When it's urgent to have the runs

The Urgent Run was held at East Coast Park on November 9.

SINGAPORE - Excuse my language. But it's for a good cause.

I just got possibly the greatest running event T-shirt ever.

Why? Because it has these words on the back: "I'm running because I give a s***".

Let me assure you there are no asterisks on the shirt. It's the actual word, meaning faeces, excrement, number two and what-have-you.

The shirt is the official participant tee for The Urgent Run held at East Coast Park two Sundays ago.

Why is it called The Urgent Run?

Because it's organised by the World Toilet Organisation. Get it?

One of the many quirks of Singaporeans is that when we excuse ourselves to the toilet, we like to tell people: "I'm very urgent."

To a non-Singaporean, this must be a puzzling Singlish phrase, although it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out that "urgent" means "emergency", as in "I have an emergency". As in "If I don't go to the toilet immediately, I'm going to relieve myself here right in front of you and nobody wants that."

As you can see, it's quicker just to say: "I'm very urgent."

Other Urgent Runs were also held around the world to mark World Toilet Day on Wednesday. I wonder if anyone in Zanzibar or Manila appreciates the cheeky Singaporean humour in calling the event The Urgent Run.

Then again, "urgent" can also refer to the need to provide improved sanitation for 2.5 billion people who lack access to the basic amenities that Singaporeans take for granted.

Having written about World Toilet Day in this column a year ago, I'm disappointed it hasn't caught on like selfie sticks and Kim Kardashian's naked buttocks.

None of the local papers covered World Toilet Day last week despite Nov 19 being recognised as World Toilet Day by the United Nations thanks to a resolution tabled by Singapore last year - our first UN resolution!

You know who is the Singaporean quasi-journalist who has written the most about World Toilet Day?

That's right, I am.

I have become the de facto World Toilet Day correspondent.

This column is likely the first time you've read about The Urgent Run even though the event in Singapore took place two weeks ago.

No newspaper reported it even though Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say was there to flag off the run.

I got to shake his hand and take a picture with him. He even wore the T-shirt - although I'm not sure if he actually ran that morning.

In his defence, even if he didn't run, it doesn't mean he didn't give a s*** - it's just a shirt.

The Urgent Run was advertised as 5km, but according to the running app on my phone, the route was only about 4km long.

I guess The Urgent Run was so urgent that the organisers shortened it so that you can get to the toilet sooner.

There were plenty of porta-potties at the finish line. And since we were at East Coast Park, there was also the ocean.

The Hello Kitty Run the week before was also advertised as 5km but turned to be only about 4km.

But unlike the Hello Kitty Run, which had 17,000 participants, The Urgent Run had less than 400.

That means 42 times more runners cared about the cat with no mouth than about people with no toilets.

Possibly because those people are so far away, and Hello Kitty is, well, on my bedsheet.

But I like this idea of running for a cause, just maybe one closer to home.

Last week, the Public Transport Council announced that it has started its annual fare review exercise.

This signals an imminent fare hike, which nobody wants except transport companies and their stockholders.

Also last week, a video showing a four-man relay team running from a train leaving Little India MRT station to catch the same train at the next station - Farrer Park - went viral.

That gave me an idea.

To promote awareness of how much we don't want another fare hike, we can have a run with relay teams racing against the trains along every MRT line - North South, East West, North East, Circle and Downtown.

That's only about 162km.

I think we can skip the LRT.

So instead of running for access to better sanitation in faraway lands, we would be running for access to affordable public transport in our own country.

I already have an idea for possibly the second greatest running event T-shirt ever.

It would say: "I'm running because I can't afford public transport."

No asterisks necessary.

This article was first published on November 23, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.