Safari Zoo Run 2015 – extraordinary sights, and smells to match

By Jeremy Sng
Whenever people from university, or any non-local friends ask me what there is to do in our "boring country" - besides eating and shopping - I tell them to go to the Zoo, and the Night Safari . These are truly world-class attractions, which set the standard for appreciating the motley collection of creatures which roam our planet.
 
I learned about this race last year from some promotional material promising a unique experience set in the premises of the Singapore Zoo. I'll have to agree with that; running the race in 2014 reminded me of running in the back-country of the UK, where sheep and cattle roam the land, and where wafts of excrement pushed me to run beyond my limits, to a decent-enough 5th place finish.
 
This year's race was no different from last year's – set in Mandai, home to the fifth entrant on a list of "best zoos in the world" (as ranked by a major travel website, [http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Attractions-cZoos-g1as]) – the Safari Zoo Race takes you through 6 kilometres of a carefully-orchestrated mesh of animals (twice, for the 12-km runners). This race is no.2 of my "most-entertaining races" (no.1 being the London Marathon), owing to the slideshow of animals which pass before you. I even found myself slowing down to catch a better glimpse of the tigers basking in the sun (of course, first checking that there wasn't anyone behind me close on my tail!)
 
The greatest surprise was on approaching the rhinoceros enclosure somewhere between the 1km and 2km mark. An unmistakeable, familiar scent hit me at the bottom of a slope, as I was preparing to pick up the pace. It reminded me of a warm Sunday morning in the green pastures of the UK-countryside, of cows, sheep, and the occasional horse; of the buzzing of flies as you went by.
 
The smell of dung. 

Photo credits: newsdesk.si.edu

This scent was present for almost a third of the race, and served as a fine reminder of where you were running.

Besides the smell, there are sounds. Sounds of chimpanzees cheering you on, sounds of elephants akin to trumpets announcing your arrival on the race route, and sounds of tired human-beings huffing their way through the course.

The race started with the usual warm-up by Fitness First (think "upbeat, catchy, and thumping music"), and was well-supported with an abundance of enthusiastic route marshals. The only gripe I had was the same as the previous years – the 12km runners, on their second loop, would inevitably clash with those still on the first loop, which involved some runners having to weave in-between other runners as they tried their earnest to achieve a negative-split. One other gripe is that the route isn't quite 12km; rather, my GPS watch gave me a reading of 11.05km, which matches the time I took to run the race. 

Post-race, the all-important isotonic drink and bottle of water was handed out.  I came in joint-third position with another individual, and we won some... Nestle-products, no doubt to fuel our training efforts.

The greatest complaint I had from others was the price of participation. At close to $60, this is about $10-$15 more than what one would usually pay for a race of a similar distance. I have to disagree though. You see, with the race entry, you get free entry to the zoo on that day, and an exclusive, 2-hour-long session at the River Safari in the evening. My girlfriend and I had been planning to go to the Zoo in the past, but never quite made the trip. So we finally went, spending a full day at the zoo before the race, and had a pleasant roam-around at the River Safari after. Have I mentioned the medals given out to 12-km runners?

 Look at them. Notice the detail in each medal, notice the custom-made ribbon.
 
 
I had a great time last year, and an even better one this year. For once, I didn't take part in a race just to run. I took part to enjoy some non-human running company, and for chose to participate solely because of the activities pre, and post-race.

[Photographs by the writer's significant other, unless otherwise stated]

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