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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The 3 Cardinal Sins of Trail Running

Last week a cyclist died. By itself that is no longer a big news since cyclists are being run down by motorists so frequently that people are kinda used to it. But this cyclist was not killed by a car. In fact, he was not knocked down by any vehicle on or died on any road. He was found dead at Gangsa Trail.

Gangsa Trail, as most seasoned trail runners will know, is a favourite haunt of mountain bikers and trail runners. It is fairly straight and rather easy to run or cycle on. There are no cars, motorbikes and the only danger are probably tripping over roots or hitting overhanging branches. So how exactly this poor chap died is a mystery but one thing for sure - he committed 2 out of the 3 great cardinal sins of going into a trail or forest:

1) Never run alone
2) Be prepared for emergency. Bring safety gear along
3) Bring hydration.

Apparently, he was cycling alone and not wearing a helmet. So the likely cause was he fell and knocked himself against a rock and it being a weekday, there was nobody there to come to his aid and he died alone just like the great Micah True. 2 out of 3 sins - alone and no helmet. 

I know of a lot of trail runners ignore all or most of these 3 pointers. It is fine I think if one is just running in MacRitchie where there are always people around but in more ulu places like Butterfly, Woodcutters, Gangsa? I can imagine if a runner fell in Butterfly trail on a weekday and is immobile and without any means of getting help. In all likelihood, the earliest somebody might discover him would be the nearest weekend since that is really a quiet place. By then, he may have died from loss of blood, snake bite or thirst!

But having said that, I am also often time guilty of these 3 sins. In fact, on Hari Raya morning itself, I ran alone at the Tampines Mountain Bike trail. Throughout the run, except for some workers at the trail head, I did not bum into any other persons. If I had fell and injure myself or got bitten by a snake and there are snakes there, nobody will know. Of course, I tell myself nothing is gonna happen since it was a short run of just 6km; the trail was fairly easy to run and I know the place like the back of my hand. Of course, because it was supposed to be a short run of total 10km, I did not bring my phone or any hydration as well.

On hindsight, it was rather foolish. If I had fall or trip and hurt myself, even if I don't die, I have no means of getting help until somebody chance upon me which might be at the earliest in the afternoon. And I thought I know the place well enough but I discovered a new trail which led to a puddle and another and then another. Initially I had fun splashing through the puddles of water, testing out my new shoes but as the puddle become "ponding", I decided I could not go forward and had to u-turn which eventually  meant I ran an extra 2km. By then I was fairly thirsty. There were water everywhere - on the grounds :) but I was left dry because yes I didn't bring any out! Again, what if something had happened and I was stuck somewhere out there without water? I could get dehydrated in our hot weather and .............. My consolation was that the sidekick knew where I was running and could get help if I didn't return within a reasonable time. But I was exploring the new trail, so would she have found me?

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