Serene Yang: Running is Both Work and Play to This Dedicated Athlete
Driving mass participation in sports in Singapore, she is determined to succeed.
Yang Serene is a relative newcomer to Singapore’s running community after studying in the UK and returning home to land a job that also triggered a passion for running.
What does she find compelling about the sport? Running affords her time to sort out thoughts, discover new trails and routes and compete in as many Singapore races as time allows.
This dedicated competitor has not met a race that intimidated her and it's unlikely she’ll encounter one that does so in the future!
RS: You started running after returning to Singapore. Isn’t the UK environment conducive to running?
Serene: I was focused on my studies and adjusting to living there so running was the last thing on my mind. It took a lot to get used to the gloomy, cold weather, so getting out and running wasn’t at the top of my “must do” list. By the time the weather improved in Britain, I was already back here in Singapore.
RS: You say that running changed your life. How so?
Serene: I look upon running as a metaphor for life: when I train and race, the physical and mental pain reflect life in general, reminding me that life isn’t always smooth sailing. Everything worthwhile requires endurance and conditioning, both of which I’ve learned as a result of adopting an active running lifestyle.
RS: You love discovering new run venues and routes. Which do you recommend to Singapore runners?
Serene: [smiles] I take the path that my heart sends me on and go wherever it leads me!
RS: How do you decide which races to run?
Serene: I have to work my race schedule around my obligations. Some months I’m tied down with work. My dream race is the Great Wall Marathon because it marries my love of running with my interest in seeing the great wonders of the world.
RS: You accidentally wound up with a career in sport — what exactly do you do?
Serene: I manage sporting events and it ranges from swimming to running and even tennis.
RS: If you were asked to choose another career, what would it be, and why?
Serene: Surprisingly, my education is in fine arts, yet here I am with a great career in sport and also a passion for running, so I don’t think I could imagine a career doing anything else at the moment.
RS: Having ran and seen so many running events, what does it take to organise successful events?
Serene: I’ve learnt that the most important aspect of any event is each runner’s unique experience, so if given the opportunity, I’ll make sure each runner leaves feeling he or she was successful in their own terms.
RS: Which is the most memorable race you recall as a runner?
Serene: I didn’t become competitive until 2013, so it’s easy to recall this one! I ran the Penang Bridge International Marathon in 2014. We started at 3 a.m. and the winds were formidable, blowing us around as we ran.
RS: Why was it memorable?
Serene: There were limited public transport options at the new bridge, so I had to walk 8km after the race to find a taxi!
RS: Any others?
Serene: I would love to be part of another regional multi-sports event like the SEA Games! I helped out in this big event and the experience was magical and amazing. I learned so much and had so many adrenaline rushes, I couldn’t count them all.
RS: You’ve told many people that half-marathons are your favourites. Why this distance?
Serene: Because when it comes to training and my hectic work schedule, this is a manageable distance for me. My “pet events” are 15km and 21km road races and the occasional duathlon.
RS: Until you started running, you had no sports background. How did you amass so many achievements so fast?
Serene: I guess you can say I was an early proponent of cross training because that’s how I built my endurance — by swimming, biking and playing table tennis. As for my wins, I think every good runner should learn from every race she runs; my mantra is to learn and always try again if I don’t achieve a goal I set.
RS: If someone said that you could only take minimal gear on run, what would you refuse to leave behind?
Serene: My GPS watch, cap and my music player are must-haves for every run.
RS: In perusing your list of achievements, you’ve taken many 2nd and 3rd places despite being new to the women’s Singapore race scene. Of which are you proudest?
Serene: My list includes the 2013 Sundown Ultra Marathon (100km team relay; 2nd Overall Women’s Team); 2014 Singtel Race Against Cancer (15km; 2nd Overall Women’s); 2014 CSC Run By the Bay (21km; 3rd Overall Women’s Open) and 3rd Overall Women’s at the 2015 Shape Run (15km).
Also, the 2015 Newton Challenge (32km; 3rd Overall Women’s) and 2015 CSC Run by the Bay (21km; 3rd Overall Women’s Closed). And I was also the first Singaporean to finish both the 2014 and 2015 Gold Coast, ASICS Half Marathon.
RS: If you had the power to improve one thing about Singapore’s running scene, what would it be?
Serene: If I had special powers, I would change the weather!
RS: Have you set 2016 goals for yourself?
Serene: As an athlete, I hope to remain injury free! And have more opportunities to head out there to experience races and smash more PBs.
Serene: I believe that anyone can run successfully with the right mentality, training and proper gear. As long as a runner stays self-motivated and focused, he or she can be successful.
Can you imagine “falling into” a career that also promotes a healthy lifestyle? If that happened to you, what would your ideal career look like?