The week after the 2008 Singapore Marathon, Red Sports did a story (Hitting the (human) wall at the Singapore Marathon) about how the crush on the route made it a difficult and disappointing finish for full marathon runners.

The issue has now percolated into the pages of the mainstream media, with the Straits Times doing a story on the same topic (Route Changes for marathon?; Wednesday, January 7, 2008).

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Teo Ser Luck, was quoted by ST as saying “The race experience as a whole was great, but the last part was a bit of a disappointment. I started walking because it was so crowded. It was no longer conducive for me to do a good time.” Ser Luck finished in 4 hours 6 minutes.

Even the elite Singaporean athletes weren’t spared the crowd. Singapore’s fastest female runner, Vivian Tang, was caught in the jam.

"The worst was when we merged with the 21km runners after 32km," said Vivian. "Getting drinks was a bit difficult. A bit of zig-zag. But I told myself not to get upset and just concentrate." Vivian finished in a personal best of 2:56.

Kelven Tan, chief of the sports marketing group at the Singapore Sports Council also told ST that the route was chosen as it caused the least disruptions to the rest of the community.

This must mean that the routes for all practical purposes have reached their upper limit at 50,000.

The ST article also laid out a few options for making the race better.

A cut-off time
The Chicago Marathon is famous for having a cut-off time of 3:15. The Hong Kong Marathon has a 5:30 cut-off time. A cut-off time for the full marathon is only practical if the the full marathon numbers reach 30,000 or higher. Last year only 11,743 runners completed the full marathon (15,000 signed up).

Change of start times
The Bangkok Marathon starts at 2am for those who run take anywhere from five to seven hours to finish the 42km route. For those who can run it under five hours, the next start time is 3.20am.

Separate route for the 10km event
There were 20,272 10km runners in last year’s event. The term ‘runner’ is used loosely because some were walking, talking and taking pictures much to the frustration of folks actually running. The 21km and 42km runners will be quite happy with this suggestion.

Removal of some categories
Again, this will be quite a popular choice among the full marathon runners. The London Marathon and the New York Marathon are full marathon events only.

That focus has helped them to grow with London seeing 35,000 runners and New York 39,000. New York caps the numbers of runners to ensure a good racing experience.

If the Singapore organisers can lay aside the “more runners better” mentality and take the hit, removing the 10km category altogether will raise the credibility of the full marathon.

Limit the number of participants
This is the weakest of the suggestions because it would just make the event neither this nor that. It would be better to reduce unnecessary numbers by throwing out the 10km category altogether.

Split the race over two days
This suggestion would raise the cost component logistically and the numbers would have to be worked out by the organisers. The frustration would be road closures on two consecutive days in the downtown area. Apart from the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, it’s hard to imagine two days of consecutive closures in Singapore in the heart of town.

N.B. The event is also known as the “Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon”.

Singapore Marathon

The 21km and 10km finishers (right) throng the finish line like a day out on Orchard Road while the 42km marathoners get a much more pleasant finishing experience. (Photo © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)


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Related stories:
Rameshon is Singapore's fastest male marathoner; Daniel Ling finishes second
Ex-national sailor Ben Tan is third-fastest Singapore marathoner after coming in behind Daniel Ling and M. Rameshon
Vivian Tang is Singapore's fastest female marathoner and sets new PB to boot
Luke Kibet wins US$35,000 at Singapore Marathon (plus US$15,000 for showing up)
With 50,000 signing up for the Singapore Marathon, you might not actually be running
Singapore Marathon gets double the money. Do we get double the space?
Daniel Ling – the marathon king
Reflections on the Singapore Marathon
"My name is Vivian – with an ´a'."

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