Tuesday, December 09, 2014

An Apology - Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014

In my previous post, I made a claim that some people were taking a shorter route during the SCMS and included in the post were photographs of some individuals and their timing results. That post has attracted a lot of attention including calls from reporter and even a lawyer purporting to act for one of the individual in the post.

Since then, it has came to light that these individuals may have been diverted by the race organiser to take the shorter route. Below is the full statement from the SCMS. The link can be found here.

Public announcement about SCMS 2014 results

Spectrum Worldwide is aware of the online article referencing marathon (42.195km) runners who were photographed at Gardens By The Bay East during Sunday’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore.

To clarify, a number of diversion points were positioned along the marathon route. If any runners had not passed a diversion point by a specified time, they were diverted on to a shorter route towards the finish line. The diversion points were planned with the safety of runners in mind, as the closed roads had to be re-opened at a specific time in accordance with the requests of the authorities.

One of these diversion points was located at approximately the 13km mark of the marathon. From 7.30am, all marathon runners who had not crossed this point were diverted (removing the entire stretch of East Coast Park) and had their race distance reduced by approximately 17km. This diversion allowed them to comfortably reach Marina Barrage (35km) by about 8.15am where some may have been photographed in the referenced online article.

As highlighted on the official event website and handbook prior to the event, all participants who were diverted are still entitled to receive the Finisher’s T-shirt and Finisher’s Medal upon crossing the finish line. However, they will not receive the Finisher’s Certificate and their official race timings will not be recorded.

One of the reason why I wrote the earlier post is that as a regular runner in the local running scene, it irk me a lot to see runners who are totally not prepared attempting the full marathon. And everywhere there will be many people who do so just for the finisher tee and medal like the infamous incident last year. My intention was to highlight these incidents and hope that the running community as a whole can come together to condemn such behaviour and build a better running environment and community. In penning the post, never in my wildest dream would I ever think that the SCMS itself, the organiser of a Gold Label race will actually ask participants to take a "shorter" route. The correct practice adopted internationally I believe, is for participants who failed to meet the cut off to board the sweeper bus and not be allowed to take a shorter route to the finish line! I will address this again in a separate more detailed post in due course.
In any event, it appears that because of this, I have jumped to the wrong conclusion and wrongly accused these people. I know no words can take back what has been done but still I would like to offer my sincere apologies if the post has caused any one of these individuals any embarrassment. Nevertheless I have decided that the original post shall remain but with some amendments and the deletion of the photos and names. Hopefully, the post will generate more discussion on this issue and if it serves as a wake up call to running community at large to tackle this problem, the post will not be in vain.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2014

Note: When I penned the below post last night, it was without the knowledge that the organiser of the SCMS had actually asked runners who failed to meet certain unspecified time at unannounced designated points, to be diverted to run a "shorter route". Since the publication of my post and following media queries,  the organiser has made a public announcement on this here.

I would therefore like to offer my sincere apologies to the individuals who were included in the post below for any embarrassment that I have caused to them. While I have decided to keep the post, I have deleted the photos and any references to the identity of the individuals. I know no apologies or words can right whatever that has been done but once again I would like to tender my apology.

Well I was at the Garden by the Bay East on Sunday taking photos of the runners doing the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. (SCMS). This was roughly at the 35 km part of the race. The first runners came by around 7 am roughly 2 hours after the flag off. Those were the elites. A rough back of the envelope calculation - the average 4 hours runners will reach this area around 8.20 am and indeed the 4 hours pacers came pass me at 8.19 am.

But way before that I had already noticed a very unique hi usual thing. As a regular runner and active photographer for the past years, I can recognise a fair number of the local runners who can do sub-4 and there aren't really a lot of them here in Singapore. And even if I don't recognise them, I can tell by the way they run that they are seasoned runners and used to that type of timing. But what was interesting this time was that I could see many unfamiliar faces and people who pardoned my saying so, do not look like runners who are capable of doing this type of timing. Now I know looks can be deceiving but it is kinda difficult to believe that these following people can run sub 4 marathon.

And more over as I came to find out later, runner with orange bib are self declared sub 5 hours runner and starts in a much later wave. So they couldn't have been so fast to reach 35 km in just over 3 hours!

And true enough, my instinct was right. A quick search at the event site and these are their race splits. Looks like all of them skipped the distance between the 10 km checkpoint and the 30 km checkpoint slashing a cool 20 km off the total distance. 

And everyone seems to be doing it. Not just the not so athletic looking people but the young folks like this guy

And foreigners as well

And even the very athletic looking guys are doing it. The type that looks perfectly capable of doing this sort of timing but look at the splits

And there are more, too many for me to list them all here.

Looking at the splits, almost all of them turn off after the 10 km checkpoint which is somewhere around the  Sports Hub. I believe after coming out from that area, instead of going towards Fort Road and East Coast Park, they simply turned right on Tanjong Rhu to Garden by the Bay East and continue on from there. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they got lost but I really really doubt it is the case. 

And again I like to think that the weather was too hot for them and they decided not to continue on but turned back. But they should then do the right thing and not cross the finish line but in all cases they did which leaves me with only one conclusion - they just want the finisher tee, medal and the bragging rights that come along with it and are not interested at all in completing the distance!

Me think it is high time race organiser takes steps to weed out these sort of behaviour. It is not good for a "gold class" event and a waste of resources and hinder the genuine runners. For starter, I think event organiser should stop giving away finisher tees at the finish line like  what many overseas races do. I am very sure that the event won't be so attractive to the non-runners if there is no finisher tee for them to wear around town to show off. Race organiser should also ensure strict compliance of race rules and barriers and marshals should be deployed at vulnerable junctions and points along the routes to reduce such inAnd last but not least, get the timing system working properly so that their status is stated as DSQ and not "Finished".

Sunday, December 07, 2014

End of the Road - Tampines Mountain Bike Trail

On 1 December, the Tampines Mountain Bike trail officially ceased to exist. To make way for another housing estate to house the 6.9m population.

I first discovered this place right in the backyard of Tampines town way back in 2008. Back then, it was one big place with some challenging knolls, some small streams to cross and many many small trails criss crossing the places. Although not technically very challenging, it was a worthwhile alternative to the crowded MacRitchie. The only problem then was that it was a very rugged place without any toilet facilities and shelters. 

You can see more photos of the original trail here when we did a Eastside Trail Run.

Then in 2010, it was split into the Tampines Mountain Bike Park and Mountain Bike Trail for the Youth Olympic and 3/4 of the place was taken away from non-mountain bikers. Still there was a good enough 5 trail with a challenging 1 km narrow jungle trail complete with mud pool and stream, a small climb and breathtaking scenery.

When I moved to Pasir Ris, I ran there more often as it was just a 10 minutes run from my home. It was literally a run in my own backyard. But last year, the government announced plans to redevelop the area for Tampines North estate and that sounds the death knell for the place. After a short reprieve, the Bike Park closed last month and this month, the Bike Trail closes too. I managed to do a literally final run there on the morning of the closure. As I came out of the trail, the workers were putting up the fencing at the trail head. 

Here are the final photos of the place. 

The 1km stretch of jungle trail that is permanently muddy and wet. I have a video of a run I did there sometime ago in the mud and water. Rather long and boring but if you don't mind taking a nauseating ride through the choppy video, the link can be found here

There are lot of wide open field like this with narrow trail

The view from the top of one of the small hill

This is my favourite part of the trail. Running under this canopy of trees

The death knell. Closed and gone but cherished with fond memories.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

An Officer and a Gentleman - Terence Yeo

I first got to know Terence early this year when he joined a group of us trekked up to Gunung Nuang in Malaysia.

Terence in the middle of the group photo at the summit of Gunung Nuang
Back then, I only knew he was in a school and I thought he was a school teacher. It was only later that I found out he was in fact a vice-principal at a secondary school.  Why did I mentioned this? Because he was not your typical school principal. In my mind, school principals are mostly bookish and boorish and very serious. But Terence was not. He was fun, loud at times and very down to earth. During our trek, he constantly stayed behind to help the weaker climbers even though he was probably one of the fittest having completed many marathons and ultras.

From that trip, we got to know each other better and Terence strikes me as a most helpful and humble guy. He joins us on crazy escapades like the Prawn Mee Makanathon, made time to have dinner with us despite his busy schedules and join in our whatsapp chat; something that I certainly do not expect from somebody so senior in the hierarchy in the Civil service.
Terence at the Prawn Mee Makanathon
Terence at one of our dinner outing
Sadly, on 27 November 2014, at the young age of 40, he passed away leaving behind his wife May and 3 beautiful kids. It seems he suffered a massive brain haemorrhage after climbing Mount Kinabalu with his students. 

In the short time that I have known him, I could sense that he was a very special person - the type who will go out of his way to help friends and probably strangers as well and the type who will probably give his life for another person if he has to. And the testimony and tributes that has floored his facebook page demonstrated this wonderful traits clearly in the way that he has touched and helped and inspired so many people.

He will be sadly missed but never forgotten. RIP Terence. Your time here may be over but you will always be loved and remembered by your loved ones, friends and students.


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