I ran a Marathon in the middle of a Pandemic

Patrick Poh
9 min readAug 18, 2021

And this was probably the most fun day for me in 2021! This was my attempt at a solo unassisted Marathon in 2021 in Singapore.

I ran a full marathon around May 2021 without any assistance (or official organisers). The way I did it was to explore a looping path so that the Start and End points will be around the same location (simply for the sake of convenience).

It was a fun challenge but required some planning to ensure safety (in case I collapsed or had a heart attack, at least there’s still a chance of passerby around who may render assistance).

Another key consideration was having water / snacks refueling spots and toilet facilities along the way.

The Preparation

I have done marathons before, so I was mentally prepared for the distance.

The main challenge for this run was safety and logistics.

I did not want to keep running up and down East Coast Park* just to clock the distance as that path has too many similar sights and the whole journey is just a flat pavement all the way (which is kind of boring).

*East Coast Park is a long stretch of beach and coastline along the eastern region of Singapore

Being able to experience changes in landscape and terrain helps to make the run more interesting (and challenging).

Section 1 — Bishan To Barrage

In 2019, when I was on my smoking cessation program, I managed to clock a series of long runs from Bishan to the Marina Barrage (I term it as the #bishan2barrage).

Although it may sound rather far, the reality is that when done via the Park Connector Network (PCN) in Singapore, the distance from Bishan Park to Sports Hub is actually only about 10km.

From the Sports Hub to Marina Barrage is another 4km. So to-and-fro would be approximately 28km or so.

Section 2 — Macritchie Trail

In 2020 (enter Covid-19), in an attempt to stay away from crowded parks and running paths, I tried out a few running trails within the Central Catchment areas.

Macritchie reservoir offers 2 interesting routes, one is a 10km loop around the reservoir (see yellow trail below), and another is a trail that leads towards Bukit Timah area via Rifle Range Road (see red trail below).

The different trails at Macritchie Reservoir

The latter path is not as popular because it leads to Rifle Range Road, which is a series of upslope-downslope which can be quite challenging for new runners.

Section 3 — Rail Corridor

This year, with the re-opening of parts of the Rail Corridor, I visited the Rail Corridor (also called the Green Corridor) by doing short runs up and down from King Albert Park MRT to familiarise myself with the route and surroundings.

The Rail Corridor is a new run-walk-cycle path that is very convenient to access and has also been kept as “undeveloped” as possible.

From King Albert Park MRT (Bukit Timah Railway Station), one can easily get to Hillview MRT in the north, or travel all the way until Alexandra Village in the south.

In early 2021, after the southern section was opened until Spooner Road (near Singapore General Hospital). When fully openend, the running path connects all the way to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

Map of Rail Corridor — from Bukit Timah to Spooner Road

From Tanjong Pagar area, it is very easy to get to Raffles Place (they are just One MRT stop apart), and subsequently to the Marina Bay area.

This route will then link me back to the Marina Barrage and Sports Hub, and this becomes allows me to get on the return route which I was already familiar with — the 2019 #Bishan2Barrage runs.

Ready, Get Set, Go!

Although there was no pre-selected date for doing this event, I knew that my physical and mental preparations were more or less ready, and I had managed to connect all the different sections, and have a good idea on where the water, and toilet facilities would be.

29th May was a Saturday with a nice cooling weather, slightly overcast initially but no indication of thunderstorm incoming for that day, so I decided it was a good day to attempt this Marathon run.

I had a heavy breakfast that day, around 10–11am or so. I brought along a running backpack with 2 small water bottles and 3 granola bars.

The start point was near Macritchie Reservoir.

It is very easy to access. The starting 2km or so will be along the pavement beside Lornie Road. This pavement has just been fully refurbished, and is very nice for walks and jogs. There is also sufficient shade along the way.

Just before reaching Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), there is a right turn into the forest trail (Golf Link). This is where the terrain starts to get a bit more challenging. It’s easier to have this terrain at the beginning instead of the end of the whole run.

The connection from Macritchie Reservoir to Bukit Timah is via Rifle Range Road, which is linked via Rifle Range Link (trail path). This is not a usual running path for most people, and I strongly suggest NOT attempting this path unless you are familiar with the Macritchie Reservoir or have a running partner who is.

Split junction from Golf Link towards Rifle Range Link
Signage close-up

After exiting the forest trail, Rifle Range Road will be approximately 3km of up and down slope until it exits to Dunearn-Bukit Timah Road, near the King Albert Park MRT.

This is where I exit from the Macritchie Trail and get onto Rail Corridor Path.

13km marker — Jelita Cold Storage (Petrol Kiosk)

The first “rest point” where I planned a toilet break and to refuel is a petrol kiosk. It is the Caltex Petrol Station just beside Jelita Cold Storage.

It’s easy to access, near to the Rail Corridor Path and you can buy snacks and drinks. It has nice and clean toilet facilities.

From here on, it will be a flat straight path all the way along the Rail Corridor in Southeast direction until the next “rest point” when I exit the Rail Corridor path at Kampung Bahru Bus Terminal.

The distance between these 2 rest points is about 9km or so.

One of the shaded underpass along the Rail Corridor
Seen at the end of Rail Corridor (around Spooner Road entrance/exit)

22km marker — Kampong Bahru Bus Terminal (Half Marathon completed)

Toilet break and refuel #2

This bus terminal has a cafe, toilet facilities and water cooler (can refill water bottle).

The cafe is closed to the public at the moment (due to Covid-19). I rested here and stretched for a while before slowly navigating out of the Bus Terminal back onto the main road towards the rows of beautiful shop-houses at Everton Road.

Shophouses at Everton Road
Wall murals seen around Everton Road

In the Tanjong Pagar area, much of route will be “run-stop-run” because of the traffic lights, which is actually a good thing because it will give you the opportunity to slow down and appreciate the tranquility that the city has to offer (especially on a weekend, in the middle of a Pandemic).

Going towards the direction of Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place (just beyond the high-rise building called “Pinnacle at Duxton” — Singapore’s most iconic public housing)

When I reached Marina Bay, it was about 26KM, the route started to get crowded with other runners and cyclists.

Going around the Promontory side of the Marina Bay, I soon arrived at The Shopping Mall in front of Marina Bay Sands hotel and continued towards the Art Science Museum.

Going under the Helix bridge, I quickly reached the Gardens by the Bay. There is a new cafe and toilet facilities and a children playground at this part of the Gardens by the Bay.

New children playground and toilet facilities at entrance to Gardens by the Bay

29km marker — Marina Barrage (toilet & water top-up point)

This is where the run starts to get mentally challenging.

Usually from here onwards, there is strong temptation to give up. As a strategy, I decided to take a longer break at the Marina Barrage. The Marina Barrage also has toilet facilities and a water cooler if you need to refill your water bottles.

Marina Barrage with water cooler and toilet facilities
Going across the barrage bridge towards Bay East

One of the benefits of reaching here around the evening time is being able to catch the beautiful Singapore city skyline and sunset from the barrage bridge and Bay East.

After walking (instead of running) across the barrage bridge, I then picked up the pace, and proceeded along Bay East onto Tanjong Rhu.

Scenic view of Singapore cityscape from Bay East

This section is now the 14km return path which I have been familiar with since 2019.

The familiarity of this path helps (in some way) to mentally prepare for the level of discomfort that’s coming up. The mind is getting ready to quit and tell me to give up.

Sports Hub (and Kallang MRT) as seen from Tanjong Rhu

It will be 4km before I reach Sports Hub (Stadium MRT).

There were a few times in the past when I gave up and simply took the MRT train back instead. There are so many excuses forming right now — the pain, the “danger” of over-exertion, the hunger, the thirst, the “why-are-you-doing-this-nonsense”.

33–34km marker — Stadium MRT and Kallang MRT

Just Keep Moving Forward! DO NOT STOP!

Sports Hub (left) and Stadium MRT (straight ahead) — with shops and toilet facilities

Both the Stadium MRT (at Sports Hub) and Kallang MRT (East-West Line) have toilet facilities and convenience stores (Cheers & 7–11) if there’s a need to buy snacks or replenish water.

Continuing northwards, the PCN path brings me back towards Toa Payoh and Bishan.

The PCN path in this area is not as well-connected as the Rail Corridor. There are several traffic junctions along the way and it’s the start-stop-start process again.

Hopefully this PCN path will be improved soon and allow users to enjoy a more seamless connection with less stoppages.

After the last major road crossing (multiple traffic light stops below the Woodsville flyover), the journey becomes smooth again and there is less than an hour of running before reaching the endpoint.

Following the Kallang River northwards, I passed by the St Andrew’s schools, with Potong Pasir estate on my right and head back towards Bishan-Ang Mo Kio.

St Andrew’s Junior College and bridge to St Andrew’s Junior School
Park Connector Network (PCN) along Kallang River
Approaching Bishan Housing Estate
Overhead bridge and newly installed cycling ramp

41km marker — Bishan MRT (or alternative is Bishan Park)

Since this was my first attempt at doing a solo unassisted Marathon, I decided to take the easier way which goes directly past Bishan MRT.

An alternative journey would be to run towards Bishan Park and loop one round of the Bishan Park, possibly ending the journey somewhere in Bishan Park when 42.195km distance is reached.

If there’s any official race organiser reading this, I would highly suggest your end point be at Bishan Park.

42km marker — Marymount MRT

Completed!

So glad that I managed to reach back without any accidents or hiccups. Full of soreness but also extremely happy that this running expedition which I have been wanting to try for so long has finally been completed!

I am definitely going to try this route again (maybe in reverse direction). Let me know if you are interested in joining me!

If you have any questions on this route, feel free to comment or send me a message.

--

--