'Blended' running event finds the right mix amid Covid

Shiela Cory Sacayanan and Tan Kok Soon (No. 703) competing at the Leaderboard 5km Finale Run at the Singapore Sports Hub yesterday. They finished 15th and 20th in the women's and men's race respectively.
Shiela Cory Sacayanan and Tan Kok Soon (No. 703) competing at the Leaderboard 5km Finale Run at the Singapore Sports Hub yesterday. They finished 15th and 20th in the women's and men's race respectively.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

There was a collective sigh of relief among the 250 participants at the Leaderboard 5km Finale Run yesterday morning as the event was finally given the green light to proceed after a 90-minute delay owing to bad weather.

Organised by Orange Room, the Finale Run at the Singapore Sports Hub was the second mass participation race to be held here since sports came to a halt during the circuit breaker in April last year.

The MetaSprint series aquathlon at Sentosa last Sunday was the first to kick off with 1,000 participants.

The early morning shower could not dampen the spirits of the runners, as most of them had not competed in a physical race for close to a year.

Sharon Tan, who was the third fastest female in 18min 3.05sec was grateful that the organisers had waited and allowed the event to resume.

"This was quite responsible of them, as this showed that they did not want to disappoint the runners who qualified and turned up," she said.

The "blended" sporting event initiative was launched when Singapore entered Phase 2 last year to give runners a platform to compete virtually and clock their best 5km time every month.

A total of 6,000 runners competed in the virtual event, with only the top 30 male and 30 female runners each month from December last year to March in the competitive category qualifying for yesterday's finale event.

The top five male and female winners were each awarded up to S$4,500 worth of cash and prizes.

Aside from the "blended" event combining virtual and physical races, there were other Covid-19 safety measures in play.

There was no baggage deposit and runners were encouraged to arrive no earlier than 25 minutes before their allocated race start time to prevent mingling. No spectators were allowed for the event.

Instead of the usual mass start, runners were flagged off in groups of eight, with a five-minute interval between waves. In each wave, only four people set off at a time in 10-second intervals.

There were also stickers on the floor to remind runners to maintain a two-metre safe distance.

Herlene Yu, who competed in the duathlon mixed relay team at the 2019 SEA Games, said events like this can be used as "small steps to get back to normal racing".

She added: "We can't expect the same number of people and competitiveness, but with this race and the MetaSprint last week, I am starting to see more hope that similar events will take place in the future."

Coming in first in the men's race in 15:16.31 was Foo Gen Lin, who admitted that he felt "mildly apprehensive" as it was one of his first physical races in Covid times.

He was happy to achieve a good time despite feeling a little fatigued, noting that "it's good to be back on the podium again".

Orange Room had hosted the event with the support of Sport Singapore under the "blended" initiative, part of the Government's $50 million Sports Resilience Package to help the sports industry cope with the effects of the pandemic.

Elvin Ting, Orange Room's managing director said: "Being able to hold this competitive on-site event gives organisers the confidence that the sports industry is starting to make a positive comeback.

"Seeing all the hard work come to life is great... We hope that this event can set forward the right standards for mass events to open up again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2021, with the headline ''Blended' running event finds the right mix amid Covid'. Subscribe