Sunday 15 July 2012

Race bib envy: I wish mine was longer

Yes, I’m still alive.

I managed not to die in last Sunday’s Jurong Lake Run, my first time participating in a mass run in 21 years.

This is slightly unfortunate for several reasons.

It means I lived to see the video release of this year's National Day theme song, Love At First Light, with lyrics so awkward, they make last year’s Fun Pack Song seemed pithy.

It means I lived to eat the $4.50 fish and chips at Ikea in Alexandra for lunch on Thursday and the fish was a little too salty.

It means I no longer have being dead as an excuse for not completing the movie script for Eric Khoo that I promised him.

At least I didn’t have to apologise last week for scandalising the courts in my column, but I did have to comfort a fan of The Wanted on Twitter who was distressed that I wrote in my previous column that One Direction have better songs.

Cheer up, @strxwberry!

Last year, another reader e-mailed me a long lecture on the brilliant career of Jay Chou after I apparently dissed the singer in a column.

An excerpt: “He is the undisputed King of Mandopop in Asia and a wonderful role model who respects his elders, doesn't drink, smoke, do drugs and has a close-knit company which he set up with his longtime friends...”

I just hope I don’t get an e-mail from Ikea defending its fish and chips.

After my not-so-near-death experience at Jurong Lake Run, I had an epiphany. I realised the run was not just a run, but a microcosm of Singapore society itself.

Contrary to its tagline “Running as one”, Jurong Lake Run was divided, based not on justice and equality, but on gender, age, nationality, money, ability, ambition and T-shirts.

There were three main distance categories – 10km, 6km and 3km. The longer the distance, the higher the registration fee.

There were 13 subcategories you could join depending on whether you’re a man or a woman, under 22 or over 44 or somewhere in between, and Singaporean or permanent resident or other nationality.

So a more accurate tagline would be “Running as 13 sub-categories”, which is not as catchy, I grant you.

The prize money was also stratified. The top prize for the 10km category was $1,000 while the 6km was $750. The 3km category got nothing.

I had the money to pay more to join the 10km run, but I wasn’t sure I had the ability to complete the distance and I didn’t have the ambition to go for it.

So I joined the 6km run instead. My wife, who had even less ability and ambition, joined the 3km Community Walk-a-Jog.

Those who finished the 10km and 6km got a finisher T-shirt and a medal. The 3km finishers got nothing.

On race day, when I saw runners wearing the 10km race bib, I had a serious case of bib envy. Their 10km bib was like a Ferrari compared to the Hyundai that was my 6km bib.

Immediately, I regretted not being more ambitious. Why didn’t I suck up to my bosses more when I was younger?

But I felt superior to those wearing the 3km bib. (Yes, even my wife.) They were the commuters stranded at the MRT station after yet another train breakdown, which resulted in the transport minister admitting that the Government could have done better.

But my condescension was the least of indignities suffered by the 3km runners that morning.

The 3km flag-off was supposed to be at 8.45am, half an hour after my 6km flag-off, which was on time.

But according to my wife, her flag-off was delayed because the guest of honour, minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was supposed to flag them off, was not on stage even though thousands of 3km runners were warmed up and raring to go.

And when he finally showed up, he went around shaking hands with the runners, including my wife.

She thought the minister would flag them off after all the glad-handing, but instead, he started posing for pictures. My wife said she wanted to clobber a photographer on the head.

By the time she and the other 3km runners were eventually flagged off, it was almost 9am.

Like an MRT train breakdown, the flag-off delay affected thousands of people who just wanted to get moving. The organisers could’ve done better.

And my wife didn’t even get a T-shirt at the end of it.

Not that I’m likely to wear my own 6km finisher T-shirt too often. It will just remind me how I wasn’t good enough to run the 10km. Maybe someone on Twitter can comfort me.

Well, there's always next year. Or will there?

- Published in The New Paper, 15 July 2012

UPDATE: Jurong Lake Run: Close encounter of the Tharman kind