I was forced to run in school and hated every minute of it. Teachers sent notes to my parents complaining that I had a bad attitude and that more often than not, I simply refused. While I was one of the smartest girls in the class, my refusal to take part in the nation’s hard-fought-for physical education initiative was going to impact me, my teachers insisted.
Yet I remained bull-headed and obstinate – until the day I was struck by a car and wound up hospitalised for more than a month.
Did I realize this experience would rock my world forever? Not at the time. But it was during the long months of rehabilitation therapy that I observed people who could only be called angels obsessed with the care they gave their patients.
By the time I was discharged, I realised that I, too, was destined to help others in need of rehab, no matter how they sustained their injuries.
I Find My Life’s Work
Instead of returning to my selfish attitudes, I put the energy I had wasted in the past to work at school, and after persistent study, hard work and struggles, I finished university and post-graduate work to become a chiropractor. As a student working beside the doctors who trained me, I witnessed, firsthand, the disastrous results of poor training and slipshod conditioning that lead to sports injuries.
And because the man in my life was addicted to running, I volunteered to help with triage services at marathons. But, I still didn’t run! My car accident scars had healed yet I still had no interest in the sport beyond cheering on my boyfriend and making sure injured runners got the best treatment possible.
My Second Chance
Do we get just one big do-over in life? I got another one on a muggy Singapore day when I came to the assistance of a runner who identified himself as the CEO of a major athletic shoe brand. I can’t reveal his name because I am bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement.
I made him laugh and tended to his injuries. He asked if I would be willing to test new running shoes that his company’s scientists, developers and engineers had just invented.
I was too embarrassed to tell him that I didn’t run, but I was intrigued enough by this offer to say yes. I had two weeks before the shoes arrived to become oriented. I can still hear my boyfriend — now my husband — laughing when I told him that I had agreed to test those shoes.
For the next two weeks, I trained with the intensity of an Olympian! Okay. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Let’s just say that by the time those shoes arrived, my training and sensibilities had kicked in and I understood instinctively what I needed to be looking for in order to assess everything about the engineering of those shoes.
My Career Reveals Itself
Without doubting for a moment that my life’s work had been handed to me by the simple act of wanting to care for others, that pair of shoes symbolised the beginning of a career that would take me around the world, give me the kind of influence in the world of athletic shoe design that is unprecedented and I feel privileged to have gained the confidence and credibility that have made me one of the top athletic footwear testers in the world.
My husband likes to joke that he can retire now because I made a million dollars last year! But he respects the work I do, the confidences I have earned and the strides I make on behalf of my clients as we all work together to keep runners as injury-free as possible thanks to a steady stream of design enhancements that just keep coming.
There’s More to Celebrate
As a result of my work, I got a personal bonus. I learned to love running. And not because I’m paid to do it, either. I may have come late to the sport, but in my effort to understand the full runner’s experience, I finally understood the sheer joy and freedom that running offers to everyone and anyone willing to give it a chance.
I would love to be able to reveal my true identity, but my commitment to my clients is sacrosanct. If I could tell you my real name, I would! Let’s just say that, thanks to my anonymity, my clients know that they can trust me with their biggest design secrets and they never have to worry about me betraying that trust.
Mai L. is married and has two daughters, both of whom know better than to tell their teachers they don’t want to run! Mai’s efforts on behalf of athletic shoe manufacturers around the world have made her one of the most respected testing and evaluative authorities on the planet – and she’s proud to call Singapore home.
The article is contributed by members of the community. All stories are based on real life personal experiences or actual events encountered by the authors and related parties. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Editing by RunSociety[su_divider top=”no” style=”dashed” divider_color=”#e9e9e9″ size=”2″ margin=”30″]
Firsthand is RunSociety’s home for inspirational, provocative narrative articles. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstname.lastname@example.org.