Putting more sole into Singapore
TRAVELLING to Singapore? Forget the buses, cabs and Mass Railway Transit (MRT). Pack your running shoes. The city is made for soles.
Fourteen thousand feet hitting the pavement in pre-dawn darkness earlier this month at the start of the Mobil Marathon is one sure indication about Singaporeans' love for running.
City planners have gone out of their way to make running and walking enjoyable for everyone from the serious athlete to the visiting businessman or weekend tourist.
Whether your distance is one or 42.2 kilometres, Singapore has a route for you.
Many hotels include in their book of guest services a water resistant take-out map designed especially for runners, showing the nearest trails and route distances.
At the ANA Hotel on Nassim Hill on the south side of the island a ''Jogger's Guide'' in each room offers a colourful and detailed map of the nearby Botanical Gardens, 32 hectares of tropical flora criss-crossed with paved paths offering length variations from three to five kilometres.
While Singapore's temperatures are never cool, many routes offer plenty of shade and the occasional rain helps keep your body thermometer under control. Nonetheless, it's advisable to always take a bottle of water and wear a hat with a brim to make your outing more enjoyable.
The best way to sample Singapore on the hoof is from its parks and neighbourhoods, all within easy reach of most of the better hotels. Just lace up your shoes and head out the door.
The Botanical Gardens, near the intersection of Napier and Cluny Roads, is among the best running parks.
It is filled with rainforest-like vegetation and tranquil ponds, a haven for runners and strolling romantics especially in the early evening.
The Padang and Memorial Park areas are ideal if you are staying at the famous Raffles Hotel. Near the Supreme Court and City Hall, the Padang is a large and lush recreation area.
Memorial Park is near Stamford Road and when combined with a loop around the Padang will give you a course of about four kilometres.
East of the Padang is the East Coast Park that goes along reclaimed land leading to Changi Airport. Typical of Singapore, there is ample shade provided by lines of coconut palms, and the winding footpaths and bicycle trails offer plenty of variety over adistance of about 8.5 kilometres.
Along the way there are sufficient supplies of water and soft drinks and a variety of other recreation facilities.
King of the courses is MacRitchie Reservoir, a Singapore favourite that has even spawned a running club bearing its name.
The reservoir, located north of the main business and commercial centre, is flanked by the Bukit Timah Expressway and Upper Thompson Road and is most accessible on foot along Adam Road.
It offers the best of the best: lots of water to gaze at, jungle trails, expansive open spaces, no traffic with its associated noise and pollution and even some modest hills to break up the otherwise flat course. When running the perimeter, you can log about 10.5 kilometres.
When you travel and you like taking in more of the people than the foliage, there are several road circuits that offer plenty of distractions.
The best are found within an area bounded by Bukit Timah Road and Commonwealth Avenue, with the intersection of Orchard Road and Scotts Road being a good intersection to embark from.
Besides quality running, the area provides good views of residential and commercial districts somewhat off the beaten paths of most tourists.
Depending on what combination of routes you select, you can extend the course up to 33 kilometres.
Best of all, this part of Singapore is within walking distance of many of the main hotels, including the ANA, Royal Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Omni Marco Polo, The Regent and Allson Hotel.
When you check into your room and you don't see a map tell someone at the concierge desk what kind of route you'd like and let them point you in the best direction. Happy running.