Two weeks ago, I was lamenting on how my plans for heat training always get drenched by rains. Very odd since it seldom rains in Singapore, and the precipitation would only last about an hour or two when it does.
The Yellow Ribbon Prison Run ’10 last September 5th was set to start at 7:45 am – not the best time to start a race. A route recon two weeks back revealed that the race would pass through 10k worth of hills!
I was wondering how they’d pull off the logistics – as the race would start at Changi Village and end at the prison complex 10km away. I was mainly worried for two things: transportation and baggage deposit.
Road closures were announced to start from 4:30 am – more than a 3-hour wait for others who would bring their vehicles to the start area. Heavy traffic would then ensue, and using public transport from our place would take about 1 hour on a usual day. The organizers had announced that they will be providing shuttles from a nearby train station (Singapore Expo) and had advised ALL runners to park their vehicles there and use the provided buses. Transport for 4,700+ runners?! Hmmm…
I arrived at the shuttle pick-up point around 6:45 am. Runners were scattered across the halls tying shoelaces, pinning bibs, eating, and many were probably waiting for their companions. I saw two buses getting ready to load, but the queue wasn’t even long enough to fill up the first bus! Maybe it was still early. We arrived at the drop-off point 15 minutes later. Hundreds of runners were already there. The start area was still a good 500 meters away.
It was still raining. The others would be soaking by now. (Good thing I had packed a cheap disposable raincoat which I eyed from an outdoor sports shop.)
Reviews for the same race the previous year have said that this was once of the best-organized races in Singapore. I was about to find out why…
I donned my raincoat and proceeded to the baggage deposit area. Instead of tents, there were 6 large moving vans (color-coded) with racks for bags inside. Volunteers would then seal your belongings in a translucent plastic bag, and then attach a numbered, color-coded sticker to your bag. A smaller sticker with the same number and color would then be attached to your bib. These vans would then drive to the finish area where you can collect your stuff after the race. Neat huh?!
I was even more surprised when the volunteers were handing out disposable raincoats to ALL runners at the baggage area! Talk about foresight! (They couldn’t have purchased the raincoats just that morning. No shops were open yet.)
At the starting area: portalets – check; water station – check. Two large tents were put up for the runners waiting under the rain, and a medical team was on standby.
The organizers had to delay the start by 15 mins, because they had to wait for “guests-of-honor” to arrive; it may have been a good compromise since a lot of runners who were delayed by the rain were still scrambling to get to the starting corral, though the others were already anxious and wanted to start their run because of the rain.
Aside from the hills, the course was unique because it had a different finish area – not your usual out-and-back or loop routes. It also passed by historic landmarks and ended at the prison complex open yard (probably the only time when non-inmates are allowed there). There were 3 water stations (I didn’t really pay much attention as I had brought my own hydration). Two other medical teams were on the road. There was even a cooling station with showers and mist sprays (which they didn’t need to open up since it was raining throughout). Marshals and signages were strategically placed to guide the runners along the route, although I didn’t see any KM markers except at the last km: 700m and 500m to go – weird.
Cheering teams were also well-distributed, which helped boost runners especially along those long uphills.
A carnival was to be found at the finish area. Aside from water stations and another medical team, there were food booths, photo booths, a massage area, display areas, a separate tent for loot bags, and a stage where performers were entertaining the crowd. There was even an area with a row of oversized water containers (maybe 2 x 1.5 x 1.5 m each) with faucets where runners could wash their shoes and feet (possibly even shower, if you could get down low enough, hahaha).
Distance is about 10.0 km, traced from geodistance.com. Instead of a medal, a replica of the prison officer’s key was given as memento to promote their advocacy, which is to “Help Unlock The Second Prison.” Timing was through RFID using the D-Tag(TM) system and the preliminary results were available on the same day with Runpix(TM) analysis.
After some hydration and stretching, I proceeded to collect my bag from the vans which have just arrived. I got my bag within the minute that my turn came up in the queue. Now, how do I get back to the train station?
As promised by the organizers, shuttles will be taking the runners back to the train station in Singapore Expo. Hundreds of runners were already in line, but so were the buses. It was more of the buses waiting for the runners to embark. Flow was smooth that I was able to get on a bus within 10 minutes.
This has been one of the best-organized races that I have participated in. For SGD 35, which is about average for races here in Singapore (but relatively cheap, considering that it was a fund-raiser), I definitely felt I got more than what I paid for.
I could only hope that the same level of execution could one day be the standard for races in the Philippines. (Though probably a lot would cringe at the cost of such races.)