Running event organisers up their game

Participants at a training clinic for ST Run at the Hub.
PHOTO: Running event organisers up their game

SINGAPORE - So many runs, so little time. There is now a race for everyone, whether you want to push yourself to the limit or plod along leisurely while chatting with friends.

According to home-grown online running magazine RunSociety, there are 76 running events on the calendar in Singapore this year, up from 60 last year and 55 in 2012.

They range from established events such as the 22-year-old Safra Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon held last month to new runs such as the upcoming Hello Kitty Run Singapore on Nov 1, which is non-competitive.

While the running crowd is spoilt for choice, some organisers say that they now face stiffer competition for volunteers, sponsors and participants.

Mr Philip Tan, 30, one of the organisers of next Saturday's Craze Ultra 100 Miles race, laments the challenge of recruiting volunteers, who help out in logistics such as distributing goodie bags, and are typically given a meal or transport allowance of between $10 and $20 an event.

He says: "They can always choose to help out at another run and no-shows are becoming more common."

For next month's zombie- themed Run For Your Lives event, organiser Action X is upping the stakes. It will give each volunteer exclusive event merchandise worth a total of $50.

The items include sunglasses, a waterproof pouch and a special T-shirt meant for the organisers.

Action X's marketing director Grace Ng, 30, says: "The merchandise we will be giving to our volunteers is not available even to our participants. This shows how much we appreciate their efforts."

The race for sponsors is also hotting up.

Sportswear brand New Balance as well as isotonic drink 100Plus have seen more organisers for run events approaching them for sponsorship in recent years.

Mr Eugene Yeo, 34, New Balance's marketing and product manager for ASEAN, says: "With the plethora of runs in Singapore, we have to carefully consider which races are most appropriate for synergy with runners and with our brand."

Then there is also the battle for participants.

While nine organisers interviewed say their runs are seeing more, or the same number of, participants, some say the industry is showing signs of run fatigue.

Mr Ang Han Wee, 39, director of Explomo Consulting, which is behind five of this year's runs, such as the NTUC Income Run 350, Green Corridor Run as well as Orange Ribbon Run, says: "Increasingly, two or more runs are being held on the same day and at the same time.

"Obviously, participants in one run can't be taking part in the other run too."

For example, both the POSB PAssion Run for Kids, which is organised by Explomo, and the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run are taking place this morning.

Civil servant Ken Chen, 31, an avid runner, is no stranger to such clashes.

He says: "I wanted to go for both the Men's Health Urbanathlon and the 2XU Compression Run in March this year, but they took place on the same day."

He went for the Men's Health event in the end as he had registered for it first.

Novel routes and concepts

To make their runs stand out, organisers are paying greater attention to coming up with a more interesting route and concept and - of course - an awesome goodie bag.

For example, the organisers of this month's The Straits Times Run at the Hub decided to host the event at the Singapore Sports Hub so that participants can be the first to finish a race under the new National Stadium's iconic dome roof.

ST sports editor Marc Lim, 38, says: "With so many other runs out there, the competition to be different is very keen.

"The ST Run aims to take runners to new environments in Singapore... and when it comes to sport, there is no other place to be than at the National Stadium."

Participants, who pay $40.50 to $70 each for the run to be held on Sept 28, will be given a goodie bag worth more than $200.

It will include a race singlet, a commemorative finisher's T-shirt, an entry ticket worth $25 to the Alive Museum and two weeks of premium access to The Straits Times - both online and on mobile apps.

More than 20,000 runners have signed up for the event.

To draw participants, at least one organiser has devised novelty runs based on a cartoon character.

Events company Pink Apple was behind the 3km Garfield Run two months ago and it is also organising a 5km Hello Kitty Run in November to mark the feline character's 40th birthday.

At the flag-off, there will be a birthday cake and fans will sing a birthday song.

Pink Apple's business development manager Michelle Ng, 24, says: "Some people might find fun runs gimmicky but they are refreshing and unconventional. They also allow non-serious runners to participate without feeling the pressure of competing."

Response to both runs has been positive.

The Garfield Run drew 8,500 participants, while all 15,000 slots for the Hello Kitty Run were snapped up within 24 hours during the launch of pre-registration last month.

Ultimately, the runners are the ones who benefit from the glut of races.

For example, Mr Raymond Seow, 43, has completed eight runs - both competitive and fun ones - this year.

Mr Seow, who is a manager in a trading and investment company, says: "With more runs, I can compare and choose which ones to go for.

"I enjoy any type of run. Serious ones let me challenge myself while fun ones leave me with great memories."

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