Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Singapore Passion Run 2009 Experience

I went straight for the 10 km category on the first running event I joined. It was one of the ways I thought I would be able to force myself to run consistently, knowing I wouldn't be able finish without proper preparation. After a few weeks of hitting the track, I had been able to run at least 7.5 km without feeling like I was going to pass out. I knew I could handle 5 km and I'd just be complacent if only went for that.

I'd say I didn't do so badly with a gun time of 66 minutes on that first attempt. In contrast, I thought I didn't do so well in my second run, the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. Was it time to scale new heights, er, run longer distances after that? It took me sometime before I could decide and when I finally did, I was out of the country. I had to ask a friend to register me for the 10 km non-competitive category. I had chickened out and opted not to go for 15 km yet.

With the busy schedule at work, it took a lot of effort to get running at least twice a week. I made it difficult for myself to miss the weekend runs by agreeing to run together with two other friends who were also joining the Passion Run. To keep it more interesting, we went for a different venue each week.

Come D-day, I had no trouble waking up from a good night's rest. Except that I was just recovering from a bout of sore throat and bad colds so I didn't feel a hundred percent. The doctor saved me from missing my second 10 km attempt by prescribing me antibiotics early during the week.

I had two slices of bread and a sunny side up for breakfast, resisted the urge to eat more than I should, but was afraid to consume too much water as I thought of my experience during my first 10 km. I didn't want to run with soaked feet again.

It took me less than half an hour to get to the venue, East Coast Park. Since the run came in a series of waves, I wasn't exactly sure what time I was supposed to take off. A countdown was ongoing when I got there.

I was just about to start exploring the place when it was announced that all participants to the 10.4km category wearing green and yellow bibs were up next. I went to the start line and joined my fellow runners. A number of others approached the race officials standing on a stage near the starting point, inquiring if they were too late or too early for their take offs. Some were asked to start running immediately as they've already been left behind.

The siren that signaled the start of race sounded and we were off and running. I was near the starting line so the effect was immediate, unlike the previous times I was near the back. But I was slow to realize the full repercussions of being near the front.

In my previous races I was usually overtaking others but that certainly wasn't the case during this time. I had totally forgotten about the advice a friend gave me, which was to resist the urge to go too fast in the beginning. In keeping up with the other runners, I was going at a faster pace than I was accustomed to. My legs began to feel heavy after only two kilometers.

It didn't help my overall psyche that my phone was constantly ringing in my belt bag. I couldn't bring myself to answer it because talking and running at the same time seemed like a gargantuan effort. But then I was getting paranoid and began playing scenarios in my head on why people were calling me. When I saw the first u-turn I thought perhaps I might have gone off too early and was running the 5 km event. Were my friends calling to tell me I was running the wrong race?

Calling to find out was certainly out of the question. I decided to slow down to a walk and think my options over. Should I come back to the starting line? Should I sit down and just call it quits? It took me about a minute to realize that I wouldn't find out for sure if I didn't finish the race. I started running again.

A few minutes and several hundred meters later I started wondering why I was out of rhythm and why my legs were really bothering me. I looked ahead to see a toilet on the left and noticed that several runners were taking their sweet time going for a break. I decided to go for one too. I relieved myself of excess fluid, washed my face and took a good look at myself in the mirror. I was going to finish the race even if I had to walk most of the way or run as slowly as I could.

I was soon back on the race, jogging past stores that haven't opened yet. I was beginning to enjoy myself. Several minutes later I felt like I was back in my usual form. I breezed one kilometer after another. When I saw a familiar figure running just ahead of me, I knew I was okay. I had been able to catch up with someone who I remember overtaking me just before my toilet break. It was time for me to do the overtaking, never to stare again at his back for the duration of the race.

I finished 10.4 km in 1 hr 11 mins. It wasn't what I had aimed for but it wasn't very bad either. Never again would I forget that my body requires several minutes to get warmed up before I could go at a faster pace. I also learned that I did run earlier but I couldn't blame myself totally — how could I know there was green and there was light green? I vowed to be better prepared for my next run.


I think the Passion Run 2009 did a pretty good job of organizing the event. I found their posters along the route quite inspiring. Even the volunteers who untiringly and enthusiastically cheered for the runners did an amazing job. Also, there was no long queue to be able to claim the freebies after the race. Finally, the results were out in less than a week.

The only not-so-great thing I noticed is that they began allowing cyclists, rollerbladers, runners and all other people in the race route long before the race was finished. The race became an obstacle course for a lot of runners. I thought they might have at least restricted them to a single lane. Maybe they'd implement that suggestion next time around.

I'm already looking forward to the Passion Run next year.

Next race: Mizuno Mount Faber Run, June 14.

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