|Pre- rail removal. Today, the rails and sleepers have been removed, and the land grassed over.|
I've walked this piece of land many times for the past few years. I'm sorry to say I hadn't walked it before the trains stopped running, but then, my sense of self-preservation forbids me from taking a stroll along an operational railway line.
The whole line is 26km, perhaps five to ten metres wide at its widest. For more than 70 years it shuttled people and goods from Tanjong Pagar up to Malaysia, and onward up through the Malay Peninsula to Thailand. In 2011, the railway land was returned to Singapore by Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu national railway firm in part of a land swap. Heritage and nature enthusiasts have pleaded for it to be retained as a continuous green lung.
(I am writing this paragraph basically from memory. I covered it for the local newspaper for two years.)
And here I was, Sunday morning, at the start of the Green Corridor Run, along this former railway line now called the Rail Corridor.
For Singapore, this was a relatively small race. The 10.5km run from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to Bukit Timah Railway Station consisted of three waves of about 2,000 people each, starting at 7.15am (competitive), 7.45am (competitive with self) and 8.15am (adventure walkers). We took the 7.15am wave (because heat.)
There were people wearing white shoes and socks, massing in with the others. People! I am not sure what you were expecting from a trail run. But then, this is a country that calls concreted-over, tree-lined pathways next to canals 'park connectors', so you are forgiven for expecting tidiness. (Instead of park connectors, I would prefer connector parks, but then people would complain about fallen leaves.)
The race wound through Tanjong Pagar, Queenstown, Commonwealth, Ghim Moh, and Bukit Timah; it went past my old junior college (high school) and the HDB estate where we live and our neighbourhood hawker centre. It went past relatively quiet estates, left undeveloped because the trains would thunder through. Once, there were shrines and small temples along the route, when it was technically part of Malaysia. Orderliness is in Singapore's DNA; many of these were deemed not only illegal but perilous structures, and demolished.
It went under some very dark bridges with ankle-turning gravel, festooned with some pretty creative graffiti. In the good sense. (This IS Singapore.)
There were plenty of plywood boards over the very muddiest areas. (See, there are uses for plywood besides hoarding it for election hoardings <-- link is pure comic gold)
Midway, there was also a traffic-jam of people daintily picking their way over the plywood boards. The mud is the FUN part - I splashed straight through. Nearly lost a shoe. (Must tie laces tighter next time.)
I chatted a bit with an older white-haired gentleman who was very fit; and when I got to brunch with friends and friends of friends later, discovered that he was the father of a friend of a friend!
I also took it very easy, walking over the rockiest bits - I've sprained my ankles so many times before and it's a horrible setback each time - and finished in 1:05:40 for my pains.
|back in there in the purple shirt...image from the Running Shots facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.478889168826027.105765.309422402439372&type=1|
At the end, there were plenty of water bottles, apples, bananas; we each got a handy sport towel and a finisher medal. Best of all, there were shuttle buses at the end to the nearest MRT stations. A very well-organised race!
We took a bus home from the end point at Bukit Timah Railway Station, and it was slightly surreal to cross the overhead bridge to get home and go over the very same race that we just finished.
|& here's the view from the bridge!|
But the most important thing about this run is that it gets people outdoors - people who might never have set foot on the Rail Corridor otherwise - in the kind of tamer/ 'safer' environment that Singaporeans are used to, with water and exit signs and snacks at the end. It shows people some of the possibilities of what the railway land could be. In the end, isn't that what really matters?
More information on the Rail Corridor/ Green Corridor can be found here and here.