Click here for the latest on RunEatGossip »

Monday, April 29, 2013

Running in the Night

Was out running in the evening just now and spotted a lot of runners wearing dark running attire and even full black attire. Now I know wearing black is cool and makes one look slim but it is kinda dangerously for the runners especially in these days of errants motorists and pavement cyclists.

Running at night can be a great experience especially without the heat but one think to be aware of the safety aspect. Runners need to be visible and be easily seen by motorists and other road users. Some runners are so engrossed in their running and listening to their MP3 that they totally forget where they are. And ditto motorists and cyclists. And woe if the twain shall meet.!

A group of runners that I know, the Punggol Runners insist that their runners not only wear bright attire while running in the night, they should also carry flashing light to warn others of their whereabout. That is being sensible and good advice which I think everybody who runs at night especially along the road side should follow.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Long Slow Run

Did a long slow run on Saturday night. It has been a long time since I ran a 25km run. So long that I don't remember when. Of course, in recent months, I have done races of up to 38km and a few trail races. But those don't count since they were mostly run/walk affairs. So I didn't realise how unfit I was. I mean I have run up to 20km on some weekends so another 5km more? Should be piece of cake. Right? Wrong. 

It all started when the sidekick decided she wanted to do another full marathon and since she hasn't done one at night, she promptly went to sign up for the Sundown Marathon even though I told her I wasn't going to accompany her. But of course me being the nice guy, and despite myself not signing up, I found myself on Saturday night at the East Coast Park fighting sleep and tiredness and running side by side with her. 

Weather was great after an earlier downpour and we ran at what I thought was a fairly fast pace trying to catch up with the group of Newton/Punggol runners that we were supposed to join. We of course as usual were late. But out "fast pace" actually turns out to be more like easy pace (at least to most other runners) and before too long I found myself panting hard. At least I completed the first half in one piece and slightly ahead of the sidekick. But it was a different thing after that as she decided to pick up the pace and soon I found myself lagging behind. The sidekick has in fact become the hero. 

Thankfully, I managed to survive 25km run although now my legs are shot. Luckily we had decided to do just 25km while the group ran up to 30km. Any longer and I think I would have started walking. As it is, it took me close to 3 hours to do the, 25km definitely not fast pace by any standard. Sighed. That really show how unfit I am now. Maybe this is a good opportunity for me to catch up on my runs. But then again, I think I rather enjoy my run/walk in the trails.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Orang Asli Trail Run 2013

Kinda got sick of running the same old trails in good old Singapore so when the opportunity came to do a short trail run in Malaysia, I grabbed at the chance never mind that it was going to cost me a few hundred bucks and plenty of time just to get there for a short 10km run. But the thought of running in a new environment was too enticing and after a 8 hours bus ride and a boring day in Kuala Lumpur, I found myself at the start line of the Orang Asli Trail Run with another 17 runners from Trail Running Singapore and runners from the 1st Malaysian Women Marathon and other Malaysian runners.

Unfortunately, it had rained the night before and it was still raining as we listened to the organiser briefing us on the route and safety. Finally, after a delay of almost an hour, we were flagged off. The race director, Karen Loh has promised us a exciting trail route with beautiful scenery and we got that in plentiful burst despite the rain.

We started off running a short stretch along a winding road before we entered the jungle.

It was easy going initially and mostly flat. We understand the trail was not a natural trail but a route carved out for us by the Orang Asli! I can't imagine the efforts they had gone to just for us. And they had deployed marshals all along the route to ensure that nobody will get lost.

Along the way we ran past all sort of terrain from grass stewed path, to leave covered path to mud path and rivers! There were some buildings along the way, apparently rest stops and shelters used by the Orang Asli.  It was easy going for the first part and we had to cross 3 rivers. From my place at the back and running as sweeper again, I could hear the laughter of the ladies as they waded into the water. Along some stretch of the river crossings, the Orang Asli had even built bridges specially for us to cross although one of the bridge got washed away.

At one crossing, I heard screams coming from the ladies but by the time I reached the scene, the ladies had gone ahead leaving Karen to warn us of "quick sand"! 2 of the ladies had went and sunk knee deep into the "quick sand" and had to be rescued.What drama!

At another crossing there was the more excitement when the Princess (yes, the precious Princess had decided to tag along) discovered her first leech on her foot. Which reminds me never to believe people who tell you the end of the race is only 200 metres away or there are no leeches in the forest. Because there were plenty of leeches all over. Except that I  didn't even get a single bite even though almost everybody had more than one. The leeches are supposed to attached on to the slower runners and me and another Malaysian runner were right at the back walking most of the way and stopping frequently to help the last few runners. He had 18 bites and I had none!

The rain had caused the ground to be extremely wet and certain sections especially the slopes were so slippery that everybody were sliding and crawling all over the ground, never mind the leeches and whatever other creatures there might be. At one of the "small valley" going down slope, everybody was having extreme difficulty in going down and I was no exception. My trail shoe had no grip at all and I was sliding down towards the gully. In desperation and with no branches or roots to hold on, I finally gave up and went down on my bump and gingerly slide down the slope!

And after this down slope, it was up slope all the way. With the wet ground, many of the runners who were not wearing trail shoes had great difficulty climbing up the slope. Andrew and myself had to pull and push the last few runners up the slope. And then we were out on the road!

But after a short run, it was back into the trail and down hill all the way. Again, the slippery ground and the fairly steep gradient made it difficult to run and I walked cautiously not waiting to risk a fall and a long slide down the hill. Then I found a bamboo pole and was happily using it for support. I thought I can catch up for the lost time and move faster and before I knew it, whoosh and I went sliding down! So much for the bamboo!

But the end was in sight when I spied the last river and 3 little kids playing in it. The kids gave each runner a "welcome home shower of blessing" which was really so sweet of them. I also took the opportunity to wash off all the mud from my shoe, legs and tights before crossing the finish line. 

There was a beautiful "medal" handmade I presumed by the Orang Asli which was given to al the participants. More beautiful and much better and useful than the usual metal race medal.

We were also treated to a wonderful feast prepared by the Orang Asli. It was chicken, fish, rice, sweet potatoe and some sort of jungle herb and baked in bamboo and tasted wonderful.

And  despite the wet ground, the sliding and the leeches and having to endure a long 10 hours bus ride back to Singapore and this was really really a wonderful and fun time for everybody in the group. 

And on behalf of the runners from Trail Running Singapore, I would like to thank Karen Loh and the Orang Asli for having us and welcoming us into their village and forest.

About the Orang Asli Trail Run
The Orang Asli Trail Run is an annual not for profit small scale event organised by Karen Loh, race director of Malaysian Women Marathon. Proceeds from the event are given to the Orang Asli to help them to buy fuel to power their generators and vehicles. The Orang Asli are the original people of Malaysia but like in many countries, has been ostracised and outcast and left to fend for themselves.

The race is usually held annually but this year being the inaugural year of the Malaysian Women Marathon, Karen had graciously decided to hold a run just for the first 100 women sign up for the MWM and for us Singaporean. There will be another run to be held after the Malaysian General Elections and those who are interested can contact the organiser directly or Trail Running Singapore directly for further details. 

More photos on my Facebook page here

Friday, April 12, 2013

New Running Shoes - Altra

In recent years with the boom in running world wide, many new brand of running shoes have came out against the traditional brands such as Nike, Adidas, New Balance and Asics. With the evolution from traditional heel strike to mid foot and barefoot running, shoes manufacturers have all rush in to come out with their own versions. Following the wildly successful Vibrams Five Fingers, many non-running shoes peep like Skechers have also come out with their own running shoes. Runners are now spoil for choice with shoes from the traditional brands, the secondary brands such as Zoot, Newton, Merrell and the minimalist movement like VFF and Vivobarefoot. And then there are the new player like Inov8; Hoka, Cloud and Altra.

For us runners in Singapore, we now have access to almost every brand of shoes that are available in the international market. The latest entrant is Altra Running with their range of minimalist shoes.

I went to their "open house" and unfortunately couldn't get anything suitable in my size. Not to be deterred, I still ended up with a pair of Altra Provision for the kid.

This is a pair of zero drop shoes. Something not entirely new to the kid who wears a pair of racer for running.

From its website:

Modeled after The Instinct™ platform, The Provision™ adds a firmer midsole and a removable varus stability wedge to assist men with fallen arches, excessive overpronation and knock knees. Built for moderate and high overpronation, the Zero Drop™ platform, foot-shaped design and stability wedge combine to provide a high level of stability without the excessive bulk and weight of traditional stability shoes. Simply remove the stability wedge to convert this shoe to work for neutral and mild overpronation.

The included Stability Wedge™ provides a moderate to high level of stability and is optional. It is designed to provide additional support to those with excessive pronation or flat feet. It addresses the four main challenges with stability in running shoes.

The stability Wedge is the grey color insole like object at the bottom of the picture. The blue color piece is the insole. Both are removable and washable.

Here are the technical stuff (also from its website):
  • Zero Drop™ Platform, Foot-Shaped Design, NRS – Natural Ride System™.
  • Weight: Provision with the wedge weighed in at 9.9 oz. (9.1 oz. without the wedge)
  • Midsole: Two-Layer EVA / A-Bound™
  • Outsole: Blown Rubber FootPod™
  • 2 included insoles: Molded Support, Stability Wedge
  • Upper: Quick-Dry Mesh with Minimal Seams
  • Liner: Sockless-Friendly Premium Liner
  • Asymmetrical Lacing
  • Stack height = The total thickness of the shoe/the distance between the foot and the ground.
  • With Support Footbed: 20mm(Heel)/20mm (Forefoot) 
  • With Stability Wedge & Support Footbed: 25mm (Medial Heel)/25mm(Medial Forefoot) 
  • Strengthen Configuration (No Footbed): 15mm(Heel)/15mm (Forefoot)
So how does the shoes fare on runs? Unfortunately since I am not the one wearing it, I can't give a comment right now. So far the kid has done 1 short run with it and said he is pretty satisfied with it although his calves are now killing him. I gonna let him do a few more runs and then he shall ghost write the review for me here.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Rolling in the big bucks?

Recently, we at Running Shots (RS) decided to charge a nominal fee for people who request for high resolution copy of their photos. We also decided to extend this to include a hard copy. The move unexpectedly has caused some unhappiness and misconception among the runners. Some runners seem to think that that was our ultimate motive when we started Running Shots i.e. to make money and worse runners seem to think that we are rolling in the big bucks from these "sale".

Nothing is further from the truth.

To begin with, RS was set up by a runner friend who was also a photography enthusiast. His main objective than was to return to the running society a little bit of what he has benefited from since he started running. Over time he realised that as a one man show, he couldn't possibly cover every event and so roped in more similarly like minded people.

Once the race photos are uploaded, we do admit that we get a good ego boost when people like and commented on our photos. Along with the thousand of likes and comments, come request for high resolution photos which we originally provide free of charge. However, over time as the number of photos increases and the request increase, we decided that we have to impose a token charge to cover for:

1) The time our photographers spent to take photo, process them, upload them and if there are request, to process these requests

2) Cost incurred by our photographers in going down to shoot the events. Most run events starts very early and our photographers have to take taxi down, or if driving, park somewhere. All these require money 

Of course earning enough money from photo sale to cover the above is not our objectives. It is just to defray some cost and right now frankly what we get is not even enough to cover a taxi fare from Jurong to cover say, the 2XU run. Which leads me to my next point:

Rolling in the big bucks. I will be candid. Since we started imposing charge, we have a grand total of 4 requests for photographs netting us a princely amount of S$28. Just as a comparison, we spent double that amount to print the photos for the Venus Run photo contest. And I haven't even add in the cost of the transport to each and every event! Rolling in the big bucks? Don't make me puke! And for those who think we are being paid by the event organiser, dream on. Except for one race recently where the event orgainser was kind enough to pay us a token amount, we have got absolutely zero for the rest. And for this particular event, one of our photographer commented that the amount is so little compared to what one single professional photographer can charge for covering an event!

But I am not complaining. We went in with our eyes open that we are not in this for the money. We sacrifice our time, our equipment, our sleep and our money as a form of service to the running community. We do not expect any rewards although it will be nice of course. But we will still shoot with or without. The token amount we charge is merely to cover some expenses and frankly as a deterrent to too many request for high resolution photos.

Last but not least, for those who think our photos  are crappy, yes we are aware our photos are not "pro" quality. We have always emphasis quantity over quality as we shoot for the mass and there is absolutely no time to frame a shot properly or get the best exposure. We will try but when there are thousand of runners and with changing light condition, it is not always possible. And most of us are too poor to own prime lens. Maybe if we are really rolling in the big bucks?

Finally, for those who like our photos, a big thank you. Much appreciated. And for the detractors and critiques, we will try out best but if our best is not to your standard, there are many other people taking race photos out there.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Living their dreams

In recent years there has been a proliferation of races for children. I guess the current racing craze has rubbed off on the children or is it? 
Isn't he cute?
I was recently covering an event which had a category for children. Actually it has several categories for children. And I must said it was pure joy watching the cute little kids. 

And then the race starts. And the cute little kids morphed into little devils. The amount of competition among the kids scares me. I see this frequently at the biggest kids race in Singapore, the Cold Storage Kids Run where children trample each other as they race off and nobody stops to help their fallen friends. 

At the recent event that I was taking photo, there wasn't any trampling as it was a sort of triathlon and the children were flagged off in waves but something else strikes me. The intensity in which the children were competing. It was scary. They were pushing themselves so hard it was scary. A few of the kids were sobbing as they were running. And still they ran their heart out.

And behind all these are the "cheerleaders". Without fail at all these kiddie events are the parents. They are there cheering, urging and pushing their children on. I don't see so much vocal support during ladies races. But the amount of cheering frightens me. But I think it put a lot of pressure on the kids to perform well instead of just participating. It was as if the parents are living their dreams through their children. 

Maybe the next time parents sign their children up for a race., they should ponder for a moment. Is it for the child's enjoyment or for themselves?

Incidentally the Cold Storage Kids Run is now open for registration.