(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

As a former swimmer, I am used to collecting medals and trophies.

But a medal I received yesterday is now the most precious in my collection. It is not gold, or silver, or bronze. I was not perched on any podium. But the finisher’s medal awarded to all who completed The Straits Times Run on Sunday (July 16) is significant because it took me the most effort to achieve it.

Because I have water feel, swimming was almost always effortless for me and even now, more than 35 years after my competitive days ended, I still find the pool a natural environment – safe and comfortable.

Running, on the other hand, has always been an Achilles’ heel. I struggle with tempo, both in strides and breathing, pace, everything. As I pointed out on Friday, I can’t even put my right foot right – with that leg swinging out ever so slightly whenever I take a step. I do the “Funky Chicken” flap with my arms… the list goes on.

It is why my medal – even though it is only for the 5km fun run – is close to my heart.

When I first decided to take part – this is my first-ever 5km run at the age of 47 and with over two decades of a sedentary lifestyle behind me – all I aimed for was to not finish dead last. I had visions of the poor pacers having to turn into sweepers as they kept me company, the logistics people having to rush to remove barriers and dismantle and pack up the drink stations as they waited for me to go past.

Fortunately, I finished in 41min 10sec – 4D anyone?

And I had a (unexpectedly) great time to boot. Even though various parts of my body are stiff and creaking as I write this (I am paying the price for forgetting to stretch as I was so elated to simply have finished).

 

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It was a glorious morning, with days of rain finally giving way to sunny skies and a gentle breeze. As my family and friends – who had agreed to run with me to support my efforts – queued up alongside me at the start, and there was a clear buzz in the air, I could almost see why thousands of Singaporeans give up their Sunday sleep-ins to race week in, week out.

The route was scenic – I was particularly enthralled by the streak of dazzling light on the waters of Marina Bay, cast by the reflection of MBFC or one of its neighbours. It was like one of those pictures that simulated a stairway to heaven. For me, this was a huge plus, a reward almost.

I got “stitched up” as we approached the pit lane at the F1 building and had to slow down and walk so the cramp in my side would ease, but that also gave me the chance to take in the others around me. And this is what I learnt: Fast, slow, walking, running, jogging – there is a sense of belonging with this sneakered and sweaty tribe.

Which brings me to my tribe.

Earlier this year, at The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award ceremony, I noted that it takes a multi-pronged effort to develop a champion, like how it takes a village to raise a child.

Well, it took a “village” to get me to this point too.

ST sports editor Lee Yulin (third from left) with her “tribe”. From left: ST science editor Chang Ai Lien, Mohamed Faizal, Esther De Silva, Deidre De Silva, Daniel Gwee, Nicole Tan, Kamalini Ramdas, Joy Wong, Lisa Ang. PHOTO: NICOLE TAN

I could not have done this without my family, friends, colleagues, members of the sports fraternity and my trainer Mohamed Faizal at True Fitness – who encouraged me over the last few months, cheered me, trained with me, refused to accept my excuses, and ran alongside me and kept me going, right till the finish line.

Even you, the readers, have played your part with your encouraging comments.

Thank you for journeying with me.

And now, to take on the 10km.

See you all next year!

Dedicated to the memory of my late mother Nancy Lee Fong Lian (June 23, 1929 – May 20, 2017)

More Info: www.straitstimes.com

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