Avid runners were in seventh heaven yesterday morning when clear skies greeted the Singapore cityscape at dawn for the seventh edition of The Straits Times Run.
The haze, which had threatened to disrupt several outdoor sports events over the past couple of weeks, was not an issue with the one-hour PM2.5 concentration in the normal range at 5am.
At 5.30am, more than 4,000 runners in the 18.45km category were flagged off at the Singapore Sports Hub without a hitch.
All 13,000 participants, including those in the 10km and 3.5km categories, finished their races inside the National Stadium, where they were greeted with a carnival atmosphere of fun and games at the booths managed by various ST Run partners, including presenting sponsor Panasonic.
This year also saw the introduction of the SPH35-Panasonic Schools Challenge, a 3.5km race with two categories, which was created to mark the 35th anniversary of Singapore Press Holdings; one catering to those in tertiary institutions and the other for secondary students aged 17 and under.
The guest of honour, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, flagged off the schools challenge as well as the 3.5km Fun Run participants, while ST editor Warren Fernandez did the honours for the 18.45km category.
The 10km race was flagged off by ST executive editor Sumiko Tan.
Mr Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "The event went very well. We were very happy to be able to go ahead with the event despite some concerns about the haze earlier in the week. But the weather held; the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) was fine. I'm so happy we were able to do it (this year) and I hope we will be able to do it for many more years to come."
Among the participants in the 18.45km event was Paralympian William Tan, who became the ST Run's first official wheelchair racer.
Ms Fu said: "It's a wonderful experience to be involved in the ST Run. I found the run to be a great community event, a very inclusive one.
"I've seen people come in with their colleagues, I've seen people come in with stroke patients, so it's really multi-generational, (with participants) of all backgrounds, all races and all physical conditions.
"I think the 3.5km is really a fun (distance) for everyone to participate and really get started on walking and running. And the 18.45 events allow us to build up to something more serious, so it's also good to see the lead-up activities that prepared all the runners through physical conditioning and training."
Briton Nick Impey won the men's 18.45km race in 1hr 2min 22sec, just 21 seconds ahead of two-time SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong, who had set his sights on becoming the category's first local winner. The Smart Local employee is also ambassador of the ST Run.
The women's race was won by Japan's Maki Inami, who retained her title with a 1:11:55 effort.
The two winners took home a Panasonic 65-inch TV set worth $3,399 and New Balance vouchers worth $300.
Recreational runners also had an enjoyable time. Ms Cindy Ong, 37, said: "The race is very well organised... Everything was smooth. There were also sufficient hydration points and there was no congestion along the race route."
Hwa Chong Institution's Ethan Yan and Aeron Young won the boys' titles in the tertiary and under-17 categories respectively, while the girls' events were won by Koh Jia Xuan of Singapore Polytechnic and Methodist Girls' School's Hannah Tong.
The other big winner of the day was Mr Teo Chin Hian, who won the top prize in the lucky draw, a 65-inch Panasonic GZ2000 OLED TV set worth $10,999.
Noting that it is double the size of his current TV set, Mr Teo, who was at his third straight ST Run, said: "I'm not sure what to do with it right now, but it's a good problem to have! I'm still shaking... I'm quite shocked, but very happy."