Athletics: Stray runners on the practice track

Recreational runners using the Kallang Practice Track. Sometimes they run on lanes the national athletes are using and disrupt the elite track-and-field performers' training.
Recreational runners using the Kallang Practice Track. Sometimes they run on lanes the national athletes are using and disrupt the elite track-and-field performers' training.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

National athletes' training at Kallang facility is often disrupted by recreational sportspeople

It was given a $4-million makeover and renamed the Home of Athletics. And, when the Kallang Practice Track was re-opened last year, it was touted as a venue to be shared by elite and recreational athletes alike, with the authorities expressing hope that the two can mingle and even inspire one another.

But the sharing of the arena, the main high-performance facility for national track-and-field athletes, has thrown up a few hurdles for its principal users.

For one thing, some members of the public lack track etiquette and disrupt the elite athletes' training by sometimes running on lanes that the national athletes are using.

Some groups also use the field bound by the track for sports like rugby, which means the national throwers cannot train there.

National sprinter Calvin Kang said there were several times when training was interrupted because of people straying on to his lane.

At times, he noted, the number of people using the track even swelled to more than 100.

SAFER TO STAY CLEAR

It's not that we don't want to share the venue, but it can be quite dangerous if members of the public stray onto training lanes.

JAMIE CHEONG , sports development and performance manager, Singapore Athletics.

He said: "A few times I almost ran into people and had to swerve out of the way. Even after we put our equipment on the track, like the blocks, hurdles and pulleys, we still have to constantly keep a lookout and find the right window to go.

"Sometimes, depending on the wind conditions, we will run in the opposite direction, so there's also a risk of a head-on collision.

"It's not a question of sharing but really about making it safe for everyone. I don't think the public does it intentionally."

National thrower Benny Lam said: "I've had about five throwing sessions which were disrupted this year. A few times, some groups would tell us that they had booked the field, when in fact they had not.

"It's frankly a bit annoying, especially with the Singapore Open coming up (on April 28 and 29)."

The facility is owned by local sport's governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG).

When The Sunday Times raised these issues with SportSG, its director of NSA (national sports association) partnership Lenard Pattiselanno said in an e-mailed statement: "The Kallang Practice Track has always been an open facility and remains so... We urge members of the public to give way at the cordoned areas of training for our athletes."

To enhance safety, local track and field body Singapore Athletics (SA) designed signs explaining track etiquette. It said it submitted these to SportSG a few months ago.

But ST understands that the proposed signs, crafted by national coach (sprints, relays and hurdles) Luis Cunha, were rejected, with SportSG saying it would produce the signs itself.

When queried, SportSG did not say when its signs would be ready.

SA sports development and performance manager Jamie Cheong said she hopes the matter will be resolved soon.

"It's not that we don't want to share the venue, but it can be quite dangerous if members of the public stray onto training lanes," said Cheong.

"Our athletes, many of whom are not full-time, train whenever they are free, so it's also not feasible to have someone policing the area. For now, putting up signs is the best solution."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'STRAY RUNNERS ON THE PRACTICE TRACK'. Print Edition | Subscribe