Sundown Marathon 2017

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. The people at Hi-Velocity, the organizer behind the Sundown Marathon (SDM) should have remember this wise saying when they set up to “improve” this year edition.

The Sundown Marathon is an event which is close to my heart and which I have fairly good opinion of, unlike the SCMS. I seen the SDM grown from a small little race in 2008 with just 800 + runners to a mega race involving more than 20000 runners in 4 different categories. In its early days, the SDM could be considered a true heartland race running through the Eastern part of Singapore. It was also the first race to have a 84 km distance – probably the first ultra race in Singapore. While I didn’t run the SDM in those early days, I had many friends who did and those of us not running had a great time providing support to the runners as they ran through the Eastern Park Connector. We were there for the runners in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Those time, we made many friends and got a lot of appreciation including this nice little cap. This was also the only race that I won something – haha not a running trophy but a photo contest in the 2009 race expo. I did ran the SDM eventually – twice in fact, in 2011 where I had a horrible time and again in 2015. By then, the SDM had moved from Changi Village to Changi Aviation Road and eventually to the current Marina Bay. Along the way and over the years, it has became a race catering to the mass instead of being a niche event and I guess as it grew bigger and bigger, it became more and more difficult to manage. First to go was the run through the heartland making use of the park connector. Next was the 84 km Ultra Distance which I feel was unfortunate as that was to me the main highlight of the annual event. And by moving to Marina Bay, it has became just another race in the area – nothing really great or special other than it being held at night. But I guess to many marathon wannabes, this race was a much welcome introduction to running a marathon as it enabled them to avoid the harsh heat of a day race. And so years after years, the numbers continue to grow…… Continue Reading →

Sundown Marathon 2015

The last local race I did was the Puma 10km night run at Sentosa in November last year. Prior to that, the last half marathon I did was the disastrous Army Half Marathon in 2013.  I don’t really have any desire to race locally considering that bad experience and more so after last year fiasco at the SCMS which just proved that the race directors do not have the interest of runners at heart.

So what the hell am I doing at the start line of this year Sundown Marathon? Let’s just say in a moment of madness I got carried away. 4 July happens to be the 21st birthday of one of my niece and her dear mother, my sister somehow managed to “con”-vinced her to sign up for the half marathon to mark the occasion, sort of as a passing of age thing. We promptly decided to show our support by signing up with her. The intention was of course to pace her but as it turns out, because the sweet young thing, after signing up, naturally regretted the moment of folly and did not train for it. So to avoid stressing her unduly, we ended up running our own race which kinda defeat the purpose of joining this to show support for her.

Anyway, the weather was pretty good and it was actually a great night to run. Firstly the crowd wasn’t that big so there was ample space to run. And surprisingly, there was properly demarcated start pens for the different timing and although it was voluntary, most people as far as I could see were humble enough to stick to their own respective time pen. Of course there were a few either blind or illiterate runners who can’t read because these few people were walking barely 1 km into the race. :(….

Compared to the 2013 Army Half Marathon or even the last Sundown Half Marathon that I did way back in 2011, this one was very very well organised. The start pens and the different wave time start was one thing. The organiser appeared to have taken feedback of all the complaints and the route was well thought out with adequate lighting all over. There were plenty of directional signboards even where the route seems pretty obvious. Hydration was adequate with plain water and isotonic drink every few km. There was also a banana and gel station which was quite surprising as usually these are reserved for the Full Marathon people.

The route was an interesting one – not very good for PB with many u-turns and a challenging run by the Sheares Bridge which was a pleasant surprise.  That came early in the race just after 2 km. The last time that particular route was used in a race was the 2010 Army Half Marathon when it was still called Sheares Bridge Run, if I am not wrong.

Back to the race, I managed to make my way to the first pen which was for runners 2 hours and below. Somehow I have this crazy notion that I am still good for a sub 2 and that despite the fact that the last time I ran a sub 2 half marathon was at the Macau Marathon in 2010 and in recent years I have not been training hard or trying to be race fit. In fact since my last race in September last year, the mileage has been hovering around 30 km per week with most run at pace of 6.30 km per hour or slower, So where did this crazy notion that I can do a sub 2 came about? Ok I thought I can try following the 2 hours pacer but barely 500 metres after flag off, the pacers zoomed past. One of them whom I know had told me to do sub 2 I need to hit at most 56 mins for 10 km. So I tried. 5 km in and after the steep climb, I was still feeling pretty good and doing a 5.40 pace. At 5 km, it was 28 mins so I was more on less still hanging on. And hanging on was the word. By the time I hit 8 km, I was a spent forced. 10 km and the watch shows 58 minutes +. So that’s it. I knew there was no way I can do the next 11 km in under 1 hour.  So I relaxed a bit and start to enjoy the race. Still I tried to do a decent pace averaging about 6 minutes. The route from ECP all the way to the end was pretty clear of runners and I had plenty of space to run. At the u-turn section at Garden by the Bay East, I could see the 2 hours pacers on the other side about 1 km ahead. I had this grand thought that I might catch up but soon gave up the fantasy. Somewhere after I made my u-turn, I saw M on the other side about 1 km behind. I contemplated slowing down for her to catch up but selfish me dropped that idea almost as soon as it pops up. What if she catches up and finished ahead of me? lol.

In the end, I crossed the finished line at 2 hours 10 minutes but not after suffering the ignominy of a calf cramp when I ran up one of those teeny weeny wooden board that the organiszer had thoughtfully put in place at the part below the Helix Bridge and FI track and I had to walk a few metres to ease off the cramp before resuming running the last little 100 metres to complete the race. And guess what, as I feared, M actually completed in a much faster time than me. Sighed…………………

Sundown Marathon 2013

After a few sleepless nights and days of torture , the day or rather the night dawn? The day of the Sundown Marathon. Heck, I wasn’t even signed up for this shit and I as kancheong as the sidekick. She complains of upset tummy which I think is more like butterflies than real pain. Funny, considering that this is not her first marathon. Maybe it finally sink in that I not gonna be running side by side with her?
Anyway, the kancheong part – just to show how kancheong I was. We drove down to the race site at about 10.40 pm. I got out my camera, my media pass and walked with her to the race site. The plan was while she goes to the race pen, I will go to the front, flash my media pass and take pictures of her (errr – of everybody) at the starting line. We reached the race village and I started fiddling with the settings. Hmmm something wrong. The camera is not working. Open up the battery compartment and shit… where is the battery? Then I remember – it still in the charger……. at home. Oh well, nevermind I have a spare but its in the car at Millennia Walk. So I walked back while the sidekick went ahead. And I reached the car and took out the camera bag and …..no battery! Die. The spare was sitting inside the battery grip which I had conveniently left behind at home to reduce the weight! Sighed…. By this time, it was too late to walk back to the Race site. And I probably can’t spot her even if I did so off I went after sending her a short SMS. 
2 hours later, I am now at Garden by the Bay East somewhere around the 36km mark. I didn’t expect her to reach that fast but a few of us have decided to kaypoh a bit and cheer on the runners here. After all, she had set herself a target of 5 hours which means she will only pass along this way about 4 hours after the start. So I had a long wait. We brought with us some coke, hot drinks and heat rub for our friends who were running.
The first few runners had already passed when we reached. Marcus set up his vantage point to shoot for Running Shots and we started cheering the runners. The front runners were all fixed on the race and most of them probably didn’t even realize we were there. None of them stop for our drinks even though we offered it to them. The next wave of runners came later – those hoping to finish between 4 hours to 5 hours. Some of them stopped when they see us – to chit chat, get a drink but generally they were in a hurry and did not dally too long.
I expected the sidekick to be in this group. I see her “very the up”, though she is very short 🙂 During our training runs, she was doing well and averaging about 7+ minutes pace and I expect her to do better during the race. In fact, I was optimistic that she could even do 4.30. But she did not appear. Not even when the 5 hours pacers passed. Which made me more kancheong. Did she cramp up? Did she dit the wall? Was the stomach upset she complained about real after all? But eventually she came into view. She stopped for Brokie’s famed honey water before moving off. But her 5 hours target was gone not unless she could run the balance 7km in 40 minutes which I doubt she could – not after running for 4 hours +.
By now the main bulk of runners were coming in hard and fast, oh wait some were not so fast. Quite a number were walking by now and we hit a sweet spot with a lot of them because we had a prized commodity with us – heat rub and water! It seems the water station ahead of us had ran out of water tle and those who were desperate enough, summoned up courage to ask for water from us. There also seem to be no aid station and our heat rub was in hot demand (pun intended). I do hope in our little way we had helped to make the rest of the race easier for those who managed to get the drinks and the heat rub from us before we too ran out.
The sidekick managed to finish in 5 hours 10 minutes. She complained that there were certain sections along Tanjong Rhu where there were bottleneck and passable only 1 or 2 at a time and she had to walk these sections. In addition, some stretches were dark and there were empty gel packets, banana skins, cups and bottles strewed all over and she had to gingerly jog these areas so that she won’t slip. Excuses  , excuses…. But I think overall she was quite satisfied with the results considering this is her first night full marathon and she was running this distance alone for the first time too, meaning I was not there to run with her. But then again, I think if I was running, she will probably end up with a 6 hours + timing!
Looking at the runners enduring sleep and tiredness to complete this race, I am glad I am not running. It certainly isn’t easy to run against the body clock and the humidity and gruelling distance. On top of that, most runners appears to be very ill prepared to take on the challenge which makes me wonder – why did they do this? For the medal or finisher tee?

Sundown Marathon Rain down the City

For the fifth year running, I went down to kapo. But this time round, I got more than I bargained for when it poured and poured and we got soaked through! Broken Runner, Kelly and me had parked ourselves at the Garden by the Bay East with coffee, coke and honey drink for the friends running the full marathon but barely before we can see even one of them, the heaven opened up!
 
Looking at the runners struggling through the heavy rain, I am glad that I did not sign up for this. Originally, I didn’t want to sign up after last year’s horrendous jam but regretted that decision when the route came out and it was a run to the West Coast Highway. But by the time the early bird was over and I didn’t really feel like paying full price. So I am double glad when part of the route was changed from West Coast Highway to  East Coast Park.
Everybody was caught by surprise during the race pack collection when the new route was unveiled. The start time was changed too. Understand there was some anger during the race pack collection and the poor volunteers were the targets of the anger. But I am sure the race organiser wouldn’t have made such a drastic change without a valid reasons and sure enough they did………..

Sundown Ultra Marathon 2011

For the 4th continuous year that this race has been organised, I did not take part. Ha ha, I am not up to that calibre to do an ultra. But a number of my friends are. And to these people, I salute them for their perseverance, tenacity and endurance to take up to 18 hours to do a run. Me. Probably will kill myself if I have to run anything more than 5 hours.
Anyway, even though I wasn’t running, there was no stopping me from soaking in the actions by dragging my sleepy body down to support my friends. Of course, over the years, the support stuff has been getting more and more pathetic. First year, we had a big group, all sort of food including a barbecue, it was down to drinks and some bread in the 2nd year, last year it was just some drinks and this year, we only had coke and coffee. This was mitigated by the fact that the full marathon had been spin off earlier and so it was just 900 ultra runners. 
After leaving the house, we cruise around the race route looking for familiar faces and stopped to give them a sip of hot coffee or coke before we eventually settled at the East Coast Park with fellow Ocean 9 pal, John to wait for everybody else to turn up. And bit by bit, one painful step by another, they staggered passed us enroute to the 100km finish line.

Our fellow TNF Trail Run series run leaders who took part in the Ultra:

Alvin

Kelly

Francis

Mindful of the limited drinks that we have, we gave only when asked by runners ensuring sufficient drinks for our own friends. But at this point in time, what counts for these runners is not just some refreshments but words of encouragement and support to see them through to the next mile and the next.

And they did it!

Sundown Marathon 2011

After 3 years playing a passive role in this night race, decided to get involved more directly and signed up for the race itself. Not the Ultra distance or even the full. Just the half to add one more piece to the race jigsaw.
The half starts at 8pm so after a light dinner, we drove there about 6.30pm. There was heavy traffic build up along Changi Aviation Park Road and it took more than 20 minutes just to clear that 2km stretch to reach the race’s carpark. So we still had a little bit of time till flag off or so I thought. Had arranged to meet a friend to pass him some stuff but unfortunately, he too became a victim of the jam. After waiting and waiting, finally gave up when I heard the flag off. The sidekick had already gone to the start line earlier and should have started. Ran back to the car to keep the item and ran back to the start. Wasted 5 minutes and started right at the tail end.
With that inauspicious start, my whole race was blown. While I do not have high expectation for myself, I have hoped to be able to maintain a sub 2 finish and with the flat route and cooler night temperature, maybe even a PB. With this in mind, I have a mental plan to run at certain pace and to do it with as little stress as possible. However, the late start means that I was caught behind all the walkers and stragglers and try as I could, I could not clear the massive crowd in front of me. To do a sub 2, I need to do constant minimum 5.35 pace but the first km was done in 6.37 minutes. The next 2 km were no better. I took 31 minutes + to do 5km. Way too slow. And since I am not a fast or strong runner, there was no way I could do a negative split to make up for the lost time. And the route was so boring. Just one long pitch black road with nothing to see except the back of all the sweaty runners.
After 5km, I managed to clear the main bulk of the stragglers and was able to run at a slightly faster pace. Even then, it was 1 hour on the dot when I hit the 10km mark. I knew the sub-2 was now a pipe dream. There was no way I could do 11km in under 60 minutes. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to do a stroll. Took a gel and after a short breather, started to run with a little bit more urgency. Managed to do the next 5km in an average pace of 5:50 minutes. At 15km, I was staring at the watch and it shows 1:29:34. So I had managed to move into sub-6 minutes region. Even then, 6km in 30 minutes? Was contemplating what should be my strategy when I saw the sidekick just 50 metres in front. There and then, I decided to run with her but not wanting to stress her, I stayed behind her all the way keeping a distance of about 20 metres. Even at the drink point when I caught up with her, immediately fall behind when we resume running. Don’t want her to chew my head off for giving her stress:). Consequently, the pace dropped to an average of 6.30 minutes.

Back at Changi Aviation Park Road at the 19km mark, finally went to her side and told her we will finish together. So we ran side by side along what seems to be a never ending last 2km before we finally crossed the finishing line together.
Overall, I gave this race the thumb down for the poor traffic management and the boring route. However, the race site activities was first rate. There was an open shower area for a quick wash down, changing room, adequate toilets. The width of the route was adequate despite only a partial road closure. Water point was at 2km interval with isotonic drink 4km apart. Lightning along the route could have been better as certain part was fairly dark.
Myself? The slower timing means that I finished the race still fresh and not fatigued although a tad sleepy causing me to do a wrong turn on a very familiar road while driving back. Maybe I should not stress myself so much and just forget about the timing issues.
Before the race, I was contemplating which pair of shoes to wear. In the end I settled for what a friend of mine described as “fashion” shoe – the Terra Plana Evo. Prior to this race, I had only worn it 8 times with a total mileage of 83km and the longest run was 12km. I didn’t really know whether my feet could take the shock of 21km of minimalist running. In the past runs, I had some discomfort on the left sole with a blister forming on the ball of the foot. The slightly smaller size of the shoe also wasn’t very encouraging but the lighter weight was the decisive factor in my decision. To overcome the problems, I replace the original thinner insole with a slightly more cushioned insole from my retired Saucony Fastwitch. That’s seems to take care of the blister problem and I had no problem running in it. At the end of the race, the whole shoe was soaking wet from my sweat but strangely enough, during the run, I did not feel the water at all. The lighter shoe also helps to reduce the “dead weight” feeling that used to come from prolonged running. Overall, I am glad that I choose the Terra Plana Evo over the other shoes. At least I know now I can do up to 21km in a pair of minimalist shoe.