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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Punggol Runners - 8 years and still running strong

Running groups in Singapore used to be dominated by formal running clubs like Swift, Flash and MR 25 that had to be registered with the SAAA, the predecessor of the SAA. In the past few years, together with the rise is popularity of running, a new breed of running groups have surfaced. Many came and went. Some survived but lacked direction and never grew. A few grew from strength to strength. This is the story of one of them.

Punggol Runners started life in 2007 when a motley group of passionate runners living in Sengkang and Punggol decided to get together for their runs. Together with the fledging town, Punggol Runners start growing as more and more residents moved into the area. Soon, runners from Hougang, Yio Chu Kang and even Pasir Ris started to join in  the weekly runs.
Photo courtesy of Punggol Runners
Led by the ebullient Mike Kang, the runners ran all over the areas exploring the area way even before anybody  heard of Punggol Waterway. Punggol Runners members also took part in many races and long weekend runs all the way to Mandai were conducted regularly for members. Other than training for races, the club also organised fun runs to other area and they were probably the very first runners to run in the new Lorong Halus trail and the Punggol Waterway. 

Punggol Runners also worked with the grassroots and other organisation and supported races that were held in the area. Members were drafted as volunteers for the first 2 edition of the POSB Kids Run that were held in Sengkang. Punggol Runners also acted as advisor cum resource facilitator for the MacDonald Punggol Waterway Run and the Punggol Waterway Passion Run.
Punggol Runners at the Punggol Waterway Passion Ruun
 Nowadays, Punggol Runners together with its sister club, Newton Running Club provides pacers for many of the local races such as the Newton Challenge and the 2XU Compression Run. 

Punggol Runners pacing at the 2012 Newton Challenge
The sheer size and very public presence of the club soon attracted attention from sponsors and  over the years they had been sponsored by many including  Lynk Biotech,  Newton and New Balance and JP Pepperdine. Currently, Punggol Runners has a close working relationship with Key Power International Pte Ltd, the local distributor for Newton, 2XU and Brooks.

Punggol Runners celebrated its 8 anniversary on 26 July 2013 with a dinner bash. Notably among the runners is "Wonderwoman" aka Miss Punggol Runners aka Fia who in 2011 was involved in a freaked accident that almost put a stop to her running and her involvement  with Punggol Runners. But she bounced back and since then have gone on to get a PB and completed another marathon plus take part in triathlons!  I leave her story for another day though.

Anyway, membership to Punggol Runners is free! and open to residents of Sengkang, Hougang, Punggol, Yio Chu Kang. However, any member of the public are welcome to join provided they can join in the runs on a regular basis. To join, contact Fia or Mike Kang via their FB page.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Never Stop Exploring - Beyond the Pipelines

By now most frequent trail runners in Singapore will know of the "3 pipelines" trail along Rifle Range Road. For those who don't understand what I trying to say, this is the place:

After our short new trail route, our craze ultra trail runner guide bought us to a new trail. This promises to be the mother of all trail because in as far as I can remember, other than the Green Corridor, this new trail is the longest single stretch trail that one can possibly run without making an u-turn or a loop.

The adventure started when fellow trail runners started posting pictures of pipelines. The common one that most of us recognise was the 3 pipelines along Rifle Range Road but 5 or 6 pipelines together?

Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. Where was this place and most important of all, how to get there? Then one morning while at Dairy Farm, I met a fellow runner who told me that it was a "short" run from Dairy Farm to Woodlands via these pipeline trails. And most important of all, he let in on the "secret" marking that entrance to this trail. Still I wasn't that confident of finding my way and so I enlisted the help of my craze ultra trail runner friend and volia, we killed 2 birds with 1 stone or rather ran 2 "new" trails on one run!

So from where we ended off, we cut across Rifle Range Road to the aforesaid 3 Pipelines trail and we went along Belukar Trail to Zhenghua before we ran along the stretch of Gangsa Trail leading to Mandai. The entrance to the new Pipelines Trail is somewhere along the Gangsa Trail.

Many of us travel along the various expressway almost every day and especially along the PIE, SLE and BKE, we often marvel at in land scare Singapore, there are still plenty of greenery alongside the expressway. Many times, I wonder what lies behind and where it can lead to and this morning we finally got the answer.

That is the BKE at the back of the  picture.

We even had to go under the expressway!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Never Stop Exploring - Hill and more Hills

A wise friend from KK sent me this great pearl of wisdom. 

And just nice, a trail and ultra crazy friend who is also doing the TMBT, showed a few of us a new trail with a "good" upslope to run.

I certainly wouldn’t use “shiok” to describe the new route but suffice to say, I walked all the up slopes and all the down slopes and all the uneven ground which comes out to 100% of the entire route!

Here are some pictures of this hitherto unknown trail, known only to hardcore trail runners like my friend.

This is the entrance to the trail. Haha, we have to run into the horizon. The sun is kinda obscuring the route so this trail shall continue to remain a secret known only to the hardcore few and me!

And then we came to the "upslope". Only it wasn't a real hill. Just a series of terrace cut into the forest.

While my friend went bouncing away up the slope like a goat, the rest of us more sanely peeps choosed to walk up. The grass here were rather long and the ground was uneven and cannot be seen. And I have this phobia of twisting my ankle so it was walk walk walk all the way up.

And this was the view from the top. Looking backward to where we just climbed up.

But instead of continuing, we had to go back down! (#*^%#$@. I should have stayed at the bottom cause if there anything I hate more than climbing up slope, its going down slopes where I always feel that I can just roll down.

But I made it down safely and then we had to "run along the drain". I had no idea what he referred to earlier when he said that but when I saw the drain, it finally sunk in. We were literally going to run along the drain.

Which couldn't be such a bad thing if not for the fact that the "drain" was 30 metres on top of the expressway! One wrong move and like Jack and Jill, we will go tumbling down the hill and become road kill!. I think the drivers must be wondering what those crazy guys were doing running right in the middle of the slope bordering the expressway.

That the PIE on the right of the picture
Thankfully we survived that but that not the end, we still have another new trail, again courtesy of my friend to explore and which would turn out to be the mother of all trails! But that is another story for another day.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why I Run

I started running only like in 2005. And despite many injuries over the years, I am still running today. Why do  I run? Do I run to keep fit? Lose weight? Lose fat? Or am I addicted to running? Honestly, I started out just out of curiosity. Then to lose weight and lose fat. Then it became a challenge to beat the clock. Now with age catching up, it is no longer about beating the clock. And I think I am of the right weight now. The fat around the belly - that one will never go away considering the amount of food I eat a day. 

So that leaves running to keep fit. But then again, I think I fall sick more often as a runner than before I started running. That is kinda oxymoron. Run more and fall sick more. But many runners have the same problem. Why? I think because we stress our body too much and when the body is stressed and we continue to run, we will fall sick more easily.

Anyway, I now run because? I really don't know. Maybe this guy can explain it better:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weak Mind, Weak body and Weak Legs

"2013 is significantly tougher than the 2011 and 2012 course in my opinion..which explains the jump in accumulated altitude gain as compared to the 2012 course.."  These words from the Race Director sends chill down my spine and that of my running kaki.

When I signed up for this, I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park, unlike a friend who thought so and  promptly went to sign up for the 100km in its inaugural edition in 2011 and nearly paid a heavy penalty for it. Learning from his experience, I have decided to be a bit kiasu and sign up only for the 50km. But that is still 50km too long I think.

Anyway with the haze gone I hope for good, training resume, abit a little on the slack side.

Since Sunday was a rest day, thought I could do an easy run on Monday after work. The sidekick said she didn't feel ok so I also decided to skip the run. Instead, I did a short series of training with the weights and the gym ball. Haven’t really been doing my strength training regularly since moving to Pasir Ris. Somehow the soft lighting at home does not inspire me to lift weights. More like for sleeping. Anyway, concentrated on the legs and core and did some stretches of the legs.

On Tuesday, it was back to Mount Faber and this time a good friend came along. We had wanted to do 3 loops up and down but she was a slave driver and we ended up doing 3½ loops. Worse thing she insisted on going all the way down to the foot of the hill and back up again and did not allow us to stop about 400 metres from the bottom. Shall not ask her along the next time. Hahahha. But seriously this was the hardest session for the week. See I said it was slack!

Wednesday got slacked again. Took out the Foam Roller and did more stretches of the legs and went through the motion of doing some crunches.

Thursday night, the sidekick got an early start to her run and I was left alone to do my own. Poor me

Decided a short hard (hard by my standard anyway) run was in order. Actually that just the excuse to get out, do it and get it over with in double quick time. Started ambitiously. Try to break the PB for this particular 5.6km route. Started well but lost steam rapidly. After 1 km, decided this wasn't working out. Too strenuous for my old body. Got a brainwave. Will do a "fartlek". See, I also know how to use big technical terms. Run like hell up to a distance target, do a recovery run and then start all over again. Plan went well until somewhere towards the end. The park was pretty dim. I kicked into an uneven part of the ground and went flying or rather scrambling. With hands and legs flailing all over, I desperately tried to catch back my balance as I was going down but it was all in vain and I ended up eating dirt. I must have looked a comical sight to the other park users. Maybe they thought I was practising the long jump?
My poor arm
That put paid to any training on Friday. Saturday was super busy day with me involved in 2 races as a volunteer in the morning and as a photographer in the evening which means no running. Sunday morning there was another race to shoot and I was stoned by afternoon. A short nap didn’t help much as I dragged myself up and out. Decided that I die die must do my long run. Together with the sidekick who had wisely did her own run in the morning, we went to the Tampines Eco Park and then crossed over to the Tampines Mountain Bike Trail. This is my favourite run route in the East. 
The Tampines Mountain Bike Trail
The Tampines Mountain Bike Trail
Too bad, the Tampines Mountain Bike Trail is slated for redevelopment and soon there will be no more trails to run in the East. Completed 12km before the sidekick went home to cook dinner and I dragged myself to complete another 8 km in a super slow time.

So I didn’t managed to hit 40km for this week. With 10 more weeks to go, it seems likely I won’t have enough time to bring myself to a sufficient level to complete the 50 km comfortably. Time to start thinking of Plan B maybe?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Long Long Weekend

It has been  a long long tiring weekend. Fortunately though if not for the haze, it could have been worse.This was supposed to be the mother of all races weekend. There were originally 5 races scheduled over the weekend but because  of the haze, 2 races on Sunday were postponed leaving 3 races in the end. But that is still 3 races to many. Not that I was racing in any of them but somehow I found myself rushing to all of them.

On Saturday morning, went to the Marina Barrage to help out as a volunteer for the Run & Raisin. This is the  3rd year our group has been involved in this event but somehow I can't help feeling that we are surplus manpower and they don't really need us. Anyway, we had a swell time at the event.
Photo credit: AC Leong
In the afternoon, I was back at the same area for the Orange Ribbon Race. I was the designated photographer for this event for Running Shots but it was a nightmare taking photos in the Marina Bay area with so many people walking around. The photos are up on Running Shots Facebook page.

This is a People Association 's organised event and like all grassroot event, there was a big crowd. To ensure that they have the  numbers, the PA will send down big group from the various Community Clubs and other organisations like these 2 groups here. 
Participants from the CC eating their free dinner before setting off

Footballers from the S League clubs also got  roped in
I was up early the next morning and travelled all the way to Jurong for the Jurong Lake Club. Again I was the designated photographer for Running Shots (photos coming up soon). Unfortunately, the race ending point was not inside the scenic Chinese or Japanese Gardens but on the road and so I found myself taking photos with a not so nice background. But I am sure the thousand of walkers taking part in this wouldn't mind especially when all the other photographers from the other groups all turned up for this seeing that the other 2 races have been postponed.
Participants at the Jurong Lake Run
That leaves me with almost no time for my weekend long run but I somehow managed to drag myself out for a long run in the evening but that is another story for another time.