SINGAPORE: Running with sharp, pointy objects goes against conventional wisdom - and even more so doing it en masse - but on Sunday (Jul 23), about 500 people did just that, covering 5km while each lugging a durian, all in the name of charity.
Despite being allergic to durian (I get rashes and fever from consuming it) and being told that the Durian Run was the fruitiest idea by friends, I was game to try it out, even if I have never done a 5-km run in my life.
"How difficult could it be?" I thought, while enduring jokes from colleagues about packing kevlar and Prickly Heat powder.
Being an inexperienced durian handler, I took to Twitter before the race for some advice on how to carry it during the run. Organisers had expressedly told participants to be creative in their modes of transport.
In the end, I relied on Ms Chew's wisdom, wrapping the thorny fruit in newspapers and a thick towel before chucking it in the drawstring bag that our race packs came in. And as I would find out, participants took the organisers' advice seriously.
Here's how I survived a 5km run with a durian on my back.
5.30am: The alarm clock goes off. I open my eyes and for the first time, think this is a bad idea.
6.52am: Arrive at Ci Yuan Community Club. The smell of durian is thick in the air. Organisers say this is no kampong durian.
7.07am: Time to collect my durian! Against my Singaporean sensibilities, I choose a small-ish fruit, thinking I will thank my future self at the finish line.
7.09am: I see many people holding bins to hold their prized fruit while running. A couple is cleverly scraping their durian on the ground in order to make it less spiky. "That's so clever!" I exclaim. Singaporeans are quite a creative bunch.
7.15am: I'm ready, I think. My durian's wrapped and feels snug enough. This is it. I'm really doing this.
7.22am: Organisers emphasise there is no need to bring the durian along if runners feel uncomfortable. But the crowd is prepping their fruit with cling wrap, styrofoam boxes... you name it.
7.32am: I meet Chantel, a runner from South Africa who decided to do the Durian Run on the final day of her two-week holiday. She's chosen to carry her durian in a non-woven shopping bag.
"I often do races, and this one stood out for me. I thought it would be a nice ending to my trip," she said. After having tried durian once before, she's looking forward to tasting this one, she says.
7.47am: Public Relations executive Andrew Yeo tells me he took his mother's advice and made a special pouch for his durian, which he cleverly pegged to a bamboo pole.
7.53am: Seven minutes to flag-off. Volunteers lead the participants in some warm-ups to ward off sprained backs/strained calves etc.
8am: We're off! Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC Darryl David sounds the horn and the runners take off with gusto.
8.06am: I'm amazed by all the ways the runners have carried their durians so far. My effort seems paltry. One brave soul is seen toting his durian in a fishing net.
8.12am: I'm brisk-walking with a group of giggly Secondary Three students from Serangoon Gardens Secondary School, who say their teacher is responsible for getting them up on a Sunday morning for this.
8.15am: I meet said teacher, Mr David Yee. He registered 17 students for the durian run as a way of teaching them physics.
"I was teaching them about forces, stability and pressure, and wanted them to apply their concepts (during this run). I just registered them, and told them to base their carrier on (what they've been taught)," he says. "(Through this) I hope they can see science can be fun, and how to use science concepts for (real-life) applications."
"They all tell me I'm a crazy teacher."
8.20am: Oh no! A family, who strapped a few durians to a basket and in turn secured the basket to a trolley, encounters some issues. Some durians tumble to the ground. Mr Yee identifies the problem immediately. "Not stable," he says.
8.22am: I see a young family whizzing by me with durians in a pram. Why didn't I think of that?!
8.40am: I barely notice the durian on my back but surely we are almost there...
8.48am: An elderly gentleman clad in the same bright orange t-shirt strolls past me with a coconut in one hand and his medal in the other - he's finished the race. I feel slightly ashamed.
8.54am: The end is in sight! 400m to go, a sign says.
9am: I SURVIVED! I arrive at Ci Yuan Community Club once again, having completed my first fun run. While I can't eat durians, here's the fruit of my labour.
Many runners chose to enjoy their durians on the spot, including Mdm Lim Dece, who specially flew over from Indonesia to take part in the run.
"I think it's very interesting, and I don't think they have (such activities) in Indonesia. I think it's really fun (to run with durians) - we can take lots of pictures," she said while tucking in.
In the end, I returned my durian to the organisers, hoping the volunteers will at least get to have a taste.
The event managed to raise S$7,500 for the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang CCC's Community Development and Welfare Fund and all slots for participation were snapped up in three days.
My takeaway? Zany ideas to spike some interest in charity - not always a bad thing.