SINGAPORE - Local runners are cheering news that over 90 per cent of this year's route for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) will enjoy full road closures.
The move, announced by race organiser Ironman Asia on Thursday, will take the SCSM closer to the standards of the World Marathon Majors, an elite club which the Singapore race aspires to join.
More significantly for participants, it will help ease one of the event's longstanding bugbears - congestion at certain points of the race, which last year took in46,000 participants.
"It'll definitely be safer and easier for us to run with the road closures, with fewer cars and wider paths," said undergraduate Nicholas Goh, 21, who took part in last year's race, where only 20 per cent of the route boasted full road closures.
He also thought that "last year's congestion wasn't that bad", but the new road closures "will make things better". He added: "With less congestion, I can also clock a faster time."
The Dec 3 event is also set to feature new routes, which will allow runners to experience both a historical and cultural journey through Singapore as they race past Little India en route to iconic heritage sites in Chinatown, the Malay Heritage area, and city centre before entering the Central Business District.
Geoff Meyer, managing director of Ironman Asia, said: "With the goal of reaching the World Marathon Majors, we felt it was important to show the world key Singapore icons through a route that is a truly unique representation of this cosmopolitan city."
The World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City.
Fang Jian Yong, 28, ran in both the Tokyo and Singapore Marathons last year. He also participated in the 2015 SEA Games.
The national runner said: "In Tokyo, I ran through a lot of iconic places and since the Standard Charted Marathon is getting more international, it's good to show the iconic places of Singapore off.
"However, the race starts at 4.30am so brightness might be an issue in seeing these places while running."
After sharing 12km, the 42km and 21km runners will split at Marina Green, with the half marathoners making the u-turn towards Marina Bay Sands and full marathoners advancing into Gardens by the Bay.
The Gardens by the Bay portion reduces the time spent along East Coast Parkway. It will also enhance the runners' experience as there are wider pathways and more room for overtaking compared to East Coast Parkway. It was incorporated following feedback from runners last year.
Goh added: "Running less at East Coast is best. It's boring to run about 20km on that stretch, so it's nice to run in a different environment."
At the 35km mark, the half and full marathon runners will merge to run the penultimate 5km of the race together before splitting into respective lanes 2km from the end. The split will allow faster runners in the 42km category a smoother finish on their final approach towards the finish line.
Fang also welcomed this change, saying: "It'll definitely help with a better time. My main concern (from last year) was the merger for the last 5km. It was the toughest part because of the cramping of people fighting for position and it was a challenge for us to run in and out.
"If they could widen the paths, it'd be a great improvement."
The new centralised finish line has also been redesigned to make it more spectator-friendly by allowing friends, family and loved ones to line the route and welcome runners on the home stretch.
There are also improvements at the beginning of the race with the pre-race pens featuring additional entrances to facilitate easy access for runners at all times.
Meyer added: "Since we began organising the race, we've implemented some best practices which have been very well received.
"This year, we're building on them by adding entertainment and features which simulate the runner experience at the World Marathon Majors."
Both the Half and Full marathons will have an hour-long flag-off beginning simultaneously at 4.30am, while runners in the 10km category will start at 7.15am. Registration for SCSM 2017 is at www.singaporemarathon.com.