Running for A Cause: SCS-TalkMed Relay for Life 2019

I’ve been participating in quite a few running events over the past few years, but never had I been part of a relay team. I didn’t expect running in a relay would be so much fun.

On the night 2 days before Christmas, I was strolling through my Facebook feed (what’s new), that I came across this post on Relay For Life. Organised by the Singapore Cancer Society since 2017, the event aims to raise awareness, change behaviours, and take actions and to raise fund for the fight for cancer. Something strikes me that I have to rally my Fitspo People kaki to take part in this relay.

It was around the same period when I experience how much of a devil cancer is. The heartless illness takes the dearest ones away from people. One of my aunts was a victim of cancer, she succumbed to the illness some decade and a half ago. Back then, I was still a little kid, all I knew was that the person who took care of me during my parents’ absence and the one who took me out to gaigai was no longer there in my life anymore. I remembered how much I couldn’t handle the news of her passing. It wasn’t easy for anyone to handle such news, let alone a 7-year-old kid. In the recent year, I have also seen how my close friends have to undergo the ordeal of losing their loved ones to cancer. It was so heartbreaking. I knew I need to do something for these people.

I took the chance to rally FPAC for this beneficial cause, and we managed to send in 9 participants to take up the 100km team challenge.

THE EXPERIENCE

On 2 March, we arrived at the National Stadium getting ready to start the relay. Farhan was our first runner. He just kept running until he was tired before our new member, Zongwei, took over. I was prepping myself to cover at least 20km during the ungodly hours so did not start until after midnight.

STARTING RIGHT: Farhan (right) covered a good >20 laps before he left us for his school project.
NEW FACE: Zongwei is the new member that joined us for this run and we hit off quite instantly!
KEEPING THE MOMENTUM GOING: Hui Shuen passing the baton to our co-captain Justin.
GOING STRONG: Viv, who’s our other co-captain, keeping the smile on her face despite how tiring the race was.
HERE YOU GO: Yapz (centre) taking over the baton from Viv as Hui Shuen (left) looks on.
SMILE ON: Our other new member, Kheng Yin, posing for photo while running past us.
NEVER SAY NEVER: Kish showing the victory sign as he speed past us!
CAPTURING THE MOMENT: My official unpaid & underrated (oops) PA helping me to capture all the moments from the race on tape.

Speaking about the vlog for this race, I wasn’t feeling well the past week so I didn’t have the chance to actually edit the vlog. But I assure that the vlog will be done up quite soon, so maybe by next weekend, we will be able to see the actual footage on what went on during the course of 12 hours.

TIME FOR SELFIE: I don’t usually take selfies like this but it’s a good occasion to do so!
TOGETHER-NESS: Really thankful for all of them for taking their time out to run for a good cause.

It could have been a gruelling 12 hours and it could have been impossible to complete the 250 laps around the track without the effort of every single one of our Fitspo People. It was them that made this race a fun one and pushes me to go on to complete my 50th round. It was the team effort that shouldn’t be undermine.

We eventually came in 161th by distance and 155th by the timing to complete 100km. Really really proud of our results.

COUPLES THAT RUNS TOGETHER, COMPLETE TOGETHER: Yapz and Kish showing off their finisher tee!
WE ARE 100KM FINISHERS: The FPAC fam posing with our finisher tees. We did it!

THE THOUGHTS

During the entire event, running wasn’t in my mind at all. I had a lot of thoughts, thoughts surrounding the endless cycle of life and death. Maybe it was because of what I kind of encounter over the past few months that I was especially emotional when I went to cover the sharing session and reading all the dedications that the participants penned on the luminaria bags.

It just hit me so hard that despite living things are made up of group of cells, yet an abnormal growth of the matter that build us ended up killing us slowly and cruelly. Images of patients last moments before the illness took the toll on them flashed across my minds, even as I was doing my laps.

I hasn’t been running long distance since my CNY run and I was feeling the ache in my tights as I increased my speed during the course of the relay. However, I told myself, what cancer victims are going/went through was much worse. I know I couldn’t do comparisons like that, but you know the point that I am trying to bring across right here. I admire their perseverance and their fighting spirit — the will to overcome their illness against all odds. Maybe Augustus Waters (of The Fault in Our Stars) was right, cancer (or any types of illness) could be that unlighted cigarette in the mouth, “cigarettes only kill when you light them… you put that killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” That was the kind of fighting spirit that somehow becomes a common trait across all the cancer patients.

In the words of Terry Fox, the renowned for his Marathon of Hope to raise money and awareness for cancer, once said, which I find it the most applicable to me at this point in time, “It took cancer to realise that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.” I always run races for the sake of bettering my records, but never had I realised that charity runs served a greater communal benefit. Personal glory seems so irrelevant when just a pair of legs and a little perseverance and rallying can change the lives of people, people whom may or may not be close to you but after all, human beings. I didn’t expect I would be running for something bigger.

This will not be the last time I am participating in a run for charitable causes. I am going to embark on more of such runs. I might really do a cross-country (like literally across the island) fundraiser, some sort of a scaled-down version of Marathon of Hope, to raise fund for cancer and maybe other illnesses like asthma (which I am a sufferer of), Alzheimer’s and geriatrics. I will leave to after my ORD to plan for these. I just hope that with that so little I could do in my capacity, I would be able to be of some help to these communities.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: A sign of respect and to remember those who’ve fought cancer.
MAY YOU SEE OUR MESSAGES: To those warriors who battled the demon with their lives, can you see our well wishes lighted up so brightly in the night skies?
PUTTING SOME THOUGHTS: Yapz, Kish and Khengs penning their thoughts and well-wishes.
BE STRONG, STAY STRONG: All the heartfelt messages by the participants.

THE GOOD

Putting all emotions aside, I guess it’s important that we give feedbacks on the planning and execution of any race. I find writing a short review for races as some form of appreciation to the organisers for their sweat, tears and sacrifices.

Overall, this race is very well organised so kudos to the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS). Growing from its inaugural relay back in 2017 at Bukit Gombak, the race grew in size and moved to the National Stadium for its second edition. 2019 saw RFL breaking the record for the longest distance (14, 849.2km) covered by a group of runners in 6hrs. Furthermore, SCS also managed to raise a total of S$1 million, a significant amount more than the S$380,000 raised last year. RFL indeed has went from strength to strength.

1. The Remember Segment

I know this is a custom throughout all the RFL across the world but I find it very meaningful that all of us could take a moment out to remember those who fought so bravely against the illness and to give support to their families. There is really very little thing we could do for those actually feeling the pain. Some people felt the pain in the wounds, others in the heart.

Furthermore, the sharing sessions by cancer patients and their family members gave many insights on how it is to fight to illness as an individual and as a family. I could have sat in front of the stage to listen to the stories but I guess there will be better time in the future when my emotions do not get in the way.

2. Side activities to keep participants motivated

There were zumba and I could remember Henry (radio DJ from 933) being forced to dance as well. That was some light hearted moment during that evening. I recall how I could still hear the music from the zumba or some fitness dance while I was during my laps. It does really keep the participants going especially when most of us are feeling the tiredness kicking in later that night.

THE BAD

Of course, despite all the positivities, there are the bad points I personally feel that it requires some highlight.

1. Open more lanes for running

The whole point for opening up the 3 lanes are for competitive runners (i.e. those who are taking part in the 100km Challenges) to have an ‘express’ route to complete their runs. I know this is just a charity relay but we have to consider that there are fast runners that are chiong-ing round the track like there were racing for glory in an Olympics final. I can’t blame them because that might be the speed they are comfortable in — especially when they are seasoned athletes. On the other hand, there are runners who runs at a slower pace on the track.

With only 3 lanes opened, 294 individuals (there were 294 teams/individuals taking part in the 100km Challenge) on the track with all travelling at different paces, it seems like a recipe for an accident waiting to happen. I remembered when I slowed down to some 7:30 pace, I met this guy who was running at high speed, brushed past me and many other participants. We were so close to crashing into one another, and I ain’t going to think of the domino effect that could have happen had both of us fell. The lanes were just too narrow given the number of expected participants on the track at any moment. 2 more lanes could have been added to better manage the crowd, and for safety reasons too.

2. Track Etiquette

This is less of the fault of the organisers but they could have did a little more to manage the runners and walkers. As much as we want to be inclusive, we need to cater to the safety of every participants. Like I pointed out in the point above, having speed demons rushing through the crowd and increase the probability of toppling over others is a safety concern. Slower runners like myself ought to keep right, leaving the left-most lane for faster runners. Respect the lanes and it will make things easier for everyone.

Furthermore, as one of my team mates pointed out, people with large costumes might poised a threat to the runners, given the props they might be carrying with them. Hence, we would like to suggest that walkers and people dressed up in large costumes ought to be directed to the other lanes that was initially designated for non-competitive runners and casual walkers. Just to be safe, really. 🙂

Above all, it was a pleasing, fun and fulfilling night running with my fam for this good cause. It triggers a lot of thoughts and definitely changes the way I look at running and races as a whole. It added another mission to my life that is to be that good catalyst to people’s life, no matter how small the changes for the better might be.