The essential race guide to Singapore Marathon

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore is one of Asia’s most renowned running events and is the pinnacle running event on the Singapore running calendar. Despite the relatively easy course, the searing heat and humidity make it a true test of your preparation and a course to be reckoned with.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the course and recommend a strategy for getting the most out of your fitness on race day. I hope this guide helps lead you to a better result and I encourage you to share it with your friends who are racing.

Race Week.

The week leading into race day is all about final preparations and doing the little things that will put you in the best position to run well on race day.

Training. Training in race week is all about freshening up and doing what you need to do to feel good on 6 December. Remember, it’s too late at this stage to get any better but you can get worse by overdoing things. Keep it light and use the training that you do to put spring in your step for race day.

Hydration. The climate in Singapore provides the biggest challenge to all runners and if you start the race dehydrated, you’re on the back foot before you even begin. Carry fluids with you at all times and sip from your water bottle often. I’d recommend an electrolyte drink with no sugar and lots of sodium for best results. A good indication that you are well hydrated is clear urine, so aim for that all week.

Race expo. You’ll need to visit the race expo to collect your race number, timing chip and other goodies. Spend some time to have a look around the different booths but don’t linger too long there because it’s too much time on your feet. Many runners overcommit at the expo and end up dehydrated and hungry. Be sure to keep fluids on you at all time at the race expo.

Sightseeing. If you travelled into Singapore for the race, plan your sightseeing for after the race. Too much walking around and time in the sun will wear you down and negatively impact your race. Sightseeing after the run will be much more relaxing and a great form of active recovery.

Be organised. Have all your gear packed and ready to go the night before. Work from a checklist and cross off each item as you pack it into your bag to ensure you are not missing anything crucial. Plan how you’re going to get to the race venue and where the bag deposits will be. Be mindful of road closures and understand that the crowds could significantly slow you down so allow plenty of time to make your way to the start line.

Race Day. 

The beginning is fast.

With the marathon beginning on a gradual downhill, the opening kilometers of the race are very important. With adrenalin pumping due to the excitement that comes with any marathon start, the downhill and all the other eager runners starting too fast, it’s easy to be drawn into a false sense of how hard you are working.

If you want to run to your potential and maximise all the training that you have done, it’s very important that you start conservatively (20 – 30 secs per km slower than goal pace) and build your effort carefully across the full 42.2km. Treat the early stages of the run as a warm up and don’t worry if runners are buzzing past you – they will come back to you later when the day warms up and they begin to blow up.

Don’t bank time.

Despite what you may have heard, “banking time” – running faster in the start so you can run x:xx slower per kilometer in the second half – is not a good marathon pacing strategy. I have seen this strategy blow up more runners than any other and in the Singapore climate it is even more likely to make you suffer.
Why is “banking time” such an ineffective strategy? Because when you start too fast, you burn your fuel and fatigue your muscles at too high a rate.

Fuel. When you run a marathon, the body burns its fuel at a higher rate than you can replace it, so the goal of a fuelling strategy is to limit your losses. The body can store enough energy to fuel itself for roughly 2 hours at marathon effort. This means that you’ll need to be taking in additional carbohydrates to help replace what you’re burning. Unfortunately the body does not have a good ability to absorb these carbohydrates while running. As such, the best time to take them in is early in the race when your pace is lower, the weather is cooler and your body is generally under less stress. If you start the race too fast, you limit the amount of fuel you can put into your body and absorb for energy later in the race.

Muscle fatigue. Outside of poor fuelling, muscle fatigue is the other major limiter when running a marathon. Muscle fatigue is accelerated by the accumulation of lactic acid as a result of running too fast too soon. Since your muscles will wear out well before your lungs, it’s important that you don’t wear them down unnecessarily in the beginning of the race.

The East Coast Park.

At around the 13km mark of the race you enter the East Coast Park  (ECP). This is a long out and back stretch that makes up nearly half the course. It’s at this point that you should get down to your goal pace and run at this pace until you reach the turnaround near the halfway point of the race, at the far end of ECP. If you’re feeling good at the turning point, you can begin to subtly increase your effort as you head back towards town.

During this out and back section of the course, it’s very easy to switch of mentally. Combat this by focussing on the processes that will help to keep you moving forward efficiently. Nutrition, breathing, staying relaxed and running with good form. Tuck in behind fellow runners to hide from any wind and remember to cut the tangents as you weave your way through the park.

Your race begins at the Golf Course.

From the ECP, you make your way towards the Marina golf course. At this point you have just over 10km to go and this is where your race really begins. From this point forward, you’re building your effort towards the finish getting gradually faster and faster until you hit the finishing tape.

Shade. From this point on, there is very little shade and the sun will be up. Stay focused and use the remaining aid stations to keep your core temperature down by pouring cold water on your head.

Sheares bridge. At around 37.5km you’ll hit the base of sheares bridge. While this hill is not too long or steep, the fact that you hit it so late in the race and the sun will be beating down on you make it a very tough climb. Your conservative start will definitely pay off as you run up this hill. Because your legs will be tired and heavy, shorten your stride and pump your arms. This will increase your heart rate but will help to take some pressure of the legs. Once at the top, relax into the downhill and ready yourself for the crowds.

Congestion. The late stages of this race are notorious for the congestion for runners running a time above 3hr 30mins.

Enjoy your finish. While the rest of the course is almost void of spectators, the finish chute is full of people cheering for you and your fellow runners. Enjoy the moment as you make your way down the final few hundred meters and relish in the hard work you have done and your achievement.

Have Fun.

Now that you’re armed with the right strategy, I wish you all the best for your marathon. Have fun, execute a smart race and get the most from your fitness on race day.

If you’re running the half marathon, stay tuned, we’ll be posting a half marathon race strategy in our next post