If you’ve ever experienced a serious sports injury, you know the recovery process can be daunting. In some cases, it’s hard to come back. Thankfully, Randall Wu didn’t give up despite suffering a catastrophic cycling accident that fractured his skull in seven places! This modern-day optimist is an inspiration to many—and we’re pretty sure you’ll feel the same way after getting to know him, too!
RS: After your accident, how did running help you reclaim your life?
Randall: Running became the anchor in my life that kept me grounded. When things get too hectic and I need to clear my head, a run helps me achieve clarity, and answers to problems that seem unsolvable or unsurmountable are suddenly apparent.
RS: Your 2013 bicycle accident caused a severe skull injury. Many people would avoid endurance sports after such a tragedy, but you pulled yourself up and recovered. How did you do that?
Randall: After two weeks in the Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), I had to re-learn to walk and I recall walking 2.4 km in 31 minutes! But this distance was a symbolic milestone for me, and walking gave way to running. My first run was uncomfortable, but I persisted.
RS: What motivated you during your recovery?
Randall: I saw this accident as an opportunity. I was turning 25 and decided to accomplish 25 things to celebrate this milestone. The accident was unfortunate, but it gave me the drive to accomplish more. I told friends and family that I would come back stronger than ever—that I would surpass previous accomplishments and confront things I feared doing. I wanted to motivate others, one fear at the time.
RS: How long after your accident did you enter your first race?
Randall: I took five months to get back into shape and run my first race, but then I decided to push harder, so I did the National Vertical Marathon 2013 in June. Since then, I’ve run 31 races of varying distances and types.
RS: Do you still cycle?
Randall: I competed in the Tri-Factor Triathlon on the same bike I rode when I crashed. Doing that helped dispense lingering fears and doubts. But now, running is my focus. I will definitely get back on my bike for future half-ironman, Ironman and X-terra triathlon events.
RS: You run twice a day. How do you know you’re not over-training?
Randall: I look for classic overtraining signs, like feeling that my workout is monotonous; something I must “tick” off a list rather than feeling exhilarated. People who over train no longer feel the joy of running and can become susceptible to injury.
RS: How do you prevent this from happening to you?
Randall: By taking stock of the upcoming running season and preparing wisely. Every running season presents highs and lows. By planning the season, I anticipate peaks and valleys. I may not peak year-round, but when I do, I fly!
RS: How about training?
Randall: Variety is key. I change up my routes or run a familiar route backwards. Cross training is important. Swim, spin, do hot yoga or activities that keep the muscles and mind engaged. I always schedule a weekly rest day—do something fun; eat what I crave! When you live a highly-disciplined lifestyle, this break is essential.
RS: In your role as Unit Sports and Healthy Lifestyle Officer, how do you motivate peers and trainees?
Randall: I emphasise both body and mind and I believe that communication is critical to instill a sense of purpose so soldiers don’t lose sight of the big picture: defending our nation.
RS: Do you test proficiency?
Randall: Yes, but we also schedule fun activities like Inter-flight futsal, Tchoukball tournaments and encourage participation in SAFSA’s Learn-to-Play (LTP) programme that includes Dragon Boat, Frisbee, and competitions that showcase the Squadron.
RS: Do you consider yourself a role model?
Randall: I try to set the right example. When I turned 25, I stopped drinking and that’s been a life-changing experience. I hope that by example, I inspire others to face their unique challenges.
RS: You have shown us that age, circumstance and even tragedy can shape one’s future. What advice do you give to those facing a crisis?
Randall: Optimism is one of the most valuable qualities a person can possess. It helps to shift perspectives—look at things from different angles. Don’t be afraid to fail. Once you hit bottom, the only way is up, so keep going. You will look back one day and realise that your optimism and refusal to quit fuelled your success.
RS: Ever given up?
Randall: I have. I recently fell ill before the Tokyo Marathon. It was a tough decision to throw in the towel; I see myself as a fighter and I had trained hard, even achieving a Half Marathon PB in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2015 just a month earlier. But it was not meant to be.
RS: So does this qualify as your toughest marathon thus far?
Randall: No. The Tokyo Marathon had all the makings of a race that would help me set a PB. There were many good runners, relatively flat conditions and amazing crowd support. I can’t call it the toughest because I learned too many lessons and was faithful to my training routine. I will use these lessons next time around.
RS: Should a runner force himself to complete a race if he is unwell?
Randall: Absolutely not. There’s a fine line between mental weakness and physical health and we all hear that “risk-averse” voice that warns us to be cautious. I believe that with risk comes reward, but risking one’s health isn’t the same. Everyone must make their own decision about quitting or continuing if they don’t feel well.
RS: Do you identify with the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”?
Randall: I love lemonade! Sometimes it’s sour at first, but eventually, it tastes so sweet.
RS: What is your personal motto or philosophy?
Randall: “Choice, Intensity, Persistence.” You’re the only person who can decide what to do with your life—nobody else—so choose wisely. Once you pick your path, work hard. When roadblocks and obstacles arise, your will to keep fighting for what you want to achieve will always get you to your goal.
RS: Besides aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon, what are your other goals and targets?
Randall: I hope to undertake the BQ before I turn 30, the Ironman before age 35 and the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) before I’m 45. After being a Digital Team volunteer at the SEA Games this year, I decided that I might have to do this one, too, as I keep counting the candles on my birthday cakes!
The road to recovery for Randall may not be a walk in the park, but he wasn’t resigned to his fate. Instead, he worked his way to full recovery and came back stronger than before. How did he do that? Choice, Intensity, Persistence. Now Randall, a sponsored athlete of Salomon Singapore is ready to take on any challenges that are thrown at him.
Has a serious injury ever sidelined you so badly, you had to stop running? How did you cope? We’d love to read your story.