ST: Reflections of a runner’s wife

Featured image (above): Mok Ying Ren and Belinda during their marathon-themed wedding gatecrash. Photo credits: RUNONE

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 11 November 2018

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Part 1: Reflections of a runner’s wife

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She says …

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BELINDA MOK – Over the past 5 years that we have been together, friends have often asked me what it’s like being in a relationship with a competitive marathon runner, especially when I initially didn’t even enjoy running. The truth is that I didn’t think much about what I was getting myself into! That may be why it felt, occasionally,  that the relationship required quite some effort to work (which we did!). But looking back, it has also been such a fulfilling and enjoyable journey as we grow and learn to support one another.

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When we first got together, Mok was training to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was so committed and focused that we would have to plan our dates around his training and work needs. Because he was training after work every day, it also meant we didn’t get to meet up much. This was also a rocky period for our relationship as we had to navigate our different interests and expectations in this relationship. For example, we hardly shopped together as he wanted to save his legs for training. Saturday night dates were also often an early affair as he would have to do a long run the next morning.

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Thankfully, with the experience from previous disagreement and advice from our friends and mentors, we now have something which works for us.

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Things would appear to be comparably worse now. Mok is doing his Orthopaedic Surgery residency, which is stressful enough as it comes with exams and overnight shifts. Add in daily training and other running commitments and there is even less “couple time” as his schedule perpetually packed!

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As my way of showing him support, I would watch his training sessions, which led to me deciding to join him on his runs. I also started cycling and rollerblading during his long runs at East Coast Park. As I got better, I started to enjoy running more and now we actually go for runs together! Also, the more I run the more I am impressed by what  Mok puts himself through every day. As a physiotherapist in a restructured hospital, I know how hard it is to drag yourself out of bed to run before/after a busy hospital shift, but Mok still does it anyway. He has the uncanny ability to be very focused and determined on the task at hand, be it running or at the hospital. While this was initially a point of contention for me, it is now something that I really admire about him, and that makes our relationship even stronger!

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He says …

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MOK YING REN – The biggest lesson I have learned after being married is how selfish our pursuit for excellence can be. For many years, I was so focused on challenging limits and breaking barriers on the track (and road) that I  left everything on the sidelines. It was like a game that can never end. But I have come to realize that excellence in any field, when achieved at the expense of loved ones, will invariably by a sense of emptiness in our hearts.

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Success in any form will never be able to fill this void. As I learned and recognized the sacrifices Belinda had to make, I found myself trying to prioritize her needs in my decision making. While some might think that this may cause my performance to suffer, on the contrary,  this has allowed me to do better, both at work and running. It’s interesting how things actually work contrary to what we have been conditioned by society to expect and it’s worthwhile for all to spend some time to ponder on what the purpose of life and marriage is.

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Part 2: Her tips to make a running marriage work!

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1. Be open to new experiences

I used to be someone who disliked running – I found it too hot and dirty. However, as I accompanied Mok to his training sessions and running clinics, I met so many passionate runners that I decided to join in too! As I got better, I also started to enjoy it and finally understand Mok’s passion for running!

Taking part in run events also gives you a chance to make new friends. Unlike other more specialized sports, anyone can walk/ jog/ run and runners come from all walks of life so you will easily meet people outside your social circle.

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2. Be flexible

We have had to change our plans countless times because of Mok’s schedule. Sometimes he might be asked to go into work early at the last minute and not have time to run in the morning – we will then have to cancel our dinner plans so that he can run in the evening. As a supporter, I try to be flexible to support him in meeting his training needs.

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3. Be running together (couple time)

Our running standards are vastly different, but we still try to go for a run together fortnightly. We plan it such that he does his easy runs when I’m doing my hard runs. It works for us both as I have Mok who can push me while he also has me to avoid overdoing his easy runs too quickly.

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4. Be encouraging

Being an athlete is tough;  sometimes they may have a bad training session or an injury to deal with. They may try to not talk about it but they will definitely be feeling down, so try to empathize and encourage them to continue with their rehab.

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5. Be positive

Instead of grumbling about losing your precious morning sleep because of a run, see it as a healthy lifestyle change that you’re making. For me, I like that we can get so much done before noon. In fact, Mok usually starts and finishes his long runs so early (because it would be too hot otherwise) that we usually end up beating the weekend brunch crowds!

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Mrs. Belinda Mok is the wife of high-achiever, National Marathoner and Surgeon, Mok Ying Ren. She wears different hats, as his biggest supporter, meticulous events organizer and physiotherapist at a restructured hospital. She has grown into an avid runner herself. 

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