Tag Archives: green spaces

Kuala Lumpur vs Singapore: Which is the Best Running City?

by Paul Thompson

On the way back from South East Asia I read this CNN article  comparing the two cities I’d just visited – Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It made me think how they compared as running cities.  I travelled back to New York from Kuala Lumpur via Singapore – 24 hours in the air and a 12 hour layover in Singapore meant I had bags of time to pen this comparison, using my wife’s categories for the best cities for running created for her recent blog post.

Climate
Both are barely a few degrees north of the equator, separated by about 200 miles. Hence, both experience almost identical tropical heat and humidity. This makes them less than ideal for running – as I complained in my last post. This tropical climate drives most indoors to the refuge of air conditioning and treadmills, leaving just the hard core, like former club runners at Singapore’s MR 25  and KL’s (as the locals call Kuala Lumpur) Pacesetters. However, Singapore enjoys the occasional breeze, due perhaps to its proximity to the sea, and cleaner air.

Verdict: Singapore

A view of KLCC Park taken from the Petronas Twin Towers.

Green Spaces
As cities that have grown rapidly green space is often crowded out by people, buildings and traffic. That said, both offer some great running routes in close proximity to the city centre. KL has its Lake Gardens and the adjacent green upscale residential district of Kenny Hills and the government quarter. And right in the city’s core is the running track at KLCC Park: a short circuit but with jaw dropping views of the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. But to get off road you need to head further out to places like Bukit Kiara, offering hundreds of acres of rain forest (sadly slowly being eaten away by condo developments). On the city’s outer fringes there are many rubber or palm oil plantations which offer endless miles of off road running, in the shade, on estate tracks.

Monkeys are a common site along the trails in MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore.

As I explained in my recent post, Singapore has a number of options including: MacRitchie Reservoir – miles of off road running routes through secondary rain forest; Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Singapore’s highest point which offers challenging off road running, some through primary rainforest; Bukit Brown – a Chinese cemetery about to be buried by an expressway: East Coast, a long thin strip of green running for miles from central Singapore to the airport (last week I anchored a second placed mixed team half ironman, running a 1:18 half marathon in 90F heat and 90% humidity – I was glad just to finish); and KTM rail line – a recently grassed over rail bed of almost 30 miles from the city centre to the far north of the island.

Verdict: Singapore

Sidewalks (aka pavements)
This is a no brainer. In Singapore you will find wide, level pavements and law abiding motorists. KL on the other hand combines some of the worst pavements anywhere with manic motorcyclists and taxi drivers, making its streets a dangerous obstacle course. KL’s pavements have entered local folklore. A few years back it was decided to pave almost every sidewalk with shiny mosaic tiles. Today many of these tiles are now broken, stolen, and pockmarked with ankle breaking holes. And when it rains  they might as well be an ice rink.

Verdict: Singapore

The Petronas Twin Towers are a stunning sight at night.

Scenery
Both cities have eye popping cityscapes – stunning architectural buildings, old and new, to take your mind off the heat and humidity. KL has its Petronas Twin Towers  and KL Tower. Singapore, meanwhile, has even more to offer including its Esplanade (its answer to the Sydney Opera House), the Padang (a cricket field surrounded by colonial era buildings), the stunning new Marina Bay Sands, and the world’s largest big wheel, the Singapore Flyer. But while Singapore may have the edge in terms of architectural wonders KL has the vantage points from which to appreciate what it has.

The latest additions to Singapore’s skyline: The Flyer, the Esplanade building and Marina Bay Sands.

Verdict: KL

Bodies of Water
Singapore is a small island so not surprisingly you are never far from water. Even in the middle of the island there is the central catchment area, a cluster of reservoirs, some, like MacRitchie, circumnavigated by trails suitable for running. And then there are the drainage canals, which increasingly are accompanied by paths such as the Ulu Pandan Connector. KL, meanwhile, is land-locked and almost bereft of water aisde from a few small lakes such as those at the Lake Gardens and KLCC.

Verdict: Singapore

Overall Verdict: Both places, as former homes and home to friends and family, I like and miss very much. So choosing between them is hard. But for running at least Singapore wins by a neck.

Advertisements

What Makes a Good Running City?

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

Paul and I never travel without our running shoes. Often the first thing we do when we arrive in a new place is put our shoes on and head out for a run. Reading this article in Forbes listing America’s best cities for running (Atlanta, Austin, Boulder, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Washington D.C. ) got me thinking about what I look for, as a runner, in a new city. Here’s my list:

Sidewalks: Broad, uncrowded sidewalks (or pavements as I call them) or cycle routes are key in cities. Running on roads present too big a risk. I’ve run in cities like Jakarta and Bangalore where the sidewalks are an obtacle course of vendors, or animals or both, and potholes.  Manhattan’s sidewalks are often clogged up with pedestrians: avoid streets with lots of shops like 5th Avenue (Park Avenue is best) or take to the East River Greenway or Hudson River Greenway.

Lots of races take place in Central Park throughout the year.

Green Spaces: A large park is a big draw for me. New York’s Central Park gets high marks for both size, views and accessibility. It’s the centerpiece of New York’s running scene. Other cities with good running parks include London where I’ve run in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park. But the best city for green spaces has to be Boulder with its 144 miles of trails. Combine that with altitude and you’re guaranteed a good, if somewhat tough, workout. (Check out our recent post. Boulder With the Boys, for  photos of off-road running in North Boulder.)

Routes: Interesting and scenic running routes can be a great way to savor a new city. A loop of the Mall covers the historic highlights of Washington D.C. from the Lincoln Memorial, National Monument and Reflecting Pool, to the Capitol building. Competitive runners can take in these sights on  the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.  Other cities that appear high on my list are Prague (for its classic architecture) Sydney (for its iconic Opera House, Harbour Bridge and harbor), and Hong Kong (for its breathtaking skyline, best viewed from Victoria Peak)

The view from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong is worth the hilly run to get there.

Paul being blown about on a run in Boston in April 2011.

Climate: I’m not a cold weather runner. I prefer warmer temperatures and as little wind as possible. Boston and Chicago (which are on the Forbes list) are often too blustery or cold for me. Paul, on the other hand, complains about the energy sapping humidity of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, although there are some good running routes in both cities. (He’ll be in both places soon so look out for posts about his former running haunts.)

Bodies of Water: I like water so cities with canals, lakes, rivers, sea-fronts are more likely to get my vote.  Paths around West Lake in Hanoi and along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh allow for enjoyable runs in not so runner-friendly cities.  And in my home country, Singapore, running through the Esplanade Park reveals views of the Singapore River set against the ever-changing Singapore cityscape.

The Singapore skyline with its mix of old and new buildings.