Tag Archives: Running

The Bridge Runner

Over my amateur running life, I have been running across 3 bridges. These are no small bridge. These are major bridge that connected significant amount of land masses, or even continent.

The Sentosa Island Bridge, Singapore

Bridge to Sentosa
Photo by Soham Banerjee

This bridge is my first bridge crossing in a major running event, the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, 2012. The starting point of the half marathon is just few hundred meters on the Singapore island side. The run itself cross the bridge twice, one right after start to Sentosa Island, and another one few kilometers later back from Sentosa Island to Singapore Island.

This is also the shortest bridge crossing I did in an running event. Soon it is followed by the longest bridge crossing on foot.

The 2nd Penang Bridge, Malaysia

Sunrise On Penang Bridge

Until today, the Penang 2nd Bridge is the longest bridge crossing that I did, on foot. I joined a Penang Bridge International Marathon in 2014, and they can fit almost the whole 42km course on the bridge itself. We started on Penang Island, and less than 1 km to the run, we are already on the bridge. The 21km turning point is 1-2 km inland on Malaysia mainland, and then we are back on the bridge.

The Bosphorus Bridge, Turkey

Bosphorus Bridge

My latest running saga brought me to the legendary Bosphorus Bridge. It is legendary, because it connects 2 continents, Asia and Europe. The bridge is normally closed for pedestrian after few suicides, except once a year during the Istanbul Marathon. I crossed the bridge during Istanbul Marathon 2016.

The starting line is few hundred meters on the Asian side of Bosphorus bridge. As I run on the bridge, and I can feel that the bridge shake from the tramping of hundreds of runners.

This post is made in response to WordPress Photo Challenge: Bridge

Running 15k at Istanbul Marathon

To be honest, I seriously decided not to get into the starting line.

It was almost 7am in my hotel room at Çemberlitaş, the heart of old Istanbul. It was comfortably warm and dry, with a cup of coffee. Beyond the window is the darkness night of Istanbul winter. It was raining, and according to the weather forecast, the temperature is below 10 degree Celsius. How do you expect me to get out of the hotel and walk to Haghia Sophia for our shuttle bus? And running under this weather? Forget it!

But then, when I put my cup of coffee, I found a piece of paper on the table. On it written the famous mantra for every long distance runner: “Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever”. Yes, I came to Istanbul to run from Asia to Europe. Through the Bosphorus strait. The rain and cold probably temporary, but the pride of running through Bosphorus is forever.

Little that I know about the pain of running in the winter.

Marathon Race Expo

“So you are here, flying from Asia, for the Marathon?” Gülay, our walking tour guide looked surprised. We took a city walking tour a day before through Istanbul’s historical building.

“Yes I am”, I said.

“It is the only time of the year where Bosphorus Bridge open for pedestrian”, Gülay, our tour guide told us. “It was possible to walk through the bridge at any day before. But due to some suicide and other incident, it is no longer possible. Good luck with your run.”

Light drizzle welcome me as I open the door of our hotel. I charged forward, careful on the slippery pedestrian. The disposable plastic raincoat provided by the organizer did well to keep me dry, but did poorly to keep me warm. I was soon joined by many others wearing the same disposable raincoat, the other runners, as we walk to Haghia Sophia.

Waiting under the Rain

There was already long queue of runners queuing up at Haghia Sophia. It was indeed a different sight compared to our walking tour a day before. Not many people took picture. Instead the chatter is full of running experience, at least from the one that I can understand.

The air feels a bit colder when you stop walking and just standing there. Many people, myself included shake our legs or just move around just to shake of the cold, which made worst by never ending drizzle. To try to forget the cold, I started a conversation with a fellow person behind me.

“Where was your last run”, I asked one of the runners

“Tehran Marathon”, he answered

“Iran?”, I asked in wonder

“Yep……”, he said. Few buses pulled over near the front of the queue

“Wow, I would love to run in there. Good luck with your run”, I said

“You too”, he said. The queue has started to move towards.

The bus provided temporary relieve from the cold. We drove through quiet Istanbul street, passing through roadblocks being set up to secure the running route. In fact, I feel that the bus was backtracking our running route, kind of like a preview. We passed the bridge over Golden Horn, through the running route in Karakoy and Beksitas. The water station along the road is still being set up, including one gate of Vodafone, the event’s main sponsor. And finally, we reach the bridge, the Bosphorus Bridge connecting Asia and Europe.

Our bus stop right on the other side of the Bosphorus bridge, on the Asian side. And with it also goes our place of warmth. The fact that we now have sunlight does nothing to the weather, raining and chilling.

I walk around the starting line to look for the bag drop. Found the bag drop bus for 10k, around 20 of it, followed by 42k. And that’s it. No bag drop for 15k?

“The other side of the street”, one of the organizer’s staff told me. “Right at the end of the road”

“Thanks”, I said. Walking to pass some 30 buses was not fun, but at least it kept me moving than standing still and freeze.

Clear Sky Ahead

What happen after the bag drop is something that no training can prepare you. We are again standing still under the rain and cold, waiting for the starting time. Only then I feel that my shoes and socks were wet, soaked by the rain. Any long distance runners know that wet shoes and socks are recipe for very painful blisters. It will be a painful run.

Relieve come when finally the flag off ceremony started. We started singing a song which I think national anthem, in Turkish. One by one, we throw or disposable rain coat aside, myself included. No gun shot heard but the pack has finally moved. Slowly at first, getting faster and faster. And finally I passed under the starting gate. Istanbul Marathon has begun.

Running on Bosphorus Bridge was really a one-in-a-lifetime experience. The strait is so big, well over 1 km wide, and is a major shipping lane. Big cargo ship will pass under your feet, under the bridge, just like when I cross it. From the highest point you can see the hilly part of Istanbul’s European side, which made an interesting terrain.

The bridge itself shakes as thousands of runners trampled through, just like several 18-wheelers passing by. Some people stopped in the middle to take picture of this magical moments. However, noone can stand still for too long, as the strong winds that blow was very cold and will make you shiver, no matter how long one has run.

Bridge Stampede

It was close to 2 km mark when we finally off the bridge and turned left. The route was getting dull compared to Bosphorus Bridge experience, so I started to pay attention to fellow runners around me. I ended up following groups of runners with similar shirts. They sing and chat together, and although I don’t understand what they are singing, it helped to pass the time. Some of them have the word “Coach” written on their T-shirt.

And then I heard voices behind me. A group of runners were pushing someone in wheelchair, asking for a way to pass. The coach and his runners spontaneously clapping and shouting words of encouragement. I don’t know what words to say, so I just clap.

The route become more interesting once we turned into the main road of Besiktas. We reached the first water station not far from 5 km mark. They only have water, and blocks of sugar. I took 2 of it, and spit half of it. I think eating sugar is just too much even during a run. There are no sport drinks available.

I was still tagging along with the coach and his team as we turn into a downhill. It was a long downhill, with wet slippery road from the morning rain. Instead of speeding up, I choose to be a bit careful while hoping my knee won’t give up.

Some time later, on the left side, there are a big European-style gate. Several guards manned the security post in front of it, so it must be a very important building. My brain must be freezing from the cold and lack of oxygen, because it took me a while to realize what building it is. It is the gate of Dolmabahçe palace, the palace of the late Ottoman Empire.

From Besiktas, the running route continue to Karakoy, mostly known for Galata Tower and Galata bridge that pass throught he Golden Horn. We didn’t pass through Galata Tower, but we did cross the Golden Horn through Galata Bridge. Nike, one of the main sponsor, set up spectators booth, stage and music on the bridge that made the run more like festival than a sport event. It is definitely a relieve for the sore feet in the 2nd half of the run.

After the bridge and the fanfare, the real test of mental game begin. First, the fellow runners in 10k category has finally reached their finish line, while for us the 15k runners took another road to continue. Not far from the branching, we can see the 15k finish line, across the street from where we are. So close, yet still 5k away, as we need to continue along the Golden Horn for 2.5km, before taking the U-turn to the finish line. The sun has getting higher, and my wet socks has caused painful blister on my feet. The sighting of the finish line only make the run feel harder.

The Finish Line

For the rest of run I was running at autopilot mode. I kind of missed the beautiful scenery of Golden Horn, at least until I arrived in the next water station. Thankfully they have cold sponge, and apple! Yes, someone is actually peeling fresh apple for the runners. Whoever he is, I thank him for the fresh apples.

Powered by the apples, I took the U-Turn and run the final 2.5k of the run behind group of people pushing a wheelchair. We were joined by a group of pacers, which we stick until we cross the finish line.

The blister in my feet has become unbearable that I decided to take off my shoes and limping to collect the finisher medal. The cold pavement of Istanbul winter actually helped to numb the pain as I walk away from the finish area with a thought: If I decided to take the Full Marathon, will I be able to finish the race in the cold winter? Definitely not with wet socks, I hope.

Finisher 15k

Running the Singapore East Coast Part

Stretching 15 km from Marina until close to the Changi Airport, Singapore East Coast Park is heaven for runners. Paved road runs parallel to the coast, one for runners, and another one shared between cyclist and roller-blade. The ocean surf at some part provide much better distraction than the music of my ipod. And the morning sun rays in between lush trees enough to keep me run on and on to complete my first half marathon.

From BetelBox Hostel to East Coast Park

My East Coast Park Singapore run started from BetelBox Hotel at 200 Joo Chiat Road, where we stayed the night before. “People normally started at 6-7am, just before they go to work”, Tony, the owner and innkeeper said the night before. A bit tired from last night venture, I woke up a bit late. Nevertheless, I decided to start the run, as I don’t have to go to work.

From BetelBox to Singapore East Coast Park is approximately 2 km away, along the still deserted Joo Chiat Road. Joo Chiat Road has a nice pacing for pedestrian, like any other road in Singapore. I passed people in running short, coming from the direction of East Coast Park. They must be the one that Tony mention: working people who do the morning jog, and now coming back to go to the office.

There are several hawker center that already open along the Joo Chiat Road. People in business suite are having breakfast, either with friends or reading the morning newspaper. At this stage, I’m tempted to just stop and having breakfast, but decided to continue the run.

Heading for Bedok Jetty

Bedok Jetty, one of the place for people to go fishing, was my planned turn around point. “It is clearly marked, total distance would be 15km”, Tony told me before I start.

The trail along the was very nice & smooth. To the right towards the ocean, there are few people camping. Some just woke up, do some stretching, and get prepared for the day. Also line up towards the coast is Barbecue Pit. My friend told me that Singapore East Coast Park is most favorite place to hang out with friends and setting up Barbecue. It is always packed with people on the weekend.

Weather was nice, with weak breeze of the wind. The big trees provide a nice coverage from the sun.

Bedok Jetty Onward

The sun is quite high when I reach Bedok Jetty. Few hundred meters before, I already considering whether to continue to run half marathon or turn back at Bedok Jetty, making a total of 15 km. Although my feet is still OK, my water supply is running low, thanks to the hot weather. And then come another realization.

Singapore tap water is drinkable. And along the trail, there are plenty of public toilet where you can have tap water from the wash basin. Stopping by at one of the toilet, I refill my drinking bottle, and make up my mind to continue the half marathon journey.

I reach the end of the road at National Sailing Club. Here, the trail for runners ends, and I share the same track with cyclist. Once in a while, I can hear airplane flying low to land at Changi Airport, a sign that I must be pretty close.

Not far from the golf course, my ipod beeps. It is 6.55 miles, half way of my half marathon. And here come the hardest part.

Going Back

It is true when they say that, going out is much easier than coming back. And it is true no matter if you climbing Mount Everest, or simply running a half marathon.

The sun is higher, and the weather has become much warmer. I have enough water to get to the nearest public toilet for refill, but would need more than that to run back: sport drink rich with sugar. A relieve come as the vending machine at National Sailing Club provides sport drinks. A relieve that doesn’t last long, since the machine only accept coins. Refilling my water bottle, I continued retracing my way back to Betel Box.

If one thing that raise my spirits is that, I’m not the only one running at the East Coast Park at this hour. There are quite a number of people running under the bright sun.

Finally, after 2 hours 44 mins after I started, I made it back to the familiar green door of BetelBox Hotel. It was a great run at Singapore East Coast part. I make a mental note to do the run next time with 2 notes: Start earlier, and bring some coins for the vending machine