9 Dec 2018 – The weatherman told us it would be one of the coolest Decembers Singapore has seen recently. Expect showers, they said. Just not in the morning, we hoped. There is a fine line between comfortably cool, perhaps with a slight drizzle, and uncomfortably cats-and-dogs wet. Like the line that serious athletes who push their limits must (eventually) learn to run – too much and you risk blowing up; too gentle and you do not leave your mark. It is a calculated risk that athletes hone over their months and years of preparation.
On a particular December morning for the past 17 years, it is a drill well rehearsed that see throngs of runners take to the streets of Singapore for the marquee running event on Singapore’s race calendar. Among the close to 50,000 who turned up in this year’s Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM), a few seek to race the clock and the shadows of yesterdays. But against the backdrop of gearing up for the World Marathon Majors, what made this year’s SCSM extra special, is the number of new faces and rising stars on the circuit.
SCSM Day 1 – 10km Men’s and Women’s Race
In the 10km race category, Vanja Cnops, a Belgian-based researcher in Singapore, won the female race with a time of 40:07. She is no stranger to the podium, having most recently won the King of the Trails 4 female’s race! Goh Chui Ling was the top-ranked Singaporean female runner who came in 3rd with a time of 41:56, marking an improvement of over a minute from her results at the Great Eastern Women’s 10km race, where she also came in 3rd with a timing of 43:00. The rising track star (who trained for the race under former SA Technical Director, Volker Herrmann) shared with RunONE, that this would likely be her last 10km race as she turns her focus back towards the track season, which will get underway soon. Due to a lack of varied terrain for running in Singapore, it is not uncommon for track runners to diversify and switch up their training by either going into road, or trail, races, during the track offseason.
Separately, in the 10km Men’s category, ActiveSG athlete Shobib Marican was the top-ranked Singaporean, winning the silver with a time of 35:58. Shobib trains under coach Steven Quek, whose training ethos is based on a firm belief in consistency. In a short post-race interview with RunONE, Shobib felt that the familiarity earned through hard training gives him a certain level of confidence heading into the race – that the hard work is in the bag. One change that he liked about this year’s SCSM, was the reduction in bottle-neck as the race turned into a 2-day event with the half and full marathon event separated from the 10km. This allowed the 10km racers to better focus on executing their race.
SCSM Day 2 – Half and Full Marathon Men’s and Women’s Race
With the majority of race participants signing up for the half and full marathon, excitement was almost always certain to build up towards day 2, as the finale of this SCSM weekend.
ONEathlete & Under Armour Ambassador Banjamin Quek finished 3rd in the Local Men’s Half Marathon category with a time of 1:22 under trying circumstances.
Speaking to The Straits Times & RunONE at the end of the whole ordeal, Banja felt that the route was ‘good but tough’. He thought that the organisers could have done better by having more water points along the highways and better management of the human traffic who were leaving the race village, as evident from the long queues and crowd bottleneck observed.
Banja also wants to acknowledge and thank the prompt medical attention he received when he nearly collapsed after crossing the finish, a sign that the organizers have paid strong emphasis and close heed to safety issues following earlier race-related fatalities.
In the Full Marathon category, last year’s Men’s Champion Soh Rui Yong defended his title by winning with a time of 2:41:49. Trackstar Athletics’s Mohd Iskandar (2:49:46) who finished 5th Local in 2017, and Giebert Foo (2:54:14) etched into the Men’s top 3 to end the year with a well-deserved blast.
Newer faces on the podium, and more local runners in the sub-3 hour timings displayed the rising competitiveness of the local marathon circuit. Several others include Ho Ghim Khoon (2:56:02, 5th), and Tan Wei Jie (2:59:01, 8th) were also hopeful nominees who started off from the Elite Pen. Another notable young star is Daniel Leow who trains with the Singapore Shufflers and made a remarkable 38 minutes improvement over his 2017 results!
Giebert Foo’s SCSM2017 Ekiden Team, Victorious Secret Angels, retained their 2nd position in 2018, with the 5th and last runner, Soh Hua Qun speeding through to finish with a time of 2:44:46.
ONEathlete Evan Chee finished in 4th place with a time of 2:55:00, narrowly missing out on the podium by just under 1 minute while Ashley Liew suffered in the latter half of the race to finish in 3:09. Having won the SCMS in 2012 and coming in 2nd last year, it was clearly not his best performance by a large margin.
While this year’s preparation was largely similar to previous years, Ashley had tried incorporating minor tweaks in this year’s SCSM lead-up by racing more short distance events. Nonetheless, with his 2:41 finish at the Tokyo Marathon earlier in Feb 2018, Ashley remains the second fastest Singaporean over the Marathon distance this year. The upcoming offseason will provide an ideal window for Ashley to rethink his training and race strategies, and regroup before the 2019 season.
Before the race, Evan had set his focus on a singular goal and that is to improve upon his 2017 results by snagging a season-best finish quicker than his Gold Coast Marathon result of 2:51. Training was definitely different this year as Evan had to lay off running while recovering from injury for good part of the year since Jan. Mileage remained low throughout most of 2018 until the 2 months leading up to SCSM, when he finally managed to put in consistent weekly mileage above 100km.
As a result, Evan has had to adjust his race execution by focusing more on execution and good pacing strategy for this year. In the end, he managed to secure a 4th place finish in a highly competitive event like SCSM, which also doubled up as the National Championship for the 2nd year running.
Making the podium for the Women’s Marathon was, Dr Lim Baoying who was not an elite runner (starting from Pen A) emerged as the surprise winner with a time of 3:16:36; 2017 defending women’s champion, Rachel See, was strong through the first 30km of the race with an average pace of 4:25min/km and had to dig deep in the closing kilometres of the race to finish 2nd at 3:18:36. He Xiuying rounded up the podium with a very respectable finish of 3:18:57.x
Evan’s sister, Yvonne Elizabeth Chee, also competing in the elite female category for the first time, finished in 4th place with a time of 3:25. She had skipped the 2017 Marathon post-pregnancy, and geared her way into ‘her special spot’. The civil servant and mother of two also thanked her husband, who ‘made it possible’ by taking care of their children to afford her precious time away for her training runs. Singapore’s marathon Olympian, Neo Jie Shi came in 5th at 3:27:31.
With the conclusion of SCSM 2018, the hectic running season in Singapore comes to a pause as we, runners and spectators alike, usher in the festive season and a time to share with our loved ones! As we gather to celebrate love, friendship and hope during this holiday, the future for Singapore’s running looks bright given the performance and number of rising local stars at SCSM 2018. A starry, starry future beholds.
21 Nov 2018 – While most of us have always imagined an ideal Europe road trip to be driving a caravan through the winding Alps and French countryside, or a shop(eat)-till-you-drop magical experience on the streets of London and Madrid, Evan is not like most of us.
The 38-year old marathoner had always dreamed of racing a half marathon in Europe and the IAAF gold label, AIMS-certified Valencia Half-Marathon checked all the boxes. It was known to be a fast and flat course (world records were set here before), and the cooling conditions in late October meant the race’s schedule fitted perfectly into Evan’s overall preparation for Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 6 weeks later.
Valencia Half-Marathon 2018
Evan arrived in Valencia, also known as the city of running, after 24 hours of non-stop traveling and made it to one of the biggest race expos he has seen. The actual race kicked off at 9am on a cool Sunday morning. With temperatures hovering between 10 to 15 degrees, conditions couldn’t have been better along with the electrifying crowd support lined up along both sides of the race route and excellent race organization.
In the end, Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum broke the Men’s Half-Marathon world record clocking 58:18 to take five seconds off the mark set by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in 2010. Evan would go on to clock 1:19 for a personal best and finishing in 94th place and 2nd Asian runner. While Evan had gone into the race with higher expectations, it was still a timely confidence booster after spending most of 2018 nursing a niggling leg injury which had hampered his training.
2 weeks later, Evan would go on to run another epic European race, the Athens Classic Marathon, the birthplace of all modern-day Marathons. While it is an IAAF gold label race today, the race’s heritage and history stretch all the way back to 490BC. The Athens Marathon traces the same route that the legendary Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek’s victory over the Persians!
As part of the pre-race lead-up, Evan had a rare opportunity to visit Adidas Runbase in Athens and meet like-minded Adidas Runners (AR) from all around the world (including Paris, London, Vienna, Dubai, Madrid, and Milan). Runbase is a 6-story facility catered for AR with running and all sorts of fitness sessions taking place almost daily!
Together, they would all participate in a shake-out sightseeing run organized by AR Athens to showcase the best of Athens sights and sounds, ending with a group shot taken in front of the Acropolis and a pasta party right after!
Athens Classic Marathon 2018
The Athens Classic Marathon counts as one of the most difficult major marathon race with a nearly 20km-long uphill climb, which dwarves the SCSM Sheares Bridge climb at the 37km mark. The course begins in the town of Marathon before passing by the tomb of Athenian soldiers, turning towards the city of Athens before finishing up at the Panathinaiko Stadium. The stadium is a landmark site for athletics competition in ancient times, and also where the 1896 and 2004 Olympics Marathon chose as its finishing point.
xIn a fitting tribute to the race and area’s history, it has become a standard practice before every year’s race to carry the Marathon Flame, which is lit at the Tomb of the Battle of Marathon, to the finish point at the Stadium.
Right from the start, Evan planned to maintain a comfortable long run pace as he tackled the seemingly endless uphills and slopes. After crossing the halfway mark in 1:30:30 as planned, Evan knew the race had only just begun with another 10km of slopes to go in what was proving to be a much more challenging route than SCSM. The Greek messenger, Pheidippides, couldn’t have been happier than Evan when he caught sight of the Stadium finish point, crossing the line in 3:00:50 with an average pace of 4:15′.
Wrapping up his Europe ‘road trip’, Evan will like to thank everyone from AR Athens, particularly captain Deniz Dimaki, whose efforts helped make all this possible. It was a whirlwind 3 weeks in Europe but it turned out to be an out-of-this-world experience running ‘literally’ from Valencia to Madrid, Barcelona to Santorini before calling it a day in Athens.
While his legs may feel like they’re running on empty (for the next couple days), but his heart is definitely full. Be sure to check in with Evan as he lines up for the biggest race on Singapore’s running calendar – the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon!
11 Nov 2018 – The scattered showers and mud did not dampen the spirits of either human or pup at the latest edition of the Singapore Specials Run, held last Sunday at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
The Singapore Specials Run was first held by non-profit organization Action for Singapore Dogs in 2010, aiming to raise awareness of the plight of stray and abandoned dogs. All proceeds from activities surrounding this run go towards helping rescued dogs awaiting their forever homes.
Mr. Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, kicked off the event with a welcome speech, while Real Yoga organized the warm-up for the human runners.
Participants could browse a variety of products on sale, such as uniquely flavored cakes by Gulalicious and premium dog food from Furry’s Kitchen.
The run provided opportunities for all dog lovers – both dog owners and non-dog owners alike – to participate, with a 5km Paw Lover’s Run and 2km Paw & Buddy Run. A few dogs with physical disabilities (missing/injured limbs) cheerfully making their way to the finish line was also an encouraging sight.
With various groups jostling at the front line and sprinting past puddles with both children and animals in tow, it became increasingly evident that running with a pet is an excellent way to come together with and bond with loved ones. You become more consistently motivated to run when seeking exercise as well as quality time with both humans and canines dear to you.
It’s clear that our furry friends – both the lean and long-legged as well as the lapdogs – inspire the old and young to get out and get moving, even in the worst of weather! So look out for the next edition of the Singapore Specials Run… or simply grab your running shoes to #runONE with your doggo!
SHAHEED ALAM – A bittersweet farewell to WTA in Singapore. 2014 – 2018. These 5 years will always be remembered by not only tennis enthusiasts but also sports fans in Singapore as the time when the top 8 Women’s Singles and Doubles Teams competed on our ‘little red dot’. As the Singapore Indoor Stadium dismantles the center court for the last time, we should cherish the experience we’ve had over these amazing 5 years.
I had the incredible opportunity to be the hitting partner for these players in the last 3 years (I was too young and not good enough in the first 2 years haha) Being their hitting partner was definitely an eye-opening experience because I got to see up-close the way they practice, warm up, prepare for matches. I got to see all of it. From the extremely focused Garbine Muguruza to the relaxed Caroline Garcia, I was privileged to witness the different personalities of each player which would otherwise have been very difficult to spot on TV. Over the past 3 years, I have had many awesome experiences but 2, in particular, stood out.
In 2016, Ali and I got called to practice with the dream team of Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis! Before even stepping on the court, it was already pretty cool to even (just) think about practicing with them. The schedule was to practice for an hour on the practice courts at OCBC Arena followed by another hour on Centre Court at Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Understandably nervous, we both started practicing making several mistakes as we were (a little) overwhelmed by the situation. As the session went on, they realized that we were pretty nervous but nonetheless they were still super friendly and made us feel more at home.
After we ended our practice at OCBC Arena, Ali and I were going to walk across to the Indoor Stadium (10minute walk) while Mirza and Hingis were going to take the car that was waiting for them. Ali and I could not enter into the pick-up area as our accreditation did not allow us and only players/coaches could enter. Looking back, I felt that Hingis and Mirza thought we were going to take the car as well so they walked out first while we were still packing our bags.
About 5 minutes later, Martina Hingis came running out and told the volunteers to call us back. When we got to the facilities desk, we remember Hingis waiting for us and saying “Come on guys, the car is waiting for you guys”. Looking super shocked, we laughed and followed her to the pickup point where they were 2 Porsches waiting for us. She then continued saying ‘1 follows me and the other follows Sania’. I followed Hingis and for those precious 10 minutes, we chatted about everything and anything before our second practice session on Centre Court. That was an experience like none other, which only goes to show that they were both incredibly humble and down to Earth while being absolute legends in the sport!
The next memorable event was when I I practiced with Karolina Pliskova this year. She has to be the most relaxed player on tour. Incredibly effortless in her play, she’s definitely a joy to watch. I had the pleasure of getting to know her team as well, comprising her Coach, Rennae Stubbs, and Fitness Trainer/Agent/Husband, Michal Hrdlicka. We practiced every day from Saturday (before Day 1) up till the following Saturday (where she played her semifinals) and it was an amazing experience. They really made me feel like I was part of their team for that week as they were super friendly and humble. Overwater breaks, they would ask me about my tennis career and gave me plenty of valuable advice and encouragement.
On the day of the finals, when they were at the stadium to collect their belongings before returning home, they asked if I was in the stadium as they would like to say a few words of thanks and goodbyes in person. Fortunately (for me), I was, and so we met at the player lounge and had a chat before they left. We promised to keep in touch and Pliskova even said that she’ll give me a call when she’s in Asia if she needs a hitting partner(not sure how true that will be though 😂) All in all, it was a superb experience and I couldn’t have wished for a better end to the last year of the WTA Finals.
At this point, I would also like to thank Sports Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board, WTA and all the sponsors for hosting this prestigious tournament over the past 5 years. As they say, when one door closes, another opens so we should hope and look forward to more world-class tennis tournaments being hosted in Singapore. Perhaps even the ATP Finals.
03 Nov 2018 – “During the training, there were times when I questioned why I had joined Blaze in the first place, when I could have been like my peers who were having less strenuous physical training and who did not need to face the pressure of keeping physically fit.” This is how the then-14 year old Samuel Song from Zhonghua Sec felt during the preparations for BB Blaze 2017!
Preparations are key in an adventure race, or for that matter, any race. What more for teenage boys preparing for the adventure-based and mentally and physically challenging #BBblaze2019!
RunONE will be joining The Boys’ Brigade Singapore as their Official Training Partner, supporting the preparations for the 400 participants and their trainers during this pivotal stage. You can also expect for the 2019 edition to involve more pre-race and race digitalization, with an extended partnership with ONE.
To kick off the preparations, the organizers arranged for a Train-the-Trainers session that was attended by officers and boys from various senior programme companies (CCA units in various secondary schools).
The Pierre de Coubertin IFPC Trophy Winner and National Marathoner Ashley Liew shared his experiences with the boys and officers. He started by stating his hope to inspire and went on to share how he has transcended different challenges in life, such as when transforming from fat to fit.
Ashley had rushed down from his chiropractic clinic, amidst two weeks of reservist commitments. It is not surprising that the ONEathlete was very enthusiastic about speaking to the boys, as a former BB Boy of the 12I Singapore Company (ACS Independent). He has certainly not forgotten his roots, acknowledging the role of The Boys’ Brigade in shaping who he is today during his self-introduction.
After throwing in some awareness of chiropractic and the nervous system, Ashley went on to share tips on running forms, injury prevention, and the importance of a training programme. He also shared how the youths could build up their endurance, strength and conditioning to be at their optimal capacity to blaze the trail, come April 2019!
DR WANG MINGCHANG – You’ve meticulously drawn up a weekly training plan in the lead-up to your race, diligently following it and clocking the mileage. The weekend’s long run is coming as you near the end of the work week. But alas, your plans are blighted when you wake up with your throat feeling like sandpaper and your nose leaky as a tap. Undeterred, you carry on with your scheduled run, dismissing your symptoms as minor.
Should one continue exercising when one is ill?
The neck check
A neck check is a quick way to determine if you should continue to train/run when unwell. If your symptoms are above the neck, e.g. teary eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or a mild cough, then it is probably okay to continue. However, if your symptoms occur below the neck, e.g. fever, chills, body aches, malaise, chest congestion, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea, then I would strongly encourage you to give your body a much-needed rest.
Running with a cold
Exercise may be beneficial when one is suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, commonly known as the common cold. Symptoms include a runny or congested nose. Adrenaline, a hormone released during exercise, is a natural decongestant and helps in relieving nasal congestion as well as the widening of our airways. Research suggests that heart and lung functions (and hence exercise tolerance) do not appear to be altered by an upper respiratory tract infection. This means that the common cold will not affect your ability to run at your usual intensity. If you’re running in a group, do be mindful that sneezing or coughing in close proximity to others can lead to their not remaining your friends for long.
Running a fever? Do not run
Exercising with a fever is dangerous. Exercise further raises one’s body temperature and heart rate, which are likely already elevated, to begin with when one is having a fever. Our heart rate increases by about 10 beats per minute for every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature. Running whilst febrile can result in excessively fast heart rates. Viruses are a common cause of fever and side effects may include inflammation of heart muscle. This inflammation, coupled with a fast heart rate, presents much more stress and strain to the heart than the intensity of exercise would suggest. Ultimately, this can precipitate abnormal heart rhythms and, in severe cases, even result in sudden cardiac arrest and/or death.
Protecting your immune system
It has been well-established that regular exercise can boost one’s immunity. On the other hand, too much exercise can have the opposite effect. Prolonged high-intensity endurance exercise (e.g. running a half or full marathon) can cause one’s immunity to be weakened for up to 72 hours. The cause is not clear but one plausible reason could be the excessive free radicals and stress hormones produced during intense exercise which can suppress one’s immune system.
If you find yourself frequently falling ill on the days after an intense training, it may be helpful to take in more foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as green tea, dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries and beetroot as part of your recovery diet, to give your immune system a boost.
Sufficient rest and sleep are also needed for a healthy immune system. Depending on how fatigued you feel, it is prudent to always listen to your body and schedule a rest day or two after a session of hard running.
14 October 2018 – The Performance Series 2018, now in its 3rd year, crossed its finishing line this morning, with its 4th race of the year. It had earlier held its races at Punggol Waterway (Apr), Pasir Ris Park (Jun), and Bedok Reservoir (Aug) before this final installment of the year at East Coast Park.
The race – tagged on social media as #TranscendYourself – went on as planned, despite the heavy downfall and chilly weather on the early mornings of the Sunday. About 2000 odd runners had gathered in anticipation at the beach area after they were notified of the 15mins postponement in view of the weather. The 10km was flagged off at 7.45am with 3 of the #ONEathlete gunning for their best in the drizzle.
Ben Moreau led the pack of open-category participants throughout the race. He completed the 10km race with a timing of 32:38. Eventually, he was also awarded the trophy for being the 10km Overall Winner! It was no surprise that the British-citizen was ready to go for more, given his stellar performance in the recent Straits Times Run 2018 too!
His fellow ONEathlete(s), Banjamin Quek (35:52) and Ashley Liew (37:48) finished 2nd and 3rd in the Local 10km category, close behind Prashanth Silva. Both talents are in the midst of gearing up their training for the upcoming Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2018, in December.
Opting for a slightly shorter race in view of his tight race schedule in October, was Evan Chee. He finished 4th with an unofficial timing of 18:38.
The local race that is organized by Just Run Lah, boasts of some key industry and community partnership, in addition to having Garmin as their title sponsor for the 2018 series! The race has also made significant efforts to raise the profile of local athletes by having a separate category for the local competitive runners.
ONEathlete congratulates Just Run Lah on this feat, as well as, to thank them for this opportunity to see all its athletes on the podium this morning!
BANJAMIN QUEK – When I was a primary school student, life was good – sedentary, and revolving around gaming and 3am suppers. Looking back, I was 68kg, 170cm, and neither very proud nor concerned about how my appearance. I was also encouraged, and offered, to eat more during meal times because that was how a traditional Asian family showed care and concern.
The turning point came when I was 13 years old and had just entered Secondary 1. I was deemed unfit (figuratively and literally) for my CCA (NCC Land) and that was my first real setback as a result of how I looked. I was sidelined during team games because no one wanted a player who couldn’t pull their weight. Needless to say, I did not have much success with relationships because of my ‘chubby’ appearance.
As a result, I became really upset because I felt unfairly judged based on superficial qualities. That got me started to read up more on food and nutrition and I realized how consuming food high in fats presents higher risks to our health and mortality.
Thus started my decision and journey to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle so that I would be able to fit into social circles and feel less inferior about myself.
DEVELOPING GOOD HABITS
I decided to pay more attention to my diet. No more 3AM suppers, less fried food, and I opted for more vegetables and lean meat instead. The obvious choice was to cut down on sugary drinks which I had loved – each can of Coca-Cola contains 10.6 grams of sugar.I replaced soft drinks with low-calorie soft drinks, or juices, which are healthier alternatives.
My meals began to comprise more carbohydrates (rice) since I was beginning to exercise more and needed the glucose to perform, and more dietary fiber, such as vegetables and fruits. Not only does eating more vegetables and fruits help facilitate bowel movement, but it also gives the immune system a much-needed boost. I would try to have 2 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruits at every meal. Instead of deep-frying meat, I would choose to steam or broil it.
Besides all this, I tried not to eat past 10pm. Our body’s digestion process slows down as sleep time approaches. (Not) having supper played a big part in my weight control.
I started to have better quality sleep too because I learned that inadequate sleep upsets the balance of hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. Sleep deficiency increases the production of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.
CHOOSING TO RUN
I chose to lose weight through running, mainly because it allowed me immense freedom – rain or shine, fast or slow. Ironically, I used to hate running a lot because I never felt suited for it. My auntie would drag me along when she goes for a jog and I would find all sorts of excuses, just not the time.
It certainly took a lot of discipline to get started in running. In my sleeping shorts, white tee and my father’s oversized running shoes, I looked the part of a struggling runner barely able to complete 2.4km. However, as time went by, I was able to progress on to longer distances and with increasing ease. The key to running is consistency and to be willing to put in the hard work every day. The more you run, the better you get and it is really that simple.
Of course, it was (is) never easy to run every single day. In order to cope with the monotonous repetition in this endurance sport, setting the right mentality is important as well. Running is supposed to be enjoyable and I remind myself of this all the time. On days when I was tired, I would run at an easier pace or explore a new route. Setting milestones along the way also helped keep my motivation up. I was proud to check off the little boxes as I progressed from 2.4km to 10km, and beyond.
I would go on to represent Victoria Junior College and the National University of Singapore in competitive Cross-Country.
Over the years, at different phases of my life, my purpose in running changed.
When I started, it was about keeping fit and losing weight. Coupled with the change in diet and lifestyle, I lost 10kg within a year and had become visibly more toned. It bolstered my self-esteem now that I was running further and faster than before. My 2.4km timing improved from 13 minutes in Secondary 1 to 8 minutes before I graduated from NUS.
In junior college, running helped to clear my mind when I was preparing for my ‘A’ level examinations. Since Victoria Junior College sits right next to East Coast Park, I would go for a run whenever I felt overwhelmed studying. The running break allowed me to focus better and be more productive when I hit the books again.
During my NS days, I used to stay in a 13-men bunk. It was hard to have time to myself but running around the camp gave me the opportunity for a few cherished, quiet moments.
Later, I joined the varsity team with the National University of Singapore. Running at a higher level of competition forced me to manage my time efficiently amidst a hectic academic schedule. It also taught me to persevere when the going gets tough and to have the discipline to stay the course to reach my goals. It was challenging to train during my undergraduate days. I would feel sore the morning after an evening workout, attend classes, train again in the evening and revise at night. I have had to turn down social gatherings and friends because I was simply too tired. Most of my peers stopped running after a year or two but I am glad that I didn’t, even though the temptation to do so was strong at times.
Besides this, running also taught me to keep going in the face of failure. There were moments when I thought I was on the verge of breaking down because of the overwhelming study load. However, every satisfying workout I have had on the track was a poignant reminder that I am more capable than I think I am. It gave me the courage and strength to deal with my doubts and insecurity.
In 2018, I decided to take a gap year to pursue my dream of running in Kenya and work towards realizing my long-held aspiration of becoming one of Singapore’s top distance runner. I hope that through my running journey, I will be able to inspire and motivate others to dare to dream and dare to chase after their dreams too.
JED SENTHIL – Over the years, and especially in recent times, our society has evolved to become more sensitive towards the needs of the less privileged and more supportive of philanthropic causes. While MNCs and big corporates enthusiastically engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, social enterprises have also sprung up, promoting sustainable charitable causes. Riding on this momentum, there has also been a significant effort within the local sporting community to mobilize active individuals and runners to commit to a larger good while keeping fit at the same time.
So before you put on your shoes and go for your next run, there are ways that you can help contribute too:
Support a worthy cause
To send our future generation to school and ensure that they are in the best physical, mental and emotional state to learn while at it. This is exactly what The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) endeavors to do – to give every child the gift of knowledge, and an opportunity for a promising future. SPMF works with various mainstream schools, VWOs, and NGOs to identify school-going children in need and provide them with the resources to do well in school, primarily by helping them meet basic physiological needs.
Since its inception 18 years ago, SPMF has disbursed more than $60 million and supported over 160,000 underprivileged children and youth by providing them with monthly school pocket money. As someone who came from a low-income family background, I can vividly recall filling up application forms for funding when SPMF had just been rolled out. I would use the funds to pay for my meals during recess, transport, and uniforms and books.
If you were one of the 13,000 runners who participated in The Straits Times Run 2018 last weekend, then you have also made an important contribution in supporting this worthy cause.
Impact ‘one starfish at a time’
While serving in the social services sector, I met a primary school boy who stayed in a one-room rental flat with his single mother and four siblings. His mum was working multiple odd jobs and was unable to commit to full-time regular employment as she had to take care of her children who were frequently ill. As a result, the boy was undernourished, slept poorly, and clearly lacked the energy a young boy should have. Later, we discovered that he had been bullied and mocked at school due to his family circumstances. He refused to attend school henceforth.
While this boy’s situation may not necessarily be representative of all underprivileged children, he is certainly not the only one. Perhaps one might be tempted to think that youths are at a stage in life where multiple stress factors are part and parcel of their maturing and that we as adults are not able to make much difference to their situation. But nothing can be further from the truth. In the case of the schoolboy mentioned earlier, with a little support, he was able to overcome his odds courageously!
As the saying goes, you might not be able to save every starfish on the beach, but to each starfish saved, you make all the difference. You too can help contribute indirectly by participating in a community run like the Straits Times Run, or directly by rallying your running group to befriend/mentor the children and youths through the VWOs (as mentioned in the 29 July article). You will be pleasantly surprised by the resilience and courage these children embody, in pursuing a life of dignity and independence.
Give (what you can) eagerly
While more than 10,000 children and youth benefit from the SPMF every year, I also learned from my interaction with social workers that current funding support is insufficient. Furthermore, in recent years, the SPMF has revised the criteria and expanded application touch points, to support more needy households and ensure that help is readily available, especially for those who might fall through the cracks. As a result, the need for support and funding is expected to increase.
While a majority of charity and social causes depend on the donations from big corporates and philanthropists, we as individuals can also give what we can. It could be a widow’s penny, but it’s truly the thought that counts. Do consider championing a cause you feel the tug for in your running club, or your company.
If you too have the opportunity to do good and are eager to remember the children and youth from low-income families, you can also donate through SPMF’s website (www.spmf.org.sg/how-to-donate). Don’t forget to encourage your running kakis to give too!