I visited Singapore for a conference in 2010. As it coincided with my 30th birthday, Ditiro joined me and we had a fabulous week. I remember how immaculate everything was and I was in awe of the sophisticated transport system, all the high-end shopping malls, the multitude of colourful cuisines and the organised markets with exotic fruits we had never heard of. My only regret? It was six years before I became a runner… so I didn’t experience Singapore on the run! This is why I am extremely excited about today’s blog! Karianne has been running for 16 years and more seriously for the past five. She’s got 30 races under her belt and her favourite distance is the Half Marathon. She’s a proud cat-mum of two and loves nature photography, reading and also crafting including knitting, crocheting and painting. She moved to Singapore from the UK in 2020 and today she takes us for a run in this incredibly beautiful part of the world.
When and how did you start running? I started running at University in about 2004, because I was putting on weight due to my lifestyle of beer and fast food! I would head to the gym and do 5k on a treadmill – or maybe a quick run around a field near my university house. But I never loved it – and was only doing it because I thought I had to. As I grew older, I developed a very different relationship with running. It has become my best friend. I now run because I love it. It’s my ‘me time’ where I can just forget about everything else that is going on. It’s been very important for my mental health. I now run 4 – 5 times a week because I want to – not because I think I have to. I’m not running to lose weight – I run because I am incredibly grateful for what my body can do and because running makes me a stronger person, physically and mentally.
What has running taught you? Running has taught me so many lessons that I think are applicable to life. It has taught me patience and discipline! I know I won’t become a better runner overnight and that I need to put in the time and effort. It’s also made me more disciplined – I have a running coach (https://www.coached.fitness) who sets me a running plan and checks in on my progress. This helps keep me accountable. Running has also taught me that mistakes happen and we can learn from them. You learn a lot more from a bad run than a good run. So, when a run doesn’t go to plan, I look at why – was my hydration off? What about my fuelling? How can I improve next time? Running has also taught me to stop comparing myself to others – “comparison is the thief of joy”. There will always be someone out there who can run faster or further – but that doesn’t matter. I run for me, and no one else and that’s what matters. Overall, I’d say running has made be a stronger, more resilient and much happier person!
What do you love most about running in Singapore? Running has been an amazing way to explore my new home. We moved to Singapore from the UK in June 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I didn’t work for 4 months so I ran – a lot. It helped me fall in love with my new home – it’s such an amazing place to live! One thing that I love about running in Singapore is how small the island is. On one run, you can run through a jungle, then through a park, through the city, then along a beach. I’ve even run from North to South and East to West. There are not many countries you can run across in one morning! I’m also incredibly grateful for how safe Singapore is. The best time to run here is early morning or late evening, because it’s a lot cooler when the sun has gone down. Running in the dark is common here. And I never feel unsafe.
If I was to visit Singapore again, where would you take me running? MacRitchie Reservoir! It’s my favourite place in Singapore. I love running or walking there, especially in the early morning or early evening when you can catch some absolutely stunning sunrises or sunsets. I always feel at peace running here. I’m a trail runner at heart and I love nothing more than mud, tree roots and rocks! And you get to share the trails with monkeys, lizards and snakes!
Running around the city is also really great. Singapore is known for its iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and wonderful marina views – and even after hundreds of runs, I am still sometimes taken aback by how awesome the city views are!
Oh my goodness! I want to hop on a plane already! What are some of the challenges of running in Singapore? The heat and humidity are tough – I’m a sweaty mess after every run! When I got out of quarantine, I set off on a planned long run – I managed 6km before I had to stop. It’s taken me a long time to acclimatise but I am now able to do long runs in the midday heat (although I really don’t recommend it!). My coaching team have taught me a lot about hydration – I’ve had a sweat test to work out how much sodium I lose in my sweat and they developed me a personalized hydration plan. I’ve learned the hard way that it is nearly impossible to recover a run when you are too dehydrated!
The weather can also change very quickly here – you can set out in sunshine and then 30 mins later, you are in the middle of a big storm! I love running in the rain, but the thunder and lightning can be quite intense at times. So, you always need to be prepared to get soaked and take shelter! This image below is actually a colour photo!
Gaborone is hot but dry so humidity is something I’d also struggle with in Singapore! What are some of the most memorable races you’ve done and why? My favourite race in the UK was always the Bacchus Half Marathon – a fancy dress race, right near my home, where you sipped on wine on the way round. It was never fast (hills and wine)… but it was always so much fun.
I’ve only been able to run one ‘official’ race here – the Singapore 10k. It was an emotional experience – my first time racing in nearly two years and I was doing it in my new home! I cried when it started! I cried at the end! It was amazing to race again, even with all the social distancing requirements! I’ve been really grateful to my coaching team to put on mini team races to keep us motivated.
I’m really looking forward to travel opening up a bit more in Singapore and the surrounding countries so that I can start travelling to race in some amazing new places.
Running in new places is something I love! Having moved to Singapore from the UK, what would you say are some of the similarities when it comes to running? Oh, that’s a tough one! Before moving here, I didn’t really think about how different it would be – but running in Singapore is so different! One similarity, and something that is really important too, is parkrun. Back in the UK, I was an avid parkrunner and regular volunteer before the pandemic hit.
Singapore currently has 4 parkruns – but unfortunately, the Covid-19 restrictions means it hasn’t been able to return here yet. But I am really hoping it will be back soon. Parkrun is a great running community and I can’t wait to be part of it again.
And the differences? I’ve already mentioned the heat and humidity. It does make a difference and you need to train your body to cope and pay more attention to hydration, especially on longer, hotter runs. My training plan is based on my heart rate, which is noticeably higher here when I run. So, my longer slow runs tend to be slower than they were back in the UK (which gives me time to enjoy the lovely jungles and beaches!) I also find hill training is a bit more difficult. Singapore is quite flat… so when I have a hill run training session on my plan and I don’t have time to travel to a place with hills, I have been known to do reps of the stairs of a bridge over one of our big roads! And finally… shoes! Shoes fall apart here. The heat and humidity can cause the soles to come unglued. So, you definitely get through running shoes a bit quicker!
What advice would you give to runners moving to a new country? Use running as an opportunity to explore. Running gave me the opportunity to explore my new home and has helped me to navigate the city – my husband is always so surprised when I know off the top of my head how to walk from point A to B. I know a lot of Singapore quite well now because of the 4 months I spent running (and getting lost!) around it. Research running clubs / coaching teams. Singapore’s Covid-19 restrictions meant that it was hard for me to make new friends – but then I joined my coaching team and now know lots of people. Runners are a supportive bunch!
That’s great advice and yes runners are amazing! What other fitness related activities do you do? I really love skipping. I started last year and it has become somewhat of an obsession. I now have 11 skipping ropes and can easily spend 2 hours trying to learn tricks and new jumps. It’s a great way to improve cardio fitness and is so much fun!
I am also a member of my local F45 gym, which has been great at improving my strength. It’s definitely helping me improve my running and it is a great little community to be part of.
I also love walking and hiking. Although Singapore doesn’t have any big summits, it does have absolutely amazing jungle, mangroves and beaches. So, I am always happy to head out on long walks with my camera!
And since moving here, I’ve joined a Dragon Boating team – it is so much fun and I love being out on the water.
Last question! What are some goals you’d like to accomplish this year in running and fitness in general? This year, in running, I am focusing more on mental strength rather than speed (I don’t have many races or parkruns to train for!). So, over the next couple of months, I am doing the ‘Bukit Timah Mountain Goat Challenge’ – a 12 hour challenge where you run the same 4.3km loop with 260m elevation each time) and the Goggins 4x4x48, where you run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. I’d also like to run my first marathon and ultra distance this year. In terms of other fitness goals, I just want to stay healthy and happy. I’ll keep learning new skipping skills, keep going to F45 and keep trying to be the best version of myself!
Thank you Karianne for sharing your running story. I truly felt I was right there running with you in the jungle, on the beach and in the city of Singapore. It’s so easy to see just how much and why you have embraced your new home. If you’d like to connect with Karianne, check out her Instagram Page.