Iconic landmarks, live music make a difference to runners

Participants in the 18.45km race being entertained by Shuk And Fren, who belted out 1960s hits from bands like The Beatles. The route took participants past iconic landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion.
Participants in the 18.45km race being entertained by Shuk And Fren, who belted out 1960s hits from bands like The Beatles. The route took participants past iconic landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Briton Tom Sheldon has traversed the globe to compete in marathons, including the hallowed New York and London editions.

But there is something special about The Straits Times Run at the Hub that makes it a must-go-to on his personal "tour de race".

Calling the route through Singapore's cityscape "tough but tasty, testing yet teasing", the 51-year-old chose the 18.45km category this time round - rather than the 10km route he took with his two teenage sons last year - for one simple reason.

"I get to spend more time out there, out on the road, running alongside some spectacular architecture that this country should be proud of," said the amiable stockbroker, who has been based in Singapore since 2011.

After days of unbearable haze, participants like Sheldon were yesterday treated to a clear view of the sunrise as they breezed through iconic landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion.

A new addition to this year's route was the 220m Jubilee Bridge, which links the promenade in front of the Esplanade to Merlion Park.

"Many races like to pass by Helix Bridge but, for this run, we ran on the Jubilee Bridge, which was wider and didn't create any bottlenecks," noted dental therapist Juginder Kaur, 62.

Realtor Nizam Gafoor, 58, cherished "running, not driving, on Nicoll Highway", while student Amanda Lee, 15, felt it was "very cool" to pound the same surface Formula One cars zipped through during the previous weekend's night race.

For civil servant Adeline Chua, the overall experience was a refreshing change from typical jogging spots like MacRitchie Reservoir and the Botanic Gardens.

"You get bored of running past trees after a while," said the 32-year-old fitness enthusiast.

"I felt this year we appreciated the scenery even more because the haze has robbed us of it recently."

The run, backed by presenting sponsor Panasonic, featured three race categories: a 5km fun run, a 10km competitive run and a special 18.45km route, to mark the year the paper was founded - in 1845.

Not all saw the same sights, but the highlight for many remains running into the final bend of the National Stadium track to cross the finish line. "The moment I saw the stadium, I felt like an athlete during the SEA Games. I felt like there were a lot of people watching from all around the spectator stands," said businessman Gurdev Jatin, 62.

IT manager Andrew Goh, 58, was hoping for a more raucous reception, saying: "I was expecting the ending part to have more cheering when we came into the stadium."

As with many mass runs, logjams were to be expected. Some needed to slow down to catch their breath, while others were drawn to selfie points offering cut-out photo signs such as an Afro hairdo.

Lighting was also an issue in certain areas. "I had a problem around the Marina Bay Sands area, where it was really dark and it had stairs so it was hard to run - I even tripped and fell," said a runner who wanted to be known only as K.L. Tan.

For those who kept both feet firmly on the ground, they could not resist clapping their hands or whooping along the opening stretch. There, acoustic band Shuk And Fren dished out 1960s tunes from The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley.

Said process engineer Stephen Tan, 57: "The music and singing along the way make it different from previous runs. I like that they are playing our generation's songs."

Perhaps teacher Khairil Azwan, 36, best summed up the day: "From start to finish, the route was a reminder of what makes Singapore one of a kind."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2015, with the headline 'Iconic landmarks, live music make a difference to runners'. Print Edition | Subscribe