How often can you say an Olympic medallist flagged you off on your run?

Well, the 20,000 participants of the Nike We Run SG 2013 can because American Allyson Felix, who did the honors at the break of dawn on Nov 1, has won medals in 3 separate Olympics, including 3 golds at the 2012 one in London.

Telling them “to embrace the journey… to have fun with it,” Felix was there to cheer them on as well.

Other bragging rights these runners dressed in red have is that for the first time, the annual 10-km marathon offers an interactive race course. This means that participants can pick their route, personalize their experience and run a race that is tailored to their preference.

No wonder the slogan for this scenic run around the Kallang Basin is:

“Our Race. Our Rules.”

But in the interest of fairness, it wasn’t entirely a free-for-all either. After completing 3.2 km from the common starting point, runners were given a chance to split into 2 tracks, namely “Follow The Pack”, to continue pounding the  concrete pavement along the heart of Singapore, or “Go Off The Beaten Path”, which allowed them to veer off into an undulatory path.

Majority of the competitors took up the challenge and went with ““Go Off The Beaten Path”, converging with their fellow runners at the 4 km mark. The entire pack then continued past Nicoll Highway to the 6.5 km mark, where they were again given a choice between “Rule The City” or “Own The Park”.

“City” runners took in urban sights and sounds (from cars blasting groovy tunes) along the way while “Park” runners embraced nature and its serenity.

Participants then met again along Crawford Street, onward to the third split after having run almost 8.5 km.

These various splits were determined by Nike, after participants made submissions on how they’d like to personalize their run. From roughly 13,000 responses that Nike sieved through, the most popular suggestions became a reality.

A choice between “Dance To The Finish” and “Rock Your Run” at the 8.5 km mark was a perfect realization of Nike’s promise, giving runners a choice to finish the race at the F1 Pit Building their way. The “Dancers” boogied, while running, to up-tempo hits reminiscent of Zouk’s “Mambo Jumbo” nights while the “Rockers” were treated to a performance by local rock band, Stellastory, along the way.

Unlike previous years, when runners were given medals for lasting through the race, this year’s participants were given a finishers tee upon completion. These were but mere tokens of achievement compared to the experience and memories accumulated throughout the race.

The first 30 finishers of the marathon opted to run an extra 1.5 km in the unexpected option presented at the finish line and were rewarded with the chance to meet the 27-year-old Olympic champion after the race.

Felix commented, at the press conference after the run, “To me it’s (running’s) always been a great sport to just push myself. I’ve always been very competitive and I just fell in love with running when I was in high school… you never have to set a limit because you can always push it to go further.”

On the choose-your-own-experience concept of the run, she said, “I thought that was a really cool idea. I hadn’t heard of anything like that before and I think that it is nice, especially in something like running, to have options and to get to choose different routes. It’s kind of just like life, you can go down different paths.”

Having recently recovered from a torn hamstring, the track star also remarked, “I was impressed today at the race, just to see everyone,” she added, “There’s so much effort out there. To me, that’s very inspiring.”

Nike We Run SG 2013 is part of the sports apparel maker’s global We Run series, which will be attempted by an estimated 350,000 runners in 26 cities by the end of this year. It’s in line with the brand’s continuous effort to “inspire, support and connect runners” internationally.

Photos courtesy of Nike