The annual Army half marathon for 2023 concluded last Sunday morning with their first physical running event for the first time since 2018. The run saw runners pounding the pavement from Nichol highway around marina bay, gardens by the bay and east coast park. Let’s delve into the race experience through a detailed AHM 2023 race report.
Held at the Singapore Sports Hub, the race was mostly well-organised and to run as a participant. This is extended not just to the event itself but the pre-race too. Also, the entrance to the running pen is situated near the Stadium MRT station. This location particularly convenient for 10km and 800m runners, but less so for those participating in the 21km category who found the location less accessible.
Lengthy pre race to the Start
There isn’t much a queue for the baggage deposit and you can get your bags in under 10 minutes. If you are driving, the observation is to park at the Kallang Wave Mall instead of trying your luck at the other carparks. This includes the nearest Carpark E are full with only the ground floor carpark open despite hosting a massive event. Go figure!
Strangely, runners have to make a longer than expected 2km walk from the Kallang wave mall to the half-marathon start line. You distance is much shorter if you come from the MRT station. An underpass is the only way over which formed a bottleneck to the start line.
Interestingly, just before the start line are a row of portable toilets with long queues on the blue side. Humorously I remembered the marshal there reminding runners that the toilets, though half are coloured blue and other half pink (mostly unused) are all unisex toilet cubicles. Maybe they could do with homogeneously-coloured toilets to begin with.
This is useful considering that the event large has a male demographic, it also being an army-related event. The participant male to female ratio for the 21km on average skewed to 10 to 1 participants.
And off we go past the start line!
The flag off was on time at 4:30am, with the elite runners taking off with the bulk of the crowds behind. To add to the jazz, the start point has a number of dancers dressed in bright LED-lit costumes. From the Sports Hub, it is a long and easy straight with a slight downhill.
This downhill carries on as you make you way from the Sports hub grounds towards Suntec City and Esplanade drive via Nicholl highway. Notably, the Formula 1 barriers and seating are coming up in this part of the district.
Also, the entire 21km route is mostly flat for most parts. Here, the Army’s 6 Division water point is your first water point stop near the Marina Square vicinity before headed towards Marina bay sands.
This is after passing by Clifford pier and a short stint along Shelton way, you make a left towards the Marina Bay. Here, you do a enjoy quite a scenic night run through the Marina Bay area. Here, you run past landmarks such as The Promontory, and downtown district towards the Marina Bay Sands convention center.
The Art Science Museum building area is a large and dark part of the run with minimal lighting under the night sky. Thereafter, the run leads onto under the Marina Bay Helix bridge towards Gardens by the Bay.
Also, it provides for great views of the Marina Bay and the Singapore flyer lit at night, before hitting the Marina Barrage where the Army’s Armour unit water point is located. But that is not after running part the Gardens by the bay conservatory super structures themselves.
At the Marina Barrage past the Satay by the bay, here you can find an Armour knight mascot as well as a banana mascot distributing the food. This before leading into the main water point sheltered under the barrage main building.
The run might be shorter than 21km
Interestingly, I noticed the half-marathon signage distance for the first 5km is consistently 500m less than GPS distance. However, subsequent increments from 6km are more accurate-to-GPS distance, with my entire half-marathon clocking in at 20.5km from start to finish line. Overall, the pace of the runners is good, with a constant tempo of about 9-10km/hr with the masses averaging for a sub 3 to 2 and half hour 21km completion.
Also, I saw through this distance in under 2 hours and 15 minutes. This is a time notably at a 10km/hr average pace without stopping to walk, and on many occasions stopping for water and photographs along the way.
Speaking of photographs. Apologies for the blurry photos in a couple of my photos as they were wet either from sweat or the mist from the water points. Also, wiping the lenses with sweaty hands and clothing only tend to make the lenses smear worse.
Marina Bay area and Gardens by bay
From here, you cross the Marina barrage, past the sustainable gallery in the dark over the Gardens by the Bay East park area. The route carries onto one of the more open, but boring stretches of the route. This see you running through a side service road pass construction sites to Fort road before entering East Coast park. There are some wildlife here such as jungle fowl chickens and roosters crowing at 6am before the sunrise as you make you way through the coastal forest areas.
Moreover, East coast park is also one of the popular spot for runners to take a toilet break. You carry on the coastal seaside route, passing landmarks such as the Bedok jetty, the Amber beacon tower and Parkland Green F&B park. You carry along the coastal beach before U-turning back towards fort road via the East coast park service road. Still, the most boring stretch of the run is near the 13km stretch at east coast park. There isn’t much to see here.
Of all the water points I been to, I only encountered one at East Coast park which served cool 100-plus isotonic drinks, with the rest offering bottled ice-mountain water, which is still not a bad offering nonetheless. There are large rectangular canvas “dustbins” at the end of each water point to throw you cups, with some units adding figure-11 standees for target practice!
Also, the east coast spot is also home of a few choke points too. There is one at a small access road through a forest, back onto the East coast park service road. There are some notable bumpy obstacles like a short platform built over a road curb at the east coast park fort road exit.
Performers along the run
Besides the mascots from each of the Army units, there are also some performers and entertainers cheering you on during your 21km run.
Notably, there was a cheerleading group at the Marina Barrage, fairies at east coast park and drum beats at the sport hub area to name afew. It does adds to the buzz and atmosphere which would otherwise be a rather quiet run in the night.
Additionally, the Guards unit water point towards the end of the east coast park is also a memorable one. Here, runners running through a themed tent with the smell of tiger balm lingering in the air. Speaking of tiger balm, you can find “spray and go” application booths at every water point, a welcome for relief for muscle sores.
Furthermore, notable water points includes the 3 Div Tigers one under the Benjamin Sheares bridge with tiger mascots, figurines, thumping music and an enthusiastic Emcee dressed in a tiger costume. This waterpoints is very nicely decorated too.
Interestingly, unlike AHM events in the early 2000s where it is also known as the AHM and Sheares bridge run, this time you run under the Sheares bridge at this spot instead of running over it, go figure!
Sunrise along the Kallang basin
Going along Tanjong Rhu road, I was able to catch a magnificent sunrise at the Kallang basin. You might find this route familiar to the one we took at last year’s Decathlon Run. Here you can appreciate the views of both the National stadium and the smaller Indoor stadium when completing your last 3km of your half marathon.
Also, the route here adequate for the crowd as the crowds generally thin out towards the end of the race. However, you do occasionally have to dodge in-and-out regular park goers straying into your path who are going about their morning routine cycle, run or skate. This is a shared park connector pavement after all. The CSS Comms (Combat service support) unit is the last water point before the last 2km stretch to the finish.
Moreover, at this last stretch, you will notice yourself overtaking more runners if you maintain this constant 10km/hr pace towards the last 5km. Also, you do start to see more runners start to walk after the 15km mark. From here, at least 2 out of every 10 runners pacing by the side. These runners could have started ahead of the pack. Also, the route back to the Sports hub sees a minor incline up a road bridge past the old Leisure Park Kallang mall area before headed towards and right into the National Stadium via a gorund floor access road.
Finishing line in the National Stadium
Also, the entrance back into the Sports hub national stadium is a grand one. Here, you entering via the building’s large stadium gates like a superstar. A quick right and left for the last 100m and you are crossing the 21km finishing point in no time. You be quickly whisked into medal and finisher tee collection areas.
Wrapping up, the national stadium houses a carnival area, a solider performance showcase area as well as a live stage with dances and performances by the SAF music and dance company.
This year’s finisher T-shirt is exact the same black dry-fit shirt you get on the past year AHM 21km event. Only this time, it is collected in person at this point of the event immediately when finishing your race instead of having it mailed to you. Here friendly staff will present you your finisher’s medal sealed in a rather durable thick plastic pouch.
This is contrary to last year’s 2022 Standard chartered marathon where the medal is strung over your head after you cross the finish line. Other post race runner’s entitlements includes a can of chilled 100-plus, a bottle of ice mountain water, a banana and a 100-plus cool dry-fit towel for your keeping.
That wraps up my post race report of this year’s Army half marathon. The 2023 Army Half Marathon offered a well-organized and engaging running experience, attracting both elite athletes and casual runners. With its diverse route and scenic attractions, the event proved to be a memorable occasion for all participants. Kudos for a great race.
Check out your Army half marathon 2023 race timing from racetime here (using your bib number).