There’s nothing like finding a running route, through pristine rainforest, around a beautiful lake, less than a thirty minute bus ride from your downtown hotel.
But that’s what I surprisingly found thanks to a Google search.
I knew I’d be in Singapore for a few days, so went looking on the internet for a place to run whilst there. I typed in “Running routes in Singapore”, not expecting much to turn up. My experience thus far from Google searches is that they direct you to websites specifically designed for running route sharing like run.com. But the suggested runs are either too short, too hard to get to, too hard to follow, or too boring to do. Often in my case, the places I want to run in i.e. developing countries, don’t have any routes mapped yet. But for some reason, my Google search this time around actually produced a real gem.
I clicked on a link that suggested an 11 kilometre route around MacRitchie Reservoir. The link had enticing photos of water and palms and trails and trees. There was even a picture of a map, together with an assurance that all the trails around the reservoir were well marked. I took out my Singapore map and found the reservoir was right in the middle of a big green blob on the north end of the Island. The Rough Guide to Singapore also swore to me that the green blob was easy to get to.
Well, there was only one way to find out. I did a bit of research on bus routes from my hotel in Chinatown to the Reservoir via the SB Transit website (God, Singapore is so organised it’s great – I was able to print out the whole bus timetable before even arriving in the country). I caught the bus at 6.45 am, just as the sun was slowly rising. I was able to get straight off the bus at the “MacRitchie Reservoir” stop and step straight into the park.
Despite the early hour, there were plenty of people already milling around. One elderly guy saw me looking at the signposts as I tried to find the start of the trail. “I’m going to run it too. We can run together if you like”. I declined his kind offer, saying I was hoping to take it slow. So without asking, he gave me a full description of the route. “Remember, every time you see a junction, just go left. And enjoy!”
Within minutes, I was in beautiful thick jungle, such a wonderful change from busy Hanoi roads. The birds were busy in the tree tops, squirrels scurried across the path. The path undulated beneath me, a little up, followed by a little down. All it needed was a good dose of tropical rain to make the going nicely soft and squidgy.
Though I passed numerous joggers and walkers, the trail was tailored with sufficient bends to obstruct my view and make me feel all alone in the forest. Amazing, considering how built up Singapore is with high-rises and dual carriageways that they’ve managed to maintain this piece of nature.
I considered doing a detour to the HSBC boardwalk, to take a trip across the tree tops and view the forest from above. However, it was still too early, boardwalking prohibited until after 9 am. I had purposefully gone out before 9 to avoid the worse of Singapore’s daily heat and sweaty sun. Instead I contented myself with climbing up and taking in the sunrise from Jelutong Tower. Only the skyscrapers in the distance reminded me where I was, industrialised Singapore, and not the forests of Borneo.
The trail eventually led me out of the jungle, along the manicured greens of the golf course to the banks of the reservoir itself. Here there was a choice to keep to the forest and its cool interior, or skip out to the scenic waters and brave the rising temperatures. I opted to do a bit of both. The reservoir edge was a joy to run around, an immaculate wooden boardwalk curving around its perimeter. But towards the end I ducked back into the forest to feast for the last time on its fun mud and gravel trails.
The trail markers brought me safely back to exactly where I started. And there waiting for me were some of the most incredible facilities. Not only was there plenty of drinking water taps on hand to refill my by now depleted bottle, but there were also immaculately clean toilets fully equipped with toilet roll!
Thirty minutes later I walked off the bus and straight into my downtown hotel in plenty of time for breakfast. Who would have thought such a great running route was so accessible in the heart of Singapore.
Want to read more about running tales from around the world – Laos, Haiti, Rwanda, Ireland, Congo? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears”.