I wasn’t in it for the glory, the fame or the prizes when I signed up for the Salomon X-Trail Run on 4th November. I registered because I’ve learned that it’s critical to stare fear in the face, so despite the challenge of a new venue, my recovering knees and a landmark number of participants, I showed up at the Bukit Timah Railway Station early enough to gather my thoughts and tamp down my fears.
The flag off
The race pack collection on the race day was a breeze and I was at the second wave of runners flagging off at 4.15 p.m. as our pack of runners set off to conquer the new route. The weather was hot but bearable as the surrounding trees compensate for it.
What an amazing variety of territory we covered! Race organisers promised and delivered undulating slopes plus forested areas, grassland, gravel trails, sandy stretches and even deep encounters of the muddy kind. I pushed on ready to deal with anything Mother Nature (and the organisers) threw my way.
Helpful marshals stationed at regular intervals pointed me in the right direction as I plundered a route elite runners in my wave found daunting. I noticed construction along the route and wondered if this amazing trail was going to be extended to make it even more challenging.
If I didn’t appreciate volunteers before 4th November, that changed big time. I can’t tell you how welcoming those smiling, encouraging people were as they did everything possible to address our needs—even stopping traffic to help us cross the road like a string of ducklings following our mum!
The race logistic
As someone who tends to rail at messy rest points, I was delighted to find adequate water and rubbish bins at 3km, 5km and 7km intervals. Even portable toilets were sufficient. Miracle. No tripping over paper cups for me or my fellow runners, either.
Was it a perfect race? I don’t think there is such a thing. We struggled, cursed and laughed plunging through muddy grass, only to wind up with wet, muddy shoes that plagued us to the end. Did I have an incident-free experience? Not exactly.
I traded my remaining fear in for around 5km of pain when my soggy shoes and painful knee joints exerted influence on my pace. I assumed this was caused by the uneven terrain and I was forced to slow down a bit.
My story has a happy ending. I finished the Salomon X-Trail Run despite enduring soggy and muddy running shoes, fatigue and sore knee joints that throbbed uncomfortably by the time I arrived at the finish line to claim my finisher’s medal (and much-needed bananas and Lucozade Sport isotonic can drinks).
What I have learned after the Salomon X-Trail Run
Absent the fear I had brought with me, I gazed at fellow exhausted runners—amazed to see the differences in age and fitness levels as we hobbled collectively past that finish line. What did I learn on that fall day? Lots. And I’d love to share with you the 10 most important lessons.
- Fear is a great motivator. I turned that energy into action and soon I began to realise that I felt fearless.
- I never realised how critical warming up can be. Getting cramps was a lesson I won’t soon forget.
- It’s easy to overestimate a race route. Veterans check it out beforehand. I will do just that next time around.
- Warned by friends about dehydration risks, I drank a lot of water beforehand.
- For some reason, I thought that “any running shoes will do” for the Salomon. As a consequence, trying to tackle the harrowing gravel/railway track sections nearly caused injuries to my legs and joints.
- Carrying a cell phone is essential. I didn’t have to use mine, but it gave me peace of mind to know I had it.
- Prepare for all weather possibilities and approaching darkness by bringing illumination and drinking water.
- Bringing along a trail running backpack is a wise move. I say this as someone who didn’t! Watching other runners retrieve water, gels and energy bars from theirs, I added one of these accessories to my wish list.
- Being out in nature was surreal. My fear was long gone and it felt like the trees, the air and even the clouds were pushing me forward. It was like they were saying, “You can do it!” Even the thunderstorm that broke out after the race felt like a gift. I was dirty. Exhausted. Triumphant!
- As an homage to this race—and the company that taught me so much about myself—as soon as I recovered, I decided to get a pair of Salomon SpeedCross 4 shoes to my gear so I don’t wind up lame next time I do a trail run.
Did I feel different after this race? You bet. I came to realise that there’s something about having conquered fear, time, space and distance while meeting ongoing challenges that builds character, self-confidence and yes, self-pride.
- The flag off timing was spot on at 4 p.m – 4.15 p.m., any time later will risk getting into darkness for slower participants.
- The race route definitely seems longer than 10 km.
- Marshall and volunteers are poilte, encouraging and helpful.
- The several twists and turns, slopes and uneven terrain make the run challenging and dangerous at times.
- A well organised race, race emcee was lively and presentations and lucky draw was held early.