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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013 Hello 2014

2013 has been a most interesting year. In fact I would said it has been the best year ever.

Started the year with a very enjoyable race in Thailand

This was followed by another race in Muar.

In between, did 2 fun runs and 1 local race; the inagural TNF City Race as part of a team.

Also went over to do a fun trail run in Malaysia where we had our first encounter with leeches!

August decide to do the Army half marathon which turned out to be a big mistake.

Went to Kota Kinabalu to challenge the mountain there but expectedly failed miserably.

Then instead of running the local TNF 100, we did something different and it was another wonderful experience.

And that about it for the year. Of course, in between the races, shot thousand and thousand of photos as part of Running Shots and made lots of friends.

Certainly a most fulfilling year.

Come 2014, have already committed to one hike, 1 local and 1 oversea race and looking for more. Perhaps a climb up to the highest mountain in South East Asia and a trail race somewhere cool and nice?

Have a blessed prosperous and healthy new year, everybody!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Puma Mobium Elite

The first time I saw this shoe, I know I had to get it. But I knew nuts about it. Only that it is Puma. And Puma is the brand that is sponsoring Usain Bolt. Maybe the hope is that a little bit of his speed will rub off. Haha. But the true is that I was attracted by the price and more importantly the color!

I have not had an orange shoe for some time. In fact, the color for the past 2 years have been green. Orange shoe has been kinda hard to find. But now I got 2. The other pair? That will be revealed later in another post. But first back to the Puma Mobium Elite.

It was on offer at $90.00 at the Puma Outlet. Any shoe below a $100.00 is a bargain. And this is 2013 edition not some past season shoe. And it comes with a lot of credential. Or rather the hardsell from the manufacturer. "Puma Mobium is a new innovative running shoe......adaptive running. Puma Mobium Elite naturally adapts to the foot as it moves, expanding and contracting as the foot naturally does in strides" What does that means? It means that after 2 or it it 3 years of research, the good people at Puma has decided that human should run like puma and came up with their interpretation of it namely:

a) A Mobium Band. Inspired by the tendon, it runs through the outsole and the more force applied - the more spring it returns.

b) Expansion Pods. Inspired by the paws of the puma, it is supposed to provide cushioning, flexibility and protection. Damn, it does really look like the paw of a cat!

c) Windlass Chassis. It is supposed to change length, height and proportion in line with the foot's movement.

The Mobium is supposed to be a minimalist shoe. It comes with a 8 mm drop and weights about 240 gm. Not exactly minimalist by my standard.  That all for the mumbo jumbo. So how does it really feel on the run?

First the issues:

To date I have worn it for close to 50 km. The first time I worn it, i got a giant size blister on the outside of the big toe. I attributed it to the cheap socks I was running and switch socks the next round but the blisters moved to between the third and fourth toe. Evidently, the toe box is too small. Not too sure whether the shoes come in wide size. But there was another problem. The shoes felt loose. It threatens to fly off if I swing too hard and high. In the end, I had to really tighten the shoe laces to keep it in place. So is it too big or to small? More importantly, every time I start running it it, I develop this super soreness and pain in the arch. I think it is because of the design of the Windlass Chassis. But after about 10 minutes into the run, the pain disappear and the ride becomes more comfortable. 

Now for the goodie:

For short run, this feels great - the arch soreness aside. The spring is incredible. I feel like I can fly. And there is ample cushioning and flex to propel me forward. I am not too sure where the mobium band comes in. Maybe I am not pro enough to detect it. 

Waterproofing is adequate. With its netted upper, it drain off water fast enough. And its is not hot. But then again, I did all my runs in this pair of shoes in the evening and for not more than an hour each time, so heat built up is not an issue or something that I have encounter yet.

Overall, I will err on the safe side and wear it only for short runs and intervals not exceeding 1 hour or 10km. Definitely not for marathon distance. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Race Photo - Sunset Industry?

Following my last post, the Australian director for SuperSportsImage has given an apology to Running Shots. His apology can be found on one of the Running Shots comment posting. Check it out. So since apology given, and no offence taken, I shall let this matter rest and move on. But one thing strike me while mulling over the whole episode.

The way I see it, his major grouse is the competition we guys gave him. We were a big threat to his profit margin . After all, he had to incur costs in getting photographers to shoot for him, then do backend processing etc. A lot of works involved and with us around, there was no way he was going to make money not less recoup his cost. I guess he was afraid that we were going to kill his business.

But on hindsight, this area of sports photography. Is it a sunset industry? I wonder how many people nowadays actually will buy race photographs. Over at Running Shots, we don't sell photographs. But we do charge a very nominal sum for high resolution photos. Even then, despite covering more than 80 events this year, todate we have received only requests for not more than 15 photos. Certainly none of us are laughing all the way to the bank. And we are not killing SuperSportsImage or Marathon Photo or FinisherPix business.

The fact is nowadays people simply do not keep hardcopy photos unless they are real important. For normal photos, most of us are content to just keep them in soft copy format on our computers, tablets and phones where we can look at them any time, any place. And they don't take up space, not like those chunky photo albums. And there is no need to spend tons of moneys to print photos that we will look at probably just a few times after which the albums will be relegated to the drawers to be opened maybe once or twice a year. Just look at the photo finishing kiosks that used to be so prevalent in all HDB estates. Most of them are gone now. Only a handful remain and to survive, most of these places have to offer other services such as photocopy, selling photo frames etc and value added photo printing. My point is selling race photos is like selling photo films. It is a dead business. That is why Kodak went bust. Because it did not know how to innovate and meet the new challenge. With rapid change in technology, businesses cannot continue doing things the old way.

So I think for SuperSportsImage or the others to survive, they need to think out of the box. Do not simply sell the softcopy or a hardcopy with timing. The majority is not going to go for that, at least not at the prices that these people charges. Think of how to entice people to buy their photos. One innovative way is to partner with the event owner to build in the cost of the photo into the race fee. Like what Great Eastern did for the recent Great Eastern Women Run. GE bought up the rights to all the photos and gave it to the participants FOC. That is probably the way to go. Work with the event owner, bundle the cost of the photos into the race fee. The participants automatically get a photo after the race, the event owner get happy customer and the photo service provider smile all the way to the bank! Imagine if he just ask for $1.00 for each registered participant and there are 10,000 participants, that will be a cool $10k. Compare that to selling say 200 photos at $40.00 which will fetch him only $8,000.00 if he can sell 200 photos in the first place! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Free or Paid Photos?

Got this message from an Australian company Super Sport Images on the Running Shots facebook page after the Commando Challenge on Sunday:

"Hi Guys,
As the contracted photographic partner of the Commando Challenge, your advertisement of images conpletely flies against supporting your field. We invest heavily into supporting events such as this, are the contracted provider with exclusivity and having a photographic entity that seems to want to take care of things in their own manner, does not support the photographic industry at all, it merely cheapens it.
I would ask you kindly, to please respect our business, that has invested money and resources into this event and others iin the hope of being sustainable.
Director of Supersport Images"

The more I read the post, the more pissed off I get. Here is another freaking ang moh who thinks that he is the all and be all and only his professional set up is qualified to take photographs and we, the locals are cheapening the profession!

Here are another 2 posts that the Aussie put up on the Commando Challenge Facebook Page where he repeats the same thing in response to somebody:

  • Supersport Images Anuroop, the costs of your entry has nothing to do with us as we are a 3rd party that is the official photographic partner of the event with our own costs to absorb. We support events of this type and take huge financial risks to do so. We aim to make our products as costs efficiently as possible and we have packs which include ALL of your identified images for just over $30. This allows you to download your full res files forever. Products and prices vary with varying options to choose from. If you guys are happy to support those out there that cheapen the market by turning up in no official capacity and simply show no respect to business like ours that aim to offer a competitiive product then the end result will be no photographic providers providing any coverage at any event. it's disappointing to hear such comments frankly.
  • Supersport Images Hi Guys, I'd like to address a couple of comments to let you you know we have a range of products in our cart which are still being determined so any comments on prices is speculation.Our products range from under $20 also with a good variety of choices. It's important to point out that if competitors are willing to support individuals who cheapen the market by simply turning up, shooting hard and then making images available free or for next to no cost, not only does it cheapen the market, but you guys will all have no businesses who will be ablle to provide their services at any of the events you guys choose to do. Please think about who you'd like to support, those that invest into giving you the best coverage and systems we can that support a huge vareity of events, or individuals who just turn up and offer images for nothing and totally cheapen the market place. We have individual images, full electronic downloadable packs, prints and special event designs for very reasonable prices. We invest a great deal into our partnerships both finanicially and in resources and Ming and others are showing little consideration for those who are full time in the industry partnering all manner of events. I ask you guys to think about this please.

My fellow volunteer photographers asked me not to get worked up. But reading this ang moh chap's arrogance makes me boil. 

1. What does he mean when he said we photographers cheapen the market? Does he meant that because he invested heavily, and we did not, we are cheap? As far as I know the practice, most of these professional photography company engage freelancers who more than often than not, are people like us, to shoot on their behalf and pay them a miserable sum. Are his photographers much better than us or his equipment better than ours? I take real offence when he said we cheapen the industry. All of us at Running Shots, and I am sure my esteemed colleagues at EyeSeeEyeShoot, Running Kaki, Chasing Shots, Run Mo Cap to name just a few are definitely insulted by this cheap shot. We sacrifice our time, our equipment braving the sun and rain to take photographers of competitor so that they can go home with more than just a mental memory and some chap who think only of making money dare to call us cheap!

2. He threatens that if the public support us free photo sites, then there will be no event coverage if we pull out. I will let the record speak for itself. Where was SuperSportImages or Marathon Photos or Finisher Pix at Lion Dash, Let''s Take a Walk, Project Happy Feet, Newton Challenge, Venus Run? Do I need to list more races? If anything, Running Shots was at all these events and we covered almost 99.9% of races (competitive, fun, charity) in Singapore in the year 2013! So who do you think will pull a disappearing act for other events? SuperSportsImages or Running Shots or even other groups like Running Kaki, Chasing Shots etc? If anything, it will be us the volunteers who will shoulder on rather than the profit greedy company who will pull out the minute they find no monies to be made in our Singapore market.

3. I can conclude that he is afraid of competition. If indeed his photographers are so good, then he should not be afraid that people will not buy his photographers and go for our low quality free photos. But the true is he knows that his photos are not much better than ours and at the exorbitant prices that he and like companies charge, nobody will buy from them. If it is not because these companies charges an arm and a leg, there will be no need for us to come into the picture. It is precisely because of companies like Super Sports Image that we get so much responses from race participants. 

4. SuperSportsImage has probably made a very elementary error when he choose to come to Singapore. He failed to do market research and did not realise that there are a whole lot of committed dedicated volunteers who are willing to take photographs for free. And when he found photos of the Commando Challenge sprouting up everywhere and free for download, instead of trying to find a way to beat the competition, he decided to belittle the competition and scare the locals with threats of no race photographs. He asked that we respect their business. Why? Its a free economy! There should not be any restriction of trade.He didn't do his homework too bad. I asked that he respect the competition and try to be better than us. The question is - can he? 

At the end of the day, we  the volunteer photographers do all these not because we want to kill the market for race photographs but because there was a crying need for cheap accessible photos. And we are glad to provide this service as a service to the running public. At Running Shots, we do not sell photographs although we do charge a nominal fee for request for high resolution photos. But frankly that fee is more to deter request rather than to profit from it. If we have to depend on this income, all of us would have quit long ago.

But having said all these, tell me - which do you prefer? To pay money for a "professionally" taken photo with border, event logo and timing or just admire your free photos courtesy of Running Shots and the various other photography group? If the majority said they prefer the paid version, I will gladly keep my free time to do my own running and nature photography. Let me know ya?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What drives you?

Coming almost 4 weeks after probably the most infamous marathon finish in Singapore, this is now very old news but I think this blog is not going to be very complete without a comment on it. I am of course referring to one Tam Chua Puh who spectacularly finished ahead of Mok Yin Ren to come in as the first Singaporean in this year's edition of the full marathon of the SCMS 2013. By now everybody in the running circle would have known that he only ran 6 km and ran back from the esplanade to clock in at 2 hours 46 mins 57 secs and that he all he "wanted was the finisher tee and medal."

Which leads me to wonder. Why do people choose to run a marathon. For most runners, I would guess they are like me. I started off about 9 years ago not barely able to run 400 metres. Then I managed to do 2 km, then 5, then 10 and 21  and one day I wondered - why not give the full a try? It never occur to me that there was a finisher tee and a medal up for grab. What I just wanted to do was to see whether I could run 42 km. I did it in 2004, swear that I couldn't do it again and then promptly went for it the next year. The first year I did it was because I wanted to see whether I could do it. The second time I did it, I wanted to improve on the previous year's performance. And it was the same reason I signed up for a third attempt. That was in 2007 and I wanted to call it quit after that but by then the sidekick had got into the game and so my reason for doing my 4th full marathon was just to keep her company. That was also the same reason when we signed up for my 5th full marathon. To date all my finisher tees are still in their plastic packing and the medals have been dumped in the cupboard never to see the light again. 

Most runners I know are like me. Their main reasons are usually to see whether they can complete the distance and once that achieved, to see whether they can complete in a faster time. It is never about winning or snagging the finisher tee and medal. Those are a bonus of course especially as the cost of racing soars. 

But to run a marathon just for the finisher tee and medal? And not to train for it? Where is the honour? How can the person dares to wear the tee when he never even complete it or in some case, run it? What do they brag to their friends? Don't they know that all it takes is a mouse click on the event's result page and whatever lies they told will be found out? Seriously if all these people want is the finisher tee and medal, there are plenty available on ebay. And heck, maybe I can sell mine finisher tee. All 5 of them. $50.00 a piece. Any takers. And I throw in the medal for free!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Those Freaking Arrogant Ang Moh

I like to think that I am not a racist but sometime I love to stick it up to those frigging ang moh who still think that white is supreme and only they can dictate to the world what the rest of the world should do. 

I have blogged more than once about bad encounter with ang moh whilst running here. There are also videos floating around of arrogant ang moh cyclists riding on our road. I know there are many nice ang moh and I have met many while running at the Running Lab weekly run but reading these comments on the site where I upload my run details, it makes me wonder ... are those loudmouth the minority or do the majority of ang moh feels the same way:

There this thread on the SCMS cheating guy on the Runningahead forum but somehow some frigging yayapapaya fellas got round to "suaning" Singapore:

And this guy. Is he for real?

It was the same when DC Rainmaker came last year and made some disparaging remarks about our running scene when he ran the Brooks Happy Run. Read about it here.

Maybe I am too sensitive but I hope these fellas really come here, do a real race and let see them do a sub 2:50 in our weather!