the participants; there was a long queue for the much-loved ramen. The payment of food and drink is done with EZ-Link for convenience, cash is not accepted.
There were also games booths as well as Mizuno merchandise booth at the race village. The organiser provided a huge seating area decorated with fairy lights for runners to rest while waiting for the rest of the teammates and to enjoy the food and beverages. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough seats for everyone, my teammates and I weren’t lucky enough to find a vacant table until around 8 p.m.
Towards the end of the day, certain parts of the grass field in race village became wet and muddy, including the seating area, so we had to be extra careful when walking around the race village. Our final runner crossed the finish line at about 10 p.m. and collected the unique puzzle medals. Though our race ended late, it was a memorable event for all of us.
What I Like About Ekiden
The Mizuno Ekiden 2017 is the first ekiden for all the members of our team. Neither of us participated in an ekiden or a relay race before. I like the way ekiden forces me to speed up because I don’t want to keep my teammates waiting for too long. My teammates share the same opinion as me.
In an individual race, we run to beat our own record and we often cut ourselves some slack. But in ekiden, it’s a team run so there’s a pressure to do our best and push our limit. We definitely love to participate in the Mizuno Ekiden 2018!
- The race is well-organised. It has sufficient signages and road marshals.
- The race pack and on-site support are generous.
- The F&B stalls are yummilicious.
- The race is nicely executed with a smooth transition, skilful traffic control and attentive road marshals.
- The view along the route is scenic and the weather was great from the second leg onwards.