SINGAPORE - There were no airhorns, no loud music blaring from speakers and little fanfare but, crucially, Sunday (Nov 14) morning saw the return of in-person competitive racing in the Republic.
Fifteen of the top local female runners took part in the elite-only half-marathon at the 2021 Great Eastern Women's Run, which was the first high-level in-person running event to be held in the Republic since the pandemic began.
Former SEA Games marathoner Rachel See crossed the finish line first in 1hr 23min 14 sec. She was followed by Hu Xiuying (1:27:28) and Vanessa Chong (1:30:43).
See, 39, who kept up her fitness during the pandemic with daily 10km runs at a leisurely pace, said she enjoyed the return of in-person racing.
"I've missed the competitiveness of events like these, and at the same time getting to race with my friends… we all know each other," she said.
Prior to the Great Eastern Women's Run, the last taste of a competitive in-person race See - and many of the other participants - had was the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in November 2019.
Top national triathlete Choo Ling Er added that taking part in an in-person race pushes her "20 to 30 per cent harder than in training".
Completing the 21.1km race was extra special for Choo as she is 12 weeks pregnant with her first child.
She said she decided to go through with the race after discussing it with her husband and consulting her doctor.
"Also, I wanted to show that as women, we do have duties (as mothers), but that does not mean it should stop us from doing what we love and going after what we believe," she said.
The race was also special for Chong, an associate consultant at the department of haematology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, who celebrated her 32nd birthday.
She said she felt "blessed" to be able to compete in an in-person race again.
Her last competitive event was a 10km race in July 2019, before she suffered an injury that prevented her from running for months.
"It really feels amazing to be able to be a part of the starting line," said Chong.
The race route started and ended at the OCBC Square at the Singapore Sports Hub, and took the runners along East Coast Park in a loop.
The race, which was originally set to be a virtual edition but was later converted to a physical one, started at 5.30am so the runners could avoid the morning crowd. No roads were closed for the event.
Seven marshals, who donned fluorescent vests and were armed with light sticks, guided the runners on bikes.
All invited participants were fully vaccinated and required to produce a valid negative antigen rapid test result taken within 20 hours of the flag-off time.
They had to be masked at all times until they reached the start pen for the flag-off, when they all began at the same time. No spectators were allowed.
The Great Eastern Women's Run comes as Covid-19 restrictions in the sports sector continue to be eased.
On Monday, the Government announced that 10 fully vaccinated persons could play together in supervised settings under the vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) + antigen rapid test (ART) protocol at selected ActiveSG sports centres and People's Association community clubs from Wednesday. This pilot would pave the way for team sports to return.
The Great Eastern event's virtual component for the public (5km, 10km, 21.1km, 113km, and 2km for mothers and daughters aged five to 12), has had 4,500 sign-ups and will take place from Nov 14 to Dec 15.
The next large-scale in-person race will be this year's edition of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. Organisers had announced that up to 4,000 participants will be able to take part in four physical races, spread over two days on Dec 4 and 5.