Review: Sundown Marathon 2018 (Half-Marathon)

One week ago, I was getting myself geared up for my second race this year. I didn’t have much expectation this year after the poor organisation last year. Despite that, I joined out of habit. I mean it’ll be weird if I don’t take part in the night race that I’ve been a part of since 2016. There ain’t many night race here in Singapore to begin with.

However, by the time I concluded the race, I knew that Sundown is so much better than the one last year.

Race Entry Pack Collection

Race Entry Pack Collection (REPC) might only be an occasion organised for participants to collect their bibs and tags, as well as to get their hands on to some goodies put together by the sponsors. However, to me, the REPC serves as an indication of how well the entire race would be organised. You know, the first impression counts.

Compared to the chaos of last year’s, this year the organiser has made some major adjustments. First, the collection point is no longer at an open area, they brought it indoors. I could still remember how we were forced to queue under the sun at F1 Pit last year while wondering how long more would it take before our turn. This year, they broke the collection into two parts. Participants collect their bibs from outside Suntec City before going to the mall to grab the race singlet and the goodie bags.

It was surprisingly fast. The entire process took less than 15 minutes. The queue was cleared quickly before it became a long-winding snake. To make it more impressive, I was there on a Friday evening.

After I collected my goodie bag, I thought to myself: This year’s Sundown is going to be a whole new experience.

The Lead-Up & Trainings

The organisers put in place 3 lead-up runs to prepare the runners for the race. These include 12KM/22KM, 14KM/27KM and 19KM/30KM over three weekends. I wasn’t able to join for the first two runs because of personal commitments, but glad that I was able to set aside some time for the last lead-up. I must admit I was rather excited to go for my first official lead-up run despite having to run the race since 2016.

TOGETHER WE TRAIN: Running with pacers from Team FatBird provides me with a whole new experience. (Image: Team FatBird)

It was during the evening of 21st April, slightly after the afternoon drizzle. Every participant made their way to the OCBC Arena and everyone was feeling energised. I wasn’t that sure if I was ready for a 19km because I hasn’t been training that frequently compared to the race last year. But well… Since I was there, might as well give it my all. I mean, the race was due to flag off in another few weeks times. There was no better time than that.

I remembered I started well, even going on par with the pacer for the 30KM run (that’s for the Full Marathon runners). For a good 5km, I was ahead of everyone. Then slowly, I fell back and by the time I went for my toilet break at around 6km, I lost the sight of the running contingent. I eventually just OTOT all the way to East Coast Lagoon Food Centre before heading back to OCBC Arena.

It was a good run. The hydration points along the route served as an extra motivation for me to complete my training. The 19KM runners were entitled to a hydration point along the route somewhere around Parkland Green. It gave me an opportunity to hydrate myself and take a breather after trying to outpace a girl who appears to have an optimal running economy. I went on to try and outpace two fit uncles after the break. Well, I guess running with a group does have its perks.

Sleep Can Wait

The big night is here! Like I’ve said previously, I expected this year’s race to be a whole new experience. I am not far from the fact before I reached the race venue. For the first time in my three years of participation in Sundown, I was on the verge of running alone. It was not until when Charmaine told me that she was also running.

We met up at Promenade MRT at around 2230 before making our way to the 7-11 at Marina Square so that our little one can get her fuel. We slowly walked to the race village where the containers of last year were replaced by tentage, freeing up so much space for the large crowd to enter and even take group photos.

The organisers succumbed to the fact that fancy exhibition idea is not feasible under the constraint of spaces. They heard the complaints and made the amendments this year. Well done!

But there was one thing we suspected they might have screwed up. The pen allocation. Charmz and I had no idea why we were being allocated to Pen A, if the pen was supposedly for participants who were able to complete the course within 2 hours. Although I was running with my Adidas Sub-2, that doesn’t equate to the fact that I was able to run my race in 2 hours – especially not when I didn’t have enough proper trainings leading up to the big night.

Even if they screwed up our pen allocations, it was a beautiful one. We were entitled to a rather spacious starting pen and since we were being thrown to the front, ahead of the masses, we were given a clear view of the starting point and all the entertainment that was happening. For the first time, we were able to join in for a warm-up session – conducted by TripleFit. After we stretched some muscles, we were ready for the flag-off.

It was a race that I personally would not be proud of. I’ve let down such a well-organised race. On the night that, despite not as fit as I was during last year’s edition, I was expecting to beat my previous records, I succumbed to my intestinal health. I spent at least half of the race going around looking for the washroom. It’s definitely not fun having the urge to go to the washroom during your run. It’s worse when you had to go twice.

It still bugs me why my stomach worked up every time during a long-distance. Charmz told me that it might because of me and my spicy diet. I had to agree. I couldn’t live a day without taking something spicy, even until race day. Look like I have to review my diet for my next race.

Given that we were thrown into the first pen, there was no obstacle for us. No roadblock, no bottleneck, everything was just as smooth. If I had been last year, I guess I’ll be able to speed past the first 5km below 28mins.

Talking about timing, I need to commend Sundown for having this phone app this year. The Sundown App allows whoever who are interested to track the performance of the runners. I basically use it to track myself and Charmz. It would give notification whenever the person you are following past the different milestone. The only downside to this app was that it didn’t manage to tag the correct photos of me. Oops.

You can clearly see the amount I spent at my second toilet break before the 19km mark. Terrible. I was still telling Charmz that my aim was to not go for any toilet break while we were at the starting pen. Ah well. No point crying over poor pre-race strategy.

2 hours and 51mins after we set out for the race, I finally crossed the finishing line. There were regrets for me, the stage was set but I didn’t perform. Disappointing, but thank God that I was finally done with the race.

Charmz was already waiting for my at the race village. She was sitting down doing her post-run stretch when I found her near our bag collection area. We lepaked on the pavement, cooled ourselves down and did some catching up.

While this marked the last paid-run for her, it will be a while before I take part in my next race – yes, I will not be taking part in this year’s Army Half Marathon.

Letter to Chairman Kim Jong Un

His Excellency
Kim Jong Un
Chairman of State Affairs Commission of the Democratic Republic of Korea
Pyongyang

Dear Mr. Chairman,

We greatly appreciate your time, patience and effort in wanting to ease tensions between DPRK and Republic of Korea, or what many refers to as the ‘Evil’ and ‘Good’ Korea. In all due respect, it might be because that you look just like a bubbly evil character out of a fairy tale. In fact, the World, and the United States in particular, believes strongly that you are living in a utopia created by your grandfather.

Nevertheless, I applaud you for all the gesture of goodwill you’ve done, from introducing the world to the VX nerve agent demolishing the Punggye-Ri Nuclear Test Site, sharing a gay moment with meeting South’s leader Moon Jae-In at the DMZ to crossing fires negotiating with erratic US leader Donald Trump.

It is a disappointment that the scheduled summit between you and Trump three weeks later in Singapore will not be happening. At least that’s what that orange man said for now. Oh and please, Chairman, if you ever get to meet this old man, please advice him on the kind of hairstyle that suits him more than his current one. Your state has the record of offering a much more acceptable hairstyle than the rest of the world could offer.

STYLE ADVISOR: Maybe you should bring this as a gift for Trump. (Image: NK News)

As what Trump has written in his letter to you – although I doubt he was the one who pens it, it looks more like what a spoilt bret wrote when his peers refuses to play with him, the way he wants it –  that “the world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth”. In his defence, it was not an easy decision he has made. I am sure that he has contemplated about the any plausible outcome, but fret not, this is not the first time he has been being uncertain. He is on and off, and on and off, and on and off and… You get me. No rewards for guessing how he is a two-time divorcee.

I guess it will be inappropriate for me to carry on with this topic. It is a shame we wouldn’t get to see you making a cameo appearance in the latest episode of the Fox News reality series ‘Trumps in the White House’. I thought it will be nice to have two humpy dumpys heavyweight world leaders walking down the foyer of Shangri-La, snapped by hundreds of camera sets and swarmed by thousands of journalists from all over the world. The world lost the opportunity.

Despite that, I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, to visit Singapore despite the cancellation of the summit. There are many case studies in which you and your delegation would be very much interested in.

First, allow me to introduce Singapore. Singapore is an island-state located in the southern-most tip of the Malay Peninsular. No, we are no where near your favourite ally China although you can still see much of their people around – with their distinctive style of speaking as compare to the locals. No, we are no where near the country where their leader idolises you, although you could find them serving in most of the service-related positions. And no, we are no where near the country you hated the most despite American wannabes tried their best to put on that accent. We always consider ourselves ‘neutral and principled‘.

We have a political system that you would find familiar. In North Korea, I understand that the Chairmanship is hereditary. In Singapore, we are about the same – or at least we’ve accustomed to the fact that the Prime Ministership will somehow be delegated to someone belonging to the same family as if it was a family business. While your system invites scrutiny from the international community, especially the west, for being an absolute dictatorship (mind my language), we did it via proper channel, something called elections (the westerners loved it a lot, I can assure you). We could advice you on how to throw in some ‘democracy’ and ‘meritocracy’ to make all your political doings as legitimate.

KEEP YOUR ALLIES CLOSE, YOUR FAMILY CLOSER: We build a family country, in the name of meritocracy. (Image: Jess C Scott)

I understand that the West has been pressurising you to open up to freedom of expression within your borders. In Singapore, we give people freedom of expression. We are such an advocate of it that we even designate a place in our land-scarce island for our citizens to express themselves – whether it is about their displeasure towards government policies or to disrupt a charity event for special needs children. Yet, the famous and biggest event held there was an annual carnival for love and sex equality. North Korea might like to adopt this idea and build your own variant of a ‘protest’ site back in Pyongyang. I am sure this will help reduce tensions between your countries and the rest of the human rights-loving international community. We would be glad to offer advice on how your government can go about with the terms and conditions of using the designated site.

FREE THE VOICES: North Korea could build their own Hong Lim Park back at home. (Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

I heard you have a metro system right at the heart of Pyongyang. We have a metro system too, only that we expanded it too frequent and too much to the point that a few stations are within walkable distance from each other. Minister of Railways Jang Hyok would be very much interested in getting introduced to the fastest way to transport your citizens yet slow enough to prevent them from thinking of escaping out of your country. You can probably learn how to promote your military generals to head the metro system.

Another reason for you to visit Singapore is that we will not rush you towards denuclearisation. In fact, we will never rush anyone into anything unless we are talking about CPF or anything bill related. One reason is that, unlike the US, we do not possess any nuclear weapons ‘so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used’. The only time ‘nuclear power’ was brought up was on the Opinion section of the Straits Times – something like your Rodong Sinmun, but more satirical to the public.

While you are on the visit to our beautiful island, it might be able to invite you to a rehearsal for our annual National Day Parade. It looks exactly like the parade you have back home during the Day of the Foundation of the Republic, just without the nuclear weapons. Maybe we can exchange a few tips on how to enhance the attendees’ experience of our respective parades.

Looking forward to your visit. I am sure you will feel at home here.

Sincerely Yours (definitely more sincere than your previous letters),
-insert illegible scribblings-
Eddy Chua
Your Unofficial Guide to Singapore

Final Curtain Call: Thespian 2018

As Serangoon JC (SRJC) heads into its final year of existence, with its merger with Anderson JC looming around the corner, SR Drama has showcased their final Thespian performance in front of a sold-out crowd on 12 April, 2018.

It was a bittersweet event for me, as I booked out immediately from camp and rushed my way down to show my support to this final batch of SR Dramateers. To think about it, it has been a good 5 years since I took my place on stage. Thespian, to me, is one of the best takeaways in SR and the most memorial part of my college life.

It was 2013 and I just crossed into the realm of post-secondary college life. It was a confusing affair, I’d admit. I wasn’t sure of anything at that point of time — I didn’t know what subject combination I should take, I wasn’t ready to socialise and make new friends all over again. Yet, there was one thing I was certain: to continue my interest in drama and acting. SR Drama wasn’t one of my choices for CCA, it was THE choice.

I remembered how we worked towards Thespian 2013. It seems to be the only other Thespian to be held out of college (the 2012 was held at SOTA while the subsequent editions were held in LT5 instead). I had never felt so hardworking before, turning up for every rehearsal and putting in my very best effort. I didn’t know at that point in time that it could be my very last theatre performance until 2015, so I am thankful that I had put in my all for that.

I was involved in two of the pieces, Seven Deadly PrincessesCrazy School (? actually I forgot about the name of the second piece oops).

Seven Deadly Princesses was based loosely on the seven sins. Each of the princesses represents different sin. I played the protagonist – Allan – who was ‘sabo-ed’ by his mother to attend this blind date, leading him to a near mental breakdown.

I was thankful for the chance to play the role become it was relatively challenging. One main reason was that I needed to work with not 1, but 7 girls and at that point of time, I was still awkward interacting with the opposite gender. I tried to be as natural as I could. I remembered Yap Qi (who played the role of Mulan) realised that as well, and gave me some tips and confidence for me to continue with my role.

Everything eventually paid off. Everyone showed enthusiasm in wanting to make this show a good one, we helped each other to fine-tune our acting skills. Ms C and Mr Tsui gave us their inputs and our biggest critics came from everyone else in the club. Similarly, we critic the other plays as well. Despite running short of time, we had never compromise on the review sessions. We reviewed each other’s plays and blockings regularly and that’s how we bonded.

Yapz playing the role of Mulan.
Kheng Yin portrayed Rapunzel, showing her wrath side to Zhirong, who played the waiter.
Zhirong had been a very patient mentor to me during the training sessions. Undoubtedly, he is one of the best actors I’ve worked with.
With the cast of Seven Deadly Princesses.
With Annas, who played a foreign student in the second play I was involved in.

As I reiterate, the thing about SR Drama is that, from teachers-in-charge to committee members to seniors to juniors, we treat each other like family. There is not much segregation between us. We worked, played and ate together. Especially during the intensive training in the month leading up to the actual performance, we bonded so well together that we dreaded the curtain call at our final show.

Our beloved teachers-in-charge Mr Tsui & Ms C.

Even as I left the college, I did not hesitate to return for help out with the rehearsals when Mr. Tsui called for help in 2015. It was the year I briefly returned to theatre. This time, the wanted to reenact the Seven Deadly Princesses script. I was there, together with Donna, Kheng Yin and Zhirong to help the new batch of actors on the roles – especially with the roles that we once took up 2 years ago. It felt like a deja vu. Everything was so similar – the script, the people and most importantly, the enthusiasm.

The new Rapunzel, waiter and Allan, played by Shirin, Faizul and Ernest.
With the new cast of Seven Deadly Princesses.

This year was a little different. The enthusiasm remains, but the news of the impending merger of the college clouded the emotions of everyone. We knew, for sure, that this would be the final Thespian to be held within the college compound. Despite that, the core group of seniors turned up in almost full force to witness the final curtain call. I rushed down from camp to make sure I don’t miss it – which is evident how important and significant Thespian is to me.

We might have dreaded the previous curtain call, but this was the curtain call we dreaded the most.

With my junior who happens to be Eddy as well and, coincidently, was also from Ang Mo Kio Secondary.

We rushed to take some photos before being chased out of the college compound by the security personnel. The catch-up session was so brief that we didn’t have much chance to interact and speak to everyone. I just hope that these will not be the last group photos we will take as a club. Yes, Thespian might have meet its end, but friendship and memories will remain.

Before I end this post, I think SR Dramateers from all these years deserves a standing ovation.