Monday, December 29, 2008


For the last couple of weeks, I was terribly upset after terminating a stressful 'relationship' where my pride was constantly being assaulted. It is extremely hurting being called brainless and worse than senseless things!

My boss of 25 years has always introduced me as her 'friend' to all her friends and clients. Well, we've been working for that long; shared good times and braved through bad times. Can you imagine, I've watched all her four sons from birth and now they are all grown! Yet to me, she is never my friend and I am glad I never regarded her as one. For as long as she pays my salary, she'll remain my boss. My friends will never use abusive words to hurt me. Never!

Thus, ended a relationship of 25 years! My friends never envy my loyalty but admired my tolerance level. Enough. Period. They all supported and rejoiced with me when I made my final decision, so did John. Later, I received an e-mail from one of my good friends which I thought was most appropriate to me at that moment. I took some excerpts from it to share here:

Words are very important. Words can heal and words can harm. Words can hurt grieviously and for a long time. The tongue can bless and the tongue can curse. Many times, when we are angry we say the most atrocious things. We forget ourselves and become indifferent to what we say. We blast the other person without mercy, although we may not mean those words. But words once spoken can not be taken back and it takes a long time to forgive and forget. Many couples are particularly prone to such outbursts when they get mad. It is not an easy thing to control our tongue when we are provoked, boiled over with anger or have outburst of wrath.

Uncontrollable words spoken in anger can have devastating effect. Angry words, that are used thoughtlessly such as "You have no brains," or "You are worse than senseless things" cause pain and feelings of rejection. They give rise to insecurity. The unmeant and foolish words contain full of deadly poison and can play havoc in the mind. It will make reconciliation very difficult.

We must also be very careful that in our anger we do not label our children with ugly names such as fat, stupid, pig, useless, good for nothing. Such negative remarks can do harm to them for years to come and may ruin the possibility of a relationship with that person for life. We must never use words to knock our children down. To help our children to fulfill their highest potential we should be their greatest encourager. A word of love can be the greatest acts of love.

A word of love is the greatest acts of love. It can take away fear, isolation, shame and guilt. It can reconcile, unite, forgive and heal. It can bring peace and joy, inner freedom and deep gratitude. When we choose to speak words of care, words of encouragement, words of praise, words of love, positive words...they uplift and give meaning to life. When we say, "I love you" or "I think of you" to our loved ones or friends, we choose to give life. It is not always easy to express our love directly in words but whenever we do, we are offering a blessing that will be long remembered. When a child says to his father,"I love you" or when a mother says to her child "I love you", a whole new blessed place can be opened up, a space where it is good to dwell. Indeed, words have the power to create life.

The above are excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey and posted by Jason Timothy to me. Thanks, Jason!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

O come, all ye runners!

The Malakoff 12km race was held last Sunday. John and I missed the registration dateline but we decided to go ahead, join in the crowd and still follow the run. The race course was new to us.
Few days before Sunday, an idea came along that John would put up his famous Santa's cap again. This time, he also put on his red vest and shorts and I got him a little red sack bag. We filled the bag with goodies; sweets and chocs and distributed them to runners along the way. O what fun we had!

When we reached Taman Rimba Kiara that morning, we were surprised to see so many participants. We joined runners for the 12km route except this time, John and I stood right at the back of the pack. Usually in a race, at the crack of the starting gun, everyone actually begin running - fast! At the back of the pack, the start goes like this: You hear the gun, stand in place, walk forward, then walk-jog-run.

As we started jogging, we were cheered and greeted by friends, fellow runners and marshals, "Ho!Ho!Ho! Go Santa!" (as if we were in the race). We ran the first few kms with Wah Chai, Uncle Yee, Ah Tai and Pek Moi...chatting and chanting 'Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is coming to town!' Then we met Ngae who switched our carol to 'We wish you a Merry Christmas' and some of the runners nearby joined in.
Although the race course was rather tough with uphills and downhills, there were a lot of fun, laughter, chatterings and merriment as John and I continued running and distributing goodies from the bag. Then it was Ngae again coming from behind singing a few verses of 'O come all ye faithful!' After that I made a few of my own verses too but sang in silence for fear of offending some Christians around.
It goes like this: "O come all ye runners, joyful and triumphant. O come ye, O come ye to Malakoff. Come and behold them, born the Kings of marathon. O come let us adore them, O come let us adore them, O come let us adore them...Kings Of The Road!"

Yeah, we had lots of fun. I was actually enjoying the experience of seeing a race from a new perspective. As the course was 2 loops of 6km, I could therefore watch as leaders of the race ply their various strategies. They (the Kenyans) seemed so in control. When they needed speed, they had it. The very fast are different from you and me - or, at least, me. Some things are the same, though. As confident as the leaders of the pack looked, their eyes give away the truth. They push their limits. They are just susceptible to doubt and worry as those behind them. Their speed and ability don't make them immune to failure.

As for me, I was glad to learn that there are times where I do not have to be 'in' the pack or to be a competitor to enjoy the race. At the Malakoff 12km on 21st Dec. I stayed right at the back of the pack...I ran, I watched, I learned and I enjoyed myself.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Finding the marathoner in me through another marathon

Behind every runner, there's a race. Behind every race, there's a lesson to be learned. And behind that lesson, there's always a story. Here's mine from the recent Maratona de Macau.

Regardless of one's ability, 26.6 miles or 42.195km is a long way to run. Heck, it's a long way to drive! And like any challenge of this magnitude, a full marathon takes a lot of preparation in terms of training. And this time, I was least prepared.
Having not run a full marathon for 6 years now, I decided to make a comeback. Don't ask me why - I don't know and still don't.

My husband always tells me that my body is designed to long distance running, simply because of my high endurance level, my threshold for pain and a strong mental tenacity. Therefore, I will do well. I have no doubts about my potential until...a month prior to the race, I succumbed to a lower tension inguinal ligament strain and back pain. Therefore, preparation for this marathon is minimal (with the furthest mileage of 27km, that was also because I got lost in the woods in Christmas Island!) Since I've registered for the marathon, I just have to try. But the Macau Marathon is not a good choice for the injured as the course is fast and qualifying time is a short 5 hours; not a second more.

As a matter of fact, with my condition I wasn't even looking forward to run any races. I had been to Hong Kong many times but not Macau. It has never been my holiday destination. So, there!

Upon arrival, we were experiencing temperatures of 16C and because of the strong wind, we felt so cold. After checking into Grandview Hotel, John and I headed straight to Taipa Stadium to collect our race kits. As it was late evening, the Stadium seemed somewhat isolated and solemn. After that, we took a stroll around the hotel's vicinity and had dinner. The hotel is located about 5 mins walk to Taipa Stadium where the marathon would start and finish, and 20 mins walk to The Venetian. There's a bus-stop right in front of Grandview which made travelling in Macau extremely convenient for us. The next day, we hopped onto Bus No 33 and spent the whole day sight-seeing and toured Macau's famous sites eg. Ruins of St Paul's, Monte Fortress, Cathedrals etc.
We savoured the tasty Portugese Tarts, the famous Almond Cookies and had Portugese meals. There were a lot of merriment happening at the Senado Square as the Christmas spirit filled the air!

I guess that atmosphere was just right for John as he would be wearing his Santa's cap again during the marathon. It would be his second time being a Santa running a marathon. His first was at Chiangmai 2 years ago where he achieved his personal best time of 3hr 33mins.

7th. Dec was a day of many events and happenings for athletes. Many of our running friends were at Singapore for the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon, a few ran Angkor Wat Half Marathon in Cambodia, others (Carmen & Team Tri-Hard) went to Phuket to participate in the Triathlon and while we thought we were the only ones running the Macau Marathon, we were surprised and joyous when we met fellow Pacesetters members there. There were Daniel Tan, Terence Chau, Crystal Foong and 17 of the Pacesetters Kuantan group. Except for Terence, John and I, the rest ran the Half Marathon.
Having ran in colder climate before, that morning temperature of 12 degrees celsius was about right for me. We were to start and finish inside the stadium. My nostrils quivered at the heady scent of Deep Heat as I exchanged pleasantries with my fellow M'sian runners. I observed around me that the other runners were filled with excitement of their race journey. I realised almost immediately that I was not sharing their enthusiasm. The morning message was clear, even if the sky was not: this was not going to be an easy marathon (at least not for me!). Ahead of us, lay 42km...

I had only one abiding thought - save energy. All endurance races are more about energy management than about speed and this would be especially true of the 42km. There were such a huge crowd, I hardly noticed the starting gun. Before I knew it, I was walking with the crowd, then striding, then jogging towards the start and once we managed to get out of the Stadium's tunnel everyone ran, each on their own pace. Aware of my injury, I reminded myself to run very conservatively so that I do not aggrevate it or trigger a pain too soon. I just needed to find my own pace, a rhythm that worked for me so that I could complete the marathon within the qualifying time.

Everything went well until I reached the 25km mark or so, the chronic injury to my left hip and back were painful enough to remind me that I needed to slow down even though I was already very slow. Later, I stopped at a First Aid station requesting for a panadol. They went all over searching for it and in the end, found none. Disappointed, I had no choice but to move on. Honestly, after 28km - the remaining kms were all a test of mental strength. 'Soul over Mind over Body'...why do I have to punish my poor body to go through this agony? Ha... the truth is during my entire running life, I've never considered myself a marathoner although I've completed several. I am just a runner, so I told myself. And I'll just keep running.

Then somewhere around my 35km mark, I thought I stumbled upon a small miracle. Instead of hitting the wall, I found myself counting down the last few kms...reciting my own poems and songs. I was running at my absolute limit that I've forgotten about the pain although I knew it was there. As the kms passed, I discovered that there was no small miracle - it was just Me.

I was quite relieved when I saw the distance marker at 38km. At this point, my confidence soared...I passed more than one runner who has left his sprightly legs behind and ran side by side with a weary Irish guy. His body language signalled to me that we should stick to the pace and run together for the remaining 3km. We did just that and trotted towards the sign which wrote Estadio de Macau. As we entered into the stadium, I heard the voice of Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time". A warm feeling of happiness and euphoria swept through me and I did my final swing straight to the finishing line, wondering about my time..
Time? Sometimes, the watch is the real distraction (wondered why I wore one?). 4hours 21mins be respected. I received my hard earned medal, a finisher tee, bath towel from the Event organizers and then, a hug, a kiss and a pat on the back from John who was there to welcome me.
John did very well and clocked his second best time of 3hours 38mins. Yes, he wore his Santa's cap and had the crowd cheering him along the way, "Go! Santa, Go!". Indeed, he jingled all the way.

Upon completion, the feeling is still good as all athletes would know. I was completely exhausted or perhaps about to collapse to sleep, yet still have the strength to smile and beam proudly and bend down to unlace the shoes and remove the chip even though my legs were stiff with lactic acid.

At the finishing site, I paused and looked around me and saw that not was I amongst a group of marathoners, but I was actually one of them. Whether I clocked a sub 4 or sub 5 - I am not just a runner, I am a marathoner. After so many years of running, I finally realized that "being real" is simply a matter of looking inside myself and finding myself waiting there.

Monday, December 1, 2008's nice to remember

December has always been one of my favourite months. During my school days, we had 7 weeks of holidays where my sisters and I would spend a week at our school Christian Union Camp. Besides, they are not just school holidays but holidays. And this year, we've got 4 eg. Hari Raya Haji, Sultan Selangor's Birthday, Christmas and Awal Muharram! Last weekend, the Shopping Malls were already packed with shoppers (which is good for the retail business).

Come to think of it; over these past 3 years or so, John and I had planned our 'running' holidays around December. We ran the Honolulu Marathon, Singapore Marathon, Chiengmai Marathon and Angkor Wat Half Marathon, all in December! This December we will be running the Macau Marathon. In addition to that, I was born in December - not that it's such a big deal but it's nice to remember. And to be remembered.

December is when I've passed the water-sheds of my life. It was the month in which I became old enough - old enough to drive, old enough to be drafted, old enough to marry, old enough to make important decisions and old enough to vote.

This December will be the month when I say goodbye to the retail industry, where I had spent half of my lifetime! As much as I enjoy 'retail-tainment' and all the little 'luxuries' and incentives that the retail industry has to offer - I seriously need to take a break and perhaps, give myself a chance to change direction, for the better (I believe).

For most of my life, it seems I've looked at people ahead of me - people with better jobs, higher salary or bigger cars. Like seeing the elite runners ahead of me on an out-and-back course, I've observed some friends getting promoted, receiving bigger pay raises and depending on how you define these things, pull in front of me. And it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't catch them. But then, there are others behind me as well...struggling to catch me. Now I also know of people who are working as hard as me, who are looking at me and wondering why they can't catch me. And I realized that I must never be greedy but should always be contented and proud to have come this far.

Therefore, this December I shall steer clear of that cliched phrase "how time flies" but rather, as I move on to another hope is that I will come to see myself more honestly. I hope I will become better at assessing my strengths and weaknesses without being controlled by them. I will accept that, as a person, I will always be somewhere in the pack, as I am as a runner. Yeah, as with running, life is a matter constantly checking on how I feel about where I am, how contented I am with this life and whether I have the guts to dare to do something different.