The Operation Kookaburra 2012 participants started the first session of training with a daunting challenge – overcoming the difficulties of night running along one of the most ‘mentally’ challenging routes – The Changi Coastal Road. Likewise, the Nighthawk trainees who were into their sixth session of training, although armed with strong bases, would find out that this ‘Demoralizing’ stretch no easy meat.
It had been a while since we did our training from Changi Beach Park. Thanks to the early warnings from our advance parties/crew, we were able to shift the start/end points to a nice shelter very close to the toilet. The Kookaburras were early for a welcome briefing and easing into the FatBird format of training. By 8:00pm, a crowd of more than 150 had gathered for a combined training run of the two groups, each with their own trainers and pacers for different training requirements and distances.
Armed with matching lighted wrist-bands for different pace groups, the Kookaburras were flagged off first, followed by the NightHawks. Each pace group started separately, 30sec apart, to give some space for group identification and pacing. There were lots of chatter along Changi Coastal Road, and that kept the runners running as tight-knit groups and feeling quite good. All the way to NSRCC, the respective groups of runners were highly motivated and didn’t felt too much fatigue. The paces set were faster than normal, and that could be because of the strengthening base of the trainees.
The smaller group of Kookaburras were running quite well independently, although many were trying to find a comfortable pace to settle in – all understandable since this is only their first run in the 12-week program. The well-lit Coastal Road was brightened up with the different coloured lights adorned by the NightHawks and Kookaburras. After a quick break at NSRCC, the NightHawk FM groups proceeded to do an additional 8km, while the Kookaburra FM and NightHawks HM runners turned back for the finish.
The road back was a mentally challenging one as runners had to contend with the humidity, body wanting to go to sleep, the demoralizing Coastal Road stretch with poor visibility and nothing much to see. Through the various group support and peer encouragement, the trainees were overjoyed when they finally saw light at the end of the Coastal Stretch – they had conquered the full 14km (2-way) stretch of Coastal Road, no mean feat in itself.
The remaining 3km along Changi Beach Park was so much easier as we headed for the end point with much satisfaction to know we had accomplished one of the toughest runs in the whole training program. Iced-cold Gatorade mix and bananas were downed, and from the tired faces of the runners, we could tell that this one did stretch their limits, but would help them in more positive ways than one.
The runners were amply rewarded with nice wash-ups at the nearby toilets, and a complimentary copy of the inaugural RUN Singapore magazine each, a publication that is specially tailored to the local running community, something which we have not had before. Lots of exciting chatter and post-run photo-taking later, the final group of runners returned by 11:30pm. Almost all exclaimed the challenging aspects of this route, and without any company en-route, many expressed they had on more occasions than one harboured thoughts of walking or even sitting by the shelters to rest. The Pacers and Running Guides did a good job of keeping their charges moving and completing the mental stretches, and in the end, the satisfaction could be felt with the finishing together of the run in pretty good shape.
With the final installment of basebuilding completed, the NightHawks can now look forward to easier days when Pace Training begins from week #7. The Kookaburras, having completed challenging week #1, have set the tone and expectations for the remaining weeks to come. All in, it was a very satisfying night for most, especially after having conquered the infamous ‘Demoralizing’ route.