More people taking up running in Singapore

More people taking up the sport has led to more running events being organised and a rise in sportswear sales.

Seven days a week, at different times and locations in Singapore - in parks, along trails and on pavements - people can be spotted running.

According to the Sport Singapore's National Sports Participation Survey in 2011, jogging is the top sporting activity here.

The ubiquitous sport has spawned interest groups, attracted growing participation in events and kept the cash tills of sports retailers ringing.

Ms Cindy Chui, senior marketing manager at sports retailer World of Sports, said sales of running-related items, such as apparel, hydration packs and compression wear, has increased about 25 per cent in the last two to three years.

And running events now pack the sporting calendar here. This month alone, there are nine such events - starting with Metta Charity Run this Saturday and ending with The Straits Times Run at the Hub on Sept 28.

While the wider range of choices appear to have dampened the participation rate for some major races, the demand remains high.

World of Sports, which organises about five races a year, has seen a "marginal increase of 5 to 10 per cent a year" for its 11-year-old Mizuno Wave Run, which attracts about 3,000 runners each year. Its other races, however, have had slight dips in sign-up rates in recent years.

Likewise, participation in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore dropped from 65,000 in 2011 to less than 55,000 in the last two years.

Ms Chui blames this on the deluge of running events, such that "runners are spoilt for choice".

Even so, some races continue to grow in popularity, such as the Sundown Marathon, which attracted close to 30,000 runners this year - about five times the 6,029 runners at its first edition in 2008, said Mr Adrian Mok, managing director of marathon organiser HiVelocity.

"It shows that people from all walks of life see running as a way to keep fit amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and to bond with their friends and families," said Mr Mok.

TEAMING UP TO RUN

It is this desire to bond over a shared passion that running clubs have sprouted islandwide. Many of them dangle benefits for members.

The Puma Running Club, for example, has seen membership numbers grow from 20 to its current strength of 50 since it was launched by sportswear brand Puma in August last year.

The club's three-month training programme aims to help both beginner and experienced runners. Membership is free and members get to enjoy various discounts.

At Pasir Ris Park Runners, which is under the community sports club of Pasir Ris West Community Centre, members pay a one-time fee of $30 for a club singlet, discounts on sports apparel and coupons for food and drinks.

Even SEA Games marathon gold medallist Mok Ying Ren has jumped on the bandwagon. He founded the "Run To Walk" interest group under ActiveSG, the national movement for sport.

The club's Saturday evening runs, which are open to people of various fitness levels at four locations, such as Jurong East and Sengkang sports centres, began two weeks ago.

But joining such a group goes beyond exercise - it also builds camaraderie among like-minded people. Product executive Wong Kee Wee, 32, who is part of NB (short for "New Balance") Runners, often goes for meals and movies with his fellow members. He describes the unit as "a Care Bear group where you know the fastest runner will wait for the slowest".

Others, like 38-year-old Goh Wei Koon, joined not just one, but two clubs. Since last year, the regional marketing manager has been training with the Jurong Lake Running Club and the Safra Jurong Running Club, which adds up to four runs a week.

All that exercise has helped him to shed 8kg. "The regular training I get from being in a club not only helps to build up my fitness, but also instils discipline in me," said Mr Goh.

joanchew@sph.com.sg