Running in the heat of Singapore

Hello fellow runners, my name is Marie Griffiths. I’m married to Steve and we have two daughters – Casey aged 16 and Jodi 14. With Steve being given an opportunity to work in Singapore, we moved in July 2018.

I joined Stella around 2001 after meeting Steve in 2000. He was a “well seasoned” runner and had been a member of Stella since 1995. We ran countless time trials, races, Marathons and Ultra Marathons proudly for Stella. Even after we moved house from Morningside to Kloof, we chose not to change clubs. Our hearts have always belonged to Stella. Steve and I ran Comrades and Two Oceans together in 2009.

Moving to Singapore was a very exciting time for us. We holidayed here as a family in 2016 before we moved and really enjoyed it. Steve travelled here for work over 50 times before we moved, so Singapore was like a second home to him.

Experiencing life in Asia is very different. Singapore has a strong influence of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Westerners, making for a mix of traditions and local customs. We recently celebrated the lunar Chinese New Year – 2021 is the Year of the OX. Gong Xi Fa Cai (pronounced gong she fa tsai) means Happy New Year in chinese.

This diversity of culture is also reflected in the many languages spoken here, including English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Casey and Jodi are studying Mandarin Chinese at school and both really enjoying the challenge. 

With a population of 6 million, Singapore is a small Country/City/Island, measuring 50 km from East to West and 27 km from North to South, with nearly 200 km of coastline. Despite its density and many high-rises, Singapore has an active greening policy, which has covered the island with tropical plants, paths and parks which makes it a pleasure for running. Some running highlights include waterfront running around the beautiful Marina Bay area, the extensive East and West coast parks along the ocean, the iconic Gardens by the Bay, the Mac Ritchie Reservoir and the Bukit Timah Reserve. With the sun rising around 7am and setting at 7pm all year round, many of Singapore’s running spots are well lit. The crime rate is low, so running alone at night or early morning is not a concern at all. Singapore’s location close to the equator makes for the hot, humid and tropical climate with occasional thunderstorms which cool things down…slightly.

Singapore has an excellent public transportation system. The best way to get around is the MRT system (which is a combination of trains, subways, and light rail) and the local buses. Taxis are more expensive but very convenient and available at any hour. We don’t have a car.

My first introduction to running in the ‘heat of Singapore’ was running the “Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon” in Dec 2016. I was training for my 9th consecutive Two Oceans the following April and when I found out the Singapore Marathon was being held the weekend we were visiting Singapore I thought it would be a great training run while sightseeing at the same time. 

I was very wrong ! The heat & humidity was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I walked more than expected, taking photo’s of the early morning city lights and eventually the sunrise to pass the km’s while I cooled down and sorted my head out. The marathon started at 4.30am to beat the heat (ha ha). I finished the race with my feet squelching with sweat in my shoes.

Similar to most overseas races, your time only starts and stops when you cross the start & finish line mats. There isn’t a big running club scene here like there is in SA and you don’t have to be part of a club to enter a race, so majority of the runners race in the race vest provided in your race pack. You do however see elite runners either racing or training as groups in club kit.

We get top quality race backpacks and vests which are part of your entry fee as well as a “finishers” T at the finish. The cut is tailored slightly differently for men and woman which is great so it’s not a one size fits all. Coke is not supplied along the route, only cups of 100 plus isotonic drink and water. To be honest, I’m not a great fan of running races here. I find them boring. There are very few spectators along the route to cheer you on (the races are held so early before the sun rises), you don’t know any of the other runners to chat with along with way, most have headphones so they wouldn’t hear you anyway and its dark so you don’t even get to enjoy the sights.

With nearly 3 years having passed since we moved here, my body has definitely acclimatised to the heat. The temperature gets up to between 37-40 deg C at certain parts of year,  so running in a vest instead of a t-shirt is a must ! Drinking water with sachets of rehydrate, wearing a cap and sunblock is a necessity. Unfortunately I have experienced severe dehydration which was not great so I am now very careful with keeping my electrolytes stable. After the marathon experience, the only distances I have entered have been 10 & 21k races. Further than 21 is just not enjoyable in this heat no matter how fit you are.

Park Runs however are very enjoyable and well attended. They are held every Sat morning at 7.30am in 4 different locations on the island. Steve and I ran our very first Park Run soon after we moved here.

Similar to the rest of the world though – due to COVID, parkrun’s and all road races have been cancelled. The only races available now are virtual. They are free to enter (unless you want to purchase the race t-shirt which gets posted to you).

These are great as you get motivated by entering the race and they can be run when and where it suits you within the specified date period. I enjoy running on my own so these suit me. I have just finished a 168km’s in 21 days race. I tackled it by running 8k’s each day. It was a huge challenge especially in this heat, but I felt really proud of myself for completing it.

When I’m not running virtual races, I tend to stick to 3-4 runs a week of about 5-8kms each run. This seems to keep me fit, keep my mind free but also not deplete me.

My daughters and I also entered and ran the virtual Comrades race last year. They ran 5k each and I ran 10. Comrades was such a big part of our lives when we lived in SA, so we felt proud to be participating in this virtual race. Unfortunately Steve was recovering from a hip replacement operation so he was unable to run with us, but he enjoyed cheering us on outside our house as we ran past.

In closing I would like to thank Sandy for asking me to share my story about our life and running in Singapore. I have really enjoyed reading all the expat stories and look forward to reading new ones too.

To all our Stella friends, we miss our time trial evenings/braai nights and send you all our love.

Yours in running

Marie

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