Posts Tagged ‘Fullerton Hotel

23
Dec
09

Singapore Special: The Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (Day 03)

One of my dreams is coming true: “to run a marathon abroad.” Not only am I fulfilling it, I’m doing it with flying colors with SCSM which is one of the most popular marathons in the world.  I remember when I first knew of SCSM a year ago I was quite envious of the runners that were racing here especially that they got full gear from a leading sports brand.  Back then my longest race was 10K so I never thought that a year later I too would be in Singapore, doing a full marathon!

From our hostel it was an easy kilometer to the Starting line and along the way we met runners of all sorts, nationalities, and races also on their way to the Start.  Aside from the heat you feel because of the humidity you can feel the heat of competition in the air!  We were in the presence of thousands of serious runners and world class elite athletes, definitely not your regular “social” race.  If this atmosphere doesn’t motivate you to run better, I don’t think anything could.

Baggage Counter

It’s pretty difficult to miss the baggage counter because signs were all over.  What’s good about their system was that they probably had enough space for every runner, and they don’t just take your bags, they place it inside huge plastic bags and seal it so you know that your things are protected.  Your baggage claim number would be stapled on your bib itself so you won’t lose it.

The Starting Line

From the baggage counter signs were placed that lead to the Starting line, the only difficulty would be navigating your way through the thousands of runners in the area.  Even in the area signs were very visible on where 21K and 42K runners should assemble.

Edu, Pepsi, Myself, and Carina (white bibs 42K, red bibs 21K)

The Starting line of SCSM was located across Fullerton Hotel and runners were assembled on the bridge all the way to the Esplanade.  There were a lot of portalets around the area (although there were so much more runners!) and water was also overflowing.

Thirsty?

Not all runners are created equal.  We all have different goals and capabilities and as such sections were dedicated for different target finish times: there was a section for over 5 hours, over 4 hours, over 3 hours, and of course up front the real competitive athletes.  Since timing chips were employed and if you’re not aiming for the podium your chip time would be your reference as getting through the Start line would take some time.

The Race

At exactly 5:30AM (Garmin time, to the second) the race started.  There were runners of all levels as far as the eye can see!  It took us more than two minutes (from the sub-5 hour section) to get through the Start line as the road was just jam packed!  It’s not that anyone was walking; everyone was running—all at the same pace!  It was strange for me at first to be surrounded by runners all running at about the same pace but despite the skill level of my company, because of the crowd we were running at an average of 6:30/km pace for the first 4K.

What’s nice with having a competitive pack like this was that you’re kept motivated to run.  You wouldn’t want to stand out in the crowd by being the first one to walk?  In the first place you picked your pace by choosing which section to start so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to keep up with the crowd’s pace.  Everyone around you has the same goal as you: it’s either you let yourself be pulled towards the goal, or drag people to miss it.

After the euphoria and fatigue starts seeping in you’d just realize you’ve already ran 21K and the crowd is still there!  The jam packed crowd from the Starting line only loosens slightly at around 10K and even at 21K it was still pretty packed.  It was good I was in the sub-5 hour pack as nobody’s walking (so far) with the roads getting narrower when we entered East Coast Park, a beachside park with huge trees.  We were running on the park’s jogging trail so even if it was wide enough there were so many runners for the space.  Since we were already on our way back past 21K we can see on the other side the “slower” pack which was of course more crowded.

East Coast Park was one of my favorite parts of the course since it was very lively, it was beachfront, it had fresh air, it had a lot of supporters, and there was food!  You can feel the community’s support here as individuals give runners bananas, sandwiches, candies, and moral support.

As you progress with the race you just feel like the water stations get further and further despite being consistently at every 1.5K.  It was those moments where your mind would carry you.  Without a strong disposition you may give up.  Realistically it’s also at this point where you start slowing down without knowing it.  I remember that there was a runner who was starting to walk behind me.  One of the supporters put out one of his several banners, “this is a no walking zone.”  It was quite a funny moment and apparently it worked as the “walker” started running again with the supporter replying with a “thank you.”

I vaguely remember the details but around 10K before the finish I felt an imminent cramp setting on my left thigh.  I feared that I might walk all the way to the finish if it ensued so I had to take a brief rest and a walk break whenever I reach a water station.  Then I remembered my goal: “minimize walking.”  All my prior marathons have more than ideal walk breaks so if I were to stick to my goal I had to keep running.  As a compromise between preventing the full onset of cramps and minimizing walking I settled for easy and cautious running, of course walking a little after each water station.  Still, I think I was spending too much time at the water stations without realizing it, so when one of the volunteers at the water station cheered me up “Keep going, Dennis!” I was startled, but it woke me up and surprisingly got motivated to do just that, to the finish.

Finally back at Esplanade Drive, the Finish is just a few hundred meters away.  It was very, very crowded as runners from all categories converge in the area (think Milo Marathon) of course including “walkers.”  Looking at my GF405 I knew I would set a new PR and at a better than expected time!  I had to take it.  Out of nowhere I suddenly had the strength to run and finish strong, thinking fast to find my way through the sea of walkers and finally there it was, the Finish line.  I actually entered the wrong area of the Finish so I had to jump to the other section and make a mad dash against the clock.  As I crossed the Finish I was just so ecstatic that I just raised both my hands. It actually felt much longer than it actually was when I reviewed my video, which was probably adrenaline rushing.  Another marathon, my best so far, a “perfect” race for me.

Post Race

Finishing SCSM wasn’t enough; part of the experience was getting your reward: the precious finisher’s medal and the nice finisher’s shirt.  We also got a lot more freebies from the sponsors but I’d say the ice cream (more like ice popsicle) was one of my favorite treat (I got three).

Proud SCSM 42.195K Finisher

Singapore City Hall: the site of SCSM’s Finish

The activity area…

…with the skyline

…and the VIP tent

…where fruits, drinks, ice cream, and candy floss were served for free

It was definitely quite an experience, uniquely Singapore! I had so much fun that I am seriously considering returning to Singapore next year, although it may be with another event (who knows maybe I’ll return more than once).  I needed to fly three hours just to get the race that I was craving for, and despite the costs incurred it was well worth it for me.  This is an excellent example that when you give your best in anything you do, people will know, and you’ll get the credits and benefits you deserve.  Costs and distance will not be a factor if people know they’d get an experience they won’t forget.  Thank you Singapore and thank you Standard Chartered!  I am now a fan of SCSM!

Special thanks to Carina for the pictures that appeared here.

Singapore Special Index:

22
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Pre-Race Tour (Day 02)

As a tourist in the 21st century it is probably a mortal sin not to have a camera of sorts especially on foreign land, so for my second day in Singapore finding one comes on top of my itinerary.  Being a gadget hub I sure didn’t have any difficulty finding one for me in Singapore.  What’s good about being a tourist buying gadgets in Singapore is that you are entitled to a 7% GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund of up to S$300 for purchases above S$100 (in a single receipt).  For many gadgets Singapore prices are among the most competitive in the region and the additional incentive sure makes shopping more gratifying.  Here are the first sets of pictures taken from my new digital camera:

Raffles City

Raffles City fountain

Shopping sure makes you hungry

Travel Tip: Most modern gadgets won’t have any problem with Singapore’s voltage but if your gadget’s charger or power cord is Philippine-standard make sure to bring an adapter as Singapore’s outlets are different.

Lunch time with friends at Raffles City

What do tourists normally do? Tour!  That’s exactly what we did, and yes it’s the day before the marathon!

Jedi caught by the empire! Storm Troopers help gather funds for The Salvation Army (courtesy Carina)

Inside Swissotel The Stamford

War Memorial Park with the famous Singapore skyline in the background

One side of the baggage counter for SCSM at the Memorial

Travel Tip: You may consider bringing along a small bottle of water when touring Singapore.

A typical double decker bus

Travel Tip: Civic District is best toured by foot, but don’t forget to bring your map!

Marina Square

Lookey what we found

Esplanade

…from another angle

Fullerton Hotel with the Singapore skyline

The Merlion

…and the Merlion cub

For dinner since it’s the night before race day it can only mean one thing—carbo loading time!

Glitzy Christmas by the bay

Raffles City Christmas tree

Time to carbo-load!

Hmmm… Spaghetti!

Pizza, courtesy of Rico V. (By Sheer Will)

Seafood Carbonara Pasta

Before calling it a day we stopped over a supermarket to do some shopping.

Fruits

Cavendish Bananas from the Philippines!

Finally just before having some shuteyes I thought of writing some inspirational message on the extra bib provided, but being tired of touring my mind wasn’t generating creative juices so I just prepared my things for my marathon the following day.

My K-Ona ready for its Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon debut

The moment I have been waiting for, the reason I am in Singapore, has finally arrived.  What will happen on race day remains unknown so far…

Singapore Special Index:

21
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Southward Bound (Day 01)

After nine months finally I get to travel outside the Philippines and for my first ASEAN destination, Singapore!  It would be my first time to be a “sports tourist” and was very excited to have my first marathon outside the country.  Of course I am not alone with this “addiction” as I have my close friends with me doing the same.  Yeah, I guess you may call it that if you decide to go to Singapore for four days just to run a marathon.  You may also call it “crazy!”

Just before 4AM at the Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2), Manila, Philippines

Singapore is about a three-hour flight from Manila which isn’t that particularly long, but isn’t exactly short either.  There’s not much things you can do in a plane so after eating there’s still time to catch up on some sleep.

In-flight meal

Before 10AM we landed at Singapore’s Changi Terminal 2, a terminal that is more like a shopping mall and since computer terminals with internet access were offered for free at the terminal itself we were able to briefly check our e-mails and of course post updates to our social networking sites.

Free internet access at Changi Airport

What I love about this airport was its extremely tourist-friendly atmosphere.  As a first timer in Singapore I had no idea what to expect or do and for that the terminal offers a lot of free brochures and maps with special focus by interests like shopping, electronics and gadgets, night outs, night safari, and Sentosa.  Even the airport in itself had so much to offer that it needs to have its own brochure!

We have arrived!

Travel Tip: Philippine Peso (Php) along with other major currencies are readily exchangeable for Singapore Dollars (Sgd) at the terminal itself so you need not hassle yourself to buy US Dollar from home.  In fact it is much better to directly exchange your Php to Sgd that you incur the least amount of conversion value loss.

As an epitome of a city with an efficient public transportation system, their MRT is an excellent way to get around Singapore.  The organizers of Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) utilized this fact and placed their distribution center for race packet distribution at the Expo—just a station away from the airport station of the MRT.

Still at Changi Airport bound for the MRT station

Travel Tip: bus and MRT bus fares are more expensive via cash than ez-link card, but regular MRT tickets can be returned at the General Ticketing Machine (GTM) for a S$1 refund.  You may also keep it as a cheapo souvenir!

A typical Singapore MRT General Ticketing Machine (GTM) to buy and return MRT tickets

First stop: The Expo.  If race kit distribution in Manila spells trouble for runners, for SCSM it’s the other way around as the entire process of claiming your kit won’t take you five minutes!  Aside from claiming your kit you also have a chance to see and buy a lot of running-related products a lot of which are not available in the local market.  A lot of items were also on sale including shoes and apparel from this year’s SCSM shirt provider, New Balance.  For me I settled with window shopping and a can of liniment spray.

Expo Station

Meeting fellow Pinoy runners at the Expo

At the expo

Huge banners mark where runners should queue for their kit

Kit claiming area at the Expo

Race bibs are packed in clear zip-lock bags. Race kits also include an SCSM event shirt and product samples and flyers from sponsors and are distributed inside bags

Travel Tip: Shoulder bags (regardless of the weight) are not the best choice when travelling.

At the expo we were joined by more of our friends, some Singapore-based, who would be running the SCSM, and by time everyone was done with their shopping it was time for lunch.  Conveniently there was also a food court at the expo but unfortunately it rained!  Most of the seats were located semi-al fresco so we had some issues with rain.  I thought that we left the rains back in Manila but it’s not exactly Sunny Singapore that greeted us.  Apparently it had been raining the past few days in the afternoon, and consistently for the last several years, days before SCSM, but according to our Singapore-based friends it had always been rainless at the day of the SCSM itself.  Will it rain during SCSM?

Strong rains aren’t enough to dampen our spirits!

After lunch it’s time for most of us to settle down on our hotels and of course it’s back to the MRT station.  It was like the pre-mobile phone era for us when we agreed to meet again for dinner as even the cost of sending an SMS was restrictive (most of us were carrying our Philippine SIM on roaming).  We had to do things the “old-school” way by agreeing to meet at a certain place at a certain time—makes you appreciate more the convenience of being at home.

Tourists finding their way “home”

Singapore’s MRT

For me and three of my friends our destination was Bugis—a popular tourist destination in itself.  We picked our hostel in this area because of its proximity to the Starting line of the SCSM near Fullerton Hotel which was only about a kilometer away.

How to spot a tourist in Singapore

Later that afternoon despite having less than ample rest Carina and I were off for some walking tours of the area.  With that tour we found out how close everything was—being from the Philippines where the scale of a typical map is in kilometers we were used to walking long before reaching a spot in the map.  In Singapore maps normally have scales of about a hundred meters making locations appear farther than they actually are—making the lives of some gutsy Pinoy tourists with hardly any orienteering skills roaming the streets of Singapore to have a very difficult time.

Expressways in Singapore uses non-disruptive RFID to collect tolls

Are pedestrians allowed here?

We were originally heading towards the Merlion that afternoon but we ended up in front of the Singapore Flyer and eventually in Suntek City.  With sunlight gradually fading we had no choice but to return to our hostel via a bus, which proved to be a not-so-easy task, but picking one was very “educational.”

The Singapore Flyer

We had another bonding moment with friends through dinner at Funan Digitalife Mall, a small building much like Gilmore IT Center in Quezon City.  Here we had our first taste of a mall-style food court.

Having fun with my selection of dinner

Excited tourists as we were, we refused to end the night with dinner and instead headed off to Clarke Quay, which was more like Riverbanks in Marikina meet Eastwood City.  Here I found my favorite “Ice cream slab sandwiched in wafer” which was only S$1.  The famous G-Max reverse bungy ride is also found here.  And from here most of us are just an MRT away, but for me and my “housemates” it was still walking distance away from home.  Some quick tour to cap our first day in Singapore.

Christmas tree in front of Central Promenade at Clarke Quay

G-Max

Special thanks to Carina for some of the pictures that appeared here.

Singapore Special Index:

11
Dec
09

The “Perfect” Race: Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon Primer

Uniquely Singapore, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon is one of the largest and most popular marathons in the world frequented by thousands of international runners from all walks of life.  It in itself is an income-generating activity for Singapore, a perfect example of how sports tourism can help boost the economy.   This years’ event would also be my first marathon outside the Philippines.  It would also make Singapore the first country in ASEAN I’d visit.

I’m leaving on a jet plane… at Terminal 2 (Manila)

Being my first international “solo” trip, this experience was exciting but also petrifying for me.  It was a good thing that Singapore is very tourist friendly country, and the climate isn’t much different from Manila.   The fact that I have some of my close running friends with me guaranteed a great adventure.

Race packet claiming is at the Expo, just an MRT station away from Changi Airport (Singapore)

The Expo (Hall 5) is an area about the size of World Trade Center, Philippines

My race bib and timing chip sealed in a zip-lock bag

A typical ticketing machine of Singapore MRT

We stayed in Bugis just about a kilometer away from Fullerton Hotel where the Start line was located.  Of course we arrived days before the actual race so we can’t help but keep being tourists roaming around the area where our feet can carry us, and upon exhaustion there’s always the bus and MRT.  Even during the eve of the race we’re still roaming around some nearby mall.

Part of our unplanned, self-made “walking tour” was the Singapore Flyer

One side of the baggage counter for the race

So many food choices (watch out for that spice)

While the weather was not as good as I had expected, the actual race itself was “perfect.”  Everything that I expect, want, and dreamt of in a race was there.  Hey, the only thing that can make the race better was if I was running in a Boston-qualifying time, but since I’m a mere mortal a new Personal Best (“PB” as they refer to it in Singapore) would suffice.   The finisher’s shirt and the drop-dead gorgeous medal completed the surreal experience.

Fullerton Hotel with the Singapore skyline at the background

Carbo-loading, night before the race

Who knew that our local Cavendish bananas make it here? Pretty cheap at 21₵

Of course running is much more fun with the gang

Are we there yet?

The niceties of this “perfect” race are up, click on the links below, leh.

The gang at Sentosa. Thank you Singapore for a wonderful experience!




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