When you have 50 years of the National Service Act in place, you have at least three generations of men who have served.
That was the demographic of the people who ran the SAFRA Army Half Marathon. Arriving at the starting point before the first flag-off time, the men ran out, in the great tradition of men serving the army. This year, more than 40,000 runners joined the event and it showed, with a predominantly male presence in the crowd.
To celebrate the three generations of runners, a 5km fathers and sons race was organised and featured 50 participants made up of active servicemen and their children in the National Cadet Corps (NCC).
While a few hiccups did occur with regards to the flag off, like a ten-minute delay before the flag off at the beginning due to unforeseen circumstances, as well as some purported mislabelled signage that made participants run slightly further, the fastest of the bunch managed to finish early after starting from 6.30am, when the sun was still not out.
They proceeded to stroll around the massive race village, taking the opportunity to pose for selfies, show off their medals and bond with their friends and family, before walking off in search of breakfast.
This year, there were more opportunities for families to bond through the program Families For Life. Many took the opportunity to cheer for their kids as they participated in the race, while some chose to climb up the Spartan structures and bouncy castles at the race village.
Some booths, like the Soldier Strong, allowed parents and children to test their strength and endurance while trying the massive tyre flip, battle rope and sandbell lift, while others served field rations to give all a taste of what national servicemen eat when out in the field.
What was fascinating was the fact that veterans came out in full force to show their support for the SAFRA and Army Half-Marathon. Judy Kong, who served in the Singapore Women’s Auxiliary Naval Service (SWANS) back in 1965 when Singapore became independent, was one of the few veterans who joined the event as part of a group of other veterans who served in the SAF in the various departments and ranks.
This year had the most number of veterans joining the run at around 62 members, with the oldest being 82 years old.
Naval veteran Judy Kong was one of the reserves that were mobilised during events that shaped Singapore in the early years of independence, including during the Indonesian Konfrontasi attacks. She, along with some of her friends, was part of the running group that chose take part.
“For some of us, we tried our best, and managed to maintain a good running pace for most of the route.” Said Judy, who ran the 5km route. “We just told the group, if you want to run, and can run, just do it.”
“It was great to join the event where you can feel the camaraderie between the veterans and participants, and all of us were running together as a team. In a way, it helps because most of us understood the importance of keeping fit and healthy, even at our age.”
They were recognised for their efforts in supporting. After they finished, the veterans had food and reception in the VIP tent near the Singapore Recreation Club, where they were formally congratulated and thanked for their service and their completion of the run by VIP guests.