By Brian Spencer
This is where I run.
I run here every other day, religiously for the most part, one big loop and two or three mini-loops. Black running shoes, white running shirt, short shorts — that’s me, the tall white guy huffing and puffing, the one who probably has something of an unintentional scowl on his face, though in reality the catharsis of this ritual is a happy release. If you see me running and you see me scowling, know that it’s just my face of concentration, my face of battling the beer-bellied demons in my head telling me to stop, that my knees hurt, that I’ve gone far enough already, that I want to go home and drink a cold bottle of Blonde Assassin.
If I could smile while I was running through Singapore’s West Coast Park, I would.
It’s green, dinosaur green, everywhere, like a miniature, neatly manicured version of Jurassic Park. It’s a melting pot of tropical trees and of flowering plants, of whistling birds and a few lazy, lazy cats. And of people.
There on the left, next to the parking lot, a McDonald’s filled with families. Here, a little ways down on the right, parties of Singaporeans, Malaysians, Filipinos, and Indonesians grilling meats and unpacking potlucks at a row of barbecue pits. Little kids and their parents zooming around black-top pavement on pedal go-karts. Middle-aged British and Australian expats walking their dogs and pushing strollers. Old, stringy Chinese men with little potbellies jog-walking.
Down near the water, teens play guitar on benches or volleyball on the sand court. Indian men in blue jeans and polos hold pick-up games of cricket at one end of a big, open field, while on the other side bare-chested twenty- and thirtysomethings play futbol. Chatty fishermen cast their line into the bay. A guy in a motorized wheelchair parks himself near the lookout platform and unfurls a kite, with plenty of slack, like he does on most days. He’ll be joined by five to ten more kite flyers at sunset, many toting equally massive kites, some with lights and so massive they need to be attached to harnesses.
The whirring of cranes in the shipping yards, the choppy putter of motorboat motors, water splashing against the sides of anchored dingies. After sunset, when I run along the water, rats and mice scurry across the pavement; after it rains, I keep my eyes trained to the cement to avoid crushing a giant snail.
I’ve run by women deep in yoga concentration and men losing themselves in tai chi. People camp in tents at West Coast Park, though camping in this damp, humid climate with all the bugs and snakes and snails is my own personal hell. Teens skateboard. I frequently see this one girl who rollerblades at a breakneck pace, one I’m endlessly surprised the little dog with the little jingle bells around its collar can keep up with. When I’m not running here, my wife and I have sushi and beer picnics on the banks of the bay.
West Coast Park is just another park in verdant Singapore, the city-state that aims to be a “city in a garden.” It’s my park, though, the one over the hill and down the road, and I’m lucky to have it. It’s where I run every other day, one 4K loop followed by two or three 2.5K loops. Some runs are better than others, but whether it’s a good run or a bad run, if you see me there’s a good chance you might see something of a scowl on my face. It’s just concentration; I’d smile if I could.
West Coast Park is located on roughly 125 acres of land along West Coast Highway, with the Sungai Pandan Kechil marking its western border and the Wholesale Centre its eastern. Facilities include children’s playgrounds, pedal go-kart rental, barbecue pits, McDonald’s, toilets, and sand vollyball court.