It’s 630pm on a Saturday evening and I’m clad in the pristine white Illumi runners T-shirt I received as part of the sign up goody bag. As the sun sets on the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival, there’s a part of me that’s dreading what I’ve signed up for. I’m surrounded by countless kids at least 5 years younger than me, each of them bristling with youthful energy, ready to rumble and rave as the 2018 edition of the Illumi Run is about to begin. Yes, I feel too old for this, and wonder if this feeling of being completely out of place will persist through the night.
Organised by Infinitus Productions, the Illumi Run returned once again to the bay to imbue participants with the power to “party on the run”. Starting off at the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival, which ended over the same weekend, the Illumi Run feels less like a run, and more like a party that’s taken over the entire district. I’ll admit: I’m a bit of a party pooper, and I decided not to whip out my foam lightstick, instead choosing to arm myself with just my camera, my phone and my lightning fast reflexes at keeping them safe from the copious amounts of glow-water they might be exposed to.
I see people around me properly armed with transparent plastic phone pouches and decked out in luminous facepaint, all smiles as they gather in groups and chatting excitedly, many of which are snapping fun selfies with the neon messages plastered all around the festival grounds, buying carnival food and memorabilia and colourful accessories to complement their fun run. Some have decided to get wet and wild before the event even begins, sliding down a gigantic inflatable as they get splattered in glow-water, while others simply take a nice break laying in rainbow-hued hammocks.
Honestly, this is the calm before the storm. It’s about five minutes to seven as the skies begins to grow dark, and MCs ZY and MCJ of Twins Gone Wrong leap to the stage and call for us to gather. The runners swarm, and the ‘warm up’ begins as the DJ lays down some thick beats and gets people jumping and screaming. Several polka dotted balls are tossed into the crowd, who begin to maniacally bat it around, and the designated marksmen begin their assault – armed with spray guns loaded to the brim with glow-water, they launch their attack high into the sky and let loose a rainbow spray of colour. I’ve been hit square on the face, traces of yellow sidling down my cheek onto my t-shirt, and I edge backwards a little to avoid the onslaught as my fellow participants fill the spaces I left behind, arms wide open and embracing the mania.
Before we know it, night has fallen and the Illumi Run has gone into full swing, with the neon lights more evident than ever in the darkness. Finding myself squished into the third wave, I’m right in front of the stage when yet another round of coloured missiles land all over me. There’s a dropbeat, the crowd goes wild, and I’ve finally let loose of my inhibitions, stow away my camera, and allow this feeling of pure joy to wash over me and forget about the actual washing up I’d have to do when I get home. The gates are unlocked, and the runners are released.
Being an incredibly unfit person, I choose not to run, but speed walk along the path Illumi has charted out. It’s a pleasant route actually, going past the various I Light Marina Bay public art installations as we catch a glimpse of each one fleetingly. Other runners are yelling, cheering and not giving a damn about the people around them as they feel the endorphin rush course through their veins, running at top speed as they wave their giant foam glow sticks about, laughing and smiling as they blaze through the night, like a spectrum of fireflies on a sugar rush.
It’s not long before I reach the first ‘pit-stop’ of the night. Here, runners are temporarily bathed in a flood of mist and green laserlight (making me immediately think of Lorde’s Green Light), and they’ve whipped out their phones to take photos and document this moment on Instagram. I’m impressed – the mist is cool, for one thing, and I feel momentarily as if I’ve entered this mystical, club-like world on the water’s edge.
And then we’re off once again, making our way across the bridge to find ourselves at Art Zoo and past the Youth Olympic Park to make it to our next stop. Inside lies a veritable selection of neon messages for more group photos, but before we step in, we’ve got volunteers with hands raised for a high five. It’s a trap, and when we step forward, we’re hit by a wave of blue glow water, hurriedly ushered into the pit stop to snap photos, more colourful than ever before. It’s an infectious energy, and when we leave, runners on their way in stretch out their hands and we high five them back, cheering them on.
The distance to the next stop is even shorter, and underneath the seating area at the Floating Platform, we find ourselves in a bubble wonderland, with an endless stream of bubbles produced for us to pop and run through. More paint, and we’re completely drenched from the chest down, and we’re well on our way to the finish line after passing by the last of the I Light installations near the Fullerton. By this point, there’s no holding me back anymore, and as the carnival grounds come into view once again, I spy a final round of glow water snipers ready to hit us. I pause, take a deep breath, and take a slow victory march across the finish line, arms raised high and completely indulging in the litres of glow water fired at me.
I may be soaked through, my entire body a Pollack-like mass of colour, but now that it’s finally over, I take a seat and watch the crowd gathered at the stage as they rock out to the beats of Taiwanese DJ Cookie playing remixes of Top 40s songs. I’m tempted to stay for Rave Republic slated for later on, but it’s been a long night, and I’m about ready to go. Stepping out of the carnival grounds and bidding the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival goodbye for the last time, I gaze back at the fairgrounds and the bay that’s now completely aglow in youthful energy and actual light, and think to myself “oh, what a beautiful, beautiful night,” before heading to the MRT station and bracing myself for curious stares from fellow commuters.