Tens of thousands of humans gather to make the arduous journey from Marina Bay to East Coast Park and back again, in search of glory, personal fulfilment, and a 42.195km Finisher T-shirt. Not everyone will make it unscathed. Along the way, many fall prey to stitches, dehydration, and—the apex predator—severe chafing.
I’m talking, of course, about the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, which has never been the subject of a National Geographic documentary, but probably should be. After all, amidst the sea of blue jerseys, there is a hidden diversity that is just waiting to be discovered …
Marathon? Pffffft. It’s not a real marathon unless you’re mildly jet-lagged in a foreign land, with an unfamiliar cereal churning in your stomach. On the bright side, it is the fastest—albeit the most painful—way to tour Singapore’s historic civic district. The race route covers everything from St Andrew’s Cathedral to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
Honestly, is there a fruit more perfect, more uniquely suited to the athletics in general and running in particular? Bananas are soft, seedless, and easily eaten with one hand. More importantly, they are rich in potassium and sugars that every long-distance runner requires.
Sweet potatoes provide many of the same essential nutrients, but they need to be cooked and peeled before you can shove them in your gob. Energy gels work too, but they are more expensive and less fun in terms of shape and colour. No wonder races are full of runners chomping down on bananas without breaking stride.
Fortunately, your NS sergeant-major is more progressive in his views and more correct when it comes to the facts: Age is just a number, and there are grandpas/grandmas out there who can run like a 5-year-old Gazelle who’s been disqualified for doping. Don’t let their silver hair fool you, endurance sports is not gymnastics—i.e. The exclusive domain of the young and precocious. There are uncles whose wrinkles conceal the lungs and heart of a freshly-bereted Commando.
Receding hairline? You’ll be the one receding into the blurry background when they outpace you before the halfway point.
More likely than not, it’s a pacer. As their title suggests, pacers are experienced runners hired to set a certain ‘pace’ for the benefit of participants who want to beat a personal best. Inconsistency is a real problem during marathons because it’s easy to to crash and burn after too fast a start, or to underestimate the running speed one needs to hit a certain timing .
Pacers help prevent such noob mistakes by acting as a personal stop watch. Whether you’re aiming to finish in 4 hours, 4.15, or 5.5 hours, you can just follow their lead and never have to don a watch.
Watching them run inspires mixed feelings of awe and despair. It’s awe-inspiring to watch the human form in peak condition, pushed to the boundaries of what is possible. It’s depressing because you’ll inevitably compare it to your own body—a pear-shaped oddity hidden beneath a flattering L-size t-shirt; which turn a darker shade of grey after a 100m jog to catch the bus.
Inevitably, some are not adequately prepared for the event, whilst others might have over-prepared by not giving themselves enough rest. Either way, you will see a lot of people folding before the finish line. They will be walking with hands-on hip, bent over from the lack of breath. Some will walk on valiantly till the end, while others will hop onto a bus to avoid passing out.
No shame in trying and failing and trying again. But here’s a message from our sponsors: If you’re a runner, eat carbs beforehand and get plenty of sleep. If you’re not running …
Why not come down to support the people who’ve dedicated their Saturday evening to the most unnecessarily painful of human endeavours? You may not enjoy running (or even moving), but there’s no denying the spectacle. Come Saturday evening, 30 November, thousands of runners will be putting themselves to test like salmon swimming upstream, or monarch butterflies crossing North America.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to get off the sofa and join them. December is upon us and it is probably too late to start on your New Year Weight Loss resolution. But there’s always next year, and maybe watching a Marathon is just the inspiration—or ass-kicking—you need to make good on 2020.