Athletics: Night slot for marathon the new formula

Geoff Meyer, Ironman Asia managing director, feels that making the Singapore Marathon iconic would put it on the global map.
Geoff Meyer, Ironman Asia managing director, feels that making the Singapore Marathon iconic would put it on the global map.ST PHOTO: SHARON LUM

Organisers believe twilight setting for 2018 will boost S'pore race, strengthen Majors bid

The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) is making incremental changes as it bids to earn World Marathon Major status but the race organisers believe the killer app has been found by turning it into a night race, a la Singapore Grand Prix, to showcase the country's spectacular city views.

Only six cities have earned Major status - Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, New York and Chicago.

Geoff Meyer, 48, managing director of race organisers Ironman Asia, told The Straits Times yesterday: "They (the World Marathon Majors) gave us a thick document of all the improvements that we needed to do and we've done that from a technical element, making sure the courses were wider, less congested... entertainment, aid stations, drink stations. I think we've done a really good job on that."

The Australian added: "What we need to do (is) to make this event iconic and put it on the global map like what Formula One has done by turning it into a night event. We can flag off at 5pm or 6pm and run under the city lights with the finish at about midnight with fireworks.

"We can create a real running festival around it. And we are really focusing on doing that in 2018."

The Singapore GP blends action on the track with glitzy after-race parties and corporate networking opportunities and is seen as a marquee race in Formula One.

The SCSM has been an International Association of Athletics Federations Gold Label race since 2012. In April, Standard Chartered, title sponsor for the past 15 years, extended its partnership until 2019 in a $11.4 million deal.

POSSIBLY AT ODDS

All the Majors are held during the day, so it is unclear if a night race in Singapore will offer a better experience for international runners, especially those seeking a World Majors experience.''

ADRIAN MOK, managing director of the Sundown Marathon's organiser HiVelocity, on the radical change.

The marathon was inaugurated in 1982 and saw a peak of 65,000 runners in 2011. This year's Dec 2-3 race will see the marathon segment on the second day start at Orchard Road and end at the Padang.

There is a precedent for night marathons here, with the first Sundown Marathon in 2008. Adrian Mok, managing director of the event's organiser HiVelocity, was unconvinced that turning the SCMS into a night race would help.

He said: "All the Majors are held during the day, so it is unclear if a night race in Singapore will offer a better experience for international runners, especially those seeking a World Majors experience."

But two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong, who has run in the Chicago and London marathons, disagreed. The 26-year-old said: "That is the way to go. Currently, the race is flagged off at 4.30am in the morning and not many fans will want to get up at that hour. The Boston and London Marathons start at 10am and the atmosphere is electric.

"If you cannot bring people to the race, then you should bring the race to the people."

Meyer said there were hurdles to overcome: "We still need support from the Government. We already have certain agencies on board. We want to do this but there's still a bit more to get to that next level and make it a Major.

"You can run around Marina Bay at 7am and you can have the whole place to yourself. But if you run around there at night, it is packed with people.

"If we can move the SCSM into that (night) time slot and are able to run through the city, it will really showcase Singapore. It will truly become iconic overnight."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'Night slot for marathon the new formula'. Print Edition | Subscribe