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Monday, March 04, 2013

TNF City Race 2013

The last time I ran a distance above 35km was in December 2008. Since then, the longest distance I clocked was 25km and weekly mileage average around 30km. So what madness made me sign up for this event? 

When I first heard about this race, I thought the concept sound interesting. A no fixed route sort of like an "Amazing Race" type of race. And when some good friends proposed to form a team to do this, I thought why not? But of course since it was going to be a fun thing, I didn't really put in any effort to train for it.

So on top of the lack of mileage and fitness, on Saturday, the day before the race, I got an attack of the "runs'. I had only 2 small bowls of porridge the whole day and even though I am not a great believer of carbo loading, that certainly left me in a most unsuitable position to do a long run. But the thought of  DNS and letting down my team mates kept me going and so on Sunday morning, I found myself together with a few hundred others hunkered down at Millennia Walk studying a map!

The thing about this race is that there is no fixed route. There are a total of 5 checkpoints which the runners have to reach. The previous day, there was a post circulating around listing the "route" which I thought was far short of the 40km that our route was supposed to be at. So we were all excited to know what was our actual route and when we got our early awaited map, the tension eased but the pressure now starts as we had Singapore Quarry and Kent Ridge Park to navigate!

After some discussions and with tips from friends, we decided to go to Singapore Quarry, the furthest checkpoint first. We decided to go there via Orchard Road so that we can go to another checkpoint at Ion Orchard. So after the flagged off, everybody rushed off. Most I believe had the same thinking and went along Bras Basah or Stamford Rd to reach Orchard. We decided to enjoy the air con a bit more and went down the City Link underpass much to the amazement and amusement of the early shoppers in the mall!

Our team dashing through City Link Mall. Photo courtesy of Kelly Lim
We reached Ion Orchard, about 3 km away in around 30 minutes, pretty slow time I think. From there, we went under ground again into Ion Orchard and crossed over to Wheelock Place  before exiting Orchard Road into Nassim Hills. Running along Nassim Hills was very "enriching" with all the good class bungalows and embassies lining the street. Too bad nobody came out to offer us a drink or a house tour:)

Then it was on to long boring Bukit Timah Road with all the traffic fumes and construction work. But all boring thing must come to an end and we eventually reached King Albert Park where we turned into the former KTM track now affectionately known as "the Green Corridor". There was another checkpoint somewhere to our left at the old KTM Bukit Timah Station and to reach there, we had to turn away from our ultimate destination the Singapore Quarry but we figured since we were so near about 300 metres, we might as well complete this checkpoint first.

After a long checkpoint break complete with photo taking and chitchatting, we moved on but not before getting a tip from a runner friend that there was a short cut to the Quarry! From our past experience running there, to reach the quarry, we have to run along the stretch of the Green Corridor until the railway mall before turning right towards Diary Farm and then up some road to the Quarry. But the shortcut promised a reduction of almost 1.5 km! Along the way, we bumped into many other runners who told us the same thing and we returned the favour to other runners when we made our return journey. The only problem with this short cut was that it involves a climb up a very short but slippery and steep slope and had everybody gingerly holding on to the grass for stability when coming back down.

From the quarry, we decided to run along the Green Corridor to reach our next destination, the Kent Ridge Park. The only problem was none of us know exactly where to exit. For me, it was my first time running the Green Corridor beyond the Bukit Timah area. Weather was fine, not really very hot and very windy but part of the place was very muddy no thanks to the heavy rainfall the past weeks. We ran and walked, ran and walked and took pictures like this one here.

 We also stopped to ask other runners coming our way how they turned into the Green Corridor and got replies ranging from Holland Rd, Portsdown Rd to "not sure"! A guy told us to turn right at the mosque but warned us that the mosque was far away and after that still had to run some more. We passed by Tanglin Halt and I thought we had overshot our destination. Vincent then decided to take a gamble and led us out to this beautiful looking place which turns out to be the Portsdown area and a blessing in disguise because after crossing the AYE, we found ourself at the bottom of Kent Ridge Park. I don't know how shorter a distance we saved but when we reached the checkpoint, we were surprised to see some runners that we had met earlier on our way to the Quarry just leaving the checkpoint or even reaching after us! It seems our route was much shorter than the 'mosque route" and was more straight forward as some runners could not find the checkpoint!
From Kent Ridge, it was a very familiar run to the Henderson Wave but by then I was dead tired. Luckily for me, Kelly was just as tired having not fully recovered from the 2 ultras she did last month and was lagging behind the rest. So I took the opportunity to walk when she walked keeping a distance between her and the team members in front so that we couldn't get too far separated. But I guess the run/walk strategy also helped me tremendously otherwise I doubt with my lack of mileage + hunger pangs, I could make it back it one piece. 

We reached the Henderson Wave, our final checkpoint before the finish , in about 5+ hours and clocking about 31km on my timex. My guestimate was about 7km back to Millennia Walk which was quite spot on. My Timex recorded 36km, M had 37.5 on hers while Vincent had 38 on his. We took 6 hours 35 minutes making it the longest timed run of my life and I survived it!

I enjoyed this race. Although there were some hiccups here and there, generally the commanderie was great, the 6 of us had been running together on and off for the past 2 years and teamwork and understanding were excellent. Will I do this event again? Maybe yes maybe no depending on whether the novelty value die off and other event organiser start copying the format.

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