Background: I had signed up for this race well before my thyroid surgery and subsequent radiation treatment so it was meant to give me some late-season motivation. As the race date got closer, I knew I hadn't trained enough, but I still had my Hanoi race in my legs, so felt that there was a slim chance that it could go okay. No serious expectations at all though - my 2019 Marathon was done in Hanoi, this would be a bonus. The only other change since Hanoi was that I was now fully vegan, so my food choices once on the ground were going to be limited.
Travel: My wife and I flew into Singapore on the Friday night, courtesy of a cramped 4-hour Jetstar flight from Hong Kong. We arrived early evening, but didn't get to the hotel until late evening as both Nandos (I had the veggie burger) and Llao Llao (frozen yoghurt for my wife) grabbed our attention at the airport. A Friday night arrival would normally be fine for a Sunday race, but as the race was a 6pm Saturday night start, in hindsight I may have cut it a bit fine. We were staying at the Hotel Jen Orchard Gateway - just 2/3 MRT stops from both the packet pick up and race venue. Great hotel and I made a point of commending them on their plastic water bottle arrangements - we each had a good-sized refillable bottle with a water dispenser on the lift landing. Without this, we'd have probably gone through 30 over water bottles for our three day stay - considering the amount of rooms and the number of people staying, the amount of waste generated is mind-boggling.
Singapore: Packet pick-up was open from 9am until 12pm, so that was our first port of call on Saturday morning. Being Singapore, the organization was very good and they even allowed me to pick up without the QR code that was sent to me by email - I had no intention of heading back to the hotel. I knew I hadn't done enough training, and almost plucked up the courage to ask to downgrade to the half marathon, but what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound! The expo was superb, and was laid out 'snake-like' such that you had to pass by every single store on the way out. On any other day, I'd have taken my time and maybe picked up some bargains, but as this was already race day, I wanted to get back to the hotel and rest, so this was a bit of a drag. Unfortunately, once back in the hotel I succumbed to a rather upset tummy which persisted throughout the afternoon and only stopped after I took some locally bought medicine which seemed to bung me up.
The Venue: The race started at the F1 Pit Building, which proved to be a perfect venue. It was a bit of a slow procession into the first holding area as they chose to check all our belongings on the way in. Never seen that before, but no harm done. As soon I was in, I visited one of the plentiful portaloos - never seen so many in one place. Given that the pit building consisted of around 40 garages, the organization was pretty smooth. The bag drop off garage for each corral was right next to that corral's entrance onto the track. Hard to describe, but it really was all incredibly smooth. Another thing I loved - we were running with the half marathoners and they grouped those of the same pace together so we would supposedly be running a similar pace with everyone we started with. Didn't work out perfectly, but the intention was good as nothing worse than weaving your way through hoards of slower runners for the first 15-20mins. As we waited for the off, one thing dawning on me was that the heat and humidity were becoming more noticeable and that started to prey on my mind a little.
The course: It was a flat course through busy streets at first, before heading out to a longish highway and then out to East Coast Park and back again. As stated earlier, I knew we were running with the half marathoners, and although I didn't want to cut short my race, I felt better having that option. There as a 7-hour cutoff and although I knew I may have to settle for a reasonable half run followed by a long slow walk home, I didn't want to be finishing after midnight let alone close to 1am.
The race: Another plus point with this race were the pacers and I stuck with the 4hr (marathon) and 2hr (half marathon) guys quite early on. There was a good group of runners with the same idea and we all settled into our rhythm after a km or two. As it was a 6pm start, the temperature had subsided a little, but we were at around 28 degrees and pretty high humidity, so much so that I was getting a serious sweat on from the first 1-2km. It was soon apparent that I was going to suffer out there and after around 4-5km, my breathing didn't feel right. I've never been asthmatic, but I imagine this is how that feels - my airways just felt constricted and I wasn't getting enough air in with each breath. The half marathon was becoming a serious option. I hung on until close to 10km and took a short walk to get my breath back. With that, I decided that the half was the right decision and that gave me the motivation to get running again. The pacers were long gone, but I got my head together to put in some okay splits with a few more walks to the finish.
The run in: The paths split around the 17km mark and despite wearing a green bib versus the half marathoners yellow bib, no-one stopped me as I ran it home. Even at the finish, I was given a half marathon medal and finisher towel without so much as a quizzical eye. The finishers area was ultra smooth - very well organized especially with not too many home by that time. I'm sure it would be a lot busier later, but I think it would have still been pretty smooth. After picking up my gear, I worked my way back to the MRT just after 8pm and was back in the hotel just after 9pm. I made the right decision.
Post-race thoughts: A very well organized race - the Hong Kong version (also sponsored by Standard Chartered but not organized by Ironman as this was) could learn some lessons. Despite the humidity, the decision to run at night paid off - it takes a lot of the poor nights sleep and early morning hassle out of the marathon equation. The expo is one of the biggest I've seen, maybe second only to Tokyo, the venue was superb and on-course support was excellent. Strictly speaking, it could be seen as a DNF (Did Not Finish), but I think deep down that I knew it was a step too far. I didn't have my best day, so have some unfinished business and will no doubt head back there in 2020 or beyond.