SINGAPORE - One of Singapore's largest annual running events, the Safra Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon (SSBR and AHM), has been called off this year, the Singapore Army said on Facebook on Saturday (March 9).
"Not organising the SSBR and AHM will allow the Army to better manage the overall tempo for a busy year," the Army said.
The SSBR and AHM is co-organised by the Singapore Army and Safra.
It usually takes place in the later half of the year. More than 41,000 people took part in last year's event, which is aimed at promoting fitness and bonding among active servicemen, NSmen and their families.
The last time the SSBR and AHM was put on hiatus was in 2015 to support the SG50 celebrations, said the Facebook post. It added that the army would be involved in supporting the Singapore bicentennial commemoration this year.
"Safra and the Army will review if SSBR & AHM will be reinstated subsequently," it added.
Other major running events here include the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, which attracted some 50,000 runners last December, and the 2XU Compression Run, which had some 30,000 runners in 2017.
The cancellation of the Safra Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon comes after the SAF announced an unprecedented lowering of training tempo across all services on Jan 24.
It was among the measures taken after the death of actor and operationally-ready national serviceman (NSman) Aloysius Pang from injuries suffered during a military exercise in New Zealand earlier in January.
The post also said that there was a "one-time impact" on training activities as a result of the two-week safety-timeout that was imposed after Corporal First Class (NS) Pang's death.
"For instance, the Basic Military Training Centre recruits graduating today on 9 March 2019 had a 12km graduation march and not the usual 24km march, as they were not able to complete the required build-up training in line with existing training directives.
"The 24km graduation march will be reinstated for subsequent batches."
In-camp training for three national service units were also cancelled as they fell within or immediately after the safety timeout, said the post, adding that this cancellation will not affect the fulfilment of the NSmen's operationally-ready national service training cycle.
The Chief of Army, Major-General Goh Si Hou, said on Jan 31 that the army would be reviewing the scope of its military exercises and redesigning training programmes as part of the lowered training pace in the next few months to focus on safety.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen gave some indication last month that some of the responsibilities that the SAF handled might be dropped.
He was responding to Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, who asked in Parliament on Feb 11 whether "non-operational responsibilities" that involve national servicemen such as the National Day Parade and the Army Half Marathon would be reviewed.
Dr Ng said then that certain activities have been reviewed, but the announcement on what will not be done "so that it gives them enough bandwidth to focus on safety" will be done later.
Business development director Tan Hon Kee, 44, who has taken part in four army half marathons since 2013, said he was disappointed with the cancellation of the event this year.
While understanding the rationale of lightening non-operational demands on the Army to better focus on training safety, he said a better move could have been to appoint an event organiser to run the race.
“The AHM is heavily subsidised for national servicemen or SAF personnel so all former full-time national servicemen enjoyed a half marathon race at really affordable rates,” he told The Straits Times.
“The spirit de corp of all units is displayed along the running routes with good vibes,” he added.
NSmen, Safra members and family members of NSmen enjoy discounts for the event. For instance, an NSman need pay $16 for the 21km run last year during the early registration period, compared to $65 for the public, which is about the cost of similar runs.
The SSBR and AHM was formerly known as the Safra Sheares Bridge Run and Army Half Marathon.
The Sheares Bridge Run started in 1992 to mark the 20th anniversary of Safra. In 1998, it merged with the Army Half Marathon, which began in 1994.
SAFRA was formed in 1972 to provide for the social and recreational needs of NSmen and their families.
SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong, 27, who won last year’s 21km Army Half Marathon men’s category, said the cancellation was a pity.
“It’s the biggest half marathon in Singapore so all the competitive runners based here would plan to do it.
“It’s a race that the community gets excited by and looks forward to every year, helping to develop fitness and running performance among elite athletes and recreational runners alike,” he said.