Another Year of SCMS Another Fiasco

Why does it not surprise me to read of all the complaints on social media about the Gold Label Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore? For a country that prides itself on doing things well and setting the standards for its neighbours, this race is the biggest blemish in Singapore’s reputation and a laughing stock of the marathon world.

Take this post from a Malaysian who was in Singapore to support his friends.

And the number of complaints on the SCMS’s Facebook page. Much has been said about that and I will not go into that except that I think the whole fiasco boils down the desire to make more money by cutting cost and not being concerned about the runner’s experience. 

The latest blow up is complaints by volunteers about not being given food and drinks, being yelled at and being paid a miserable $20 for volunteering from 11 am the night before to up to 3 pm on Sunday. You can read all about that here. I will talk about this in a later blog post.

But of course my pet subject is always about people cutting the course. And this year is no different. Very early in the race, I could see FM runners coming in. Looking at the way they running, I know they have not done 40 km in such short time between 3 to 4 hours. Not impossible but there are not that many local runners that are capable of doing sub 4. So as usual, I did a result search of a few random runners are here are their results:

Sure enough my gut feeling was not wrong and all these runners are marked as DNF (Did not finish). But the interesting thing is that all of them missed the checkpoints from the 10 km  onward until 38.5 km. This year because of the late start due to the baggage problem, the cut off time was extended to 9 hours and so I believe no runners were officially “diverted” which means these runners either ran the wrong route by mistake or deliberately cut the course. I could like to give these people the benefit of the doubt that they ran wrongly but if one had trained hard enough for the FM, they will realise that their timing was not possible and the route was too short especially after they see the distance markers. The more likely reason is that these runners ran the HM route while signed up for the FM. In any case, still the organiser fault. Did they deploy enough marshal to direct the runners onto the correct route? Was there any physical barriers to prevent runners from cutting the course?

The Singapore Marathon will never improve if it continue to priorities profitability. It has the ambition of becoming a World Marathon Majors. But until it buck up and go humbly to learn from the Japanese or Taiwanese, the WMM will just be a pipe dream.. But having said that, they might just be able to buy that rights with the money they make from this race. Like what they did to get the Gold Label status.

 

Recent Birding

Over the course of the past few weeks after coming back from Nepal, have done some birdings at various places and pleasantly happy to get some not so common birds. Not as many as some of the other birders who went all round Singapore chasing sightings but I was contended to just go to the usual places.

At Sungei Buloh, didn’t managed to get many but was lucky to have a White Bellied Sea Eagle and a Brown Shrike. Closer to home, at the Sungei Tampines, saw this Little Heron drying itself:

And further down the road at the Pasir Ris Town Park, was this White Bellied Sea Eagle perched on a low branch!

Further up at the Wooden Bridge across Sungei Tampines, joined the crowd of photographers shooting at this Stork Billed kingfisher.

And further into the Mangrove Swamp, M managed to spot a Laced Woodpecker.

And at the pond next to the vegetables farm, there was a not so common Common Kingfisher!

And the last for the month of November was this little Yellow Bittern standing patiently in the open

Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 11

Finally we are on our last trekking day at the Annapurna Circuit. It has been a long hard 10 days especially the preceding few days and we were all looking forward to what we assumed to be an easy day. It started off that way with us walking on a motor road after leaving Muktinath.

We visited a Nepalese Temple along the way and the ladies went crazy shopping at one of the many little shops along the road. Then we came to this amazing postcard perfect scene.For the most part of the morning we were walking on the road but somewhere in the later part of the morning, we veered off into the mountain and started walking along some loose chip stone ground.

After lunch we continued walking along the river and at times in the river bed itself!

And that was when our easy day turned out to be one of the most tiring day because of the wind! The wind came strong and fast whipping out the sand and stones from the river bed and hills. Our mask, hairs were no protection against the dust generated and there were many times when we couldn’t even walk forward but had to stop to let the gush of wind pass through. All of us inhale so much sand and dust that for many of us, 4 days after this epic journey, we were still coughing and draining dirty mucus from our nose!

But finally after a hard struggle, we reached Jomson! 18 km for the whole day over 7 hours. And with that, we came to the end of the Annapurna Circuit Trek. 

The 11 days have been challenging. It is not a walk in the park and requires endurance not just to keep moving day after day but to endure the heat, the cold and the basic accommodation which city folks like us might not be used to. But it was still fun especially doing this with a great bunch of teammates. The members are already talking of Everest Base Camp next year. But will I want to do it again?

Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 10

We woke up at 4 am to move off to the highest point in our adventure – the Thorung La Pass! After breakfast we moved off at 5 am. It was still dark and we had to rely on headlamps and torches for the first part of the climb.

If it wasn’t so damn cold, we would all have stayed to enjoy the view as the sky starts to brighten slowly.

But we had no time for that as there were many other trekkers going up on the narrow path and we had to push on before the strong wind set in. And bit by bit it got brighter although not easier..And we press on and on. Some of the us were laboring under the double whammy of the cold and altitude and we were moving very slowly. And I think we actually envied those who decided not to tackle the wall and rode horses up! But we push on and finally!Yes we made it! The highest point of our trek at 5,416 metres and I dare say, the highest that I will ever possibly climb to. By now the wind was howling and after a cup of tea in the teahouse shack at the summit, we made our way down to Muktinath. 

Of course it being downhill, it was a much easier walk and we picked up some pace although we still stop often enough to take photo and of course to pee although it was kinda tough for the ladies considering the open ground.

This is the last suspension bridge that we were be crossing and of course we had to stop to take a group photo.

And finally we reached Muktinath!We had started at 5 am and it was barely 3 pm. We had descended 1,600 metres in slightly over 4 hours and covering from the time we set off from High Camp to here a distance of almost 18 km proving again that going down hill is always much easier!

This is Muktinath a little town that is actually like a big religious place with a temple and many shrines.

Because it was still early, we toured the temple and its surrounding before checking into our hotel Although we still have one more day to go, our guide told us that the trek is considered over and so we assumed that the next day will be an easy day but little did we know………….

 

 

Butterfly @ Nepal

Apart from birds, the other creatures I was hoping to see was butterfly. Fortunately, although I had not much luck with birds apart from the Snowcock, I had better luck with butterfly. Right from the word go, there were butterfly. Not a lot but enough to satisfy me because almost there were many lifers!

First butterfly was when we were still travelling in the van and had stopped for lunch. After lunch and walking around, saw this flying around. I only got 2 shots but it was good enough.

Common Nawab

In the carpark of the makan place, got another one flying around. Couldn’t get it the best few time but luckily another tourist pointed out where it flew to and bingo. 

Oriental Common Leopard

Singapore has this but this is my first photo of it though. 

The next day was when the floodgate open. So many different butterflies along the trails that I often lagged behind the others as I stopped to take photos. For this reasons, much as I like to take better angled photo or chase after them for a better shot, I had to just shoot off a burst and then hope for the best as I chase after my mates. But still I am pretty happy with the results. These are 3 of the more interesting butterfly

Tabby

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Never Stop Exploring – Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 9

Today we start our climb to the highest point in our journey. We didn’t start too early though. At about 8 am when the sun was already out when we set off.

It was a hot day and it didn’t help that we were most of the time out in the open.

Along the way we saw many Blue Sheep. Mainly on the steep mountain slope. It just amazing how these creatures can bounce up and down the side without falling.We continued walking for the most part along the bank of the Jasang Khola before we stopped for a long lunch to build up our strength for the final tackle.The last part up to the Torung Phedi and High Camp was tough. 

It was a steep walk not helped by the thin oxygen and we walked very slowly so much so that by the time we reached High Camp, it was 5 pm. We had took 9 hours to walk 10 km! But we were at the 4,925 metre. But it wasn’t enough. Our guide suggested after we had put our packs in our room to take a short walk to the top – just another 10 minutes walk. And I am glad we did – because I saw the Tibetan Snowcock and this wonderful misty view of the surrounding.

The High Camp has got to be one of the coldest place in the region. Entering our little room was like entering a freezer. Everything was cold to the touch including the blanket and sleeping bag. To make it worse, the toilet was outside and to reach it, one had to walk into the open. It was a miserable night for most of us. Our only comfort was that it was our last night at this altitude and after the final summit the next morning we will be going down down down!