Runners feel Singapore ready to become a World Marathon Major
The script has seen little change since 2002 with the elite runners from Kenya dominating once again but, after 16 editions, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) has refined itself into a better-organised event than ever before.
Yesterday morning's race, sold out to 48,400 participants for the first time, is a quantum leap compared to its beginnings in 2002 when it attracted just 6,000 runners.
From the dogged determination of the elite runners to the joy of weekend warriors who came dressed in costumes to the hustle and bustle at the sponsors' booths, this year's event earned the approval of those involved.
Cosmas Kimutai breasted the tape at 2hr 22min 48sec in the men's marathon to win $50,000 in prize money and preserve Kenya's stranglehold on every elite men's title since 2002. The men's record of 2:11:25 was set by Kimutai's compatriot Luke Kibet in 2009.
The 34-year-old Kimutai believes the SCSM, which has been an International Association of Athletics Federations Gold Label race since 2012, is ready to join the Abbott World Marathon Majors ranks.
The Majors comprise six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world - Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
"This (the SCSM) should be a Major. It is a very nice race and we have no problems getting drinks (along the way). My only concern is that it's a little hot here and the humidity is high," said Kimutai.
Fellow Kenyan Pamela Rotich, who will celebrate her 33rd birthday on Christmas Day, won the women's category in 2:38:31 after a late burst saw her surge past last year's champion Rebecca Chesir (2:38:48). She also took home $50,000.
Kenya have now won 10 out of the 16 women's titles in Singapore, with Salina Kosgei setting the course record of 2:31:55 in 2006.
On the race, Rotich said: "What I liked most was that there were many fans and other runners cheering for us along the way. It's a nice feeling."
The SCSM also doubled up as the official National Championships race this year for the first time after a tie-up between Singapore Athletics and race organiser Ironman Asia.
Rachel See was the top Singaporean woman with her 3:11:08 effort, ahead of Mok Ying Rong (3:16:59) and Jasmine Goh (3:20:04).
The 34-year-old See said: "I think it's the atmosphere. It's the biggest race of the year and every one was geared up. There were sufficient water points and they were very well spread out. And the weather was good.
"It's very well-organised. Towards the end, there was a bit of a bottleneck but it was just a bit, it's much better than previous years."
In the men's race, national marathoner Soh Rui Yong capped an impressive SCSM debut to win the National Championships.
His time of 2:35:55 ranked him 14th overall and ahead of fellow Singaporeans Ashley Liew (2:50:29) and Evan Chee (2:54:38).
Said Soh: "As Singaporeans, we sometimes get a little bit comfortable racing among ourselves and if that's the case, the standard will never improve...
"I think I gained a good goal, one day I'd like to finish in the top 10 or top five of the international category and it'd be really cool if a Singaporean could make the podium of the Singapore marathon."
Yesterday's event was flagged off at 4.30am at Orchard Road by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
The scenic route took participants past the Republic's iconic landmarks and sights such as the Istana, Sultan Mosque, Chinatown, Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay and the Esplanade before finishing at the Padang.
The 48,400 participants comprised 126 different nationalities, of which 48 per cent were non-Singaporeans.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NICOLE CHIA