YOLO Run was held on the same weekend as Great Eastern Women’s Run. Prior to signing up for YOLO, I have rejected GE run’s invitation to join the elite category as it was 3 weeks away from SCSM and my intention was do my longest long run, 35-36km on the same weekend.
So when Baoying shared that she got some free slots for YOLO run which was held on a Saturday, I thought it would be nice to do a good 21km followed by 15km to clock my longest run. Signed up for the run happily, thinking to take this as a good training run.
And then along came the Alfa Romeo challenge, where female and male half-marathoners each stand to drive away with a brand new Alfa Romeo. Of course, it’s not going to be easy. Here’s what it says on the website:-
In light of Singapore’s national record of 1hr 7mins 8secs for the men’s category and 1hr 23mins 16secs for the women’s category, the incredible winners of the 21KM Alfa Romeo Competizione will be the fastest male and the fastest female who can finish the race under the times of 1hr 9mins 0secs and 1hr 25mins 0secs respectively – a feat that must be achieved without the assistance of illegal drugs and steroids.
I certainly cannot run sub 1hr 25mins for a half marathon, not at my current level and definitely not in Singapore. My PB is just under 1hr 28min and that was achieved in Japan, a cool climate perfect for running. So I didn’t paid much attention to this challenge until Rachel shared that there would be cash prizes as consolation prizes if no one can run below 1hr 25min. True enough, I checked the website and it was updated with the new terms:
The fastest entrants who do not run below 1hr09mins (Men) and 1hr25mins (Women) but still run below 1hr15mins (Men) and 1hr37mins (Women), from their respective Men or Women categories, will be entitled to the cash consolation prize(s) of:
– 1st position : SGD3,000
– 2nd position : SGD1,500
– 3rd position : SGD750
Now, 1hr 37 mins sounds a lot more achievable compared to 1hr 25min. So why not just sign up for this challenge since I’m already participating in the run?
So Jackie and I attended the briefing on 1 October at Velocity together with Rachel and Zili. The guys gamely signed up on the spot to join the challenge with us since they thought they do not stand a chance to win in the open category anyway.
11.11.2017. Race Day.
Jackie, Daniel, Ivan and I shared a cab down to Singapore Flyer. We arrived just slightly before 4am. The place was dimly lit. So dark that we received advice from other runners to bring along hand phone (as torchlight) because there was no lights inside the toilets.
Met up with Alex at the pacers’ tent and we mingled, chit-chat and took some pictures. I did my warm up and visited the loo again (super long queue even at 4:35 am. I almost thought I could not make it to the start line by 5am.)
At 4:50 am, we were led to the start line and the emcee introduced the participants of Alfa Romeo Challenge to the crowd. There were altogether seven of us. Four men namely, Soh Rui Yong, Lexus Tan, Poon Zili, and Jackie. For the female participants, there were only three of us, Rachel See, April Mckenna and myself. We were allowed to have one pacer so I have roped in Ivan to run with me.
The race was supposed to start at 5am. We waited..and waited. By 5:40 am, we can sense that the crowd were getting restless. There were some boos from the runners. It was rare to have a race being delayed for so long without any explanation. The emcee tried to calm the runners down by explaining that there has been an incident around Sports Hub area and that we should be flagging off soon.
We were finally flagged off at around 5:50am. Rui Yong disappeared almost immediately with the lead cyclist and his cyclist pacers and that would be the last time I see him. Lexus shot off in great speed and pulled away quickly too. I could see Zili, Jackie and Rachel not too far ahead. Ivan and I ran on, with April following closely behind us.
My first target was to attempt average 4:20″/km pace. I told Ivan beforehand that I wasn’t sure if I could handle this pace as even if I could run without feeling pain in my butt, I may not have the fitness to sustain the pace throughout the 21 km. If that didn’t work out, my second target is to finish under 1hr 37min in order to qualify for the prizes.
Along Nicoll Highway, we spotted Gen. He ran alongside with us and was puzzled by the delayed start. We chatted and ran past the first hydration point, only to find out that it was not ready yet. Yuta, from the open category (which was flagged about 2 mins later) came running past shortly. Gen ran with him and the two disappeared into the darkness to catch up with the rest of the Alfa Romeo challengers ahead. It’s back to just me, Ivan and April. April and I each have a cyclist to lead us. A few more fast runners ran past, one after another spaced some distance apart, Ahmad, Gordon, Ghim.
As we turned into Sports Hub, a few more runners overtook us, Daniel, Jingjie, Derek, Hubert running in a pack. April was still following closely behind me, and I dare not slack. We were running at 4:25″/km pace but I felt comfortable and wasn’t in a rush to get into 4:20″/km.
As we ran past Kallang Wave Mall, the two cyclists who were supposed to lead me and April ended up cycling behind us and talking to each other. At certain turns, we took cues from the pack of runners ahead and follow. I have to request my cyclist to be ahead of us to led the way when we could no longer see any runners ahead.
Left Sport Hub and we headed towards ECP where I know that there would be a u-turn at 9km mark. As we ran towards the u-turn, we could see the rest of the runners on the other side. Ruiyong was so fast that I didn’t get to see him at all throughout the race. Lexus, currently in 2nd place among the 4 male challengers. Jackie was in 3rd place! And I thought to myself that he must be enjoying to have his very own lead cyclist. Not long after spotted Rachel running strong.
Seeing all these runners motivated me and I was soon running at 4:20″/km pace as planned. After the U-turn at 9km mark, we ran towards Marina Barrage, my cyclist actually turned towards Tanjong Rhu. Seemed like not all the cyclists know the race route but luckily we have a rough idea of the race route.
At 10km, April was still hot on my heels. At first, I was glad to have her running closely behind me, as she pushed me to stick to the pace and kept me on my toes. But when this continued even after 12km where Ivan and I started picking up pace and was running under 4:20″/km, I wasn’t sure if I like the idea of her hanging so closely behind us anymore. It was nice running together, but I was hoping April could share the load and perhaps take the lead some time instead of shadowing behind. I guess it’s all part of racing strategy.
At 14km, I was feeling good about the run as I experience no pain at all. I felt thirsty though. There were now many 21km runners on the other side of the race route and it appeared to have only one hydration point at the other side, which was jam packed with runners. Without 2nd thought, I made a move to the right to grab some water from the hydration station. And of course, I got stuck in the crowd of oncoming runners as I tried to retrieve a cup of water. It was a silly and grave mistake which I regretted and paid for it dearly at the end. Upon seeing this, April took the chance to speed up. By the time I got back to the clear but narrow running path, she was ahead by at least 20 m and pulling away fast. I think my mistake could have given her a new found motivation.
I thought I still have a chance to catch her, after all we still have about 6 km till the finishing line. Ivan and I set off to chase, but it was getting harder to run fast especially with oncoming runners sharing the same narrow path at Tanjong Rhu.
Crossed the bridge and we seemed to be closing in to April. However, she glanced back and seemed more determined than ever to get away. I was feeling the fatigue after the sudden surge earlier on. Or my mind is weak and I lost the motivation to chase. I could not react to the change in speed and my pace dropped to 4:40″/km as we ran inside Sports Hub, the gap between me and April widening again. She crossed the road and looked back for the last time before she sped up again to break away.
I ran on, following Ivan. The next moment I saw April running on the grass into the crowd. There was a hydration station on her right. Gosh, is she going to make the same mistake as I did by stopping for water with all the runners out there? We got closer and realised it was actually part of the running route. It was also the u-turn point for 10km runners, which explain the massive crowd. Ivan and I got through the crowd, made our way down the flight of stairs gingerly to get to Kallang Riverside Park. By the time we started running again, we had lost sight of April in the crowd. =(
It was even tougher to run here as we were blocked by slower 10 km runners who were on their return route. It was impossible to overtake on the right as there were on-coming runners coming through. I was trying to get past a guy running in front of me. Tapped on his shoulder lightly and he responded, “Stop Pushing!”
Hmm.. hello I wasn’t even pushing? I squeezed my way through and relieved to get out of the crowd. Spotted the starting line on the other side. The finishing line should be somewhere towards the back. I checked for the time. To my horror, it was already 1hr 35mins ++ and yet there was no sign of the finishing line.
I got anxious and started speeding up. Saw from a distance the runners running up a slope, where the finishing line was. Would I make it in time? I sprinted and finally crossed the finishing line in 1:36:44. Phew! Just barely under 1:37.
Not the best organised race certainly – late race start, congested running routes, insufficient hydration points etc. I did enjoy the shoulder massage at the end though. And it was a creative and interesting concept to link up with Alfa Romeo to introduce the Alfa Romeo Challenge and let us have a go of breaking records. The incentive that came along with it was a big bonus too.
I am not happy with my race performance, even though I did managed to finish under 1hr 37min and get away with a 3rd place (because there’s only 3 females runners in this category).
No doubt there’s some congestion and that could have been a reason for me to slow down, but somehow I feel that I just did not try hard enough to sustain my target pace. I did not push hard enough to catch April when she pulled away. Instead I gave in to my fatigue. Thinking back, April deserves to win because she wanted it more that me. Every race is a learning experience and I certainly take away loads from this race.
On a side note, I am glad I’m able to run without the pain in the butt feeling. So things are looking up. =)