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Wan's Column - The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2006

Pre-Race Day
Driving to Singapore is always a pleasure despite the additional costs involved. The main set back is that there are no good places to eat on the way down, except for Yong Peng that I rather not drive in on the trip down to save time. Our target is to get to Mandarin Marina, the official hotel before 3.00pm to collect our bibs pack. While Jenny Lim, the administrative assistant of PACM has given me the assurance that the collection center will stay open till 5.00pm, getting there late may means getting a vest not your size. Jason Thiang, captain of PACM proposed that we move in a convoy from Subang Jaya, 4 cars but we felt that it may not be a good idea as it would means having to wait for one another. We (Chua Keng Huat, Chai Weng Moon, Clara and I) left Subang Jaya at 8.30am, taking a slow drive sticking to the 110km speed limit.

During the journey, we called one another to check their whereabouts and found that our car is the leading pack while they are the chasing pack (runners’ lingo).

We made two stops, one for coffee (mandatory for me as the careful driver) and the second for lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken, just before we reached the immigration point. We met Teresa Goh, our 65 years senior veteran from PACM and her family there. She ran the full marathon at Bangkok the week earlier. She told us she may not run the next morning but just treat the trip as a holiday…….incredible lady. I have high respect for her as I have for Uncle Hooi Siew Weng, our 70 years old senior veteran who also ran the Bangkok Marathon last Sunday.

After lunch and some fruits shopping (bananas a compulsory item), we left for Singapore. It was a smooth drive all the way from the custom checkpoint, Ayer Rajah Expressway, and East Coast Park Expressway and finally turning into the City Center using the Rochor Road. I appeared like a regular Singapore visitor and got into Mandarin Marina without missing a single turn. This speaks volume for the clarity of signage in the Singapore Road System. Going to Singapore once a year always gives me a sense to feel about what to expect in a first world country standards in everything we experience. I suppose this is one way we could improve, always expose to higher standards and emulate them.

After checking into the hotel, Clara and I went for a walk to look for the church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd at Victoria Street to check out the service time on Sunday. As a devoted Catholic, Clara seldom misses church even during holidays. Across the church is a charming eating and drinking joint, the Chijmes. The place was previously a school operated by the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. It is now a prized piece of rented property and has retained most of the cathedral charm. I think I should make an effort to eat there the next time I visit Singapore.

Chai Weng Moon, Chua Keng Huat & Wan Yew Leong posing in front of the winners' rostrum the eve of the run
Wan Yew Leong and Clara at the eve of the run at the finisher area

As Chai and Chua want some hawkers fare at the Esplanade, we went for an early dinner after checking out the race venue. I was trying to imagine, what would go through my mind on the eve of the big race if I am the Race Director of a 31,000 runner event! I recall even as the race Director for the 1,500 runner New Balance Pacesetters 15km 2006 got me all worked up. I am so glad I am competing and not managing.

Race Strategy
I had never done well at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon after 3 outings since 2003. I have always found it a challenge to run in a large crowd as I got boxed in by the slower runners in previous years. Well! I am not fast but in Singapore, I am considered quite fast as I achieved 21 percentile in the 2005 run. A caveat here is that most of the better runners went for the full marathon and left the half marathon to the novices. I have a game plan this year, I shall un-shamefully stand as close to the start line as permitted to avoid getting boxed in again. Chua, Chai and I are all doing the half marathon while Clara did the 10km. We met Dr Liew and Uncle Hooi at the start line after the 9,000 plus marathon runners went off. I must say, this is the biggest run event I have ever taken part in (31,000 registered runners), much larger than the Sydney Marathon I did in 2004. It is probably the largest run event in the region, probably surpassed the Hongkong Marathon. This year the organizer made a slight change to the starting time for the 10km run, 7.00am for the men and 7.30am for the women.

It was a good decision as the 4 packs are quite evenly spread out; 9,000 plus marathon runners, 6,000 plus half marathon runners, 5,000 each for the men and women 10km. About one km after the start I had good space to run, quite unlike last year when I was boxed in for most of the race. Running the half marathon has a distinct advantage, we get to run in opposite direction with the leading pack at one stage of the race. It is such a pleasure to see how effortless these world class runners run. To save time, I decided I would only drink at the stations with 100PLUS, every 4km from the 6km onwards. At every km I checked my time and I was running slightly below 6mins per km. At the 10km mark, it was 58 mins…..good, a fair chance to run under 2hrs 6mins. I had never done negative split time in recent years and I tend to slow down after 15km. The run went well till we met the 10km runners when they did their U-turn.

The next 3km towards Esplande was more difficult with more runners sharing the road. I was so glad when we reached the Esplande when the 10km runners went a different way to finish. Now I need to focus to complete the balance 6km and see if I could run my best time in Singapore.

Wan just before unleashing his finishing kick

As I got closer to the finish line I was more optimistic. The weather was beautiful, cloudy and cooling with some wind; almost perfect conditions. When I saw the bridge, I knew it was within one km to go, I did what a seasoned runner would do, went all out to beat the 2hr 6mins mark. I crossed the line, clocking 2 hrs 5 mins 41secs (unofficial time). I was overjoyed and I have still not erased the time from my watch after nearly 3 weeks.

My Race Observations – Great Atmosphere
I have preplanned my post race schedule as I was very confident of my timing. I told Clara to meet me at the hotel at 9.00am if she does not see me at the finish area as I should finish my run by 8.40am. Indeed we kept to our time. She did 1hr 18mins ie she came back by 8.50am but I could not spot her due to the large crowd of 5,000 women 10km runners. We reached our hotel at 9.00am, minutes apart. A good warm shower and some clean comfortable clothing and we have a hearty breakfast at the nearby food court. At 10.00am, she was off to the church and I returned to the finish area to watch the PACM members completing the full marathon. It was 4 hours from their start at 6.00am and they should be trotting in over the next 2 hours.

The atmosphere was not different from when I left the area at 9.00am. The two professional DJs were happily commenting on the event with one at the control area with a laptop while another one by the name of Ross at the last 50m urging the runners to move on to finish. On some occasions he even paced them to the finish line. Shortly after 10.00am, the Seven Eleven Kids Dash (800m) took off with the kids and their parents running towards the finish line. It was quite a lovely sight and I captured a few shots that I post in the web. It is a great idea to have this side event and 10.00am is ideal as the parent who did their 10km or 21km are usually back by then to accompany the kids. Otherwise they ran with their parents who did not compete in the main event. I hope our KL International Marathon could incorporate this kids event to bring in some family participation.

The kids having a whale of a time in the Seven Eleven Kids Dash

This year I notice the cheering teams were missing along the 21km route. However, upon checking the pictures taken by other cameramen of PACM, I saw a few teams but fewer than previous years. In overseas races this is an important feature to bring the community to support the event. Some even have marching bands performing at different stages of the race.

The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon has got closer to world standard with 31,000 registrations (New York has 37,000 but all full marathon). There would be little room to make it much bigger, perhaps a cap of 35,000 would be appropriate. This year with 26,000 actually ran, the support services (especially the drinks stations) were able to coop.

I am W, What are you?
Casino Royale, the highly acclaimed James Bond movie is raking good tickets sale and for the Bond movie’s followers, you will remember M, the gadget expert. Having done a personal best on the Singapore route after 4 attempts and the best timing for the year, I look forward to the update on the website to confirm my timing that I recorded on my watch of 2hrs 5mins 41secs. By Tuesday, 5th December 2006, the results were loaded on. Competitor 11939 completed with a chip time of 2hrs 5mins 44secs is a Malaysian Male with the name of W. I was quite upset and immediate emailed the organizer for a correction. A Mr. Kelvin replied and after 3 exchanges of email, he finally understood what I needed. However, at the time of writing this article, it still has not been rectified. Well! At the moment I only have my bib and a picture of me at the finish line at , if my friends query my finishing time. However, credit must be given to the organizer whereby each runner’s performance was analyzed, a 3 pages print out. I recorded a 15 percentile, my highest ever in an event. Again I must stress here that most of the better runners opted for the 42km event.

This year I completed 3 Half Marathons, the other two were the Kuala Lumpur International Marathon and the Putra Jaya International Marathon, I have achieved consistency with the fastest and slowest time within a band of 50 seconds. I look forward to 2007 with better consistency, although realistically I should expect a slower time.

2007 Running Calendar
We have got the second edition of the running calendar issued by FTAAA which Jamie has updated to the website. My next event is the Great Eastern Pacesetters 30km 2007 on 21st January 2007 that I am doing the 20km. In the meantime, I look forward to the 11 days leave I am going to enjoy from tomorrow. There will be plenty of merry making with family / friends and Christmas Caroling. I shall share this experience in another article that is brewing in my mind…….something about exploring life outside your mainstream activity. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wan Yew Leong
22nd December 2006


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