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Friday, April 25, 2014

Banditing of the Highest Level!

"Bandit" a term that is frown upon by Race Directors and serious runners but where almost everybody else quietly endorse it. For those newbies and really innocence, bandit in running terms means taking part in a race without registering for it. There are many argument for and against it but most people I know bandit not because they cannot afford the registration fee but mainly because the race is sold out or they cannot qualify for it or they simply want to accompany their friend like what I observed at last year Great Eastern Women Race

Most people who bandit just run and depending on their luck, they may get chase out by bandit catchers. It has always been fairly easy to identify bandit runner - anybody without a bib is deemed a bandit runner. Until now ..

Last week at the Boston Marathon, 4 runners were "caught" running bandit. They were not booted off the course though. These people have elevated "banditing" to the highest level - with a fake bib! And nobody will be none the wiser if not for the photographers and the real owner of the bib. After her race, like many others, she went to Marathon Photo to look for her photo and she found it along with four other runners all wearing the same bib number! Read the details here and here!

Ok I am glad this is one area we here in Singapore haven't caught up with the Americans yet although I must admit we do have our fair share of cheaters. But these Americans (I presume they are Americans) have taken banditing to the highest level. ~respect~

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Whither the Sponsorship?

I was reading the papers when I came across this big advertisement. It caught my attention immediately. One because I always looking at airlines ads for special offer and two, because it has our national marathon runner photo in it.  Turned out it was an announcement by Air Asia that they are supporting Mok Yin Ren in his Olympic quest.

I am happy for Mok that he now has one less worries and can concentrate fully on his training. But at the same time I could not help but note that the sponsor, Air Asia is a Malaysian company. And it makes me sad that none of our local companies are sponsoring him or for that matter, any other local sports athlete. 

I posed this question on my Facebook and I got comments such as no budget, no synergy and already sponsoring other. In a way that is true. SIA has just announced a million dollar sponsorship deal for the F1, OCBC is already sponsoring cycling and even has a Team OCBC which ironically comprises riders of several nationalities. DBS has the river regatta etc. So the sponsorship is mainly for an event or a sports and not an individual per see.

As I pondered over why there are no sponsorship of individuals, I realised that it is not about budget. The cost of sponsorship does not amounts to much, not if the companies are big companies like the telcos, glcs, transport or even property companies. The real reason I guess is that these companies do not see any benefits arising from these sponsorship. To be honest, while I have never been approached to sponsor any athlete, my company have been approached by many organisation to sponsor all sort of projects. Recently, we were asked to sponsor a local national sports event. The cost does not amount to much but after I sat down and work out the sums, I have to regretfully recommend to my Management to not go ahead because I could not justify the investment. I guess most people in charge of such sponsorship approach the situation the same way I does. The first thing we ask ourselves is "What is the benefit to the Company?" and next "What is the return on Investment?". Even if it  is to be treated as a CSR project, we have to look at the intangibles benefits - like the publicity and goodwill from being associated with the program and maybe in the worse case, the tax benefits. And the hard truth is that while there are a lot of benefits being associated with a big project like the F1 or even OCBC Cycle or SCMS like the advertisement and branding, sponsoring an individual or a small event has absolutely no tangible or intangible benefit other than a "feel good, pat on the back" feeling which I can never justify to the board. So sadly even if my company were to be approached to sponsor Mok or Tao Li or other promising local athletes, we will have to turn it down but because there is no way to justify the expenditure.

So is there no hope for our local athletes? In the immediate future, I think no. But hopefully one day, our companies especially the GLCs can take it upon themselves as a "National Service" to sponsor promising local athletes under a special program.  Other way that local companies can support is to employ these athletes and allow them to train full time much like the now defunct SPH program for ex-National footballers. And the government can help by giving tax allowances for such sponsorship. The question is - will we ever see such a day?

Friday, April 11, 2014


Recently, Running Shots, the photography group that I shoot with got a message from an event organiser. That is nothing new considering that nowadays we get a lot of request from event organisers to take photos of their events. But this latest request was not a request to take photos. It was rather different. In fact, it was a request for Running Shots not to upload the photos of their events immediately after the event but to delay the upload for a month. The reason?

Let me reproduce part of the message here:

"We respectfully request that you do not post photos of our events on your site for at least one month following our events in order to allow these photographers time to receive the benefits for which they are employed. We fear that the posting of photos too soon will hurt the profession as a whole as we believe this talent and service should be provided first and foremost for a fee to ensure local photographers can continue to be paid for their work"

We were stumped. This was a first and we have no idea whether to agree or not to agree to the request. But here again we see an element of protectionism creeping in. Just like the saga after the Commando Challenge late last year. And this got me pissed off. Let look at the reasons behind the request.

- to allow these photographers time to receive the benefits for which they are employed.
- posting the photos too soon will hurt the profession ......... this talent and service should be provided first and foremost for a fee to ensure local photographer can continue to be paid for their work

There it is again. - benefits / pay. What utter baloney!

This is a free world. Where in the world nowadays can one company ask competitors not to compete with them so that they can make money? I thought protectionism exists only at the country level but it seems this isn't so. Seems like the paid photographers expect to be handled a golden platter to make money without competition. The argument is seductive. Hurt the profession = No more support from these photographer = no more photos. But is this really true?

The impact of such a policy will simply mean that the interest of a small group of people (ie the paid photographers) is protected and deemed more important than the interest of the majority (ie the participants in an event). Let me quote from this article by Murray N. Rothbard in 1988: "Invariably, we will find that the protectionists are out to cripple, exploit, and impose severe losses not only on foreign consumers but especially on Americans. And since each and every one of us is a consumer, this means that protectionism is out to mulct all of us for the benefit of a specially privileged, subsidized few—and an inefficient few at that: people who cannot make it in a free and unhampered market." This was written in the context of the Japanese flooding the American market with their products in the eighties but it is as relevant now to this current situation as it was then. To apply it to the current request - this is what they the event organiser is saying to participants."Don't take the free photographs from the volunteers. Pay big bucks to our paid photographers for your photos instead" Does that sound fair? I suppose yes if you are the one selling the photos and definitely no, if you are the one who have to cough up the money for it!

I said before and I said again, the paid sports photography market is going the way of the dodo bird. With over prized photos, quality that are not much better than what amateurs like us are taking, there is simply no way for such a business model to continue to be viable. With cheap and good quality dslr readily available nowadays, anybody can take a fairly decent photo. And most people nowadays do not print hard copy of their photos. Most are just happy to have a soft copy residing on their pc, tablet or phone which can easily bring around to show their friends instead of having to lug heavy photo albums. 

But instead of reducing prices or coming out with more innovative way to sell the photos, they resort to trying to block volunteer photographers from competing with them. But is that going to work? Mass events are public events and they cannot possibly shut out the public or stop anybody from taking photographs of the events and subsequently uploading them to social media or photo sharing sites. Even if Running Shots agree to their request, there will still be other groups out there like Running Kakis, Chasing Shots, Run Mo Cap etc around. Are they going to try to block everybody? And if they succeed, who benefits? The participants or the paid photographer?

No wonder a friend I met in Tokyo commented that Singapore event organiser do not have the interest of the participants and are only interested in making money off them and which is why he no longer participates in local event. Judging from the request of this particular event organiser, he is not far off the mark in his appraisal. And it will be a sad day for the local sport scene if volunteer photographers are sidelined so that the paid photographers can cream off the participants.

NB: the views expressed here are my personal opinion and do not represent the view of Running Shots and my colleagues there.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Problem with Timex Run Trainer

I bought the Timex Run Trainer online in September 2012 after reading favourable review of the watch on web sites. It was to replace my slowly disintegrating into several pieces Garmin 110.

I was amazed at the features of the watch especially the flexibility of the interval program. One small bug bear that I faced was the erratic GPS lock on. According to web review, it was supposed to be fast and it even had the ability to remember the last site. However, in my usage, GPS lock on was really bad. Sometime it can be so fast and sometime it can take up to 10 minutes! And the thing about remembering the previous start site. It didn't work. I run at least once weekly from the park connector next to my place and that place has one of the worst lock on rate. Maybe it is because there is a Singtel sub station there and it interferes with the signal but I don't see the same problem with the sidekick Garmin 210.

Anyway, I could live with the erratic GPS - just turn it on earlier but still the reading can drive me nuts. One time, I started my run at the open area next to the High Street Centre in Hill Street. Throughout the run, the watch keep beeping "Weak GPS signal".  I was puzzled. Only when I got home and upload the run data did I realised that the GPS showed that I started in Bukit Timah which was like at least 10 km away! Another time, the GPS signal just dropped and disappeared reappearing a few kilometres later and I swear I was not even in any built up area!

Then somewhere in the middle of last year, barely less than a year after I bought it, my computer failed to recognise the watch. Or at least it could charge the watch but I could not upload my run data because the computer couldn't find it. Just in case it was an isolated problem peculiar to the notebook that I was using, I tried on 2 other computers and it was the same. All the computer, notebooks couldn't read it. I tried resetting, reinstalling,  writing email to Training Peak and Timex, they couldn't solve the problem. Finally I got an email from Timex asking me to send it back to US since at that point in time there was still  no local agent. Unfortunately,  because I was still using the watch to run and not upload the run data, I delayed until the warranty period was over. So I carried on using it until one fine day late last year. Inexplicably in the middle of a run, the GPS disappeared again. And this time it stayed away.

This is what I got now when I try to activate the GPS

A Waiting for GPS message that just wait forever until it auto switch back to Time mode. So I gave up and am now back running with a Garmin 620. 

Meanwhile, Timex has came out with a new Run Trainer 2.0 which hopefully will resolve the GPS problems which has been reported in many forums. Until it does, it is caveat emptor!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Medical Aids at Races

At the recently concluded 2XU Marathon, a runner collapsed during the race and despite efforts by fellow runners and subsequently medical personnel, he passed away at the hospital. After this, there was a lot of kpkb over the lack of medical aids from the event proper. According to press reports and postings  in social media, the runner collapse somewhere around the 11km distance along the Geylang Bahru PCN. Fellow runners were not able to locate the event medical personnel and there was no emergency contact number of the race organiser to call. In the end, other runners provided cpr and called the SCDF. Unfortunately, they were not able to provide the exact location and consequently the SCDF ambulance took longer than expected to reach. Meanwhile, the race director was none the wiser about the event. Runners told umbrage at the lack of medical personnel, the inability to contact the race organiser/director and the simply inertia of the race organiser.

But to be fair to the race organiser, I think they have done what is expected of them. Looking at the race map, there are medical points spread out all over the race course. However, most of the medical points were along the second half of the route as to be expected of a full marathon where most of the injuries and problems are likely to occur later rather than so early as in this case. And there is no precedent for an emergency contact number of the event organiser in most race although I noted that this is now printed on the City Race race bib. Lesson learnt! And it is not realistic to expect medical personnel to be stationed at every 1 km. As I understand, most big races will have at least 3 civil ambulances during a race stationed along the race course and first aiders (usually from the Red Cross or St John) stationed along the routes. What happened is really unexpected and beyond the control of the race organiser and they have done what is required of them. But that is of course not to say that these cannot be improved on.

For a start, we could all learn from the Tokyo Marathon. I noticed that apart from the usual medics stationed at various points throughout the race course, in addition, there were medics on bicycle. Not only that, there were doctors who were running with the runners.

Members of the Medical Response team at the Tokyo Marathon
Photo from
Medical personnel with AED along the race route at the Tokyo Marathon
Photo from Tokyo Marathon website
These doctors wear distinctive red vest with the words "Medical" and they ran together with the runners
Photo from
Perhaps doctors who are runners can volunteer their services and run together with participants in races. Race director should also make available mobile medics with AED and other relevant medical aids.

However, all these measures will not prevent somebody from dying if that is his fate but hopefully it will be sufficient to reduce or prevent more cases