Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Went Wrong/Right For TNF100 Singapore?

I read with great interests on some of the comments posted on TNF Singapore Facebook page.  While I had my own views of the race and how it should be conducted, I felt that the tone (or the way) some of the comments made by runners were not as constructive as it could be.  I guess in a way, these runners were fully justified to voice their displeasure when this year's race was not the inaugural race but 4th year running!  Come on, TNF Singapore!  On the other hand,  I was also very sure that no Race Director (RD) in the world would want to organise a race in order to get their runners run the extra mileage, or to let their runners suffered by not briefing the volunteers what to do at the aid station, or even to DNF.  The truth is, I had never run a perfect race.  So I did expect screw-up here and there.  Unfortunately, while some screw-up were not within your control, some others were totally unforgivable.  Every runner has differing ability, differing reasons on why they run, differing experience gained from the various races and hence, very differing expectations.  As part of the TNF Global Endurance Challenge, TNF Singapore should try to understand and address our various needs, instead of providing a one-size-fit-all solution.  This blog entry was exactly how I felt about this year's race and the RD and fellow runners may not agree with everything I said.  But whatever the case is, my point is to share with you the experiences I learned from other races.  Happy reading.  :)

Never ever change race time at the very last minute!
When you said you start the race at 0700hrs, you start the race at 0700hrs.  If you were still negotiating with the authority to start the race at 0700hrs, knowing that you may fail in your attempt, no matter what good reasons you had, you better indicated that in the website so that everyone, especially the overseas runners, were aware.  A simple "TO BE CONFIRMED" text inserted next to the 0700hrs or 0800hrs start time would be very useful so everyone knows that the race would start at 0800hrs if your negotiation was not successful, while 0700hrs would be a bonus.  While I was not affected by this change of time, I had friends, fellow marathon maniacs, who were affected as they had to rush down for another race in Malaysia.  It was either a DNS or DNF for them.  :(  Luckily though, common sense prevailed and I was glad the RD allowed those who requested to start early with the 100km soloists, although there were still runners who ran out of time to complete the race and had a DNF.  On a side note to this, even if you had to change the race time last minute due to safety issues (which I do appreciate), you had to inform the affected runners through all means available!  Never assumed that every participant got a Facebook account and a member of TNF Singapore Facebook page!  I had a few friends who entered the 100km duo but were not aware of the event Facebook page and change of time.  Good that this was rectified eventually through mass email and sms although it left a bitter taste in affected runners as the announcement was made too late.

Understand what the race provides and prepares for it!
When you sign up for a race, understand what the race provides.  If you think the race should provide certain amenities and it didn't, then either you ask them how they could assist you or don't sign up for the race at all.  I was appalled by runners blaming the RD for not providing bag deposit service, or that the official beverage is milo, or that there is no isotonic drink, or that only banana was the only fruit at the aid station, blah blah blah blah blah.  If you really think this event is not worth the amount you paid, then don't sign up.  If the race website did not state sufficient info for you to commit, then drop an email to clarify.  If you sign up knowing that only limited amenities are provided, please don't cry father cry mother.  Suck it up and plan how you should tackle these additional problem.  I never sign up for a race and blamed the RD for not providing this or that or that the race was not worth the fee paid.  I adapted to the race, to the drinks and food given, to the weather, the terrain and the environment.  Especially for ultra and trail races, being adaptive is a must.  Otherwise, you might as well go run around your neighborhood!  While many races provided bag deposit service, there are others like the Canadian Death Race that did not.  Don't ask me why - they just didn't and there wasn't any lockers around the start/end point which is in a huge hanger.  For Bataan Death March, which is a 102km/160km road race, no water support was even provided!  Everything is self-sufficient, just like Badwater. (* I'm excluding comparison with RTP as those are stage races).  The only support was medical and marshalers at critical junctions.  Comrades Marathon - the largest ultramarathon in the world with 12,000 runners, provided all their drinks (water, pepsi, isotonic, etc) in sachets.  In fact, all drinks are provided in sachets for South African races.  So you can't get used to it like me, BYOB and stop whining!

Get the basics right!  E.g. providing informative signage, correct timing, etc!
In any race, the basics are the least a runner expect from the organiser.  These includes, (1) sufficient info on the website to help runners prepare for the race, (2) a safe and well marked route, (3) adequate aid stations throughout the route and (4) correct timing, whether timed electronically or manually.  In these respects, there are much room for the organiser to improve for next year's race.  Take for example the information on the website. While the basic information was there, the route was not made known to runners till probably a week or two/three before the race.  I was not sure why must the RD be so secretive on this.  TNF is not an Amazing Race!  So why couldn't the RD shared the info on the race route earlier?  At least, the runners from Singapore would be able to familiarise with the route before the race and perhaps even help out the overseas runners if such situation ever arised.  While trail running is always more dangerous and exciting as we are running in the wild, a well marked route would ensure we had a better experience.  I didn't get lost like I did last year so I won't complain.  But there were a few critical junctions which were either not marked (a right turn after coming from Ranger Station and a left turn after the rocky terrain and stream on the way back from WP1), or misleading (T-junction at Berluka Trail, though I could be wrong as I knew I had to turn left towards Zheng Hua Park).  In the second scenario, what the RD could do, is to put up 2 signages (one turning left for the 100km soloist and duo and one turning right for the 50km duo) with a black/red background for those running 100km or 50km (wearing black or red color background bib) and green background for those running 25km (wearing green color background bib).  Such signages could also be captured in the event website, with detailed explanations.  The onus is on the runners to read up prior to the race.  As for adequate aid stations, this was at least something that the RD got it right this year.  Last year, there was only 3 aid stations including the start/end point, one at the Ranger Station and one at mid-point, entrance to Lorong Asrama.  Please keep it up.  Personally, I am not fascinated by results.  But I do mind about the time being captured at the various check-points.  The reason is that I could use such timing and distance to breakdown the whole race so that if I were to run it again next year, there is some basis for me to gauge how fast I must run for each segment of the race in order to finish within the cut-off. (* Provided its the same race route.)  If electronic system is susceptible to failure, then back it up with manual records.  To publish incorrect results due to the equipment failure or whatever, is really not cool.

I guess I have raised the issues.  Hope TNF Singapore could review the comments raised by the runners and that we runners should also self-reflect on how we would run our next trail race better.  Let's hope everyone of us would have a better race experience for next year's TNF. Happy running!

No comments: