In future instalments of our regular running column, we’ll share favourite routes and talk about shoes, gadgets, treadmills, nutrition, racing, hashing, children’s running and much more. This month, Verne Maree ponders a hot topic.
Singapore has two seasons: hot and wet, and hotter and wetter. It’s the humidity as much as the heat that gets you; it can feel like running through treacle. Ten minutes into my first attempt at running here – and it didn’t help that it was a stifling 3pm in Kampong Glam – I retreated demoralised to the serviced apartment gym.
But treadmills traumatise me, so I went out again. Seeking the shade of early morning, I explored the banks of the river, up and around Fort Canning and through the Botanic Gardens. It took many months for my body to have adjusted to a point that it wanted to run more than 5km. But once it had, I found plenty of advantages to being just one degree north of the Equator.
By the way, I don’t miss four seasons one bit. Having lived in London, I can only admire runners who emerge prematurely from under the duvet for cold, dark morning runs along miserably wet or icy streets. I was never one of them – it was a prospect horrible enough to make even treadmill tedium seem appealing by contrast.
#1 Predictability. Every day, year in and year out, it gets light between 6.30 and 7am and evening falls 12 hours later. At dawn, it’s about 25°C and at midday it’s 32°C. If it rains and you get wet, so what? In fact, it cools you down.
#2 Simplicity. Like our year-round wardrobe of sandals, shorts and other summery garments, we require only minimal running gear: shoes and socks, shorts, vest, and a high-impact sports bra for the more glandular sex. Goodbye to winter means goodbye to all those layers, and also to wondering what to do with them once you’ve warmed up.
#3 Adaptability. Being able to run through treacle sets you up for hugely satisfying runs when you travel to more temperate parts of the world. Your body recognises the difference and responds with joy. I love how much quicker I can now stride out on a Thames towpath on a cool spring morning, along Perth’s northern beaches on a dry summer evening, or around NZ South Island’s Lake Wakatipu on a frosty winter’s day.
Even experienced runners shouldn’t underestimate the effect of heat, though – especially in longer runs like the marathon. It’s vital to build up your distance slowly and give your body time to acclimatise. Local running guru Ben Tan’s excellent book, Run for Your Life! – The Complete Marathon Guide, gives sound advice on preventing or dealing with heat injuries such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and the potentially fatal heat stroke.
Run with a peaked cap, preferably one that breathes to wick hot air away from your head. It will protect your face and scalp from the sun, or your eyes from the sting of a sudden downpour.
And be sensible about lightning storms (a lot more sensible than I am). You’re okay if it’s rumbling many kilometres away, but get out of it and into a safe place before the gap between thunderclap and lightning shrinks to a second or two.
* Rubber shoes will not protect you from lightning strike; nor do your car’s tyres.
* Singapore has 186 days of lightning each year.
* Thunderstorms peak from April/May to November, and from 2 to 6pm.
* But you have less chance of being killed by lightning here (0.35 deaths per year per million population) than you do in the US (0.6). It’s 0.2 in the UK and a whopping 1.5 in South Africa.
* Runners are at higher risk as lightning is more likely to strike in open places: on the sea, on a beach, on a golf course or a playing field. But most public spaces such as stadiums, public pools and park shelters are protected with lightning rods.
* Lightning struck the Merlion on 28 February, 2009, damaging its mane and chipping its left ear.