Ready, steady, MONKEY

Since landing on this little Red Dot some 54 months ago, I’ve completed several organised running events, as you will know if you’ve followed the trials here, here and here. Oh, and one [disastrous] hash run, here.

These days I manage little hobbles around the locale, lightly holding the flab at bay but really not in keeping with any great sporting occasion. When Mr PC suggested we all take part in a small 2.5k family jog around the zoo I was all over it.

Training would be easy, since I was already covering the small distance involved. For Jonah it was harder, as his current pre-teen weekend schedule involves spending as much time as he can welded to the sofa, stuck to phone, computer, X-Box [enter any other kind of electronic gadget here] doing his best to avoid all things Fitness related. We managed to lever him out the door for just two training runs before the event and to start with he was out of shape. The first attempt involved me actually overtaking him and the second was happier since it ended with a roti canai breakfast and a hot chocolate on the way home. Bribery goes a long way in our house.

By the time the zoo run came round he was good to go, though predictably moody at being dug out of bed so early. We set off after Mr PC, whose longer 10K run started at 7am. He met us at the zoo gates amidst the predictable honking and hooting, loudspeaker shouting, warm-up nonsense and bass beats herding wave after wave of blue T-shirt participants into the pig pen and off on various running stages – 10k, 5k, then ours.

We filed into the starting bay; for Jonah this was a very busy first run and I could see he was apprehensive, but the pumping music soon got the adrenline going and we pushed through to the very front of the start line, checking behind to see how many people might overtake us – hundreds, from the looks of it, but fortunately they promised to start us off in waves so we wouldn’t be trampled from the rear.

“Stay with me if you can,” I said, “but don’t worry if you feel like going faster.” HONK went the starter and into the zoo we trotted, waving as we passed Mr PC who filmed us. When you play it back you can see how many people there were; at that point I’m doing a stately trot and there’s Jonah, purposefully edging forward. Fast forward around the corner and you’d see him suddenly kick it up a notch, at which point it very much became a race for Jonah, not a run.

It’s well known that in Singapore many people sign up to organised running events to enjoy a nice wander through whatever venue is on offer. Because of its position, this one was popular and there were packs of slow walkers, elderly ladies with handbags, and lots of family prams, all of which must have made Jonah feel Olympian. “Stick to the right!” I shouted as we passed a slow group clustered around the lion enclosure, and “pace yourself!” as his bandy legs did fast circles around a tight corner. It soon became clear that he wasn’t in such bad shape after all. “You go on” I panted to his back as he edged away from me and legged it past the tapir pen. “I’ll see you at the end!” I wailed, and he did a funny little backwards wave and was off, and as far as ‘Team Partly Cloudy’ went that was that – solo runners trotting separately through the semi-empty morning pathways under the palms.

Due to our fast start my ‘style’ (s.l.o.w.) was all out of kilter. I overtook several slower runners but many others overtook me. At times I was a lone jogger, relishing the chance to see zebras munching leaves, elephants taking a morning bath in the reservoir, stumpy gorillas up trees and a cheetah sitting very upright on a rock. A massive free-flying stork dive-bombed me as I pegged along the path underneath it. It was hilly and I was out of breath but even so this had to be the best venue ever for a run; also the most bonkers.

I’d been a bit worried about the noise at the start line, concerned that it might be upsetting for the animals, but once inside the zoo all was peace and calm. Runners don’t make a lot of noise when you think about it, just a patter of trainer on tarmac (and a spot of heavy wheezing from slow-coaches like me). Having been able to follow Jonah for a bit there was soon no trace of him. Was he OK, had he noticed where the path split into two different routes? I was sure he’d be fine, and I only hoped he’d spot some of the wildlife surrounding us.

A finish line is always a wonderful sight. As this one hove into view just beyond an entire family of pink-bottomed monkeys, there was Mr PC and a very sweaty Jonah, holding up a wet paw to high-five me.

“Yay,” I panted with the smallest bit of breath I had left, “you made it!”

“Actually Mum,” said the new runner in the family, “I came second.”

Jonah’s clearly got a new niche sport to follow but I think I’m all set to retire from organised events. I might just buy a ticket next time I want to visit the zoo.

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