Review: Viper Challenge Singapore

Making it’s first foray into the Singapore OCR scene last Saturday was Viper Challenge. Originally hailing from organisers from across the causeway in Malaysia, I first heard of the Viper Challenge from a couple of local OCR runners who had participated in a Viper Challenge event in Kuala Lumpur. So when Viper Challenge announced they were organising it’s first event in Singapore, we rallied our Lion City Spartan troops and formed a team of about 30 for the 730am wave.

No Points for Timing
Held in Sentosa, the event boasted a 10km route with 15 obstacles over “sandy beaches, hiking trails and the standard road tarmac”. We arrived at Palawan Beach about an hour before flag off. Registration was rather painless for me – flash your registration confirmation and a photo ID, and the staffers tapped a coloured wristband that corresponded to your wave time on your wrist. The Viper Challenge is a ‘non-timed’ event and no timing chips were issued, so apart from making sure one was a registered runner, I found the coloured wristbands rather pointless. After registration, we noticed the slow moving queue at the baggage check tent and decided to leave our belongings in the car. Not long after, we made our way into the ‘holding pen’ before flag off. At waves of between 5-10mins, we were flagged off roughly on time.

Teamwork is fun
Because we signed up as a team for the run, most of the members in our team had already intended to stick together and I think this was what made the event a little more fun for us. The first obstacle was a 3m high wall and it was satisfying watching everyone help one another over the wall – outstretched hands, bended knees as step ladders, then claps and cheers when everyone made it through.

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As the route progressed, I observed that walls would be a motif – low walls, high walls, side walls and inverted walls. A difference here was an Incline Peg Wall Climb. A first I’ve seen locally, but featuring often on Ninja Warrior. Here, a sloped 5m high wall with holes stood before the runner. With 2 wooden pegs in hand, the runner has to climb up the wall by inserting the pegs into the holes on the wall, then using only upper body strength, reach for the next hole to peg until cresting the top of the wall and climbing down the other side. While a challenging and exciting obstacle, some overly enthusiastic runners, before letting the marshaller explain the obstacle to them, sprinted and jumped onto the walls and used the pegs as steps for their feet to climb the wall. One such runner, called over to me “Excuse!”, before almost stepping on my hand as I was midway up the wall.

Run to the hills

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Part of the route took runners through the Imbiah Trail, which consists of some gradual steps and slopes. No off road running here, as the trail was over pavement. One small peeve with this part of the course was the lack of clear signage, as a couple of turns were slightly confusing and unmarked. But nothing too serious to steer runners onto more than a 20m detour. The trail eventually made it through to the other side of the island facing Keppel Bay on the main island of Singapore, which made for quite a pleasant view whilst having to carry some lightly weighted sand bags over about 100m.

Get Wet!

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While most OCRs in Singapore have tried to get runners wet by dunking them in ice bathes, crawling over wet sand and inflatable pools, it was refreshing to encounter obstacles that actually made use of the actual seashore. The first of the water obstacles came a short distance after the first high wall, with a a series of 1m high plastic tubes that were half submerged in the water perpendicular to the shore. You first had to climb over the series of tubes and then climb up through one of the tubes, starting from the submerged end.

The next water obstacle came at about the 3rd quarter through the course, in the form of an Inflated Tire Bridge. From a distance, you could already tell this obstacle would be a bottle neck, as the route came along the tarmac road parallel to Tanjong Beach, pass the obstacle and then make a u-turn back onto the beach. With lifeguards watching, runners had to wade into the water, climb onto a floating bridge made out of inflated tires, and then traverse the length of it. This shaky and unstable platform was constructed parallel to the shore, with the side of the bridge furthest from shore at least 1.8m deep. This meant that a growing crowd would form at the shallowest side of the bridge, leaving the deeper side of the bridge empty for braver runners to swim out and climb aboard the bridge. While it definitely was a wait for most runners to clear this obstacle, I enjoyed the challenge of attempting to crawl over an extremely unstable platform on all fours in the water. In fact, it became quite a comical sight when someone suggested “Start rolling instead of crawling! It’s faster!”

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Closed Lanes
The biggest peeve for me about the event greeted me in the form of damaged obstacles. We were part of the earliest waves of the day, so when we got to the wall traverse obstacle (imagine traversing sideways along a wall while using palm sized wedges of wood to hold or step onto, without stepping on the ground), several lanes were not in use because some of the wooden wedges had already fallen off. Making it impossible to finish the obstacles because the remaining wedges were too far to reach.

And of all things, at the finale of the event runners had to slide across a scaled down version of a ‘flying fox’ (aka zipline), jumping off, before clearing an inclined monkey bar. When we got to it, a lane had already closed because the zip line had been damaged. We heard that the entire obstacle was closed during the later waves, with runners only needing to clear the monkey bars.

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Getting the shit together
While I had a great time finishing the event amongst comrades and enjoyed some of the obstacles at the event, there were definitely some downers that the organisers might have overlooked or were not able to execute well enough.

Besides a finisher’s tee, a medal and bragging rights, local runners have over the years through being spoilt by running events competing for registrations have grown accustomed to expect race pack freebies upon registration for runs. With a registration fee ranging from S$55–109 for the Viper Challenge (the lowest priced were ‘Early-Bird’ rates and most expensive for ‘Final Sale’), many runners were again expecting their freebies (including this writer). While the initial early bird rate was a great buy, I cannot imagine if I paid the full $109 to at least get well constructed obstacles or an isotonic drink at a water point. That being said, I’ve paid more for some OCRs that had even less freebies, but the quality of planning and build of obstacles more than made up for it.

Being the first Viper Challenge organised in Singapore, I gather there would have been several lessons the organisers would have learnt after the weekend – ranging from damaged obstacles, lack of marshallers, to unclearly marked routes. However, with already at least 5 different obstacle course running events being introduced over the last 2–3 years, one would expect just a little more from yet another player.

In spite of that, I enjoyed my day at the beach. So if the Viper comes back, I’m willing to return if it’s a worthwhile challenge.

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