Annual Round the Island Relay 2013
In recent years, the Annual Round the Island Relay has gained significant recognition and reputation. That’s evident when even on short notice of merely a few weeks, a total of 49 teams signed up for the event! (This is the highest number of participation in record). It’s become quite the vogue. Be it to race competitively, or just for fun, it infuses new vigour and excitement to the word ‘team’ work.
There are 12 legs in a team. All 12 are equally important. No runner is spared the heavy burden of either gaining/sustaining a lead for the team or slowing it down. And no one can assume that a strong team guarantees victory. But if you have trump cards like national runners in your team, your chances of winning would significantly improve.
This year, I was privileged to have the opportunity to run once again for the Forward Runners. In 2011, we broke years of losing streak and finally emerged as the Men’s Veteran Champion after beating our long-time rival, the Taiping Road Runners. This year, I was initially roped in by Choo Hooi for the mixed team. But there were last minute changes and I ended up running in the Men’s Veteran team once again. And similarly, this year, the Taiping boys are back to defend their title and to give us a good run for our money.
It was 5 am. 8th Dec 2013. Teams of runners gathered at the Esplanade for the buses’ dispatch to their respective stations scattered across the island. I was assigned as the 12th leg. So, mine was the last to leave. But as we gathered alongside the Taiping boys, we were rather intimidated by their field of strong runners. Frankly, I was a little concerned because for this year, our strongest leg Khir Salleh was assigned to the Men’s Open team. And Choo Hooi had assigned himself in the mixed team to beef it up. Then again, neither was I too perturbed. I figured, by the time the baton reaches the 12th leg, we would have either gained a significant lead, or disastrously lag too far behind that any of my single effort would not really add much to the outcome. My role was just to bring it home. The onus was really on the first 11 runners to battle it out. But as it turned out, we were rather surprised by a twist in the tale as the race unfolded.
I speak of the strength of our rival, but our team is no wimp either. In fact, a few were former sub 3 marathoners. We stand a good stead in winning this as long as we give it our utmost.
The list of the team mates:
1st Chuah Kean Kok. 2nd Tan Kok Tiong. 3rd Cheong Kin Eve. 4th Goh Jin Eng. 5th Neoh Chye Hin. 6th Quah Seng Kar. 7th Tan Chee Khung. 8th Yee Weng Cheong. 9th Kamalavanan A/L Balasubramaniam. 10th Tung Chin Seng. 11th Muniandy A/L Krishna. 12th Me.
There is an advantage of being the last leg. Staying only a few blocks away from my drop off station, I could afford to pop back home for a short nap. All I had to do was to return to the station approximately at 9am to wait for the arrival of the 11th leg. All in the details….
But on the flip side, by 10 am, the sun would be glaring in its full glory. So, running under this kind of scorching condition is no fun at all. The only consolation is that it is only for 5km.
I arrived at my station with 20 minutes to spare. Heard news that we were in second place. At some point, we were lagging behind by almost 7 minutes. That’s at least a 1.6km lead by our rival. But as they reached the 9th and 10th runners, we began to close the gap. Minutes later, I was updated that our 11th runner had overtaken the rival team by a small margin. Suddenly the heat was on. I have to get down to work to ensure that I sustain that lead all the way to the finish. Otherwise, all my team mates’ hard work would have been in vain.
|Waiting with excitement for the 11th leg|
Then, in a distance, I saw my team mate Muniandy running in strong with a commanding lead of about 50m. The rival’s 11th runner had done well under the circumstances considering that Muniandy is a tough competitor and a fast runner.
I took over the baton from him and never looked back. Along my side were the Road Marshalls and fellow Forward team mates cheering me on with their bikes, updating me about my lead over the Taiping’s 12th leg. I was relieved to know that I was pulling further away from him. The tension was off. Eventually I was striding comfortably along Gurney Road on a busy Sunday morning traffic. The sun was scorching. But amidst the adrenaline rush, nothing else seemed to matter.
Then in a distance, I saw a young chap running under the Men’s Open Category. I thought it would be more interesting to catch up with him and spice up the race a little. It gives me something to chase after. Helps to take the mind off the thought of being pursued. So, I gave chase and soon closed the gap as we reach the Northam Tower. He was a little surprised and indignant. And started to jostle with me to regain his lead. That went on for a bit until he started to sprint forward with 200m to go before the finish. I naturally followed and sprinted forward at the final 100m. He gave a furious chase and we both finished neck to neck at the finish line.
That certainly spiced up my finish. Thanks to the chap. But we were in different categories. It really didn’t matter who won. Unless it was a wounded ego at stake.
|Good to have someone to keep pace|
|100m to the finish|
|10 meters to finish|
Anyway, our team won. In good time too with a lead of 3 minutes over the Taiping boys. Overall, it was a tremendous effort from our team mates. Never thought we could pull this one off especially when we were trailing so far behind by 7 minutes.
For me, aside from the bizarre and interesting finish, I came away from this with a deeper appreciation for a group event as such. Concerted effort from each individual had definitely made it more meaningful. And certainly far more enjoyable in comparison to individual events. l walk away feeling proud of our achievement not just because we were the better team on that day. Nor was it because we broke any records. But because we fought hard for each other. And it shows a deep respect for one another in ways that is beyond words. And that, I believe is the essence of the race.
Bravo to all!