The danger of running with durian for charity

From ‘Running with a prickly companion for charity’, 28 May 2017, article by Tay Hong Yi, ST

A quirky charity run is raising a stink on social media. In the Run for Good Durian on July 13, each runner will get a durian to run with for 5km. After that, he can eat it.

The cause is nothing to sniff at, as proceeds will be donated to the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang Community Development Welfare Fund.

…Said Twitter user Gwen Guo: “(This is) possibly (the) most Singaporean charity run I’ve seen.” But there was room for some thorny questions too. In the comments section of the community centre’s post, Facebook user Ho Shigure asked: “Has anyone conducted a risk assessment?”

The run’s official website encouraged runners to “be creative” with transporting their durian safely.

“At 8am sharp, the race will be flagged off by the special guest and participants will carry, lug or hug their durians for a 5km distance until the finish,” said the organisers.

However, no recommendations on safely handling the King of Fruits were offered, beyond suggesting that “a backpack, plastic bag, gloves or other creative ways” could be used to minimise the risk of injury to oneself and others.

Participants will receive a T-shirt, while those who complete the run will receive a medal, a coconut and, of course, a chance to win a mao shan wang durian in a lucky draw.

People have done things worthy of the Darwin awards in the name of charity, of course. You could walk on flaming charcoal barefoot over 100m, volunteer to be shot with 21,000 paintballs, or be like Jack Neo and lie on a bed of glass. The difference is you don’t risk hurting anyone else other than yourself.

Safety is always the number one priority for any kind of race, whether it’s imposing restrictions on light sabres for the Star Wars Run, ensuring that zombies don’t actually bite people during ‘Race the Dead’, or that nobody sneaks anthrax powder into the Color Run.  The record shows, however, that more people have died running an actual Marathon than all these gimmicky events combined.

The number of ways a Durian Run could go wrong is easy to imagine. Though unlikely to kill anyone since this is a horizontal run and not a race up a building, one probable scenario is that people may drop the King of Fruits along the way. A runner behind could be injured not so much by stepping on the fallen durian or falling face-first onto it and getting iris incarceration, but from a rear-end collision with the durian dropper. A heated argument could result in the prize being used as a mace to hit someone in the face, like what happened to a bus driver in 1985. Yes you could go home not just with a durian but a few minor skin punctures along the way but at least that beats a fatal cardiac arrest near a 42 km finish line. 

Common sense would tell participants that under no circumstances should you, no matter how creative you are:

  1. Tape a durian to chest while running
  2. Walk in stilts while juggling durian
  3. Or go dressed like this

Still, all these hazards are at best hypothetical. The only scientific risk assessment one could ever conduct for a race of this nature is to determine if the combined odour of durian and sweat is potent enough to knock passers-by out cold.

A pity that the race doesn’t end at the Esplanade, though.


Pink Run banned by Police in the interest of public order

From ‘Pink Run permit rejected in interest of public order: Police’, 14 Aug 2014, article in Today

The police have explained why they rejected an application for a Pink Run event at Marina Promenade Park, slated for this Saturday (Aug 16). A statement from the police today said: “The purpose of the event as stated by the applicant is related to LGBT advocacy, which remains a socially divisive issue. The application has been rejected in the interest of public order.

“Those who wish to advocate for potentially divisive cause-related issues can do so at the Speakers’ Corner, which is the designated public place for such activities, to avoid inconveniencing the general public, or leading to contention or potential public order issues,” the police advised.

The Pink Run was organised by Mr Nicholas Deroose, as part of IndigNation, advocates for “LGBT pride season in Singapore”. He posted a note on Facebook saying “people are still free to show up and run in their own personal capacity. There are no laws against running. You just won’t be a participant of the Pink Run”.

Before there was Pink Dot, a member of the gay community had planned a Pink Picnic in 2007 along with a 5km dash in the Botanic Gardens. NPARKS put a stop to that of course, citing such an event as ‘politicising a cause’. When they changed the venue later, they were confronted by the police for having an illegal gathering. You can run for many ’causes’ without the Police sticking their stubby noses into your business; for hope, breast cancer, ex-convicts, family, or even God, but if you’re an LGBT group out for a jog decked out in the most stigmatised colour this decade, you will be shut down for ‘disturbing the peace’ faster than you can say ‘Little India Riot’. The issue of foreigner import is also ‘socially divisive’, yet the Police were fine with pinoys celebrating their Independence Day in Orchard Road, though that eventually never happened.

To the cops who said nay to the organisers, gay people don’t just ‘fun-run’ like the rest of us. A running event for gays would look exactly like a flamingo blitzkrieg in their mind. Children could get traumatised. Just like if they chanced upon picture books about penguin fathers hatching an egg. Or maybe they were just trying to avoid an all out epic battle should some other groups decide to have Family Runs or White Marches at the same time, soaking the Marina Promenade in a sea of RED.

In that case, the Police should also look into the upcoming COLOR run, because it involves people getting plastered with rainbow powder. And we all know what rainbows signify. That event also brands itself as the HAPPIEST 5K on the Planet, and what’s another three letter word for Happy? I’ll give you a clue, it starts with G and rhymes with Hooray! Public order? How about Public CLEANLINESS?

Consider another popular run that involves you getting hunted down by zombies. Isn’t the Police worried about ‘Race the Dead’ or ‘Run for your Lives’ at all? I personally know a participant who paid money to get carried out on a stretcher for a leg injury after a mock zombie swarm went wrong. The chances of you getting injured in a chaotic zombie scuffle is higher than being dealt a vicious clothesline from a gay couple running hand in hand, or getting smothered by a stray feather boa.

There used to be more to the colour Pink than just a convenient, overused LGBT theme. ‘Pink eye’ meant conjunctivitis and not a lusty gay gaze. A ‘pink slip’ was a termination notice and not an accidental divulging of your homosexuality. If you’re in the ‘pink’ of health, you were in tip top shape, not ‘feeling gay all over’. With the resurgence of Pink Dot and a likely petition in support of Pink Run, we may see more pink themed events following suit, like Diner en Pink , Pink Fest, Pink Nite or God forbid Pink DAY. Parents may start to monitor cartoons like ‘Pinkie and the Brain’, the ‘Pink Panther’ or coming-of-age classics like ‘Pretty in Pink’ for hints of LGBT agenda. We’d get confused between Pink Dots and Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer walks. You’d think Pink Floyd is the name of a hot gay porn star instead of a seventies avant-garde rock band. You can’t use ‘I’m tickled pink!’ without someone giving you an awkward sideways glance.

Maybe it’s not so much ‘Indignation’ that’s needed here, but Imagination as well.

Edward Whistler Goh baking cake for underaged prostitute

From ‘Accused says he could not get aroused’, 11 Aprl 2013, article by Tham Yuen-C, ST

THE second man claiming trial in the online vice ring case said yesterday that he did not have sex with the underage girl the second time they met because he could not get aroused. In fact, Edward Whistler Goh Ngian Meng claimed he even confided in the police officer investigating the case that he had an “erection problem”, even though it was “embarrassing”.

…Goh, 50, who is facing two counts of having paid sex with a minor, had apparently confessed in the statement to having sex with the girl twice, on Sept 29 and Oct 24 in 2010. Taking the stand for the first time yesterday, he vigorously denied having sex with the girl, despite paying her more than $400 for her service on both occasions.

The first time, at Hotel 81 in Bencoolen Street, the police had raided the place before anything happened. “I was very frightened and wanted to get out of the hotel,” he said. The second time, in his Katong apartment, he could not get an erection even after she stroked him. This was because he had just run a marathon, was on painkillers for an ankle injury and had a cold, he claimed.

In fact, Goh ended up baking a banana walnut cake for the girl that day, and they had coffee and chatted.

‘Eddie’ Whistler Goh claimed that he was deprived of the ‘most important meal of day‘ (breakfast) and signed a false confession because he ‘couldn’t think straight’. While most men hope to get at least some cuddles after hiring a prostitute, Goh, if he’s to be believed, ended up making cake and coffee as if he had ordered the ‘daughter for a day’ fetish package from Miss XXX’s pimp.  Either that was he thinks he’s Richard Gere from Pretty Woman.

The marathon part, at least, seems legit, judging from the way he zipped out of the Subordinate Courts after he was charged last year, vaguely resembling Storm Shadow the ninja warrior from GI Joe.

Run Whistler, run!

In 2004, Goh took part in the Stan Chart Full Marathon for a ‘worthy cause’, raising funds for the ‘Make-A-Wish’ foundation. In the 2006 Sentosa Race, he was running in support of the Club Rainbow charity, completing the 10 km all-terain run in 58 minutes. Ironically, both ‘Make-A-Wish’ and Club Rainbow are charities for CHILDREN and YOUTHS suffering from a range of chronic and potentially life-threatening diseases. Well I suppose a teen who goes around selling her body to men old enough to be her father DOES need some serious help, though I doubt a banana walnut cake over coffee would persuade her to get back to her studies instead of pursuing a life of lucrative though wanton decadence.

As CEO of the Ed Whistler International group, Goh seems like a prolific giver, raising tens of thousands for children’s cancer, muscular dystrophy and senior citizens by running all over the place, which makes his conviction somewhat surprising at first glance. Not so much that he has portrayed himself as a kind, generous savior to young innocent children (primary school principals and priests are guilty too), but that he even has the time or energy to have sex at all. Still, I wonder how the recipients of Goh’s contributions would feel if he indeed were found guilty of having sex with a 17 year old girl. For a guy this busy, maybe he has a point about the detrimental effects of skipping breakfast (and libido-killing marathons) after all.

Eye-candy male pacers in Shape Run

From ‘Change of pace for Shape Run’, 21 June 2012, article by Chan U-Gene, ST

ONE of Singapore’s women-only runs is getting – for the first time – a shot of testosterone. This year’s Shape Run will introduce 30 male runners as pacers – chosen not only for their running abilities but also their pin-up looks.

Ms Diana Lee, general manager of fashion and beauty at Singapore Press Holdings, the organiser, said: ‘This is a chance for women to chase the guys for a change. It’s to introduce a fun element, to provide ‘eye candy’ for the runners.’

…Jason Tan, 38, is hoping to use the communication skills he developed from his six years in the insurance industry to engage the runners. The financial services manager, who has completed more than five marathons, said: ‘Talking to people is part and parcel of my life. I want to lift their spirits by greeting them in the morning, exchanging high-fives, and also by singing songs during the run.’

Most female runners are receptive to the novel idea. Human relations officer Audrey Huang, 29, said: ‘I’ll be running at my own pace. Unless they are eye candy, then maybe I’ll run faster.’

But there are a few women who are less than impressed. Ms Erika Keilig, 40, said that while she is fine with running alongside the men, some women preferred to keep women-only events, well, only for women. These women feel more comfortable running with members of the same sex, she said.

Avid marathoner Anne Date, 31, said: ‘If it’s a women’s race, then it’s a women’s race. It’ll be nice for women to be independent of men sometimes.’

Got to catch ’em all!

Good looks or not, these guys have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to strut about providing cheerleading services, but have to make sure that they don’t look out of ‘shape’ themselves, considering that they have 18 year old professional Kenyan runners in their midst, one of whom won last year’s 10km event. The annual Shape run is serious business, which explains why the intrusion of a few good men  into an exclusive marathon may be regarded by the more ambitious runners as a damper on their crowning achievement.  Some women are particularly bothered if boyfriends or husbands scamper uninvited in women’s only events taking snapshots of their partners. If there’s anyone who should feel stressed by this idea, it’s the pacers themselves. Imagine the pressure of having to keep the enthusiasm, high-fives and stamina up in front of thousands of women, some possibly as old as their mothers who can brisk walk faster than most NSmen can run 2.4 km for IPPT. Imagine facing the wrath of angry feminists who would toss used paper cups at you given the chance. It’s not an easy job, girls.

Who knows what this potent COCKtail of marathon running (itself a risk factor for sudden death) and sweaty hot bods would do to everyone involved in the event. Distractions and discomfort aside, if I were the organiser I would be extra wary about people collapsing, if not the eye candy themselves for over-enthusing, but women whose desperate hearts flutter easily at the sight of six-pecs and tight buns, or those over-exerting themselves running away from pacers like Jason Tan singing like they were leading a BMT road march ( Purple Light, anyone?). Any woman running beyond her capacity under the influence of hunky pacers risks injuries like patellofemoral pain syndrome. Any man who runs beyond his capacity just to impress a woman risks an unscheduled visit to the morgue.

Even if your timing remains unaffected by the presence of men as gratuitous sex objects, there’s nothing like a brawny dude getting in the way of some serious female bonding. A ladies only run is essentially a mahjong session or high tea for the active, sociable woman, and throwing in a man in the fray is like having the husband budging in asking when dinner is ready. Men have their motor shows, soccer bars, and online vice rings, why not leave the ladies alone with some ‘we-time’? On the other hand, putting sexy chicks in a mostly male marathon to man water stations like they straddle cars at motor shows may see less records being broken because of rubbernecking, but could potentially save a life or two if catching a glimpse of a real RACE queen means slowing down and queuing up for a drink (and drinking very slowly too).

Being a male pacer isn’t as lucrative as posing as a glorified gigolo or Chippendale in ‘host bars’, where men  are subject to bids like cattle in a beef auction, not only having to wiggle their way into a tai-tai’s heart but wear garlands around their necks like cowbells. If you insist on subjecting yourself to ogling, might as well make some good money while at it. Otherwise you’re just an Abercrombie stooge with running shoes.

Death at the finishing line of StanChart marathon

From ’21 year old dies after StanChart half-marathon’, 4 Dec 2011, article by Jeanette Tan in Sgyahoo news.

A young man died after competing in the Standard Chartered (StanChart) half-marathon in Singapore on Sunday morning. According to a statement from the StanChart marathon organising committee, the Chinese runner, whom they declined to identify, was 21 years old, and had collapsed after finishing the 21km race at the Padang at about 8:30am.

He was attended to immediately and sent to Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where he died an hour after he collapsed.

With 65000 runners stampeding the city area, some casualties would be expected, but something has to give when otherwise healthy individuals collapse after completing punishing distances and die even when attended to immediately. Ironically, such a fatal outcome is in accordance to what legend says of the first marathon ever run in Athens. In 490 BC, a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran from the town of Marathon to Athens, a distance of 24 miles, or 38km (close to a FULL marathon), delivered the momentous message ‘Victory!’,  then collapsed and died. As much as completing a race comes with the addictive rush of conquest and satisfaction, under no circumstances should marathons end up as Greek-tragedy martyrdoms.

In 2007, a 25 year old army captain Ho Si Qiu perished after completing the same distance in the Singapore Bay Run, or Army Half-Marathon, collapsing at the finish line around 7 am.  Resuscitative measures were administered immediately but Ho still died about half an hour later. More than a decade earlier in 1986, veteran runner Tan Bok Lim, 52, collapsed of  heart attack at the 21 km mark as well, eerily around the same time as the latest StanChart victim, 8.30 am. He was given CPR by doctors who happened to be in the race as well, but to no avail. Wouldn’t it be a safer bet if these people just looped a dozen times around Singapore General Hospital instead, considering that zapping their chests with defibrillators in this instance merely delayed the inevitable?

The risk of dying from a strenuous long-distance run is still pretty rare. You’re probably more likely to be trampled to death at a Natas travel fair or IT show.  The jury is out as to what is it exactly about prolonged exercise that puts the heart out of commission. But aside from the masochistic pleasure of physical abuse, these runners were also pressured to excel in their race, which could add to existing cardiac stress.  You see similar deaths occurring outside marathons in a ‘rite of passage’ that is the bane of NSmen everywhere, the treacherous IPPT 2.4km walk/run.

Earlier this year, an SAF regular died at the halfway mark of the 2.4 km run during his IPPT. In the 2000s there have been at least 3 reported cases of army personnel dying after the same event. In rare cases, you don’t even need to run to collapse; in 2008, a recruit collapsed after doing chin-ups. Before the lethal IPPT, fitness tests were already killing NSmen. In 1978, a private with an existing cardiac infection died during a 10km run (though we should be thankful we don’t run such distances anymore). So here’s a chilling fact, you’re more likely to die from an IPPT test than a 21 km half-marathon, and in most cases without even a Bronze award  as a legacy of your sacrificial efforts.

Death is no joking matter of course, but here’s an unfortunate headline taken from the blog on the StanChart months before the event: ‘Never say die in the marathon this December’. It’s likely that a ‘never-say-die’ attitude is partly responsible for this marathoner’s death here.  People who genuinely ‘feel like dying’ during the run MUST be taken out of the race altogether for their own safety, instead of soldiering on as if the fate of the world depended on it.  In the wake of this terrible incident, organisers and the medical circle should all work towards ‘Never die in a marathon’ instead.

Cheerleaders had absolutely no enthusiasm

From ‘Improve premier marathon’, 18 Dec 2010, ST Forum online

(Kartik Krishnamurthy): THIS year’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) was one of the worst organised marathons I have ever run. There were several reasons why this was so:

1. Cheerleading: It was a sorry excuse for cheerleading during the most gruelling period of the race – 8am onwards, when the sun was out. Some of the cheerleading tents had two, maximum four, people who had absolutely no enthusiasm. In fact, in some tents, people were just sitting, chatting with one another other, talking on their phones or even sleeping.

2. Running through the Marina Bay Golf Course: By the time the majority of runners reached this part of the run (around 28km), the sun was beating down hard on the concrete surface and there was just one drinking station along the way. The openness of the area (no trees for shade) and the heat off the concrete made it extremely difficult.

3. Drinking stations: In other parts of the world, volunteers stand on the outside of the drink tables, holding the glasses in their hands, so that runners can grab them on the go and not have to walk to the table, and push and shove to get a drink. It also ensures that runners continue with their momentum.

Just as Singapore will never have a football culture, likewise we will never produce excellent marathoners, for the very reason that we find it too hot, we’re spoilt, and we can’t reach our peak performance without having volunteers egging us on with shallow encouragement. Spare a thought for drink station volunteers, Kartik, especially if you’re talking about a record breaking 60000 runners. Not only do they have to endure the blistering heat, now they’re expected by runners the likes of you to perform butler services in addition to picking up your trash after you’re done with your sip of water. As for marathon conditions, the heat is really no excuse and people should jolly know what they’re getting into whenever they pay money to be physically tormented. I mean, just look at the Kenyans. Does anyone ever hear of them complaining about drink stations (Do they even need them?), or heat emanating concrete surfaces and ‘no trees for shade’? Really, the very act of grumbling during a run itself is sure to slow anyone down, which is fine if you’re not at that level of competitiveness and are one of those 60000 and counting people deceived into thinking long distance running is some kind of recreation of sorts. But if your lifelong dream is to be among the top 100’s of every international marathon there is, I’m afraid whining about cheerleaders with absolutely no enthusiasm will get you absolutely nowhere. Singapore has been hot ever since the end of the Ice Age, so blaming the weather for poor runs is just a case of abysmal sportsmanship, and it’s not like you could do anything about it anyway, short of airconditioning 42km of marathon route and having bubbly pom-pom girls spur you on every 5 km or so. Similar sentiments in this letter ‘It was a hot marathon’ dated 6 Sept 1984.