What’s the deal with marathons?
Run 42km? Are you crazy?
Now, if you just cringed at the thought of running that distance and wondering who would be crazy enough to do that, you are not alone. If a full-blown marathon is not for you, there are many less than 42km distance runs to choose from. Pop into SG Runners website and you will find nearly 70 runs happening this year ranging from 5km to 21km, also called the half-marathon.
And Singaporeans are definitely jumping on the bandwagon too. These days, the sight of joggers decked out in sports gear running in the morning, afternoon and even at night, at parks and almost anywhere in Singapore has become such a common sight compared to four years ago. Not forgetting the increase in the number of runs organized, both competitive and leisure.
Suddenly everyone in Singapore seems to be running.
Running in Singapore has become a lifestyle for most Singaporeans and you wonder why. So why are more Singaporeans running?
One of the reasons is the variety of runs and categories available. With an array of categories to choose from, short 5km distances to challenging ultra-marathons, whether you are a beginner or an expert and whether you want to run individually or with a team, almost anyone can sign up and participate. Besides variety of distances, there’s the variety of locations, like the Safari Zoo Run held at Mandai Zoo and runs organized especially for women, like the Nike Goddess 5k Run and Great Eastern Women 10k Run. Most runs are held during the day so for those who love running at night there’s the Adidas Sundown Marathon, where most categories start after 7pm. There’s also the Empowered Muslim Women Run held last year, especially organized for Muslim women in Singapore.
The second reason why more Singaporeans are taking part in runs is to set target for themselves and keep track of their running progress. One just needs a good pair of running shoes and sportswear, and you’re ready to go. Hence, with the presence of runs being organized, it gives runners the motivation to keep fit and give them a “target” to continue improving and challenging themselves to the next level, for example by beating their previous time score and participating in a longer distance category. “Singaporeans are overworked that’s why more people are using running as an outlet,” Says Nur Aisyah Muhktar, 24, an avid Muslimah runner.
Since more runs are being organized, this leads to the third reason for the running phenomenon which is the attractive goodies, free gifts and t-shirts that comes with every registration. Attractive goodie bags and event day t-shirts become like collectibles as they are not sold in stores and the only way to obtain them is through officially registering for the said runs or marathons. Not forgetting the medals that come with every completed run, symbolising an accomplishment.
With the increase of runs in Singapore, there has also been an increase of Park Connector Networks (PCN) connecting one park to another, creating more variety of routes for the runner. “Previously there were not many road tracks in Singapore but now you can spot the PCN almost everywhere,” says Siti Nurulhawanis Misbari, 24, who has been running for four years.
Personal thoughts and experience.
Wanting to challenge myself and join in the fun, I too decided to participate in my first run back in 2009. With 2 friends, I registered for the Adidas Sundown Marathon Women’s 10km category. When I arrived at the scene, I was shocked to see the crowd. It was amazing. I had never seen more than a thousand women geared up for a race like that. The atmosphere was really energetic and exciting. When the gun went off at 8.30pm, I started to jog. Soon, I started running faster. Though at first I still had much energy and excitement, reaching 7km I started to slow down and felt like I could not go on and wanted to give up. But when I finally crossed the finish line, I felt victorious. Syukur Alhamdulillah. I have accomplished my first ever 10km run.
It was then that I realized I loved every minute of it. The adrenaline rush and satisfaction of completing the race, of breaking through my fears and barriers, and the feeling of accomplishment was one of the best feelings in the world. And that was it. I was hooked.
More Muslimah Runners in the scene.
Another accomplishment following the increase of runs and marathons in Singapore is the increase of Muslim women runners. Their presence can be clearly seen especially since aan aurah-abiding Muslim women’s attire is completely different. Where the standard women’s running attire consists of a sports bra or sleeveless t-shirt and shorts, a Muslimah is decked out in long-sleeve and knee-length shirts and long track pants.
This just goes to show that aurah guidelines is not a barrier to Muslim women wanting to participate in competitive sports. In fact, it might even be a better form of sportswear. Just look at hijab-wearing Rugaya Al-Ghasara, the first Bahrain-born athlete to win a major international athletics gold medal in the women’s 200m finals at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. She was the only competitor clad in long-sleeve shirt and pants, as well as a Hijood which is a Hijab and sports hood combined.
Standing out among a sea of skimpy sports attires, it is really a sight to be seen as she celebrates winning her 200m heat with a sujud on the stadium itself. To top things off, she says her outfit allows for her to “combine her need for modesty with a design made from breathable, moisture-controlled fabric”. In addition, she hopes to inspire other women that modesty or religious beliefs do not have to be a barrier to participating in competitive sports, or any sports, in particular.
Wow, such an inspiration!
Just Put One Foot Forward.
For Siti Nurulhawanis Misbari, 24, every Muslim girl should follow Rugaya’s competitive spirit and think positively as the hijab is a symbol of liberation. This Assistant Engineer started running 4 years ago after being inspired by her polytechnic friend who run the whole school every single day after their final-year project. That prompted her to join her first run, which is also her favourite, the Great Eastern Women’s 10km run three years ago.
She has since participated in about 20 runs, mostly 10km, with an exception of the North East Run last year when she ran 16km. Citing Dean Karnazes, an ultra-marathoner famous for his catchphrase of “Just put one foot forward” after attempting 50 marathons in 50 days as her inspiration, she hopes to attempt a full 42km marathon one day. Thus, she will be attempting her first half-marathon this end of May in the Adidas Sundown Marathon to challenge herself to the next level.
Of course, women and shopping are inseparable. So I ask her about her favourite sports attire and any Muslimah sportswear shopping tips, seeing that the Singapore sportswear market is not exactly Muslimah-friendly.
“Dri-fit materials are the best as they absorb sweat easily, dry faster and are more breathable. For long-sleeve sportswear, I find that the ones in Singapore are always expensive so I always buy during expo sales as most of the running pants are cheaper. Furthermore, compared to stores in Singapore you can also find them cheaper online.” recommends Nurulhawanis.
Even nowadays both men and women non-Muslim runners can be seen wearing full gear, long sleeves for running as they offer better protection from the sun and environment as well as faster recovery, among other reasons. So there is really no need to feel any different while running with our Muslimah garments. In fact it is for these reasons, and more, that Allah s.w.t has created the aurah guidelines for He is the All-Knowing.[pullquote_left]Catch the momentum and carry on, and most importantly never be embarrassed just because you are an aurah-abiding wearer.[/pullquote_left]
Personally for me, I would like to see long-sleeved shirts provided as an option by race organisers. This way, aurah-abiding Muslimah runners would not have to overlap with another long-sleeve shirt underneath the sleeveless shirt provided.
Last but not least, Nurulhawanis gives some encouraging words to Muslimah runners of all levels, “Running is like taking a driving license. You have to make a continuos effort to improve bit by bit. It is okay to start slow and steady but do not ever stop. Catch the momentum and carry on, and most importantly never be embarrassed just because you are an aurah-abiding wearer. Do not let other people’s comments put a stop for you to live a healthy lifestyle.”
Remember, just put one foot forward and go.
Other useful information:
- Upcoming Marathons in Singapore: 100 Plus PAssion Run 21st May 2011, Sundown Marathon 28th May 2011, Mizuno Mount Faber Run 12th June 2011, Sundown Ultra Marathon 25th June 2011,
Siti Mardhiah Mahmood
Siti Mardhiah Mahmood is a fresh graduate from the Singapore Institute of Management who enjoys travelling and outdoor adventure, overcoming one mountain at a time. She blogs her creative juices at www.simplymardy.wordpress.com