JED SENTHIL – As a runner, I was a late bloomer. In my childhood and even during my national service days, I faced a myriad of health conditions which impeded any form of structured training.
Thanks to my mentors and friends who dragged me to conquer Mount Kinabalu in 2007, as well as my first 10km at the NB Real Run 2011 and 21km race at the SAFRA AHM 2014, I was slowly and unknowingly inducted into the tightly-knit running community. I learnt what it meant to will the mind over body when I conquered my first 42km at the 2015 Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, completing it in under 4 hours despite having suffered a rib fracture just 3 months earlier. The story gets better when an inspiring top national marathoner – a then-acquaintance, now turned buddy – encouraged me to improve as a runner.
Over the last 8 years, even though I wasn’t fast, I signed up for multiple races to keep myself going. For the beginner runner that I was, the shiny finisher medal and catch up with my runner friends at race events, provided motivation for me. I eventually collected over 50 finisher medals that now serve as a reminder of a time characterized by resilience and perseverance. In recent years, I have discovered the strange phenomenon of like-minded runners and friends who come together as a small group/club and eventually form a community they call their own!
Running can be a lonely sport when it feels like it’s just you and the pavement. But as I look back on my years of running, the memories were rarely mine alone. I was fortunate to have enjoyed the company of friends/community who brought out different elements and perspectives of running, which made it much more enjoyable and meaningful.
Here are my four reasons to run in a community:
1. Establish accountability for growth
Firstly, a running community urges you to be accountable and focused. During trying moments when you feel you are too busy with work or /school, it provides a platform to check in with one another and keep the discipline. While some might argue that such support is unnecessary, this the same can’t be said of runners who are either new to the sports or who see running as a long-term undertaking to improve and maintain fitness.
You also have the safe space in which to grow without being impeded by undue fears of inadequacy, receiving feedback and well-intentioned advice to improve your running. It is largely relational and a practical way to spur each other on. Thus, we know that this is a sustainable approach for a runner to continuously improve and maintain fitness i.e. growth.
2. Create memories with one another
Secondly, a runners’ community allows each and everyone to journey together through the seasons of, training, injuries, and races. Lessons learnt and shared help members avoid repeating the growing pains unnecessarily. Your friends will also be the ones who constantly help you discover and rediscover your aptitude for running, by being your encouraging pillar of support or challenging motivation. As you build on each other’s experiences through the highs and lows, it creates a tapestry of memories that enrich and elevate the running experience.
Jed running at The Straits Times Run 2017
3. Learn to look out for others
Within the communities, I have been a part of, everyone looks out for one another, and often will go the extra mile to ensure that everyone is taken care of. Sometimes, it could be as simple as buying additional hydration bottles for the other runners or picking each other up during the wee hours of the morning to go for a training run or race. These seemingly small acts of kindness and expression of care for one another form the scaffold upon which the community develops and flourishes.
4. Serve others beyond running
Last but not least, being in a group helps to redirect and drive the group’s purpose outwards, towards the community and the people around us. Recently, I got to know a group of runners who come together to run every Saturday. Eventually, they start asking themselves what more they could do with their time and love of being active and outdoors.
This sparked their volunteering (to assist children with cancer) after their training sessions. They were able to look beyond their group’s needs and serve the needs of another community, through simple acts of planning games that helped these ill children be more active. One of them mentioned that Saturdays were “deeply satisfying” as a result.
Communities in Singapore
In Singapore today, there are more than 430 running groups on record. These running groups might share different commonalities, such as an anchor sports brand sponsor, proximity to work/home, similar backgrounds and ethnic/national identities, or even have their unity underpinned by common causes or values. While every group is likely to identify with its own sense of purpose and motivation, a unifying theme that binds them all together is their love for running itself.
Running can do a great deal for oneself. Running in a community can bring that benefit to the next level and be a powerful force that drives social good. Driven by this belief, #RunONE hopes to unify and mobilize the various running groups as a whole community that strives towards fitness and social good.
Running a race also strikes a parallel with journeying towards attaining our goals in life. The next time you gear up for a run, remember that you are running as one with your community! Both in life as well as your race!
Week 9 Question:
How did the runner who volunteered every Saturday with the children with cancer, describe the experience?
Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!
While the legs and arms of athletes in their prime lose their drive with time, their purpose remains as sure as the signposts that remain standing even as the years pass and surroundings change. Similarly, the ‘purpose’ behind any organisation matters, and its compelling to celebrate a milestone and stay focused on that vision! In that way …
The RunONE & ONEathlete came together to celebrate its first anniversary (on 3 Feb 2017) with a cozy gathering of the ONE family of athletes/staff members; as well as their family and loved ones. “We can’t do anything without the support of our significant other and our loved ones. Thus it’s only logical that we celebrate the occasion together with them,” our co-founders concurred. It brought a gathering when we remember again what it was like at the beginning – thoughts that had sat on a printed page but echo through our lives; emotions and friendships that, rather than simply replicate the peal that produced it, subtly transforms as we move and adapt, as ONE.
The evening started with some comfort food, home-made brownies, and a little ice-breaker to know others better. Soon after, the co-founders Jed and Mok recapped their vision for ONE and the story behind the humble genesis, a year ago. It has been a fruitful (read: hectic) and memorable year of achievement for both RunONE and ONEathlete as we grew from strength to strength, from a team of 2 to close to 20 today.
One of the evening’s highlight was when athletes from ONEathlete took to the stage to share their personally memorable moments as they look back on their journey with ONE. As a professional athlete, the gruelling pursuit of excellence and success, and the sacrifices it exacts on them as well as their family and loved ones, can often make for a lonely journey that few can understand, and fewer undertake. If only for a few hours on this January evening, professional sportsmen and women came together, not so much as competitors toeing the starting line in their own rights, but a community of athletic sojourners seeking out each other’s company as they continue writing the story of their lives.
The team also took the opportunity to celebrate Jed’s birthday, the week earlier, (with a mini surprise that was hard to pull off given his eagle attention to details) as he has been personally instrumental in bringing the team together; and devoting time/effort to know and help each and every member of the ONE family. It was a doubly joyous occasion to celebrate a significant milestone for these two whose lives have become intricately inter-twinned over the past year.
From supporting events for social causes, participating in a host of competitive races both locally and overseas, strengthening athlete profiles through various media outreach platforms including print and social media, press releases, TV interviews and partnership opportunities with agencies and sponsors, as well as giving back to the community by supporting meaningful events such as Community Chest HeartStrings Walk 2017 as well as authoring training programs for ST Run in the City 2017 and Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2017, it has been a deeply fulfilling year during which ONE has always sought to maintain focus and clarity of its purpose – to support athletes so that they can focus on their training, and to enable everyday people to train like the elites – all while holding firmly to a social enterprise business model and ethos.
It’s impossible to go far without the eco-system. On behalf of the ONE team, Jed and Mok will like to convey their heartfelt gratitude on this special occasion:
“We want to thank our supportive and understanding partners/sponsors for their invaluable friendship, our members of the press who worked hand-in-hand to get the efforts out, our enthusiastic running/sports community for their continuous support, our family and loved ones for being there with us every step of the way, and our members of the ONE family who have enjoined us on this wonderful (and frightfully exciting) journey, as well as each and every one of you who we’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with, and, through your words and deeds, given us a hand along the way!
Much thanks and love! We ONE more!“
By Jed Senthil
First published on The Straits Times on 29 July 2017.
Most people run to keep up with their own fitness, and be physically and mentally engaged. It is probably the most effective way to live a healthier life, as my fellow columnists – who are reputable athletes and medical professionals – have pointed out over the past weeks.
Beyond personal good, what if I told you that you can run for other kinds of good too?
In a previous article, National Marathoner Mok Ying Ren shared that one should run at a comfortable conversational pace. This is a good case in point – exercising with your running kaki at a comfortable pace allows you to catch up and spend the time meaningfully.
Being part of a running community gives strength in numbers to a sport which can feel ‘lonesome’ at times. For one, it allows you to share running tips with one another, join a network of like-minded individuals, inspire or be inspired, strengthen basic disciplines and habits, reach out to any resources that you might not have on your own, create self-development opportunities for others, and support both individual and collective endeavors. Most importantly, peer influence becomes a powerful tool to spur one another on to persevere.
That is why several running groups have sprung up in recent years, each with a unique value proposition that appeals to their followers.
#RunONE, the training partner for the recently concluded Straits Times Run in the City 2017 (ST Run), is one example of an online running and training community that aims to reframe running as one with personal, social and altruistic benefits.
Other running groups, like Running Department – the official pacers for ST Run – organize weekly group runs regularly, rain or shine. They have come a long way since its humble beginnings four years ago. As iron sharpens iron, today, these running groups form the core of an increasingly active collective of passionate runners.
Other than running with others, you can also run for others. Some run for advocacy causes, others for charitable causes. In both cases, you can be part of a bigger vision and make a difference to the lives of those around us. Sometimes the output comes in the form of increased donations towards these causes, and other times, an additional convert to the cause. In either case, it reminds us to remember the poor and marginalized, and uphold benevolence. Essentially, these runs represent, on a broader level, the challenges these groups face and are working to overcome i.e. their own ‘marathon’ in life. Some of these runs include:
● The Straits Times Run in the City, supports The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund (SPMF). SPMF started in 2000 and has helped 150,000 students and youths with collections amounting up to S$55million. The funds disbursed through social service agencies supports our students from low income families and multiple-stressor backgrounds to enable them to make it to school and have something to eat. To all the 13,000 runners on 16 July: you have contributed to making their lives better!
● Run & Raisin Charity Run, organized by Touch Community Services, aims to raise about S$250,000 for their Touch Young Arrows (TYA) activities and programmes. TYA provides weekly academic coaching through their dedicated volunteers, and aims to help children realize their potential.
● Yellow Ribbon Prison Run & Unlabelled Run, both combat the stigma against and the challenges of former offenders. These runs allow participants to pledge their support towards creating second chances in our society. They also encourage us to be more empathetic towards the circumstances faced by ex-offenders and to learn from their resilience.
In more ways than one, our seemingly minute efforts can go the extra mile in improving the lives of others. Running can be an absolutely meaningful activity! The next time you sign up for a run, do also consider the social and altruistic impacts that you bring to yourself and the people around you.
Make a difference, ONE step at a time!
runONE is proud to be the Training Partner for ST Run In The City 2017!
“This year, a partnership between the ST Run and the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) will feature an eight-month running programme to prepare participants for the ST Run’s 18.45km race in July and the SCMS’ half or full marathon in December. …
The eight-month programme will be led by 2013 SEA Games marathon champion Mok Ying Ren, who will provide weekly articles in The Straits Times, offering tips for training as well as general advice. ”
Copyright © The Straits Times, Apr 4, 2017
Copyright © Straits Times Run 2017. All Rights Reserved