As a runner living in bustling Singapore, I've discovered my own personal haven in the heart of the city: MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Nestled in the heart of the city, no more than 15 minutes’ drive from downtown, lies this lush oasis with its forest and pristine lake. Popular with walkers and runners alike, in this article I'll explore why I cherish running in MacRitchie and share some essential pointers for anyone who enjoys trail running and has the opportunity to get to the park.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park, part of the Central Catchment Reserves, is a forest surrounding a reservoir. It can be accessed by a number of points although most people use the main Visitor Centre with its coffeeshop, lockers (you'll need a $1 coin), showers, toilets and large car park. If you arrive by taxi you'll need a dry t-shirt and shorts for your return trip, after a sweaty run.
Trail lengths, dependent on the route, are up to 11km (7 miles) at the longest - one loop around the lake. The gently undulating and mainly shaded trails are surrounded by the lush greenery and the sounds of nature. For stressed out city dwellers this provides an important opportunity to connect to nature.
Trails are well maintained, mostly compacted sand, mulch or rock. There are some wooden boardwalks, mainly by the waterfront or immediately after the excellent Tree Top Walk. Nothing very technical, no scrambling required.
I prefer a lugged trail shoe with a harder sole that can deal with the rocky sections. On the side trail, direction Rifle Rage Road, there are sections that have hard jungle clay that become slippery when wet. We recommend suitable shoes, packs and other trail running gear in this article here.
Stay on the marked trails, to protect the environment and to stay safe. The jungle gets very thick and footing is hazardous off trail. Wherever you are in the park it is more than likely that you will see monkeys, ignore them (don't show them any food) and they will ignore you. The occasional wild boar might crash through the forest or across your path. Just be wary if they have piglets as the mothers can be aggressive. Usually snakes flee well before you arrive on the scene, you might see one if there are not many people on the trails. Some are harmless (like the gorgeous paradise tree snake), others are venomous. Occasionally you might even come across a unit of soldiers, training in the jungle.
While the trails are protected by trees and cooler than surrounding areas, the heat picks up after 11.00am and continues until late afternoon. Some stretches of path by the water are not shaded. Typical daytime temperatures in Singapore are 32c, approx 90f. Opt for running early morning (after 7.0am) or after 4.30pm. Here, close to the equator, we start to lose the light after 6.30pm and by 7.30pm it's properly dark. (see here)
If you get hit by a tropical downpour there are numerous trailside huts where you can sit out the worst of it. The jungle rain can be torrential, with lightning and falling trees thrown in for effect. Tails turn in to streams. At other times the rain barely gets though the tree cover.
Start your run well hydrated. If you are not used to the heat (and even if you are) your sweat rate will likely be significant compared to cooler climes.
About half way around the loop from the Visitor Centre and close to the TreeTop Walk is a Ranger Station. There are WCs and a water point. Mobile coverage is not consistent across the park. Some areas, near to roads and golf courses have a signal, others not. GPS signal is consistent on the trails.
Trail running in MacRitchie Reservoir Park is a source of mental rejuvenation, inspiration and sweaty - running - fun. If you live in Singapore you are likely familiar with its trails. If you come to Singapore for work, or for play, and want to have an amazing jungle experience, visit MacRitchie. The combination of natural beauty, well-trodden paths and the peace it offers make it a great Singapore experience.
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White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, Wheeler BW, Hartig T, Warber SL, Bone A, Depledge MH, Fleming LE. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 13;9(1):7730. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3. PMID: 31197192; PMCID: PMC6565732.