How The Great Relay Singapore Race Changed Jasmine’s Life Forever
Don't change yourself because you're afraid of what people think. Change yourself because you want to be better.
As a runner, you know that Singapore can be quite a gregarious nation and when one adopts a lifestyle that includes a popular pastime like running, it’s nearly impossible to avoid connecting with people, making friends and becoming part of a community. But when Jasmine’s job transfer and promotion came through and she had to move to Singapore from her home in Australia, the move proved traumatic.
She felt so overwhelmed by her new responsibilities as she adapted to Singapore’s lifestyle, her shy nature kicked in and for the first six months of her residency, she devoted more time and energy to working and eating than to taking care of her body.
Though well-acquainted with Singapore’s running scene as a result of her Australian running roots and aware of the emphasis both society and government place on physical fitness, she felt frozen in place and the longer she felt alone, the more prone she was to bury herself in her job and seek refuge in unhealthy eating habits.
As a consequence, her clothing no longer fit, she was perpetually fatigued and she had begun to wish that she’d never accepted the transfer. When she wasn’t working, she was spending far too much time on her mobile crying to friends and family she left behind. She was worried that she would remain isolated and alone forever.
Burying herself in her work one rainy afternoon, Jasmine warmed up some leftovers in the corporate kitchen and brought them to her desk, as was her habit. That’s when she was distracted by disarming chatter coming from the area just outside her office. “The Great Relay is coming on 4th June — I’m recruiting team members!”
Jasmine thought that the speaker was another new transfer from outside Singapore named Kelly and for a moment, she felt an irrational anger and resentment. “If I was back home, I’d be included,” she mumbled as the conversation outside her door buzzed and the sound of laughter resounded throughout the office.
“Okay — stop goofing around,” Kelly insisted. “We’ve got work to do. This is serious and we don’t have a lot of time to make decisions. We can form 2-, 4- or 6-runner teams to take on a 3.5km trail loop for a distance of either 50km or 100km. I don’t know about you, but I’m clumsy and I’m still willing to give that baton a try.”
“I’m up for doing it, but not with you!” laughed a guy who had heard the raucous chatter and come out of his office to join in. “Anyone who admits to being clumsy can’t be on my team.”
Kelly sighed and rolled her eyes. “Silly boy — why don’t you form an all-male team so my girls and I can beat you handily.”
“Seriously, I heard that Jeri Chua and Vlad Ixel are going to be there,” he said ignoring her. “Those two are legends in my opinion. I just looked up the event details on my tablet and this event had my name written all over it the moment I saw that there would be music, food and fun.”
“I want to do the yoga classes and if I bring my kids, there’s stuff for them to do, too,” Kelly replied.
Throughout this exchange, Jasmine grew more and more depressed. She shut her office door, dumped her half-eaten lunch into the trash and returned to her project, wiping tears from her eyes.
Absorbed in her work, she didn’t notice the sun setting over the Singapore skyline as dusk settled over the city. She had buried her sadness in her work — again — and nearly jumped out of her skin when someone knocked on her office door.
Kelly popped her head in and grinned. “I’m not sure if you remember me. I’m Kelly. I thought I was a workaholic, but you seem to be the queen in this department. When do you relax?”
Jasmine felt confused. What did this woman want? Why so friendly? “Can I sit down?” she asked. Jasmine pointed to the chair on the other side of her desk.
Kelly sat down and leaned toward Jasmine. “Listen, I’ve been told that you’re not much of a social butterfly, but I’m fairly new here, too, and I thought I might ask if you have any interest in running.”
Jasmine looked down at her body and blushed. “I ran back home,” she said. “I’m not in very good shape.”
“We’re putting together corporate teams for the upcoming Great Relay Singapore. We’ve still got time to train. Would you be interested in joining us? I can sweeten the deal; you get a medal just for competing, and our company administrators just announced that if we get this off the ground, they’re going to feed us on race day!”
Jasmine laughed. “That’s just what I need — ore food!”
“I was struck by this race’s mission statements; that coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress and working together equals success,” Kelly said. “Whether we win or lose, we all come out of this strong and unconquerable. I’m inspired by those words. What do you say? Can we put you on a team?”
“Can I think about it?” Jasmine said, fighting the urge to say yes with all of her being because she was ashamed of being so out of shape.
“No. I’m going to sit here until you say yes. This means that my children are going to go unfed tonight and my husband will have to bathe them.”
“I’m in terrible shape,” Jasmine admitted aloud.
“I run every day on my lunch break. Bring your stuff tomorrow and join me. The race isn’t until June. We’ll get you into shape, I promise.”
Jasmine was so taken with Kelly’s kindness and compassion she burst into tears. For the first time since arriving on Singapore soil, she felt that she had made a connection and it took a relay race that she probably wouldn’t excel at to do the trick.
From that time forward, Jasmine joined Kelly for a run daily and gradually, other office mates warmed up to her and she began to feel accepted for the first time. Colleagues even began stopping by her office when a group went out for tea after work and invited her to tag along. It took only a little time to feel confident enough to say yes.
If you intend to compete in the 2016 Great Relay on 4 June, you may want to be on the lookout for baton passing that’s not exactly Olympic quality, but you’ll be inspired by the cohesiveness of teams that have done more than taken time to train for success, but who are living examples of tolerance, acceptance and the true meaning of team spirit. Maybe you’ll even see Jasmine out there doing her part.
Will you join the race website by forming your own team? We’d like to know whether the story of Jasmine and Kelly inspired you to step out of your comfort zone and approach someone who may feel left out and not included. Can a race change a life? In Jasmine’s case, the Great Race really is great — in every sense of the word!