At the start of 2015, I didn’t bother with resolutions – I knew the very act of trying, and failing, to keep them would just bring more misery than it was worth. I did promise myself I’d try as many new things as possible, though, and introduce some measure of positive change into my life. I’ve become fairly addicted to yoga since then, and am raring for more experiences to push me out of my comfort zone and firmly into ‘No Inhibitions Ville’.
So at 8.30am on a sunny Sunday, 8 March 2015, I found myself amongst over 7,000 runners, encompassing nearly 70 nationalities, at the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station–the starting point of the Green Corridor Run, now in its third year.
The 10.5k route lies along the former Rail Corridor, which connected Singapore to Malaysia not too long ago; I have vague memories of taking trains up to Kuala Lumpur as a child. A quick glance at the handy Green Rail Corridor guide from the race pack shows that the route weaves through the city, along the Ayer Rajah Expressway, skirting past Queensway and Alexandra, across Henderson Road up towards Buona Vista and Holland Village, ending at the Bukit Timah Railway Station at Rifle Range Road. The guide also shows the ecology and heritage of the Corridor – the wildlife you can expect to see, along with historic sites and notable buildings.
However, having never gone trail running before, I really had no idea what to expect. Visions of dense, overgrown jungle filled with monster mozzies were adding to the slight buzz of panic I was feeling; a 10.5k run for a casual runner can be a challenge… but it promised to be different at the very least.
“This run you are about to go on is truly unique. You are not going to get another one in Singapore, or even this region,” said Minister for Environment and Water Resources and guest-of-honour Vivian Balakrishnan at the start line.
It was hot, blisteringly hot. Hotter than the devil’s sweaty armpit (I have a wicked sunburn to show for it). Within the first kilometre, I was slowing down considerably and my breathing was becoming alarmingly shallow. A common gripe among the runners was that the race started way too late – 9am – so the heat was at full strength. Fortunately thpough, there were sufficient drink stations and first aid on hand.
Besides the weather, what struck me most was how peaceful it was. I jog at Bishan Park on occasion, and it’s definitely very pleasant to be surrounded by all the greenery and water. You feel at one with nature, connected to everyone else and all that biz. But that feeling got all the more intense when I was within the Corridor. There is something very soothing about getting away from our manicured streets and knee deep in muddy trails, occasionally plunged in the cool respite of shade from the trees overhead.
At the end of it all, my official timing was 01:46:53, which was 36 minutes past my target of 1 hour 15 minutes… but considering the circumstances, I guess it could have done worse.
THE KEPPEL LAND WATER CHALLENGE
For the first year ever, the Green Corridor Run was held in conjunction with Singapore World Water Day 2015, and as such, they added a little something extra into the mix. To experience what people in many countries face when having to obtain water – walking miles and miles to a well, perhaps – there were as many as 450 runners who volunteered for the Keppel Land Water Challenge. As if running 10.5k under the fiery wrath of the sun wasn’t challenging enough, these guys also carried a few litres of raw water in buckets, bottles or jerry cans from start to finish and ended off with pouring said water into a ceremonial well. Every litre that was collected meant $1 donated to charity:water, a non-profit that funds sustainable water projects in developing countries. One of the runners, Philip Jensen, who is in marketing, told me that there was a guy in his wave who was carried an impressive 25 litres.
It was at this point where I quietly marvelled at the resilience and indomitable strength of the human spirit, especially when just the night before, I had had chips for dinner because the bag was beside my bed and I didn’t want to get up.
Clean, safe water for all is a basic human right, I believe, and I honestly did want to do my bit for a good cause, but hey – I figured it would have been a miracle if I managed to finish the race at all, with or without three litres weighing me down. Perhaps next year?
I did manage to talk to a cheery mother-of-two, consumer insights and market research consultant Stephanie Schweizer, who carried 5 litres during the race, all with her kids in tow (in fact, it was really cool that the run was mainly a family affair). “I think this is the only race I know of where you have to carry water, and I thought this is a nice thing – to run and also do something for yourself, and think about the importance of water,” she said.
In all, 2,400 litres of water were carried throughout the event, resulting in a $2,400 donation, according to the organisers.
The event as a whole was well-organised and orderly. Everything ran smoothly (pun intended) and the atmosphere at the finish line was almost carnival-like; people were not letting the heat get to them, but were instead taking pictures and checking out the vendor booths.
Maybe it was the post-run high – a rush of endorphins would make anyone perk up – but I was feeling in pretty high spirits myself, even though cardio normally tuckers me out faster than kittens on Youtube comically falling asleep.
It really is a unique experience to be running through all that lush greenery; the Corridor is scenic, tranquil and quite a departure from the ubiquitous Marina Bay running routes. As for your running playlist, Beyoncé is highly recommended.
Also – PLEASE, PLEASE I BEG OF YOU, WATCH OUT FOR PEBBLES AND ROCKS. There were many, many instances when I almost tripped, despite the numerous ‘WATCH OUT FOR ROCKS’ signs that the organisers had placed along the route. Most of the other runners – undoubtedly no strangers to trail running – seemed surer of their footing and many were just bulldozing their way through, but I didn’t want to risk a sprained ankle or busted chin. I think at least 15% of the route was covered in loose pebbles and rocks, so that’s something to watch out for if you’re attempting to run here.
But if that’s not going to deter you, by all means, break out your trainers – or a bicycle! – and discover a side of Singapore that is still largely and blessedly unspoilt. Just remember to hydrate.