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Monday, November 03, 2014

Hello Kitty Run Singapore

So the claws are out - for the poor organiser of the 1st ever Hello Kitty Run in Singapore. Social media and rather surprisingly, even the main stream media has exploded on the so called "chaos" that erupted during the race.

The unhappiness stems from 2 main areas - the rain and the medal distribution.

First the rain. The organiser, Pink Apple (PA) is being blamed for the rain, the lack of wet weather plan, the lack of shelters, the lack of poncho and generally everything that is associated with the rain. But are they being fair?

How can anyone blame the organiser for the rain? That is something that is beyond even the PAP government control so how do people possibly expect  PA to ensure good weather? No wet weather plan? Actually all good event organiser will have one and in this case, PA do have. It is very simple. If heavy rain falls before flag off, postpone the start of the run. If  after postponing for a reasonable period of time and the rain does not stop, cancel the run. This has happened in several races previously but I can imagine if PA has really cancel the run and the rain stopped after say 30 minutes. I am sure the will be braying for the blood of everyone in PA.

Next some people went on to suggest PA should have provide poncho for the participant. And how do these people expect PA to do that? Put a poncho inside each race pack? Let be honest to ourselves. If they do that, how many will actually bring the poncho to the event? I dare say very few will do so. And distribute poncho on the ground? Do these people really expect PA to have 17000 to 18000 ponchos available at the site? And then if it rain after flag off like what happened on Saturday, how do they expect the PA to get the ponchos to the people that is already out on the route? And if they are under shelter, they don't need poncho do they?

Some people even suggested PA put up shelters along the route. How many shelters do they expect PA to put up? And enough to shelter 17000 just in case it rains? That must be the most ridiculous self centred suggestions ever. If anything, Sentosa is probably the best place to run in the event of rain because there are buildings practically everywhere and especially along the beach with the many pubs, restaurants, rest rooms and other attractions. The people could have easily seek shelter at any one of these. Do they seriously expect PA to put up tents along the narrow roads of Sentosa!

So I think there is nothing that PA can do when it started to rain. After the first 2 waves were flagged off and it rained, they held back the next 3 waves and that was the best they could do. What else do the participants want?

Now on to the medals. According to the complaints, the distribution was chaotic. There was not enough medals for everyone and people collected multiple medals. And this to me was a big surprise. PA is a very experienced event organiser having organised many races with many on a bigger scale than this Hello Kitty. Usually, after the participants crossed the finish line, they will be directed to a chute where they collect the drinks, medal and finisher tees from volunteers. To ensure that people do not collect the medal more than once, it is usual for the volunteer to put a tick on the race bib. So exactly what happened?

I believe the rain was the main problem. Because of the rain, everybody squeezed into the Pavilion which was where the medals were being distributed. The number of people overwhelmed the volunteers and likely, just helped themselves to the medals on the table with the poor student volunteers being unable to stop them. Staff who raised their voices at the participants were labelled as being rude but how do you control an unruly crowd without being loud and firm?  The same thing happened a few years ago at the Shape Run where the people just grabbed the medals that were placed neatly on the table. Some people went behind the table and took medals from the boxes that were lying on the floor!

One of the criticism that were levelled was that PA should have marked off the bib. PA has informed that they had choose not to do so to avoid defacing the bib as most people would likely want to keep the bib as a souvenir. So a kind thought and gesture misfired. On hindsight, PA should have put a small box on the bib to check off or added a tear off tab at the bottom of the bib to exchange for the medal. 

So people took more medals than they were entitled to resulting in medals running out for those who came late. So whose fault it is? PA or the cheapskate participants who took more than they are entitled to?

Some other  criticism that were levelled at PA - the route was not 5 km. There was congestion at the bus station at the Siloso Beach end and people had to wait long period before they can get out of the island. Well, I don't think any serious runners actually signed up for this to run 5 km. It is a fun run and most people I am very sure signed up more for the limited edition Hello Kitty plush and other memorabilia rather than for the run. And on their website, there is a statement that the distance was actually 4.2 km and not 5 km. For marketing purposes, obviously it is nicer to call it a 5 km run rather than 4.2 km run. 

About the congestion - Sentosa is always congested on weekends and long wait for the limited number of buses is expected as Sentosa do not allow private hire buses to ply on the island. So people should just have continue to enjoy the sights on Sentosa instead of leaving straight after the run. Isn't that the purpose of travelling all the way to Sentosa for?

Of course, there are something that PA could have done better like being aware that Sentosa with its narrow roads cannot accommodate 17000 people at one good and kept the number to a more manageable size. Communicate with the volunteers could have been better so that the volunteers can inform the participants of updates instead of just relying on social media.

Ultimately, I think PA do not deserve all the flaks they are getting in the local media and social media. If anything, it is the ugly participants, the greedy one who took more medals than they should, the self centred one who think only of their own comfort and not think of how their ludicrous suggestion can not possibly be implemented and the spoilt brats who are asking for refunds for the "bad" experience but who have conveniently forgotten that their $65 or $75 already gave them an exclusive t-shirt, an exclusive plush toy and an unique personalised race bib which collectively is, I am very sure worth more than $75.00!

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