Monday 9 December 2019

StanChart marathon organisers should apologise to us runners too

Dear everyone inconvenienced and angered by the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM),

It probably doesn’t mean very much coming from me, but I’m sorry.

It was partly my fault.

Well, mine and the more than 51,000 runners who took part in the marathon, half marathon, ekiden, 10km race, 5km race, and 600m kids dash. (“Ekiden” is just the fancy Japanese way of saying “relay race”.)

So actually, it was less than one-51,000th my fault, but I still feel responsible.

I was in the half marathon, held for the first time at night on Nov 30, along with the full marathon and ekiden. (The kids dash was the day before. The 10km and 5km races were on the morning after.)

It was for me – and a few thousand others – that major roads were closed two Saturdays ago, resulting in apocalyptic traffic jams and more than a few unhappy people like you.

And especially Mr Selwyn Koh, who ranted in a viral Facebook post that the SCSM organisers’ decision “reeks of nothing but stupidity and selfishness”.

He wrote: “One look at the full listing of roads that are scheduled to be closed and anyone with a brain will know that it’s going to be a disaster.”

He pleaded to the organisers not to do it on a Saturday evening again, urging: “Have some compassion, even if you don’t have a brain.”

But brainless or not, Mr Geoff Meyer, managing director of Ironman Asia, which organised the marathon, told The Straits Times that moving the race back to the morning “would be the last thing we want to do”.

However, he also apologised and said that Ironman Asia (not a member of the Avengers) could have done better.

But his response was criticised for being self-righteous and “a sorry-not-sorry attempt at papering over the flaws”.

There was also an apology from Mr Lim Teck Yin, chief executive of national sports agency Sport Singapore, a co-organiser of the SCSM, who wrote to ST: “We apologise to those caught off guard and inconvenienced by the traffic impasse.”

That makes it sound like it is your fault for not heeding the extensive road advisories issued way in advance and being “caught off guard”.

So now it’s my turn to apologise, even though I didn’t organise anything.

During the race, I felt guilty that despite being a glacially slow runner (I was overtaken by a guy in a tyrannosaurus costume), I was moving much faster than the vehicles I saw on the road that night.

I would understand if some of you frustrated drivers fantasised about stepping on the accelerator and running us over, but I’m appreciative that you didn’t.

Who knew that people would be more outraged by the road closures than by a new version of the national anthem?

Because of all the negative publicity, I’m now too embarrassed to don the SCSM 2019 race singlet I got as part of my runner’s entitlements.

Or casually wear my finisher’s medal to work to impress my colleagues like I used to in previous years.

Instead of a badge of honour, the medal has become a reminder of my culpability and shame. My 21.1km achievement is tainted because of the backlash.

As such, I feel the SCSM organisers should also apologise to the runners for making us accessories to a sporting event that caused weddings to be ruined.

And that complicity is what I hope to atone for with my apology to all of you.

I am sorry that you were stuck in traffic for hours with nowhere to pee just so I could get a dumb medal that I would never wear out.

If it is any consolation, my legs hurt so much after the race that I couldn’t walk properly for two days.

My guess is that it’s probably no consolation at all.

- Published in The New Paper, 9 December 2019

EARLIER: Standard Chartered half marathon: My last race? (Yes, I've said that before)