Updated: Jan 11, 2020
A journey of self discovery and for the love of dogs
With only 4 weeks away to the biggest race of my life (to date), I have been answering this question when asked by baffled friends and strangers. Anyone who is not an ultra trail runner simply cannot comprehend why anyone in their sane mind would want to do a 100-mile foot race. Not 100km, but 100 miles which is about 161km.
To answer the question, I have to go back to how I started. Long story short, I started as a road runner in 2014, when a health scare forced me to reassess my life and embark on a fitness journey. In a span of 10 months, I went from zero to a full marathon, completing my first World Major Marathon in Tokyo. I thought if I would to suffer, I would do it in a city I love. Not a fairy tale with an enviable timing but I finished it in one piece under 6 hours. That experience made me realised that it is possible to do what I once thought was impossible.
I went on to complete a few more marathons to make sure it was not a fluke on my first attempt, by bagging two more World Major medals in Berlin and New York, and one in Gold Coast. Why and how I signed up for my first ultra trail race was a funny story. I didn't manage to get a slot to run at the London Marathon after failing to win the ballot twice, so I got angry and decided to give ultra trail race a try. Naively thinking what is 50km when I have completed several 42.195km races. I soon learnt ultra trail was a complete different ball game and was more than meets the eye.
The first ultra trail race that I signed up for was TransLantau 50km. I only had less than 3 months to train and no idea how to do so, not to mention clueless about the gear I should use. I asked some road running friends with trail running experience for advice and relied a lot on Red Dot Running Company's Jeri Chua for guidance. To my surprise, I completed the race in under 11 hours, with over 2 hours to spare before the official cut-off time. I thought I was crap then because all my running friends did it under 10 hours, but in retrospective, I think it was pretty alright for a rookie's virgin ultra trail race.
I think the bonus was to have my finishing moment (pic above) captured by the Alexis Berg, the respected photographer who also photographed many of my ultra trail idols, such as Kilian Jornet. I love the photo so much that I used it as the main image for my story in Run Magazine.
The next epic milestone for me was to double the distance and attempt my first 100km the following year at Ultra-Trail Australia. The thought of being overnight alone in the wilderness scared me a lot but I decided to do it anyway because I never like to be a prisoner of my own fears. I wanted to "go big or go home" and confronted all many fears at once - darkness, ghosts, insects, wild beasts, and the unknown. I completed my first 100km in just slightly over a day, on my feet for over 24 hours, but a good few hours before the cut-off time of 28 hours.
This race taught me the importance of having all the mandatory gear, for they saved my life and from DNF (did not finish) when the temperature dipped to almost zero at night up in the windy Blue Mountains. I was so cold that I could not stop shivering at the last checkpoint, when I still had about a good 15km to go. I put on all the mandatory clothing items to stay warm for the last leg of my race. The experience gave me new found courage and self respect. As an overachiever and a self-demanding perfectionist, I thought I was truly awesome for once in my life.
I completed another 100km race a year after, in 2019 in Hong Kong, where I was humbled by TransLantau's brutality. I was glad I didn't choose TransLantau 100 as my first 100km race. I took slightly over 30 hours, slept walk and almost fell while sleep walking. That race was tough and taught me humility, but I want to go back to do it over again till I have no more fear of it. I think that was my toughest race to date but it gave me the courage to set another epic milestone for 2020.
Most of the folks in the running community know of me as the runner who runs to raise funds for dog shelters, thanks to the numerous media features in the local magazines and the newspapers. I am just an ordinary runner; not fast, but what I lack in speed I made it up with determination and my love for dogs. I have been raising funds to support no-kill animal shelters since I became a lifestyle runner.
To date, I have raised over $70,000 since 2014, with help of supportive friends and donors, and fellow runners who decided to come on board to lend a hand to help the less fortunate paws. Every dollar counts and every act of kindness matters. We may not change the world with what we do, but we can change the world of the dogs that we decided to help.
With only 4 ultra trail races under my belt in 3 years, I will embark on my 4th year as an ultra trail runner with my first 100-mile race at Ultra-Trail Tarawera, Rotorua in New Zealand. Suffering is guaranteed but at least the pain is more bearable when I have beautiful scenery to look at.
In summary, I want to run 100 miles because I am looking forward to challenging my own limits to see how far I can go, to toughen myself up when the going gets tough, and to keep raising awareness and funds to help the less fortunate dogs in Singapore. When that is done and dusted come 9 February, I will be writing about 'How I Run A 100 Miles' as a sequel to this post. Wish me luck and send me good vibes, and perhaps you may wish to send a small donation for 'I RUN FOR RESCUE DOGS' too.
For donations to support the no-kill animal shelters, a convenient way is via my Paypal account but a small transfer fee will be charged. Alternatively, please contact me if you wish to donate via other modes such as bank transfer. You will be able to see the updates on my public Facebook album, where photos of activities and receipts of transfers will be posted as updates and for transparency.
A big thank you to my sponsors for supporting my running journey.
* Under Armour Singapore for all apparel and shoes
* Running Lab for Salomon trail running shoes and hydration packs
* Nuzest for plant-based protein
* Essential Magnesium with recovery products
* Sodastream Singapore for sparkling water