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Just the tip of the schwag iceberg. Australia, this is how you do it.

So this morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:45am so I could go participate in the 2011 Shape Run Singapore. I really enjoy running in races (despite the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with “an arthritic left knee of a 50 year-old” and I sometimes limp a bit afterwards), but I’d been a bit apprehensive about running in any races here given the heat. Of course, that’s why races start so damn early. Somewhat surprisingly (since I don’t see hordes of joggers here like I used to in Australia), there are races nearly every weekend of the year. Props to SGRunners.com for the super-handy event calendar, btw.

After some evening runs along the Marina Promenade, I decided I could handle running in the heat here.  True, I sweat buckets, but I can breathe ok and my energy doesn’t get totally sapped. The Shape Run was the first event I could find for which registration hadn’t already closed. There were options for both a 5k and a 10k, and since I tend to do better in longer-distance events (and am very competitive) I opted for the latter. I wasn’t sure how I felt about a women-only race, both because running alongside dudes usually makes me push myself harder (and it’s fun to pass them), but also because I have a low tolerance for pink-themed, girl power! crap. On balance I’d say this one worked out well, thanks to the excellent schwag. (I believe “fun pack” is the word for schwag in local parlance).

I can’t remember if I ever bitched about this on my blog (I know my co-workers certainly heard me whine about it plenty), but another thing that drove me crazy in Australia was that it would cost $50+ to register for races, but all you’d get was a finishers medal. In the US you get a t-shirt (and usually a bunch of other stuff) for, like, the dinkiest town road race, yet in Australia when I wanted to commemorate that I’d run City2Surf I had to buy a $30 t-shirt. And it didn’t even say Sydney anywhere on it. Drove me crazy! Honestly, it’s not that I even care that much about getting stuff, I just like the sense of accomplishment that comes from recalling various races when you get an event shirt. If Australia doesn’t want to give those out, fine, but charge $25 instead of $50 why don’t you?!

Anyway, a big selling-point for this race was that the $55 (SGD) registration included an official event shirt, which is actually some high-tech Reebok fabric (big step up from a plain cotton t-shirt). Even better, it’s sleeveless and v-neck, which means I can actually wear it for future workouts. Not to mention it says the event name, the location and the date. They handed the shirts out with the runner bibs earlier this week, and I suppose that was a hint we were supposed to wear them for the race, but I 1) have a lucky shirt that I prefer to wear for races and 2) feel kind of cultish wearing the same thing as everyone around me.

*Random aside: I did a trial membership at our local Fitness First, where one of the big selling points is that they hand out free workout clothes. This definitely did not appeal to me, particularly since the unisex clothes consist of a white t-shirt and blue shorts and everyone – male and female – wearing the same thing makes it look like either a high school gym class, or some sort of cult work camp thing. The whole “everybody wears matching outfits” thing is definitely very popular here from what I can gather; the candidates from political parties all wore identically-colored polos during the elections a few months back. Ok, random digression over.

So I bucked the trend and ran in my own clothes, but as you can see from Shape’s facebook page, most runners wore the identical blue tops. Clearly Reebok will be excluding me from their future marketing materials. Aw shucks.

The run was well organized and, despite the fact that they shut down Nicoll Highway for the start/finish of the race route, I was able to take a taxi to nearby without any problem. The sun was only just starting to rise when the race began (no starting gun, but a countdown from the guest of honor, the local [female] MP). There were two MC’s who were apparently meant to get the crowd psyched up beforehand, but I found their banter a bit annoying, in particular how the female MC kept shouting, “Girls run the world!” and “Get ready for the run of your life!” 1) I’m not that huge a Beyonce fan, and we’re women, but thanks. 2) Really? The Shape 10k is the run of my life? I hope not. That term just didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps I’m just too cynical and some people really like getting psyched up like that.

I enjoyed the first half of the race route a lot, as it stretched out into the colorful Geylang neighborhood, touched on the edge of Bugis, and then came down along the Marina Promenade, which was gorgeous as the water shimmered orange reflecting the early morning sun. The second half of the race kind of sucked for me, both because my stupid headphones decided to stop working in one ear (meaning I could hear myself breathe and pound the pavement, which I hate), and because the last two chunks of the course featured double backs. In other words, as I ran a long, boring straightaway on the F1 track, I knew that in a few minutes I’d just have to turn around and run it in the other direction. I do love running and am pretty good at physically pushing myself, but sometimes I let myself get really distracted and annoyed mentally, and because of that I got passed by a few people over the final 4k or so. Ideally I would have also preferred more km markers, as there were only two that I saw, at the 4km and 6km points. When you’re running a 10k (or at least when I am), each additional kilometer requires a certain amount of energy and calculation, and it would’ve been nice to be able to ration my energy more effectively.

No matter, though, as I was pleased with my unofficial finishing time (please feel free to post the results anytime Shape, after all they are computerized), and even moreso with the schwag. First, check out this totally decent Shape gym bag, and the finisher’s medal:

Even better, look at all the stuff inside!

Highlights: Special K, two bananas (sorry, I ate one before I got home), toothpaste, band-aids, heat patches, a yogurt smoothie & a giant bag of whole wheat pasta. Random & a bit anvillicious: two kinds of maxi pads, “feminine hygiene” wipes and a mini-douche. We get it, it’s a women’s run and you need to target us while you can. I’ve never done a women-only run in the US, so I don’t know if they hand out douche bottles there, but something makes me think maybe they don’t. Weirded me out a bit is all.

Annnnyway, along the lines of “women will be women,” the beauty company Biotherm also set up four sinks where you could wait in line to wash your face and use moisturizer and toner while someone talked to you about the product. I think I was so red, sweaty, and out of their target demo that the chick womanning my sink was too afraid to give me the spiel, which I was fine with. I was also able to get a free 10-minute leg massage from the Panaflex tent, which was amazing. To be fair, I’ve seen free massage tents at events in Australia, but the waits were always too long for me to bother.

All in all, I really enjoyed the day despite having to drag my ass out of bed on only four hours of sleep (I wasn’t going to sacrifice my Saturday night for this, after all!). The heat was bearable, and it always feels good to accomplish something before you would normally even be awake. Plus afterwards the hubs treated me to a great brunch at eM by the River at Roberston Quay.

I’m hoping to do some more runs in September and October, and look forward to capping the year off with the Angkor Wat 10k in Cambodia. That’s one place where I’m ok not receiving a gift bag, as the scenery (and beneficiaries) are gift enough.

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