Friday, May 1, 2009

Singapore 2009 JP Morgan Corporate Challenge

The Start Line

I had been running even before the race began. My meeting with a client dragged until 5:30 p.m., thirty minutes before the official start of the run. I hurried to the office to join my colleagues who were also participating in the event. It made perfect sense to leave our belongings there and just get to the venue in our running attire. We were out of the office in less than five minutes after I arrived. Getting to the venue by foot seemed like our best option and so we raced against time, jogging towards the Esplanade, slowed down only by people traffic and pedestrian lights. When we finally got to our destination, we had about three minutes to spare. At least we were all warmed up.

With the enormous number of people in front of us, I could barely see the starting line from where we stood. They couldn't have numbered less than five thousand. From the time we heard the signal that the raced had began to the time we reached the starting line, the official timer had already clocked 6 minutes.

Coming from my first race —this just being my second—, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed with this experience. I must have set my expectations a little bit too high because of the name attached to the event. After all, I had quite a pleasant experience with the Suburban Run. How could I go wrong the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge? Or did I have the wrong frame of mind coming in to this race?

No Official Results

It's a race; it has winners; it has an official timer. But there are no official results.

While another blog mentions that it wasn't supposed to be a serious race, given that there are official winners, an official timer and official registration fee, some of us expect official results to be published. By official, I mean the time for each runner being officially recorded by the event organizer. In this case, the race depended on the team captains submitting the time for each runner on his or her team.
How are the results compiled?
We score three categories — Men’s Team (four men), Women’s Team (four women), Mixed Team (two men, two women). It is solely up to the Company Captain to determine what participants go on which teams after the runners have turned in their times that evening. You cannot place an employee on two separate scoring teams. You do not have to enter everyone's time.
Their web site explicitly states that the registration fee is not able to cover all operational expenses incurred from the race. Thing is, the registration fee for the Suburban Run is substantially lower but they managed to attach chips to the back of the bibs that automatically register the time for each runner.

I shared this disappointment with a friend, who happens to participate in running events in the Philippines, and she says that the runs there, be they for charity or some good cause, have official results published, with part of the race's staff officially encoding each individual runner's time at the finish line.

If other races can manage to take official results, I'm sure J.P. Morgan can find ways to improve in this aspect. I'm sure they want the yearly event to be a better experience for its participants. They don't have to stick to their old ways just because they've been used to it.

Walkers Galore

Having walkers is a good thing in running races because they give slow pacers like me people to overtake. It just becomes crazy when there’s too many of them — the race becomes an obstacle course. Maybe, just maybe, they could have a lane for walkers next time around.

Here's part of an entry from RepMan's blog citing his experience last year at the JPMorgan Chase Coporate Challenge in Central Park:
They also do a horrendous job of separating the walkers from the runners so, at almost every half-mile or so, I was running right up the back of an unsuspecting walker. There's absolutely no crowd control either, so we runners had to dodge everything from pedestrians trying to scoot across the course to, believe it or not, a woman walking her dog against the flow of thousands of runners. Someone should whisper in that dog whisperer's ears. Talk about animal cruelty!
I'm glad I didn't come across anyone walking his dog. But what RepMan is saying is not difficult to believe. From what I've seen, the race's staff found it very difficult to make the runners stick to the lanes and prevent walkers from taking shortcuts, eventually interfering with other runners.

I can't see how they'll ever manage to carry out the threat they've written in their web site as part of the Specific Race Day Rules:
Walker Policy: All walkers must start at the back of the field. They may not start in front of any runners, and may not start the race early. Walkers must complete the exact 5.6km course route and may not take optional or shortened routes. Violation of this policy may lead to disqualification of the entire company team from this and future Series events.
They are almost never able to find out who takes shortcuts. The staff don't make it too difficult for people to cross the boundaries either.

The same friend I've mentioned above says she's seen an effective way to control this being implemented at the races she's joined — color-coded strings are given to each runner at every major turn that they need to show at the finish line to prove they ran the entire route.

Chaos Claiming Shirts And Bags

The queue for claiming the freebies, or should I say part of the race pack, was very long indeed. It took longer for me to queue than to complete the run. Two flights of stairs had to be climbed and with the sheer number of people and their natural tendency to push forward, the risk of having accidents was not very low.

As we got nearer to the counters where the freebies were being distributed, people started becoming more aggressive. It turned out that there were several lanes, one for each shirt size. Some began cutting lanes, going over the rope barriers, eventually toppling the steel posts and causing those who chose to remain in their lines to complain. Some went for lanes that had fewer people queuing in them even if the shirts they were getting didn't match their actual sizes, while some pretended to do the same thing only to switch lanes when they were at the counters.

This made me the appreciate the arrangement by Suburban Run to have runners collect the race pack before the event. Maybe the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge can do this next time?

The Finish Line

In summary, I still enjoyed the race because I was with friends. At least I got to run, walk and then run again. In the spirit of the race's focus on promoting "fitness in the workplace", this was a first run for a number of my colleagues.

Friends and I share some of the disappointments I've noted down here. One such friend, who had been religiously monitoring her performance was puzzled as to how she could have done so badly in the last 600 meters. She was on right on track at the 5 km mark. Add to that the uneasy feeling that there will never be an official result coming out.

Imagine her frustration when a few days ago, I showed to her an article in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge web site saying that the distance was changed to 5.94km from 5.6km. Imagine how that could ruin things for you if you were planning to sprint the last 600 meters.

My friend comments, "The JPMorgan race organizers are like newbies... hmmm..."

Would we be joining the J.P Morgan Challenge next year? We don’t know.


To put a perfect ending to our adventure that day, friends and I decided to have dinner at the nearest food center. We found a one near the Singapore Flyer and took our sweet time feasting on Popeyes Chicken.

Next race: Passion Run, May 24.


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