Tag Archives: Singapore

Race Report: World Masters Athletics Championships – Half Marathon, September 16, Malaga, Spain

Paul Thompson (pictures Shamala Thompson)

Before

Here I was again standing on the start line of the half marathon hoping to make up for the disappointment of finishing 4th in the 10K a week earlier. The half is my preferred distance. I appeared to be over a hamstring strain and resumed coach Troopy’s inter race schedule. And I was fully adjusted to the time zone. So this was the day to put it right. I needed to run my own race, stay composed and make adjustments for the hot and humid weather. Turns out a few seconds would make all the difference.

Rather than jog from the apartment to the stadium I got the metro  with Sham and decided to run the area surrounding the stadium to get familiar with the course near the start and finish and midway: the course was one small lap and two large with our passing the stadium three times before finishing with a lap in it. I was more relaxed about this race than the 10K though more nervous about the effects of the hot weather. My game plan was to run 5:30-5:40 miles to close in around 1:13, a minute slower than what I figured I could run in more favorable weather.

I met Edo Baart, who’d gotten silver in the 10K, on the metro ride in. Baart had a similar game plan to me so looked like we’d be running together, collaborating, and then start competing in the latter stages. But time was a secondary consideration. The goal was to get best possible finishing position, preferably one that came with a gong. That meant racing rather than time trialing as I tend to do in club races in New York where I take for granted winning my age group in distances of 10K or more. In the entry list my best recent time of 1:12:01 from Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon 2017 ranked me 7th fastest and there were 5 guys who had beaten me before. Pre-race favorites were Benita from Spain, gold medalist in the 2017 European Masters Half Marathon, Eichwein from Germany, silver medalist in the same and gold for 8K XC and 10K road in Malaga, and fellow Brit Tim Hartley, silver medalist in the 5000m a few days earlier. But Benita and Hartley did not show up.

We were lined up in corrals by age – M35-49 men and women in the first corral, M50-59 in the second. This meant having some 200 athletes, many much slower, in front. I reconnected with Baart. As a few older guys and girls ducked under the corral tape to join the first corral Baart and I, suspecting the floodgates would open, decided to follow suit. But the floodgates did not open. As I did not want to find myself beating someone simply because I started ahead of them I told Baart he was on his own. As I rejoined my corral I got that ‘look’ from many M50s. Turns out it would all prove academic as just before the start the corral breaks were removed and I forged my way nearer the front. So near I was able to tap Baart’s shoulder. He looked relieved.

During

And then we were off. I still had around 100 athletes in front of me but figured I had time to pass and settle into a group nearer the front. I went through the first mile with Baart, and Eichwein, in 5:39 (Garmin data is here). Slightly slower than goal pace but Baart said it was OK for him. I felt relaxed and we shared words. Though we sped up to 5:30 in mile two Eichwein started to charge away from us. Looking down the road I could see at least three M50s ahead of us: Eichwein, Joaquim Figueiredo (Portgual) who had gotten bronze, just ahead of me, in the 10K road race and the 5000m behind Hartley, and Luc Van Asbroeck (Belgium) who was just behind me in the 10K. Likely there were others. But how many?

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Edo Baart (Netherlands) and me being chased by Miguel Melero-Eichwein (Germany) in opening few miles

I covered the third mile in a solid 5:29. I was torn between holding back and hoping the M50s ahead would start to fade, or chasing them. Baart dropped away seemingly preferring the former (after the race he confessed to tight achilles, a result of his tip toe style). But I was now starting to cautiously chase or at least prevent them getting further ahead. Figueiredo and Van Asbroeck were some 20 seconds / 80m in front (in a race I often keep count of the seconds I’m behind a few key runners). Shortly before the U turn around 5K, covered in around 17:15, I could see all the runners in front as they ran in the opposite direction. I saw at least one Spanish and another Portuguese M50. So I was in 6th. Or worse. (reviewing pictures after the race revealed 7th – this picture shows a 3rd Portuguese M50 in front me.)

The conditions were deteriorating. They were starting to be reminiscent of my races while living in South East Asia. Only it was later in the day, there was no shade and the sun stronger. Unlike other half marathon races I was taking on water at each drink station. A few quick gulps, a splash on each arm, and a few drops over my head. I did not fancy getting my head too wet. Despite my writing this a few days after the race I have little memory of much of the race. I just ground it out, chasing M50s that came into view.

In the 4th mile a taxi passed me,  its passengers bellowing encouragement with Swedish  accents. It turned out to  be New York-based Swede Stefan Lingmerth, who later that morning would finish 12th in the final of the 1500m M40, and his brothers. I covered the 4th, 5th and 6th miles in 5:39, 5:37 and 5:39 passing the Spanish M50 at some point. Figueirido and Van Asbroeck were locked together still some way ahead. I was passing other runners one by one, including the first lady,  jumping from one small group to the next. And yet my pace was starting to slow. I guessed I was slowing slower than most. I ran 5:44, the slowest of the race so far, for mile 7. I was running solo at this point and thinking I needed to dial back a little for the next 5K to ensure I would run strong in the final 5K.  I was running by feel now pretty much ignoring the watch.

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View from a taxi during the 4th mile (picture credit: Stefan Lingmerth)

That plan lasted less than 5 minutes. Soon after mile 7 I realized that Figueirido and Van Asbroeck were slowing and I was closing the gap which was now around 10 seconds / 40m / . Van Asbroeck had dropped off Figueirido. I sensed blood and my killer instinct kicked in. No wonder a young family member once said I resemble a shark. I chased hard and accelerated. My race was on.  In earnest. I was committed. I covered mile 8 in 5:36 and mile 9 in 5:34.

Soon after mile 9 I breezed passed Van Asbroeck. Under his breath I heard “shit”. It sounded strange coming from a Belgian. Clearly “shit” is part of the universal runners vernacular. Translated it meant “I’m  toast”. And he was. For a fleeting moment he tried to follow me. But soon his heavy signature breathing ebbed away. And I was now closing on Figueirido whom I gobbled up soon after the final U turn around mile 10 after a 5:44 10th mile. I figured I was now in the medals. Eichwein was way in front and there were no other obvious M50s ahead of me but somewhere I must have passed Manuel Ferreira (Portugal).

I was now heading home, for the stadium. I  was startiing to struggle like I do in the latter stages of the marathon. But I ignored the watch as it started to chime slower miles. And yet I was catching other runners including Melvin Wong an M35 from Singapore. Mile 11 took 5:43. I was now in damage limitation mode. And then into survival mode. Kerry-Liam Wilson, Team GB, who I’d only seen on the switchbacks way ahead of me, was now just 20m down the road.  He was clearly slowing fast. So I made chase. And in so doing caught and passed Albinio Costa, a Portuguese M50. Surely I was now in silver spot! And yet mile 12 was my slowest so far – 5:53.

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In the final kilometre with Kerry-Liam Wilson on my tail

Passing the stadium with just a mile to go –  a small 1K loop around an arena followed by  one lap of the perimeter of the stadium track – I caught Wilson and urged him to follow me. Which he did for a few metres. Can you imagine this was how he’d chosen to spend his 48th birthday? I can. With 1K left I passed a very slow M50 Spaniard – was I lapping a back marker or passing an elite M50 in trouble.

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In survival mode about to enter the stadium (picture credit: Stefan Lingmert)

Entering the stadium I realized we had an extra big lap to complete. As the 1500s were underway we ran the outer perimeter, lane 10 if you like. I eked out a slight increase in  pace –  I covered mile 13 in 5:49 – and finished in 1:14:53. I saw Wilson wobble as he crossed the line and pasesd him a water bottle. Wong followed soon after and a little later friends Francis Burdett, USA (11th M50) and Stephen Watmough, Team GB (6th M55). Now the race was over all runners were my friends again.

FinishLine

Last few metres (picture credit: Mark Havenhand)

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Kerry-Liam Wilson celebrates his 48th birthday

After

I breathed a great sigh of relief. It had been a battle of attrition and I seemed to have come out on top. Almost. The hardest part of the day was to follow. Dehydrated and hungry we now had to wait some 3  hours for the results and medal ceremony. When the results did come I got confirmation of a silver medal. I  was happy. While the time was ugly, I’d executed well,  running with my head for 15K and my heart the final 5K. I’d left it all out there and placed as high as I could have hoped.

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I spent hours in the tent hanging with Team GB team mates, including the aforementioned, Mike Trees and Guy Bracken who won the 1500m M55 gold in emphatic style We were comrades in arms. The battle had been fought and the war was over. Once we’d got our gongs, individual and team, a group of us then headed to the city to refill the tank with alcohol  and food. The following day I realized just how important it is to  eke out everything you’ve got. Team GB topped the medals table, edging the Germans by one silver medal. There were many silvers won by Team GB but I’d like to think mine was that one. Won by 10 seconds in the final kilometre.

Results for all age groups are here while the overal results, showing me in 24th place, are here. A short race video is here: I can be seen at around 7 miles at 0:29. And a comprehensive gallery of pictures is here with me at the finish line here.

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Another silver for Team GB

On reflection Malaga was far more than just a competition. It was a great holiday, in  a fascinating place with friends from around the world. Friends who get you and care. It was a time to represent, to vacation, to chill, to endure and test, and much more. Thanks to many for getting me here, especially my wife Shamala, Urban Athletics and Team GB team mates and coach Troopy.

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My new Team GB team mates

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Looking Back on 2017, Looking Forward to 2018

by Paul Thompson

It’s that time of year again. When you push back a little, eat and drink too much of the wrong stuff, and for a while take your eye off the ball. It’s also a time when we take stock of the year just ended and start plotting the year ahead. I commit this to paper hence this blog post. It’s the first step to getting motivated for the long year of running ahead. My targets for the year ahead tend to get tangled up in New Year’s resolutions so there’s a risk they’ll last about as long. To around January 7.

So here I am on vacation in Singapore eating lots of local fare, drinking a few too many G&Ts, running sporadically in hot and sultry conditions (about 30C and 90%), and writing this post, as I’ve been doing in recent years, to help get me ready for 2018.

How then did I fare in 2017 on an actual verses target basis? After hooking up with coach Troopy in Boulder in early January 2017 I set myself a few key goals. First, a marathon PR of sub 2:29:56. I ran 2:31:45 in London in April quicker than 2016 but good for just 3rd M50. A month later I posted a 1:12:01 half in Brooklyn. These performances, along with a 32:44 at the Healthy Kidney 10K just before London and a 55:24 at the Bronx 10 in September, got me pole position in the UK M50 rankings and, I think, the US.

Second, a medal at my best distance, the half, at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in August. I more than found my match finishing 4th in 1:13:22. Overall Strava summed things up with this video (3,158 miles).

What then does 2018 have in store? In the coming few weeks I’ll check-in with coach Troopy and map out the season ahead. At this time I have two ideas. First, another crack at my marathon PR, either in the spring (I’m entered for London and Greater Manchester) or, as seems more likely, the fall (ChicagoNew YorkBerlin or Beirut). And second, to medal in the half marathon and / or road 10K at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, Spain in September. A medal will demand a sub-1:12 / 33.

So that’s about it. I fell short of my goals for 2017 but received ‘consolation prizes’ in the shape of a fast 10K and half. And I’ve yet to set my goals for 2018. As its January 5 that means my 2018 New Year’s resolutions will last beyond January 7.

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.

It’s Still Too Hot Here!

by Paul Thompson

Right now I’m in Singapore, staying with my in-laws. A work assignment brings me back – to a place where I lived, worked, married and ran. The 24 hour flight and 12 hour time difference have left me jet lagged and sleep deprived. No prizes for guessing what I did soon after arriving. I figured it would help revive me – and heavy rain had reduced the temperature to an almost bearable 27C (80F), but pushed the humidity to 100%.

My 6 mile run took me through Dover (a former British military and residential neighborhood), past Biopolis (a research and development ‘hub’ – Singapore loves ‘hubs’), and ended on a drainage canal that forms part of the Ulu Pandan Park Connector. Soon after getting back, and after several cups of coffee, I gave up trying to revive myself and took a nap – for 5 hours, slightly more than the 40 winks I had in mind.

At 10pm later that day I was wide awake, as though it were 10am. As indeed it was according to my body clock. So I ventured out for my second run, a 6 mile loop that took me past Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where I used to teach, and down Old Holland Road where a few skateboarders were all that punctured the late night silence (see this motorcyclists’ video clip complete with Bollywood soundtrack).

It’s now the end of the day after I arrived. It was warmer today, a more normal 32C (90F). The rain had stopped and the sun had poked it’s head out from behind the clouds. I did a 4 mile run this morning, again along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector (this time going in the opposite direction to the previous day), and then a 6 mile run this evening (the Dover run as above but with a circuit of University Town).

The canal along the Ulu Pandan connector with a MRT train passing by overhead.

The last few days have confirmed what I always knew. That Singapore is too hot to be ideal for running – more so when you have just come from 5C (40F) in New York. Still it’s a fascinating place to run in.

Over the coming few days I hope to rediscover my old running routes including: MacRitchie Reservoir, from which MR25 (the running club I used to compete for until I left 7 years ago) gets its name; the Singapore Botanic Gardens, an urban oasis just minutes from Orchard Road, Singapore’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue; and Bukit Brown, an old Chinese cemetery. I also plan on exploring the new running options offered by the closure of the Singapore-Kranji railway line and the turfing over of its tracks.

And to cap it all on Sunday, March 18 I compete in the 2012 Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore – actually as part of a mixed team with Nicholas Fang (bike) and Shu Yin Ong (swim). Nick and I are unbeaten in Singapore – so far! Watch this space.

One of the ponds in Botanic Gardens.