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Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014

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The Yellow Ribbon Project is a community initiative launched in 2004 in Singapore that aims to create awareness of the need to give second chances to ex-offenders, generate acceptance for ex-offenders and their families in the community, and inspire community action to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders into society.

The Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is one of the key events organized by the Yellow Ribbon Project to show support and help raise awareness of the need to give ex-offenders a second chance.

The inaugural Yellow Ribbon Prison Run was held in September 2009 and attracted about 6,500 participants. This year’s 6th edition attracted about 9,000 registrants and was themed “The Road to Acceptance”.

This is my second time to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run. The first time I joined was in 2011 and I had good memories of the event. The route is not your typical race route in Singapore as it will take runners past many historical and prison sites with the finish line inside the Changi Prison Complex. There’s also plenty of up and down slopes which makes the run interesting.

Last year it was held on the same weekend as TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon so I wasn’t able to participate. I am happy I had the opportunity to participate again this year knowing that this is for a worthy cause.

Race Kit

Race Kit

The flag off time for the 10Km run was scheduled at 7:45am however, just like 3 years ago I was late again for the run. As I’m staying in Bukit Gombak area, the earliest train I could take heading to Jurong East on a Sunday was at 6:06am. Given the long journey from Jurong East to Expo, it was already past 7am when I arrived in Expo then we had to queue for the free shuttle bus that would take us from Expo to Changi Village. The race organizers did offer paid satellite shuttle services at certain pick up points for a nominal fee however, we were not able to avail of this as this was only offered during the registration period.

The 6Km fun run participants where getting ready to be flagged off when we reached the starting point at 8:11am. Me and my friend, Beeping, started the run together. The sun was shining brightly and it looked like we were in for a hot workout. I began to think about my last Yellow Ribbon Prison run experience where I had to walk for most part from Km7 to Km9 because the heat had taken its toll on me. In my mind I was thinking the sooner I can complete the 10Km run the better so I don’t have to stay too long under the hot sun.

As I didn’t want to stress my friend, I asked her if it’s alright if we just run at our own pace and she agreed. I concentrated running at my own pace as the route lead us to an inclined slope. I was feeling fine as I tackled the inclined slope which is a good sign however, I knew this was just the first of the many inclined slopes. It was a good motivation to think that what comes up must come down. Like my usual tactics in other races, whether it’s road or trail, I would run slow in the uphill and then try to make up some time in the downhill.

At about 3Km, I reached the water station. I stopped briefly at the water station to sip some water and drank a cup of 100Plus as I was getting thirsty. I then continued my way passing by an interesting cafe called 1942 before heading for another inclined slope going to Johore Battery.

Just before the 4Km mark I spotted Marcus of Running Shots doing what he does best – shooting photos of runners. I said “hi” to him as I went past him. The road lead us uphill but there was a cooling station at the top which was quite nice as it provided temporary relief from the hot weather.

At 4Km mark

At 4Km mark. Photo by Marcus Lim of Running Shots

I felt relieved after reaching the halfway mark but the last few sections of the route doesn’t provide much cover from the sun. Although the weather this year was slightly better compared to 3 years ago when I first ran this course, I was still struggling with the effects of the heat.

I was running out of energy and ready to give in to the temptation of walking but I egged myself to just keep moving. There was another water station at about 8Km however, there was no 100Plus only water. I took a cup of water but it made my tummy heavy so I only sip a bit and used the remaining water to wash my face to help my body cool down.

As I was nearing the entrance of the Changi Prison Complex, I saw my friend Kelly who was snapping photos of the runners passing by. About two months ago she finished one of the toughest ultramarathon in the world, the Badwater Ultramarathon. I was happy to see her and gave her a smile as I passed by.

Running towards the entrance of the Changi Prison Complex

Running towards the entrance of the Changi Prison Complex. I was happy to see Kelly who was shooting for Running Shots. Photo by: Kelly Lim

I was glad when I reached the entrance of the Changi Prison Complex as I knew I was getting closer to the finish line. I caught up with Singapore Blade Runner who was running with a big and heavy backpack on his back and yet he was still full of enthusiasm.

The last one kilometer to the finish line is always mentally tough. The finish line is near but it seemed far away as the scorching heat drained my energy.

I finished the run after an hour and ten minutes of running. I waited near the finish line for my friend Beeping to arrive. It was inspiring to see a participant who was in a wheelchair finish the race despite the up and down slopes and the scorching heat. There was also an uncle who also finished the 10Km run barefoot which was quite amazing!

The fun was just beginning after completing the 10Km run. We met other runner friends who also took part in the run which was really nice and there were plenty of activities at the Carnival site. We had our photo taken at the #YRSelfie booths as a souvenir then we also joined in the challenge games at the Challenge Booths which was quite fun.

Carnival

Carnival

YRPR2014

Help unlock the second prison

There were four challenge games at the challenge booths. Each challenge game had a different scenario where you stand as an employer, neighbor, relative and friend on an ex-offender’s road to acceptance.

Challenge Booths

Challenge Booths

Challenge game card

Challenge game card

Challenge Game 1

Challenge Game 1

After completing the four challenge games we showed our completed challenge game card and got a nice prize for our efforts.

Challenge games completed

Challenge games completed

Challenge Game Prize

Challenge Game Prize

Having fun at the carnival

Having fun at the carnival

Aside from the Challenge Booths there was also a Rehabilitation Fair with an Action Booth where one can take further action to support the cause and a Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition. The Yellow Ribbon Art Adoption program provides an avenue for inmates to express their hopes and aspirations through art, showcase their artistic talents and reach out to the community.

We also got to sample some baked goodies from SCORE Bakery. I especially loved the pastry with a filling at the top (I’m not sure what it’s called) that I could not help myself from taking a few pieces. There was also free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream however, it was all gone when we finished the run.

The Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is just more than a run. Thanks to the volunteers who stood in the hot weather to ensure the safety of runners, segregated the trash to keep the environment clean and made the whole event fun and successful. Thanks as well to the students who cheered the runners along the route and the photographers who took our photos so we can have a nice memento after the event. They are all the unsung heroes.

Race Bib and Finisher's Medal

Race Bib and Finisher’s Medal

 

For run results please click here.

If you wanna find photos of the event you may visit the following sites below:

Running Shots:
1/7 07:53-08:25 (4km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
2/7 08:25-08:43 (4km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
3/7 08:43-09:10 (4km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
4/7 09:10-09:58 (4km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
5/7 08:00-08:30 (9km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
6/7 08:30-08:55 (9km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
7/7 08:55-09:51 (9km) Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014

RunSociety

Facebook: Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
Flickr: Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014
RunSociety: Yellow Ribbon Prison Run 2014

If you wanna know more about the Yellow Ribbon Project you may follow them in Social Media:
Web: www.yellowribbon.sg
Facebook: www.facebook.com/yellowribbonproj
YouTube: www.youtube.com/yellowribbonproj
Twitter: www.twitter.com/yellowribbonsg
Instagram: instagram.com/yellowribbonsg

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Argao Highlands Endurance Trail Run

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When I learned about the Argao Highlands Endurance Trail Run in Facebook I got so excited. After seeing the photos of the route I knew I just can’t miss this run however, the only thing that was holding me back was that the run was going to be held on May 11th which also happens to be Mother’s Day.

ArgaoHighlandsEnduranceRun

I browsed my old photos of our Lantoy hike in Flickr and the good old memories came flashing back to me. The thought of running this scenic route was just too good to miss. I was curious how I was going to fair in the run considering there are plenty of obstacles to hurdle from numerous river crossings to boulders. This only means loads of adventure awaiting which made me really excited. After deliberating with myself I finally gave in to the urge and signed up for the run.

River trekking in Argao almost 7 years ago.

River trekking in Argao almost 7 years ago.

Three days before race day I accidentally landed badly on my left foot after missing a step while walking. My left foot was in pain after the incident and I was worried if I was going to miss the run. Thankfully, after two days of icing my left foot the pain went away.

Icing my left foot

Icing my left foot

The race organizers had arranged for a free pickup for city participants from Abellana Sports Center to the start venue in CTU Argao the evening before the race. I was following Transvulcania Ultramarathon through iRunFar and I was initially hesitant to leave the house. Fortunately, I was able to drag myself out of the house with the help of my friend Beeping who constantly reminded me about the time. I arrived in Abellana Sports Complex just in time to catch the bus. I was happy to see familiar faces. The bus was packed with runners and unfortunately a few participants were not able to board the bus due to lack of space.

I had a good chat with Jake, race director of Runnilla, during the entire trip. The journey took more than 2 hours and it was past 8pm when we arrived in CTU Argao. I was having a slight headache as I was very hungry but I still had to queue to collect my race bib and event shirt before I can head out to eat dinner.

Me and Jake ate dinner at a local eatery. Other participants also arrived at the same place to have their dinner. We had lechon manok (roasted chicken), rice, soup and cold Coke as it was just too hot. I always liked the smell and taste of lechon manok in the province.

After a satisfying dinner, we decided to walk back to CTU-Argao instead of taking the tricycle as we were too full after eating two cups of rice. Along the way, we stopped by at Julie’s Bakeshop to buy bread for our breakfast the next morning.

As I was queuing to collect the cot from the race organizers, I met Boying together with my university classmate/tennis teammate, Imar, whom I haven’t seen for more than 10 years after leaving university life. It was a pleasant surprise and we had a good chat before I made my way back to the classroom where I had setup my bed for the night.

My bed for the night

My bed for the night

It was almost 11pm when I went inside the classroom. The lights were already turned off and the room was quiet. Everyone seemed to be sleeping except for Jake who was checking his phone for Transvulcania updates. I didn’t get to sleep until past 1am and I woke up at 2:45am as I can already hear people outside talking and preparing for the run.

Although I had already eaten my bread I was feeling light headed and lacking energy. I thought it must be the lack of sleep plus I wasn’t able to take shower. I normally take a bath before a race to feel fresh but not this time. I only managed to wash my face as there was no time. There was only one shower room and there was a long queue.

The race briefing started past 4am. We were told that there’s going to be 21 river crossings and just before the finish line there’s an underground tunnel we have to pass. We have a choice not to go inside the underground tunnel however, there’s a 10-minute penalty if we choose not to. My mind was wondering how small the underground tunnel is. I don’t like confined spaces as I feel like I’m unable to breath. I was a bit worried but I told myself to worry about this later. I will decide whether to go inside the underground tunnel or take the 10-minute penalty once I’m there and see it.

The warm-up exercises failed to energize me. I was still feeling sleepy and tired. I took one packet of Shotz Gel hoping it will give me the boost I needed that morning.

Race Proper

The race was scheduled to start at 5am however there was a slight delay. The race was flagged off at 5:30am by the Vice Mayor of Argao, Dr. Stanley Caminero, whose family owns the Coal Mountain Resort where the finish line will be.

The fast runners didn’t waste much time and were quickly out of sight. From CTU Argao we ran in the paved road in a residential area which lead to a dirt road. The orange glow of the morning sun illuminating the coconut trees and green fields that morning was just beautiful. It reminded me why I just love to run in the trails. I wanted to take pictures but I was too lazy to stop and get my phone from my hydration pack. I wished I had a GoPro and I can just take a video while I was running.

I was still about 2.5Km into the race and I wasn’t feeling good. I was feeling dizzy. I thought it must be the lack of sleep plus I may have started out too fast than what I’m used to. I decided to stop running and walked instead until I got near the 4Km mark where there was a downhill section which I tried running again.

After I got past the 4Km mark it was an uphill climb on asphalt road. I decided to power walk again as I wasn’t still feeling good. This section is quite long about 4Km stretch of asphalt road but the view of the mountains on the right-hand side entertained my mind.

As I continued to walk I started to feel better and I was able to run again. I crossed a bridge before turning left to a dirt road which leads to the river. By this time the heat of the scorching sun was something I didn’t welcome.

I made a quick stop at the aid station to drink water then made my way to the river. I I decided to take photos before continuing. I know this is the part where the real fun and adventure begins.

Race Marshal at the 1st river crossing

Race Marshal at the 1st river crossing

A gentleman whom I was running together just before reaching the aid station offered to take my photos. I initially declined as I don’t really take photos of myself but since he insisted I gladly took the offer.

At the 1st river crossing

At the 1st river crossing

Although the water wasn’t deep, I didn’t bother hopping over rocks and risk slipping. I just straight away wade in the water. With 21 river crossings, I will get wet at some point no matter what. Running with wet socks and shoes is uncomfortable as the shoes feels heavy but this is all part of trail running.

The trail went up and down the slopes as we crossed the same river multiple times. I caught up with Imar and we ran together for most part of the 2nd half. Some portion of the trail still looks familiar to me and it brought back memories when we trekked this river many years ago.

There’s plenty of action adventure in the 2nd half so it’s best to just post the photos 🙂

Made the mistake of climbing this boulder as it was much easier just to wade in the water

Made the mistake of climbing this boulder as it was much easier just to wade in the water. Photo by Dominic Panimdim

 

Crossing the river and the boulders

 

The most adventurous part of the race course

 

With Imar. Photo by Dominic Panimdim

 

Pool

Pool

 

Imar

Imar before crossing the river and the boulders

 

A race marshal assisting runners in crossing the river

A race marshal assisting runners in crossing the river

 

Imar getting down

Imar getting down

 

Bugasok Waterfalls

Bugasok Waterfalls

My phone ran out space so I could no longer take any new photos 🙁

I was happy to see the 19K marker although my Suunto Quest was only showing near to 16K. It was only about 2:45 into the race and I was thinking if there’s a possibility I can finish the run in a little over 3hours so I can go back to the city early.

There was an aid station just after the last river crossing however, I made the mistake of not stopping thinking I was near to the finish line and I still had enough water on my bladder to last me to the finish line.

The next section was a steep uphill cemented road with no cover from the hot sun which I really disliked. As I powered walk I kept thinking how come the last 1Km seemed so long. I definitely had run/walk more than 1Km since I last saw the 19Km marker.

It was struggle going up the tar road under the scorching sun and the worst part was that I ran out of water. I caught up with 2 other runners as we made an entry back to the trail. The marshal told us that we are now near to the tunnel. There were still uphill climbs and I kept thinking how far more to the finish line. The finish line seemed so near but feels so far away.

Finally, I saw a swimming pool and I thought this must be Coal Mountain Resort. A marshal told me to wait before crossing the bamboo hanging bridge. I was thirsty so I asked the marshal if there’s any water but unfortunately there’s none. I would have to wait until I reach the finish line.

I waited for the runner in front of me to be more than halfway before I started crossing the bamboo hanging bridge. I wasn’t halfway yet when I noticed the hanging bridge swaying badly. I turned around and saw the lady runner behind me running in the hanging bridge which really ticked me off. I asked her why she’s running and she’s told me it’s ok to run in the hanging bridge. I wasn’t happy that this runner never bothered thinking about safety. I decided to give way to her as there’s no point taking a risk when I know the finish line is just a few hundred meters away.

After crossing the bamboo hanging bridge, I reached the entrance of the underground tunnel. The underground tunnel didn’t looked so small and scary as I initially imagined whereby one needs to crawl. I wore the helmet and took the torch that the marshal handed to me. The underground tunnel was dark, narrow and muddy. It reminded me of Cu Chi underground tunnel in Vietnam except that this one is a lot shorter. There are sections you really have to bend low or risk banging your head which I did thrice but thankfully I was wearing a helmet. The last section involves a steep climb but I was relieved when I saw the light not too far away. After all the scrambling I was glad to be finally out of the tunnel and into the finish line. I finished the run with an unofficial time of 3:43 and despite my shoes and socks being wet for the rest of the second half I never had any blisters which was something to smile about.

Finisher's Medal

Finisher’s Medal

If you’re looking for adventure, this trail run will certainly not disappoint you. From river crossings, to boulder climbing, to hanging bridge and underground tunnel this race course has plenty to offer for the adventurous soul.

The trail was also well-marked. There were plenty of trail signs and marshals to guide the runners. Kudos to the race organizer, race marshals and volunteers for a job well-done to ensure the safety of runners especially in critical areas when crossing rivers and negotiating boulders.

The only thing I wished was that there were more water points. One runner commented that he saw more medic points than water points. Running on a hot and humid weather makes one sweat more so it was important to keep oneself hydrated. It was a good thing that I brought almost 2L of water on my hydration bladder at the start of the run.

My adventure didn’t end at the finish line. The lorry we took on our way back to Argao town had issues with the steering wheel. Luckily the driver noticed this and stopped before anything could happen to us as the road had steep descents. Despite the misfortune we just laughed it off.

It was day full of adventure indeed and I had no regrets signing up for this run.

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