Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore weekend is an event well worth the journey. One Sunday each December, the streets of this city-state are filled to the gills with runners—65,000 to be exact. This was far and away the largest event I’ve ever been a part of. The fact that I’d never been to Singapore (or Asia for that matter!) was icing on the cake.
Even in the middle of the night, I could tell that Singapore is a special place. It has the polished, forward-moving feel of a sparklingly new (and wealthy) city. In my walk from the terminal to the taxi, I passed the largest indoor forest in the world and free massage chairs. I would later learn that the airport also houses a four-story slide and swimming pool for travelers.
The four days that followed were pure delight. In the interest of not boring you to tears with my travel album, I’ll give you my top three highlights from this fascinating city and its wonderful race
1. CULTURES, CULTURES EVERYWHERE
The U.S. likes to think of itself as a melting pot, and this might be true. But we’ve got nothing on Singapore. The Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and British influences are so deeply rooted that walking from one block to the next often feels like stepping across international borders. Can you believe all of the things pictured below fit into a few square miles?
Raffles Hotel, opened in 1887, is a true holdover from the country’s British colonial past. Walking inside the courtyard feels like a stepping into a Hemingway story. Someone get me my elephant gun. . . (Kidding!).
“Chinatown” in Singapore doesn’t mean what it does in New York or even San Francisco. When you see a bustling line in front of the roasted duck neck vendor you get the sense this is the real deal.
Little India’s colors, smells and sounds took my breath away. Incense wafting from temples mixed with smells of curries from open-air restaurants Made for a vibrantly gorgeous experience.
2. THE FOOD
Every breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack I ate in the city was insanely good. I was never sure what to order, but whatever I got was consistently delicious. Even though the national language is English, the dishes don’t exactly translate. After ordering “carrot cake,” I got boiled parsnips stir-fried with scrambled eggs. It may not have had cream cheese icing, but it was tasty! See if you can guess what the pictures are of. . . (answers below).
3. LITTLE COUNTRY, BIG RACE
THE RACE! Don’t think I spent all my time wandering around gorging myself with delectable eatables. The Standard Chartered Half Marathon was hands down the highlight of my trip. There is nothing like experiencing a foreign city on foot, much less with 65,000 other runners, the majority of whom are local. I felt completely immersed in the city and its crowds.
The race started in the dark, as I slipped past the sweaty shoulders (it was 90 degrees with extreme humidity) to position myself at the starting line. After a heart-bumping drum performance, we were off.
There were runners everywhere. The marathon, half marathon, ekidan (relay), 10k and 5k are all take place simultaneously and end at a common finish line. The whole city truly shuts down for the race, and the event requires an incredible level of organization.
The weather was no joke (even coming from a lady who lives in Florida). But lush greenery of Sentosa (the island we started on), fun high fives from life-size cartoon characters in Universal Studios Singapore and the motivation that comes from being surrounded by dozens of blue and green race shirts was incredible. At the end of the race, the half marathoners met up with the 5k walkers (as you can see in the pic). I crossed the line hot, exhausted and with a giant smile on my face. And a medal of course. 🙂