Saturday, April 11, 2009

Suburban Run, My First Singapore Run

It was actually my first time to join any running event. Inspired perhaps by the memories of the recent Olympics, motivated by friends back at home who've taken up the sport, fueled by the long time desire to get as far away from the Alcatraz of an asthmatic childhood, pressured by the bet taken with colleagues to best the half marathon in our group at the Standard Chartered by the end of this year, compelled by the overall goal of a leaner and stronger body, and finally helped by a tinge of vanity, I forced myself to run the track at least once a week for two months in preparation for the event dubbed as Suburban Run. The end result was not disappointing — with a time of 1 hour 6 minutes for 10 km., the sometimes painful and boring minutes spent on the track was well worth it.

A lot of things are indeed won at the preparation stage, with the actual event serving as the coronation event. Not that my time will ever be enough to win the category, but my worst and best competitor is my self. I was merely trying to complete the 10 km. in under 75 minutes, a benchmark set by friends who've done this before, a number they consider respectable.

During that day, we took a cab to get to the venue. The map provided on the web site provided little help for the cabbie. We weren't much of a help ourselves for we were new to the area. But we got there with a few minutes to spare. Just as well as I had to use the toilet, not being to fully comply with the instruction I got about hydrating myself more than two hours before the start of the race.

There were more than a dozen portalets, with about a dozen people lining up before each one. As luck would have it, it rained during the night and since the door of the portalets were facing the grassy area, it was impossible to avoid the murky puddles in joining the queue. I happened to wear a pair of Adizero Mana, which had a lot of holes in it to ensure air circulation. I knew I wouldn't be able to run without relieving my bladder so I really had no choice — my shoes, socks and feet became soaked in mud. I thought about changing socks, but with just a little over a minute to go before the start of the run, I decided against it.

The gun sounded and we were off and running. I started my own stop watch, wanting to check my progress from time to time. I pushed myself forward, trying to remind myself how it was like in the track. I resisted the urge to go too fast in the beginning, taking a friend's good advice, but even at my speed I was overtaking a number of people and yet there were too many who were ahead of me.

I was just starting to warm up when one, then two, then many more runners began coming from the opposite direction. I then realized that these people were racing back to the finish line! I checked my watch. They've completed more than half of the 5 km at an amazingly short time while I still had a long way to go.

Apart from my soaked feet, the following are some of the things that caught me by surprise:

1. The heat. The only time I started running that late in the morning was when I jogged at the Pasir Rir Park. The difference is that there were a lot of trees in the park to provide friendly shade. With nothing to shield me from sun's debilitating heat, I felt like I was running out energy. Good thing there were water stations at strategic locations at the race route. Instead of drinking a whole cup, I preferred throwing half of it over my head to cool me down a bit. It worked like magic.

2. The slight acclivity. I've been used to running on a flat surface, but part of the race route was a sloped bridge. It was quite alright coming from the starting line but it became quite challenging on the way back. I'm thankful that after every run at the track, I always opted to climb the flight of stairs up the 5th floor where our unit was located. I just have a feeling this helped.

3. Overpowering scents. I had two choices: slow down so I'm left behind or run faster and overtake the source. I went for the latter, realizing that I might be catching up with the same thing again and slowing down every time wouldn't help me accomplish my goal of finishing in 1 hour 15 minutes. I just kept doing that each time I came across something undesirable. I think this is an example of turning a crisis into an opportunity. ;)

In summary, I think the Suburban Run was pretty well organized. The race packs, the bananas, caps and medals were very much appreciated.

Of course, there's also room for improvement. The following are my suggestions for a better race next time around:

1. Earlier start. It's just too hot when it's almost 9 a.m. It would definitely be better for the runners to start earlier.

2. More signage. That goes for those that point to the start of the race and those that indicate the turns for 5 km. and 10 km. Might as well improve the ones that indicate how far more you need to go. They have to take into consideration the number of people in the race — the signs are not easy to spot when there are too many people running.

3. A better place for the portalets. Or some way to ensure that water does not accumulate near the entrances. What about stepping stones or elevated steps?

Next race: JP Morgan 5.6 k.m. on April 16.

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