The moment you step off the plane in Singapore, it's not hard to see why it is known as the "garden city", with its lush tropical vegetation and manicured lawns.
Unlike most Asian cities, the entire place is spotless and the locals are a friendly and law-abiding bunch. Spitting is a criminal offence, for example, and talking on your mobile phone while driving can cost you three nights in jail and five lashes of the cane.
Singapore enjoys a consistent summer of about 30 to 32 degrees Celsius almost all year round. As a runner, you will immediately notice the thick, humid air.
The city's parks and streets are full early in the morning, with locals of all ages enjoying their daily tai chi and dance routines.
In recent years, running has taken off in the island state, with races held almost every two or three weekends - many of them even clashing on the same day.
Best running spots
- Singapore Botanic Gardens:
located in the heart of the island just a few minutes' jog from Orchard Road and many of the city's leading hotels. With more than 20 kilometres of mostly tarmac paths and 53 hectares of greenery, it offers spectacular running opportunities away from the traffic. Nearest MRT stations: Botanic Gardens and Orchard
East Coast Park: this 14-kilometre seafront road runs between the airport and city and is enjoyed by cyclists, in-line skaters and runners alike. It is ideal for a longer run, and offers the chance for a jog on sand and grass. Nearest MRT stations: Mountbatten, Eunos and Bedok.
- Esplanade and Gardens by the Bay:
get your racing shoes on as you take in the Formula One racetrack and the new gardens surrounding the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Nearest MRT stations: Marina Bay, City Hall and Bayfront
- MacRitchie Reservoir Park:
the boardwalks along the water's edge and off-road trails through the forest are favourites of nature lovers and exercise enthusiasts. Run along Singapore's only treetop walk above the forest canopy. Nearest MRT station: Caldecott
- The Southern Ridges:
this nine-kilometre chain of green, open spaces spanning the hills of Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park is mostly connected by nature pathways and bridges. Nearest MRT station: HarbourFront
The main event: Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore
After last year's successful run, which attracted some 65,000 participants, the International Association of Athletics Federations made it a certified "Gold Label" race, ranking it among prestigious tilts such as the London, Berlin and New York City marathons.
Singapore is only the fifth Asian country and the first in Southeast Asia to achieve this. Just 10 years ago, the event drew only 6,000 runners.
Held on the first Sunday of December each year, participants come from all over the world.
There are friendlier distances - 10 and 21 kilometres - for those who are not ready for the full 42.195-kilometres.
If you would like to participate as a team, the Ekiden involves six runners completing the race in a relay format. And to make it a family-friendly affair, there is a 750-metre Kids Dash.
The race routes for 2012 have yet to be announced, but organisers have said it will be revised from last year in response to the bottlenecks towards the end of the course.
What is certain is that there will be three different starting points for each distance category and the course will be scenic.
Last year's marathon started at the Orchard Road shopping strip, wound through the shop-lined streets of historic Chinatown, along the F1 Pit Building and Singapore Flyer, then headed out of town for an out-and-back lap of the breezy East Coast Park.
The last 10 kilometres went past the Marina Bay precinct and finished at a massive open field downtown called the Padang.
The humid Singapore conditions make this a tough race even for elite runners.
Australia's Suzy Walsham, who has lived in Singapore since 2007 and won the women's half-marathon in 2008, says: "The finish is right in the [central business district] and is extremely well set-up with hospitality tents, music, displays and, most importantly, plenty of toilets.
"Although the course is flat and fast, you can forget fast times as the heat and humidity take their toll. On a typical, easy 10-kilometre morning run, I can lose up to 1.5kg in sweat," she says.
Singapore is famous for dining and shopping. A must-try is the chilli crab at No Signboard Seafood at East Coast Park.
Getting around is easy all the signs are in English and everyone speaks the language, The MRT is cheap too.
After a tough day of running and shopping, try the fish reflexology foot spas around the city. Soak your feet in a tank as tiny fish nibble your dead skin cells away.
Just passing through? There are still things to do.
Fewer than five hours: take a dip in the airport's own rooftop swimming pool in Terminal 1. Jog the indoor carpeted passageways linking the three terminals.
Five to 12 hours: a city tour operates from Changi International Airport for anyone who has more than a five-hour transit between flights. The tour is funded by the Singapore Tourism Board, and it's free.
More than 12 hours: check into one of many airport hotels, from which you can run along East Coast Park.
This is the second Great Strides, a six-week series of city running guides by Troy de Haas, sports travel manager of Flight Centre.