It is not every day we witness a girl’s journey from the TAF Club to winning athletic competitions.
Coming from a not-so-active lifestyle, Sarah originally took up recreational running around 8 years ago to keep fit. Being encouraged by her weight loss and craving a challenge, Sarah decided to race competitively by joining the NUS Cross Country team, competing in the IVP (Intervarsity-Polytechnic) Track & Field Championships and SUNIG (Singapore University Games) Cross Country.
One year ago, Sarah added a new dimension towards competitive racing by joining the NUS Aquathlon team. Blossoming into a resilient aquathlon competitor, she finished strongly in various running and aquathlon events, securing third place in the National Aquathlon Championship 2013 Sprint Category (750m swim + 5km run), as well as finishing 11th in the Nike She Runs 5KM 2013 Women Under 25 Individual Category. Sarah is pushing her limits further by training to complete a triathlon in the near future.
But Sarah is not just an adrenaline junkie craving for the next race. She still enjoys recreational runs around different places in Singapore, such as Sentosa, and the MacRitchie Reservoir, soaking up the fresh air and beautiful atmosphere.
She shares her experiences of how she developed into a holistic runner by categorising her experience into different stages, and gives some pointers on how swimming and cycling contributed positively to her running experience.
STAGE 1: Baby Steps
I picked up running 8 years ago. My family is not very active and a chubby-me also wanted to lose some weight, hence I decided to pick up running.
I was introduced to my school’s TAF (Trim and Fit) Programme that rewarded us with a shirt if we completed 100 rounds around the school in a year. Together with my friend, we attempted this ridiculous-sounding task.
With some sacrifices in having shorter or no breaks at all, we motivated each other to finish this challenge. Personally, at the end, it was not the shirt that mattered but the satisfaction of the effort put into earning it.
STAGE 2: A Recreational Runner
I was convinced about the benefits of running. It resulted in my weight loss, gave me an adrenaline rush, and made look and feel better.
Besides that, I enjoyed unwinding after a tiring day at school with a jog around my green neighbourhood in Sengkang. I also signed for lots of run races which motivated me to ‘train up’ for them.
In addition, I joined my school’s soccer team, which required me to improve my stamina through running and that fuelled my passion for the sport.
STAGE 3: A Competitive Edge
About 4 years ago, encouraged by a university senior, I took a leap of faith to join my varsity’s cross country team. Initially, I was rather apprehensive because I had no running background compared to my teammates who were running the Nationals Cross Country Championships since young.
However, seeing how friendly the team was, as well as the satisfaction I had gained after a tough intervals workout, I persevered and saw my run timings improve.
What I have learnt through my experiences in the team was that most people just run to race, but my running coach, Mr Steven Quek, taught me that it is more than that – “One must learn to train before training to race.” A competitive runner who wants to improve has to have the discipline to train, rest, eat well and sacrifice a lot.
I suffered my first setbacks in running, shin splints, knee pains, muscle fatigues, but I felt this made me grow by listening to my body, knowing when to push and when to rest.
It was also then when I saw my timings improve. My goals in races would not only include a good timing but finishing with a good race position, which gave me personal satisfaction and adrenaline rushes during racing.
STAGE 4: Moving Beyond Myself
Some of you might ask: What’s there to do besides just running? There are plenty of paths to take which require you to run, but can also provide varied and new experiences. For myself, a year ago, I took up the challenge of joining my school’s aquathlon team.
Personally, I feel that I am fortunate to have a coach, Mr David Tay, to help and build my confidence in swimming. From only being able to swim a few laps while starting out, I am able to achieve good timings in aquathlon races. Swimming also helps in cross-training for runners because it builds up one’s cardiovascular system and upper body strength which aids in running.
My next goal would be training up for a triathlon, which requires me to pick up cycling. One of my life’s goals would be to complete an Ironman triathlon. Based on studies, cycling complements running because it is not only a good form of active recovery but also strengthens your leg muscles for running.
For the upcoming races this year, I will be participating in the Army Half Marathon 2013 as a pacer for the 2H group, as well as the Trifactor 5KM run. For 2014, I have signed up for the Metasprint Series Aquathlon 2014 Discovery Distance, as well as the Nike 10KM Run.
Beyond myself, I have recently joined a new running group called Running Department which aims to foster a running community in Singapore through running-together programmes and we help to run clinics and pacer services in races to help others improve their runs, as well as achieve personal bests.
My aquathlon team also has future plans to adopt charity organisations, as a way to give back to the community. All these help me focus on giving back to the community instead of MYSELF and MY runs, allowing me to gain a new purpose in running.
To all runners who feel jaded or bored of running, I hope this gives you something to think about and perhaps you might just rediscover the joy of being a runner once more.