SINGAPORE - This year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) will feature a hybrid race format incorporating a virtual race and augmented reality (AR) in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers Ironman Asia said on Thursday (Oct 29).
Registration for the Nov 27-Dec 6 event is free and has opened. The five categories are Grand Finale Rouvy AR 10km and half-marathon, Grand Finale VR 10km, half-marathon and double-up challenge (both distances).
Runners must complete their respective race in one setting. They can can choose the outdoor or indoor race option with a compatible tracking device or run on a treadmill to experience the immersive AR format, which allows participants to create avatars and see themselves competing with fellow runners in real-time.
The AR routes have been specially curated in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to feature some of the country's iconic locations such as Orchard Road, Little India and Chinatown.
Local runners without access to a treadmill can opt for the AR format and complete the runs on treadmills at 12 ActiveSG gyms islandwide. Slots must be booked via the ActiveSG app.
Mr Geoff Meyer, Ironman Group's managing director for Asia, said this year's SCSM will be "a race like no other". He added: "We look forward to having people around the world participate in the race virtually and safely, and to end the year with an uplifting event."
STB chief executive Keith Tan praised the organisers for "boldly reimagining the race during this challenging period".
He noted: "Marathons are all about overcoming obstacles and pushing your limits. We encourage all event organisers to do the same, to continue exploring new formats and redefining how events could look like in the new Covid environment.
"In the meantime, we're excited that runners from all over the world can experience the sights and sounds of our beautiful city virtually this year. We hope this will inspire them to visit us in person, in time to come."
Members of the local running community were excited about the changes, with Singapore's "Blade Runner" Shariff Abdullah saying the format makes the SCSM more accessible to persons with disabilities (PWDs).
"PWDs have their own kind of challenge with some wearing a prosthetic leg and some in a wheelchair. By doing a virtual race, they can create their own route and take their own time since they don't have to finish in a stipulated time," said the 52-year-old, who plans to sign up for the Double Up Challenge and complete it in a day.
Sports presenter John Yeong, who will be taking part in his fourth SCSM, added: "For people who are not comfortable running road races or in running events, this might be a good entry point because it's a controlled environment. You can also experience a bit of the outside in a safe environment.
"You cannot replicate the atmosphere of feeling the energy and overall vibe of the event. But running on the treadmill with AR is still cool because you get to see some routes that you wouldn't usually run at."
The SCSM traditionally attracts over 50,000 runners every year and while this year's race will be virtual, residents here can attend the Grand Finale Celebration Experience at Gardens by the Bay on Dec 5 and 6.
This is open only to those who have purchased Grand Finale race entitlements ($65 for the double-up challenge and $60 for the other categories), which include a runner's singlet, an SCSM bottle and backpack, and a memorabilia medal.
Pre-registration for the two-day event is required and safe management measures will be in place. For example, there will be 16 sessions in total with a cap of 125 participants for each session, which will last between one and 1.5 hours from 9am to 9pm over both days.
Organisers may open more slots depending on demand.
Sport Singapore's chief executive Lim Teck Yin said: "While many Singaporeans were eager to see the SCSM return in its full glory, we know that for this year this was not to be.
"Undaunted, the organisers have creatively put together a celebration of the SCSM through an immersive and engaging journey and experience.
"This speaks to the spirit of Singapore and of all runners who want to come together in one voice to celebrate our way of life and in overcoming the limitations of these Covid-19 times."