Since young, I know I can run but not the podium finisher type though. In my school days, I liked to compete in the 1,500 metres and as far I could remember, I was among the top 10 finishers in one school competition. The venue then was the National Stadium but too bad, there were no nice pictures of me running then. We were too poor to own cameras.
During my NS days, I remember I was always third in IPPT at company level. My nemesis is an Indian army mate whom I have never beaten and without doubt, he had no match in his hey days. If I happen to meet him today, I am not sure if I can still outrun him or not. Anyway, we have lost contact for many years.
I was in my early 20s, just completed NS and already started working at Changi Airport. That year was 1983 when our company organised their first 5 km cross country run at Macritchie Reservoir. I didn't train much for the run but still managed a creditable 5th position. I have always thought I am young and I can still run a good race even without much training. On the same year, our company was invited to participate in a run organised by PSA Sports Club. We were competing in the individual and team event and the distance was more than 6 km which will start from the club at Telok Blangah Road and run up to Mount Faber and finishing at the club. The best six runners were selected to represent the company and I was ranked 5th. Only the timing from the best four finishers are counted for team event challenge. In my team, we had a national middle distance runner and he is an Indian. In my team, we had four Indian runners and two Chinese and I am one of them. One of our Indian runners always run bare-footed, a lanky chap and he was one of our best runners in the team.
Again, I did not train for this event. I did not think much about the route up Mount Faber which stands at 105 metres above sea level. Admittedly, I was too complacent. I know I won't be among the podium finishers but I should not be very far off or I thought so. PSA sent a strong team. When I looked at their runners, they certainly looked very young and fit.
When we were flagged off, the run along Telok Blangah Road was not too bad. It is a flat road and I was pacing well and consistently too. When we turned into Mount Faber, the real test awaited us. I was not even into half way mark on my climb, my two calves started to harden like a rock. At that juncture and much as I would like to push harder, my legs just could not carry me forward. I was forced to stop momentarily and had to walk up the rest of the climb. By then, many runners simply streamed past me like a breeze and all I could do was to look at them. Mount Faber may be just a small hill but I was completely beaten by it. I did not train for the run, did not even train the climb and I realised I had the toughest run of my life.
I remember I did not come in last but certainly not among the front pack. All my team mates finished way ahead of me. Our national runner came in first in his individual event and fortunately for us, we finished second as a team behind PSA. Thanks to the team, I still brought home a trophy but I was not proud of my own achievement though.
Sometimes, I still run up Mount Faber on my leisure run with friends but each time, I was reminded of my humbling experience. I am much older now but I am very confident I can still outrun myself in my younger days. I have been running fairly regular and I have learnt to respect the slope up Mount Faber, never to take for granted. We need to train and there is no short cut to it. Finally, I always have healthy respect for our local Indian runners for, aside from the African runners we know too well, Indians are born natural middle and long distance runners too.