The loop around MacRitchie (pronounced stressing the first and third syllable) reservoir is one of my favourite trails in Asia. It’s also pretty popular among the Singapore running community, so I’m not spilling any secrets writing about it.
Named after Southhampton-born James MacRitchie, who oversaw its construction in the late 19th century, the “lake” is the oldest freshwater reservoir on the island.
Surrounded by primary rainforest, it’s a green oasis in a concrete jungle of ever denser and higher construction. Slightly elevated boardwalks run along most of its shoreline and make it easily accessible. There’s also a dirt track circling the lake, likely the longest continuous stretch of natural trail anywhere in Singapore. It forms a welcome break from the joint-crushing asphalt on most other running tracks.
Old and young flock here to hike, walk or run. The MacRitchie Tree Top Walk is a must-visit in any tourist itinerary. A kayak rental awaits those who want to get out on the water. Needless to say, it gets crowded quickly. Therefore, the best time to come is early in the morning. And the best best time is before sunrise on a weekday.
Monday 6:15am, we walk a few minutes from the car park to the edge of the forest, where the trail begins. With our headlamps illuminated, we carefully jog on the uneven jungle trail. There’s an eery rustling in the woods as nature slowly awakens. With every kilometre, the contours become more visible, and half an hour in, we turn off our lamps.
After a short stretch on the road, passing a ranger station, the trail leads back into the forest. The moment I step on another stretch of boardwalk, a wild boar skirts across. It effortlessly passes the wooden structure no more than half a metre in front of me and quickly disappears on the other side.
I continue running. When realization sets in a few moments later, I contemplate the consequences of being knocked over by a boar weighing at least as much as me running at full steam. Instead, I quickly focus on happier thoughts again. I watch the sun rise over the lake in front of me and pace on.
My experience with the monkeys living in the forest is more pleasant. They’ll happily mind their own business if you don’t tempt them by bringing food with you.
The parent monkeys look out for their tiny offspring crossing the trail. We observe each other curiously but from a distance.
The park has become busy as we finish the loop. These are the golden moments of the Singaporean day, a small window of time where the sun is nice and warm before it becomes scorching hot just a mere half an hour later.
We do some stretches and take a shower. Then, we find ourselves a breakfast treat and get ready for work. It’s 9am, and we already feel accomplished.
Later, I might want to take an afternoon nap, though.