For the first time, this year's Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) will be a night race and the shift in start times has been praised by the country's top marathoners.
The 42.195km marathon, the half-marathon and the Ekiden relay will flag off from the F1 Pit Building at 6pm on Nov 30. Last year, the marathon began at 4.30am.
Two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong, 27, said the change will allow race participants to prepare for the marathon better, and also enjoy a better race experience.
"Waking up so early, around 2am, to race is tough on the body, and getting to the race start is difficult," said Soh, the top local finisher at the 2017 and 2018 editions.
"Also, the longer you get into the race, the hotter it gets. With the change, I think we can all have a good rest before the race, then look forward to an amazing, charged atmosphere. For once, the more tired you get, the cooler it gets."
While there are marathons held at night in Spain, Norway, Luxembourg and Las Vegas, such races are generally uncommon.
None of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors (WMM) - Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo - are held at night.
STANDARD CHARTERED SINGAPORE MARATHON 2019
NOV 29, FRIDAY
7pm Kids Dash
NOV 30, SATURDAY
6pm Marathon, half-marathon, wheelchair and Ekiden races
DEC 1, SUNDAY
Yet SCSM organiser Ironman Asia's managing director Geoff Meyer said the evening start will further the appeal of the Singapore race and take it one step closer to the goal of gaining WMM status by 2021.
In 2017, WMM signed a 10-year partnership with Wanda Group, which acquired Ironman two years earlier, to expand the series' race calendar from six to nine cities.
The decision for an evening flag-off was made after consultation with the WMM team and government stakeholders, Meyer said at yesterday's launch event.
A later start time will mean participants are less affected by the heat and humidity and make the SCSM more attractive to international elite runners.
It will also help increase the number of full marathon finishers which numbered about 10,000 out of 13,407 participants last year.
Among the requirements to become a Major, Meyer explained, are 15,000 finishers and an elite wheelchair division, which debuted at last year's SCSM. He said Ironman hope to increase the runners across all categories to at least 50,000.
There were 48,725 last year.
"We have to get a green tick on every (requirement) two years in a row," he said. "This year is crucial. We need to fulfil all the criteria, and do it again in 2020.
"Once that is over, and we are very confident we can do that, then we will be inducted and Singapore will be the seventh WMM."
Tim Hadzima, WMM executive director, said Ironman's move was a "step forward" in the SCSM's bid to be a Major. He added: "The changes for this year's marathon are just a few parts of the stringent criteria that we assess each year, as there are many stages of this process still to be met."
With a night race, there is greater flexibility to improve on the entertainment offerings along the route, which would be limited by the morning start.
Changes to the route will be announced later, with Ironman working closely with local authorities.
Jeffrey Foo, managing director of Sundown Marathon organisers Infinitus Productions, said: "Having an evening flag-off not only reinforces the benefits of racing and running in the night, which we have taken the lead with the Sundown Marathon the past 11 years, but also increases the interest of night running and the number of runners for night marathons."
National marathoner Ashley Liew, 32, a top-three local finisher five times at the SCSM, is looking forward to the race. He said: "Hopefully this new move will bring out more crowd support which is integral to the race atmosphere."
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, and Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng shared a similar sentiment. He noted: "With the flag-offs on Saturday evening this year, I anticipate many more Singaporeans coming out to cheer on the runners and join in the excitement.
"I hope to see the (SCSM) join the ranks of the WMM in 2021."