I have a confession. I never was a runner in my schooldays and never looked forward to the compulsory annual cross country runs. In the army, I survived. Doing just enough to clear all the necessary runs.
Going into working life, I had reservist’s obligations and started to run; mainly 2–3km runs to prepare for my annual IPPT (mandatory fitness runs) which could cost you a week or two of additional physical in-camp training.
I believe there was an attempt to run longer distances but my knees couldn’t take the stress of my weight then (the ballooning torsos so commonly found in our 30s).
I never reckoned there would come a day when I would relish running.
Fast forward to my 50s. Dad and Mom had moved in with me as they are no longer mobile and able to live independently. The reality of the effects of ageing hit me and I started walking, alone or with my wife Jessie or with my friends. We did walks in Penang, Hong Kong (Dragon’s Back) and Kuching (National Park).
I also started to run short distances occasionally, mainly on a treadmill that we bought as Dad had periods requiring my attention when I am home.
When I turned 57, I had a health scare and decided I needed to do more. I alternated my walks with short runs, more frequently.
After Dad passed on I found a bit more time to indulge in my running.
In time, I found that I could run 3km quite comfortably and in due time set a target of running 5km. I was not concerned with my timing, as my fear of stressing my knees was still on my mind. But I was beginning to like the feeling when I ran, at my own pace but running longer distances.
Soon I was running 7–8km regularly. My health got better and I was falling sick less often. I also found that I could reflect or think about issues that I needed to address while on a run.
All this didn’t cost me too much, though a good pair of shoes is a must! They should be Goldilocks’ “just right”…not too tight and not too loose, so that I don’t get blisters, and with a good grip on the running surface.
A good running top should make you feel comfortable in your running movements and yet allow your body to breathe.
As I turned 58 I saw an online call for runners to run The Straits Times 5km and 10km runs. And I decided to attempt the 10km! It was a really good experience.
So good that I decided then to attempt running a half marathon the following year before I turned 60. With that in mind I signed up for both the Army Half Marathon as well the Standard Chartered Singapore Half Marathon.
Training was progressive. I would do a 10km run twice week, a shorter run twice a week, and walked with my wife on days I did not run, to recover and stretch the legs. I tried to increase the distance of my “long runs” but kept the short runs and walks for recovery days.
Running half marathons proved a challenge for me. I am usually good running the first 16km. The final 5km are the most trying. But when I reflect on it, it is more mental than physical.
And yes, I completed both half marathons in 2018 at age 59!
My doctor encourages me to continue running as long as I listen to my body to know my limits. Since I started running, I have gone off statins and my cardio is in much better shape.
Things have changed a bit now. After the pandemic, work is picking up again. I am also a grandfather four times over, and Mom’s health is not as robust now. And the cost of running a half marathon has been going up steadily over the years.
This year, one would need to pay between $87 to $127 to run the SCSM Half Marathon, depending on when you sign up.
So, I have slowed down a tad, keeping to maintenance mode; running at most twice a week. I have been preparing for a long walking trip, the Camino de Santiago, which I am currently on with my wife in Spain. That required an adjustment of preparations, like setting aside more time to walk with my wife to bring her up to speed on distance endurance.
That would be another story!