We Ran A Marathon?! Race Review: Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018

8 months ago, I kept refreshing the official Facebook page of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, hoping to the first few to sign up for the race. It would mark only the second time I am participating in the Singapore Marathon and the 9th race I have taken part in overall. The previous time I took part in the Singapore’s flagship running event was back in 2016, when I challenged myself to a 10KM distance. Back then, I managed to clock a personal best at an official race at 01:10:39.

After 6 half-marathon, I got a bit ambitious. When the registration for this edition of SCSM opened, I went on to select the Full Marathon category and proceeded to complete the registration. The ‘high’ does not last long, to be frank. Moments after I received the race confirmation slip, I stared into the blank space.

“Just what the hell did I get myself into?” I questioned my sanity.

The Training

I knew instantly that this would not be a walk in the park — even if it is, it’s a freaking long walk with I can compare it against the 24KM route march the PES-fit soldiers have to endure, just that I am without the bulky and heavy field pack contributing to the weight. I knew I need to embark on some vigorous training regime.

I have to admit I didn’t follow the plan my Garmin watch set for me. Thank God for the progressive training I’ve forced upon myself, otherwise, I would probably not be able to complete the race at all. 

Of course, training was much more fun when you ain’t training alone. As much as I enjoy my time alone when I run because I tend to immerse in the surrounding and let my inner thoughts take over me, I still prefer group training at times. The reason is simple: whenever you felt like giving up, there’s always someone there who will motivate you on and you, somehow, find that motivate to keep yourself going. It’s a very psychological thing.

This time round, I am thankful for Justin and Jaslyn. Both were new to FPAC (our running club) but we got along well quite fast. We ended up running together quite a number of times. Justin and I even went a step further to join Running Department for their pacer runs because we do need some motivations to run those extra kilometres when we head into the most intensive period of the training phrase. It is impossible for us – without the necessary hydration points along our usual route – to take on distances such as 27, 30 and 33KM. In addition, it is rather painful to run without much motivation especially after you’ve hit the wall. 

MASSIVE RUNNING COMMUNITY: Running with Running Department exposes me to the large and vibrant running community we have in Singapore. (Photo: Running Dept’s Official Facebook)

I couldn’t count how many runs or how much distance I’ve clocked just for the build-up training alone, but I went into the race week feeling a little more confident. I told myself, no matter what happened, it’ll still be a historical moment.

Race Entry Pack Collection (REPC)

I get very excited heading down to any REPCs. This time round, I got slightly more excited. Viv had told me earlier that there’s a big board located in the REPC expo where the names of all the marathon runners are printed on.

I went on to collect my race entry pack on Friday evening – just one day before the first day of the running event. I don’t know what happened but it seems that most of the race organisers this year have kind of learnt their lesson from the madness of last year and the year before. I ain’t going to comment on how long the queue to everything (from race pack collections to bag depositing to using the washroom) was during the past two years. It was a fast collection, so smooth that the entire process took me slightly less than 10 minutes — despite having two separate booths for race bib and race singlet & goodies collections.

As soon as I am done with the collection, I followed the path into the race expo. I thought I ended up in a retail shop instead. There was so much merchandises on sale that my bank balance got slightly threatened. 

There was this finisher jacket that caught my attention. Oh dear, I love jackets. It is a finisher jacket for this edition. It seems like a very comfortable windbreaker to run in during drizzle or cold weather like we have at the time of writing. Too bad, I was broke from all the 11.11 shopping that I had to give this a miss. Plus, I have enough jackets/windbreaker to last me. But good job coming out with all these merchandises.

I window-ed shopped a while before making my way into the other sections of the expo. I finally get to see the ‘huge wall’ personally. Viv had told us previously that there’s a wall at the expo where the names of all the full marathon participants were being printed on. I don’t exactly know how many names were there but I swear the number could easily start from a thousand. It took me close to 5 minutes to locate my name. Bravo. 

It was a massive expo with all the partner brands setting up booths to try and market their product. Too bad, none of them sells my favourite energy gels from GU (understandable because Shotz was the official energy gel) so I’ve had to head down to Suntec’s Liv Activ to replenish my stocks.

I’ve also captured my REPC experience on my vlog. You can buffer to 9:40 to have a better feel of how this year’s REPC went!

SCSM DAY 1: As A Spectator

The day is here! Not for me but for those who participated in the Kids Dash, 5KM and 10KM categories. For the first time in the event’s history, the races are being held over 2 days. The half-marathon, full-marathon and Ekiden were held on the next day. I guess that’s one way not to overcrowd the entire runners’ village with participants across the 6 races. I ain’t going to imagine having to squeeze through around 40,000 sweaty people to get to wherever I want to go.

That being said, this meant that Michelle, Jaslyn and Hui Shuen would start and complete their run some 24 hours before Justin and I complete ours. Really have to thank Rebecca for the complimentary tickets. FPAC wouldn’t have been represented by this much people without those tickets! It has been a long due club-level participation at a local race. Despite we would be running the next day, Justin and I went down to show some support. Of course, I have other secondary motives as well: to shoot some race day photos. ūüėÄ With the help of some very helpful race day volunteers, I managed to identify the designated walkway for spectators and made my way to the entrance of the viewing gallery at the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

GET HYPED: The host at the finishing line gearing the crowds up before the 10KM champion crossed the finishing line.
HERE I COME: Hong Kong veteran runner Chan Ka Ho won the 10KM category with a timing of 34:26.

Not sure about the arrangement past years, because this marked the first year that I was there at the race as a spectator. There are definitely differences being there as a spectator and as a participant. As a spectator, I am treated to the anxiousness of looking out for the leading racer as well as the joy of watching each and every participant crossing the finishing line. The perks of having the ending point set at the Floating Platform includes being able to provide the best viewing positions for spectators to witness the race while admiring the spectacular Singapore skyline. More events should start ending their races there. Really.

1 hour or so went past and I finally heard from Justin — who stationed himself at the 9KM mark which his A3 motivational banner — that FPAC’s first finisher is within sight. I got my camera ready. I actually left everything on ‘off’ mode because I was running out of batteries. (Note to self before next shoot, charge every single battery, including those spare ones.)

Jaslyn crossed the finishing line 1hr 10mins after she started. To be honest, that was a very good result given that this is her debut race. She still dare say that she was very afraid when I ‘Grabbed’ her over to the starting point.

Next came Hui Shuen, who also made her race debut. The furthest she had ran before joining for the race was, I think, 5KM? Well done, girl!

Mish came in shortly behind Hui Shuen. You know, both Justin and I thought she had finished the race way ahead but in the end we both recognised the wrong person. HAHAHA Either Mish looks like everyone, or everyone looks like Mish. Good job in completing!

And ohya, this girl ran for a cause actually! She went on a non-sugar diet for the whole of November in a bid to raise awareness of heart conditions and the impacts on heart patients and their families.

So, if anyone has that spare cash during this season of giving, please help donate. More information can be found HERE.

COMPLETED: (From left: Hui Shuen, Jaslyn, Mish) The girls took a mandatory ‘finisher’ photo at the photo booth provided by Seiko.
AN ALMOST-COMPLETED TEAM PHOTO: We met Viv halfway and we took a group photo. Miss out on you, Mish! (From left: Hui Shuen, Jaslyn, Viv, me, Justin)

Check out the full vlog on the first day of the SCSM below:

SCSM DAY 2 – As A Participant

Alright, shit started to get real. The moment I woke up from the 6 hours of sleep, I knew the day I’ve been looking forward for the past few months is finally here. The alarm rang and I sat right up on my bed. “This is it.”

I’ve prepared all that I needed for the race the night before so that I need to be so rush with the final preparation. I just take some BCAA with 2 eggs and I was ready to head out. This is the first race that I donned a full Adidas kit – Hey Adidas, next time please sponsor me okay. I mean I feel more comfortable with a set of matching kit.

I managed to reach the ShareTransport shuttle bus pick up point at Ang Mo Kio MRT Station at 0200. I swear this was one of the rare times I managed to be in time for any shuttle bus. The partnership between SCSM and ShareTransport definitely made it easier for participants to travel to the starting point without having to manoeuvre through the chaotic traffic due to the road closures.

The 0200 shuttle buses from all over the island arrived around 0230, which meant those of us who registered for the earlier bus had a little too much time to spare at the race village. I spent about an hour sitting down on the floor gazing at my phone and visiting the toilet twice before I made my way into the starting pen. Either I was being too early or I was actually impressed by how there were not much queue for the toilet. I need to admit there were really a lot of portable toilets. The organisers placed toilets everywhere, out at the runners’ village and also over at the starting pens F & G. I never like to queue for toilet especially when anxiety increases my pee frequency. So, a thumbs up for the organisers!

At 0300, after I’ve done charging my phone, I went to deposit my bag. So this year, all the participants were given a transparent bag during the REPC. We were only allowed to deposit our items inside this transparent bag. From what I’ve heard from last year’s participants, this initiative was a response to the long queues and chaos happened during last year’s event. During SCSM 2017, participants were made to transfer their items to a similar transparent baggage on the spot. I supposed it’s due to some security purposes. Good thing that they’ve rectified the issue by coming with a new initiative. I am satisfied with the speed the things went for me — from the REPC to the bag depositing.

However, there was a small episode of disagreement. Or I should say, a drama. Prior to Pen G (where I was allocated) being flagged off, the organisers actually let waves of Pen C, D, E latecomers to enter together with Pen F. It was supposed to be not much of an issue until some Pen G participants were disgruntled that the move had, in fact, eaten into their time. We were supposed to flag off around 0500, but at 0510, the late comers were still coming in. Some of us got too frustrated and found it unfair because, to quote one of the participant, “You let all those late comers go first, do you think it’s fair for us who came at 3.”

I low-key agree.

I think after a series of protest, the security gave up and started opening up the barrier. All of us just gushed through the barriers towards the starting line, eager to be flagged off as soon as possible. I think everyone was just afraid that the delay might cause them to fail to complete the distances before the cut off time. I started to get slightly worried as well. Definitely not the start I want given all the positive experience I had encountered over the past 2 days.

Nevertheless, I started my first ever full marathon at 0520

It started off relatively well. I managed to complete a good 17KM with an easy pace, trying to keep at 07:30 pace. I know to most of you, this could be regarded as a rather slow speed but I didn’t want to use up all my energy. It’s 42KM, not 4.2KM. As much as I would like to go for speed and timing, I need to be realistic and recognise that I do not have that stamina to go at a half-marathon pace for a full marathon. I strategized along the way.

My plan was simple. To go all the way to 17KM before brisk walking for the next 3KM. At 19KM, I had my first energy gel to last me for the next 12KM. I would then take a 5KM walk before finishing the last 5KM.

But obviously, apart for the first two parts of the plan, the rest did not work out well. After I resumed my run at 20KM, I started having stitches at 23KM. I slowed down but I told myself I shouldn’t stop. The stitches subside by 24.5KM and I continued to 29KM before I started feeling a little dizzy. I knew I had to stop. I stopped, struggled for the next 5KM — even as I was walking. I got the full package in experiencing all the stages of running a marathon. I was hoping someone could come and end all my sufferings. 

Then, along the way, with the help of the mist tunnels and powerful fans installed along the route, I managed to slightly cool myself down. But then again, given Singapore’s humid weather, I don’t think I am the only one to find that the mist tunnels are less than effective. The availability of hydration points every 2-3KM and splash zones every 5km (?) does in fact eases my pain.

Stages of running a marathon
Stages of running a marathon

Despite having a new route, the route around Marina Bay shouldn’t poised much of a challenge for me. I remembered while planning for the race, I was rather confident I could pick up my pace along my ‘home ground’. The problem is, I may have run that route a thousand times, but I have’t tried running 35KM prior to my weekly run at Marina Bay. I ended up spending 70% of the time going at a rather pathetic pace. I am not going to further describe how the slope over at the infamous Shears Bridge made me died a little inside. 

I managed to pick up my pace after the last hydration point. I tried to go as fast as possible but my body seems not to be controllable by me anymore. It was a slightly faster pace nevertheless. I think the adrenaline level spiked once I saw the Singapore Flyer. By the time I reached the 42KM mark, I grabbed the national flag that I’ve left inside my phone pouch. I unwrapped it and started sprinting into the Floating Platform. I think I might have caused some hoo-haa when I came charging in with the red and white flag. 

A bit of drama again but I literally collapse to the ground after crossing the finishing line. I was not dead inside, but was crying internally. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve managed to complete my first ever marathon with a sub-6.

Although an average pace of 8:30 isn’t something to be proud of, but being able to finish the race faster than I thought I would go, gave me the confidence to go for another one next year. 

By the time I reached the finishing line, Farhan and Justin had already completed their race an hour or more ahead of me. Farhan completed in 05:06:34, while Justin did a sub-5 at 04:55:26. Sick. Justin even offered to engrave the medal for the both of us, so that we have a record of our respective first full marathon.

FIRST TIMER: We finally completed our first full marathon! (From left: Farhan, me, Justin)

I just lay on the ground for the next 1 hour after Farhan and Justin took their leaves. I didn’t feel like doing anything except for going into the extreme recovery phrase. Eventually, I dragged my lazy ass off the ground to go and meet Viv.

Thank you for all your hard work being part of the team fo making this race happen. Of course, a round of applause and appreciation to the organisers and the ever-so-friendly volunteers. Overall, this is one of the best race I’ve taken part in so far!

It’s time for all of us to rest and recover! 

Check out the vlog on the 2nd day of the SCSM 2018 here:

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.

Review: 2XU Compression Run 2018 (Half-Marathon)

This marks the third time that I am taking part in 2XU Compression Run, although this would only my second time competing in the half-marathon category. Since last year onwards, I’ve given myself an annual challenge: to run in 4 half-marathon events each year. (Well, I kind of failed the challenge last year because I had to withdraw from Yolorun – which was supposed to be my final HM event for 2017.)

227 days since my last official race (Army Half-Marathon 2017), I was eager to get back on the roads again to further test my limits. If I were still at my fitness level last year, I would set my target at sub-2:15HR (a 16 minutes improvement from AHM17). My form dipped way too much over the months, to the point that I was very worried if I could even complete the distance in 3:00HR.

What’s worse is that I decided to turn up for the run despite suffering from an asthma attack two weeks ago. I could still remember how walking up a flight of stairs could get me gasping for air like a fish out of the water. I had to cancel any form of training. I felt damn lousy. For a moment, I thought of withdrawing from the race altogether.

Just one week¬†before the race, I told myself to slowly get back to training. I did a 4.5km run on Tuesday evening and that was the last run I had. Deep down inside, I knew I hadn’t been following all my training routine tightly – like how I did last year. I was doubting myself: whether I am in the right condition to partake in the run.

I eventually made up my mind.

Race Day

Woke up at 0230 to munch on a bar of Carman’s Oats Slice (Golden Oats & Coconut) and a cup of black coffee before heading to Ang Mo Kio MRT Station to board the 0320 shuttle bus. It didn’t take us long before we were being ferried to somewhere near the starting point.

As usual, I went to deposit my barang-barang at the designated area before proceeding to one corner for my warm-up. It might due to the fact that it was so long since I ran a race, I totally forgot that participants were usually be divided into waves in order to facilitate a smoother running route. I reached the pit late and ended up having to wait for roughly another 30 minutes before I could cross the starting line.

By the time the participant from my wave started running, most of us looked as if we were being deprived of the toilet. Within the first 1km, you could see the guys running towards the bushes and a row of grown-ups peeing was being formed. It reminded me of field camp somehow, just that you don’t see white lines being hoisted near the bushes.

As for me, I felt the need to shit so I joined the queue at the public toilet some 500m away from the starting line. Told you everyone was toilet-deprived.

The toilet break came at the correct time for me. I went on to complete my first 5km with a slightly lesser body mass in half an hour. That’s the first achievement I didn’t expect myself to achieve given my¬†poor form during all my training this year.

Initially, I wanted to continue running for another 3km before slowing down to a brisk walk but God knows where I got that absurdity¬†motivation to get myself to complete 11km before I took a ‘walking’ break.

I basically just tried to run at a pace of around 6:10/km at the first 11km and trying to overtake as many people as possible during this phrase. I knew I might not be able to retain my energy burst/adrenaline rush as time passed by so I always make it a point to run my best during the first half of the race.

During my first ‘break’, I took out my GU Energy Gel (Strawberry Banana flavour) to replenish my system. This, in fact, was my first time trying out an energy gel during a run. I usually will grab a cup of isotonic drink provided but this time I thought of fueling myself differently. Well, they said one should not try new things – especially your gears and nutrition – on the big day, but being someone who loves experimenting, it think it’s better for me to experience things first hand instead.

Surprisingly, I love the taste of the energy gel, despite it being too sweet. I felt like I was eating mashed banana right from a packaging. I knew my system was fueled the right way – I was lucky my experiment went right for me.

I went on to jog for another 5KM at my most comfortable pace – somewhere between 6:50/km – 7:50/km. It was still physically and mentally tiring despite I just need to jog for 5KM before taking another break.

My timer indicated 2:01hrs when I slowed down to walking speed after passing by the 18KM indicator near Marina Bay Sands. I took the time to recharge my earpiece since it died on me at such a coincidental timing.

I was dreading but still resumed my jogging – although this time at a much slower speed – after crossing the 19KM indicator. I told myself, “2.1km more to go. You are on the way to an unexpected finishing timing. Let’s go for sub-2:30.”

By the time I passed the finishing line, I knew I’ve exceeded my expectation.

I ended up with a 2:25HR timing, I couldn’t believe it. I stared right at my watch and wondered if I was dreaming. I knew I was a little light-headed while I walked to retrieve my medal and finisher tee. Everything felt unreal. My timing (according to my watch, my official timing will have a different reading) bettered what I got last year, despite how unfit I am now.

Maybe Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 rule makes sense after all.

Adam also ran the same event. So we met up after he finished his run for a photo!

Now I’ve put in more effort to get myself more prepared ahead of my next HM at Sundown Marathon 2018.