A mass run is no walk in the park

A mass run is no walk in the park

LYCRA, it seems, is not just for superheroes. An increasing number of ordinary men and women are getting fitted for spandex tights as endurance-based sports like cycling and running gain traction and popularity.

Fuelled by a growing interest in health and wellness, organisers of endurance events estimate that more than 400,000 people signed up for local events last year - which saw more than 60 mass runs organised, or an average of at least five per month.

But while Superman's supersuit may help make him almost invincible, the weekend warrior does not enjoy such benefits.

In fact, participating in leisure sport involves more than just the simple act of putting on a race bib on event day. Entrusted along with that tag is a responsibility - not only to yourself but to those around you.

In the space of a month, two Singaporeans lost their lives during sports event. One was a 45-year-old runner who collapsed at the 2XU Compression Run last month, the other a 23-year-old cyclist who crashed on a downslope at the OCBC Cycle Singapore. He died from head injuries last week.

While the number of serious injuries remains low given the large numbers who take part in such events, there are risks involved whenever anyone suits up.

A participant, first of all, has to ensure that he or she has trained enough to complete the prescribed distance safely.

National head coach for middle and distance running Ghana Segaran, who is also Singapore Athletic Association's chairman for cross country and road running, recommends doing a regular medical check-up.

Most races require participants to provide their personal medical information and to complete an indemnity form. This contract suggests the onus to keep safe ultimately is on the participant.

As Mr Segaran said: "People who are not trained should understand their limitations and not push themselves above that. It's dangerous because they suffer cramps and some even collapse.

"It's simple. If you have a 1,000cc engine, you don't rev it up like a two-litre one."

Dr David Su, a triathlete and consultant orthopaedic surgeon from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, estimates that over the past five years, he has seen a five-fold increase in patients coming to him with running and cycling-related injuries.

The cause: people over-straining themselves. He said: "It takes time for the body to adapt. These events are good, but people are taking them on too fast, which can lead to injuries."

Then there's the issue of how to be a responsible participant. Signing up for an event is unlike buying a ticket to watch a play. In a race, you're not just an observer in the audience; you're a player whose action directly impacts the rest of the cast.

In a mass ride, for example, your bicycle becomes your instrument and any wrong note you hit could prove dangerous for yourself and others in the ride. Yet people have been spotted using their mobile phones as they ride.

In mass events such as the OCBC event, where more than 11,500 people took part, having novices ride alongside experienced ones can be tricky. So avoid the temptation to over-declare your skill level.

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