Saturday, November 29, 2014

Race report: the Great Eastern Women's 5K

So way back when in a fit of post-marathon enthusiasm, I signed up for the Great Eastern Women's Run half marathon, hoping to train really hard towards a sub-2-hour half (finally). 

I love love LOVE this race. I've done it every year since 2008, starting with the 10K, and then doing the half marathon in 2012 when it was first offered. I turn up my nose at many all-women's races because of crappy marketing, but this one explicitly does NOT 'shrink it and pink it'. You won't find pink here, or sparkles, or stereotypes, or 'I run for chocolate' messages that just reinforce a dysfunctional relationship between exercise and food - just messages of health and strength and fun and family. You run for your own reasons and no one forces you into any little boxes about running while female. 

AND it's really solidly well-organised every year. (How well-organised? There were about a bajillion runners, but my bag drop and pre-race porta-potty stop took me a grand total of five minutes...combined.) Those are the main reasons I love this race and I keep on coming back. 

And then we all know what happened, gestating a human, etc etc. So I was pretty heartbroken about missing this year's half. I thought I'd either have to run this half as a fun run, or give away my race entry altogether. 

At that point, the thought of being on my feet for two and a half hours was sounding less and less appealing, and the thought of handing over my precious, seriously coveted race slot to someone else who really wanted it was more and more appealing, only a) all my friends who wanted to do the half had already signed up, and b) I have mild qualms about under-the-table bib transfers. 

But amazing things can also happen if you ask nicely. 

So I wrote in to the organisers. I'm signed up for the half, I said, but will be 13 weeks pregnant by the time it rolls around. Can I swap to the 5K? I know the rules say you don't normally let people switch categories, but these are pretty unusual circumstances. And your title sponsor - the Great Eastern insurance company - has a strong emphasis on getting women to stay active and healthy. 

Lo and behold - they replied and said YES, please! We are happy to note you're staying active while pregnant! You're signed up for the 5K! 

A few weeks later, I stood in the race pack pickup line and looked around. Noticed I probably wasn't the only person running for two. And there were other women there with small children. Secondary-school girls. Women who looked like they might be my mom's age. (The variety you get in this race is enormous and wonderful.) 

And holy race swag: a gym bag, a tank top, a blessedly large water bottle, even more samples of stuff, and coupons for everything ranging from a Nando's quarter chicken to discount vitamins. 

A few weeks after that, on the lovely cool morning of November 9, I toed the start line - or rather, I was in the middle of the crowd in the second 5K wave, the farthest back from any Singapore race start line I've been in a looooong time. I snuck over to the side to watch the 10K winners coming in, cheered them on, and then boom - we were off. 

The race route goes around the curve of the Singapore Flyer and F1 pit building, down towards Nicoll Highway, and loops back around, a pretty straightforward and scenic out-and-back along the Kallang River. I felt great the whole way, kept chugging along, and finished in a net time of 32:10...not bad for a poky old pregnant lady. (I was explicitly trying NOT to look at my time. Wasn't wearing my Garmin. Barely glanced at my watch. But in a race atmosphere it's hard to resist the temptation to hustle. Which is why I'm fine running up to 10K on my own for fun, but think I'll lay off the racing - unless it's purely social with friends - till next year. Sometimes my competitive instincts are rather bad for me...) 

And you know what? I had just as great an experience being in the middle of the pack as I usually have being a little farther in front. If your back of the pack folks, who pay the same amount to register, cover the same distance, and often work just as hard, have as fun a time as the folks in front, that is the true test of a really well-organised race. 

To cap off a great morning I ran into a whole bunch of former colleagues who'd done the various race distances (5K, 10K, or half). Impromptu reunion! Sweaty hugs all round! (Also, every single female runner in Singapore apparently does this race - I spotted three other running friends.) 

Photo from Rachel. Sorry we're all squinting! It got hot.

After meandering around the finish site for a longer time than it'd taken me to actually run the 5K, I finally made it home for second breakfast. 

Good race? asked the husband. Great one, I said. 


  1. That sounds like a great race! Man, the swag! Glad you are able to race while pregnant and hope you can keep up a comfortable level of activity.

    1. It's probably my favourite big local race! I forgot to mention this, but the finish line had so much food: cold drinks, fruit, ice cream, chicken... a massage tent with a priority line for the half marathoners, and a dedicated powder room area with wet wipes, tissues, and body spray. Amazing.

  2. I'm really glad you got to swap and be part of it. Who says you have to miss out when you're pregnant - unless you're talking about cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs, that is.

    1. Yes, I'm so upset that I can no longer sniff glue and join a gang. But at least I can still run. (And will do so as long as it's comfortable!)

  3. Yay, congrats! Sounds like a terrific race and glad you were able to switch to the 5K. I totally agree with your feelings about most all women's races (the shrink it and pink it types) but this one sounds like a very positive experience.

    1. It's an organisational quirk of most Singapore races that the rules explicitly say no switching to a different distance. I suppose when you have thousands of runners, accommodating those is a huge challenge.
      About the women's races - yeah, I figured out what was bugging me about so many women's races - the marketing assumption that all women should like x or run because of y (chocolate, bling, hot male pacers). I have no problem with people wearing whatever they want for a race (makeup, tutus) or running for whatever reason they choose, just don't force me into a little box!