Alexandra/Tanglin Park Connector
One of my favorite central urban running routes to date, this route brings you through the breathtaking and calming estates of Alexandra and Prince Charles road alongside a canal in a straight forward closed (and no-brainer) route. The track was opened by Mr Lee Kuan Yew around 2006 and is often frequented by the residents around the area.
The route is built on an old canal in line of the park connector plans in Singapore and is not totally inaccessible but rather sheltered/covered so you need to find it on your first, the general rule is spot the canal and you are there. You can access it mid-span from Delta Sports complex, taking the overhead bridge over Alexandra road. Alternatively you can access one end of the trail from Tanglin Road – Crescent Girl School (Near Tanglin Regency condo) or the other end at Delta/River Valley Road (Near Domain 21 condo) where you will be both greeted by the park connector’s map showing the full route and span of the connector itself when complete will span and be connected to various other park connector’s within Singapore.
Route & Terrain (5.67km external park route)
My 5.67km route starts off from Tiong Bahru Park making my way West towards Redhill MRT before circling up towards the cross junction in front of Tanglin Regency and heading East till using the overhead bridge crossing in front of Delta Sports Complex. From there you will find yourself mid-span on the park connector canal route.
The canal straights are relatively flat at all times except when approaching the end bridges where the road will taper off with a slight gradient. From there I will do a 2.32km loop round the canal before terminating the loop where I started- the route back to the overhead bridge before finishing up the run towards Delta Road (from River Valley Road, Esso Petrol Station) and back to Tiong Bahru Park (along the road heading towards Tiong Bahru Plaza).
This route is the basic 5.67km route which I normally set as a “modular block” where I can “mix and match” various loops and routes in Google Earth to achieve a desired distance for training – say 3 laps round the canal and 2 rounds the Redhill MRT loop totaling 18km in one training run for instance.
The reason for incorporating stair climbs and slopes will encourage the working of various leg muscle groups rather than working on a frequent set just for plain flat running. This not only gets you better in shape for cardio long distance runs but muscular endurance for vertical marathons/stair climbing events as well. Moreover, it beats spending time for planning specific training regimes for specific muscle groups, it’s just one no-brainer and simple route which gets multiple trainings done in a go for the typical time-strapped working Singaporean.
The primary tarmac track on one side is multi-purpose constructed together with the primary park facilities (benches and lighting etc) and is ideal not only for running but for general purpose cycling or in-line skating as well, which it’s rather capable of handling at ago given it’s relatively wide width. Across the canal is an old concrete pavement beside an open field usually ultilised by runners so they can circle the canal’s perimeter so on both sides, making most of the distance on the canal’s length.
Scenery & General Surroundings
Given it’s open spaces, the place can get rather windy at times, coupled with the nice open scenery which makes running here a breeze, literally! Furthermore, contrary to the distant blaring traffic from Alexandra route, traffic here is very light and muffled on the side roads which I see do not pose much of a major running hazard for runners on this route.
There is a mini outdoor Fitness corner tucked one end of the route near the Tanglin Road exit (Crescent Girl School) catering primarily to children and the elderly but won’t be much of an appeal for those who require greater training resistance from these machines.
Mid afternoons runs can get rather hot and scorching given the open and unsheltered nature of this park connector, but is a good way to beat the jogging crowd which peaks in attendance during the evenings. The place is a popular place for dog walking, not to mention the majority of them being larger sized dogs so you may need to not only keep an eye out for them (whether they are on leashed or muzzled) for your personal safety but the landmines which they ever-so-often lay along the pavements for unsuspecting runners as well.
As with most urban canals, the canal is not exactly our version of Venice canal and sometimes can be an eyesore with lots of litter and garbage floating around. Just take it as an double edged sword- running along a canal is open cooling and revitalizes the senses, but at the same time (often at low tide) it can dampen them with the “sights and smells” it offers as well!
Most of the park infrastructure are laid where the tarmac road is – with adequate seating benches spaced out with sufficient park lighting for most parts of the route in the night. There is however, no shelters built along the road at all so your best bet in the event of rain is actually running out into the nearby petrol Kiosks or HDB void decks for shelter.
The adjacent canal route is completely unkept and almost pitch dark at night, only luminated by moonlight. Unless darkness gives you the creeps, for beginners, just be extra careful for footing hazards and oncoming runners in the dark. I personally find the dark trail actually one of the best highlights of running the Tanglin Canal route at night, it is infact rather cooling and peaceful – an enjoyable moment of Zen and Tranquility with nature.
The Alexandra/Tanglin Park Connector have both it’s fair share of good and bad points, however given it’s limitations, it still stays as one of my few favorite running routes in southern/central Singapore to date given the various running options and scalability of running routes with it’s surroundings. I believe only time will tell when the park is finally connected to the island-wide park connector network, where the route will truely shine.