What truly makes running iconic is the road runners take to get there.
The journey is never easy, physically and mentally, but every moment shapes the runner to who they are today.
Discover the stories of athletes who broke through and found their own greatness.
At one point in his running career, Mok Ying Ren suffered a plantar fasciitis injury. He was pushing too hard during his training, and as a result he had to withdraw from the 2011 SEA Games. Some thought it’ll be "too difficult" for him to return to the sporting scene.
But the 30-year-old orthopaedic surgical resident did not let that end his career.
He not only got back in the game, but also clinched the gold medal for the marathon at the 2013 SEA Games. This hard-earned victory came with struggles too – he had entered the event with a muscle strain and a bad cough while on national service.
The two-time SEA Games gold medalist has since learnt that there is more to winning than just getting the training in. Mok is currently balancing married life, training, family, and an orthopaedics surgery programme that requires 80 hours of training a week, but this is not stopping the New Balance Ambassador & ONEathlete from aiming to qualify for the 2019 SEA Games.
"I realised that running a race presents similarities to our life journey and it’s always about running my own race, to the best that I can. Endurance running, in more ways than one, has inadvertently moulded my character."
The first step is always the hardest, she shares, but once you get into your rhythm and complete the run, that sense of achievement is so rewarding.
Soh appreciates every opportunity she gets to run now, after battling with injuries for nearly three years. She was competing in her first senior steeplechase event (3,000m) in 2014 when she suffered a fibula fracture and had to go on crutches.
Complications ensued and for the next two and a half years, she had to sit on the sidelines and watch others progress. It frustrated her to no end; watching others compete during their prime years rubbed salt into her wounds.
But all that is now behind her as she can finally run without pain.
What keeps Soh motivated is the reminder that she missed out on some of her key prime years as an athlete. Her current plan is to work on time-based goals, such as running under 5 minutes for the 1,500m event, which would serve as a good guideline if she decides to tackle the senior steeplechase event again.
"When you’re done running, you forget why you ever spent time worrying about whether you should run and you just revel in the rewarding feeling that you’ve accomplished something!"
Running is Lossini Jeyapandiyen’s life. She started competing at the young age of 10, became part of the pioneer batch at the Singapore Sports School and at 13, broke the national age group 800m and 1,500m records too.
Hence, she was faced with a bit of a dilemma when she had to choose between her journalist job at Channel NewsAsia and pursuing her passion in athletics. The nature of the job didn’t allow her to train much as the hours were long so she had less time to rest. The choice came easy to her after some consideration.
The 27-year-old is currently working at Deloitte, where she is developing a chief financial officer programme. The working hours are more stable and it has an athlete-friendly environment so she is allowed to focus on training when necessary.
Right now she is training to qualify for her pet event, the 800m, at the 2019 SEA Games.
Lossini set her personal best time of 2 minutes 20 seconds in the 800m at last year’s Singapore Open - but this didn’t come without a challenge. Before that, the last time she achieved her 800m personal best was about 10 years ago and she thought she wouldn’t be able to run a better time.
"Many people mentioned that I’m too old to do a faster timing and that my performance peak is over, but on a personal level I felt I was stronger than ever and I knew it was possible. I'm more fired up when people challenge me!"
Loh Guo Pei decided to retire from running competitively in 2015 due to an injury sustained at the trials for SEA Games 2015. Some called it "a lost opportunity".
However, the 27-year-old has learnt through this experience that he should not focus on the immediate and push himself too hard - but be more patient and kinder to himself.
His journey started small during his secondary school days and gave him fulfilment as he ran with his peers. Since then, Loh competed at the regional level - actively representing Singapore at meets such as the SEA Youth Championships, World Youth Championships and the Asian Junior Championships.
During his national service however, he had to make the tough decision to stop competing so he could complete his vocational training as a naval diver in the Singapore Navy.
After retiring from running, Loh coaches athletes in running today.
"Coaching not only involves training the athletes but also shaping their character. I’m imparting knowledge and learning to guide athletes with no experience, to athletes who clinch podium finishes. It’s a whole new experience, as I learn to understand the strengths and capabilities of different athletes."
Hollie Gunn recalls how she hated running when she was in school. She only started running in 2007 when she struggled with her weight after developing hypothyroidism.
At that point, the 30-year-old veterinary surgeon was running purely to reduce her weight. Back then in London, she would run whilst only taking three cups of soup a day. During this time, she also lost a close friend at university to cancer and running became an outlet for everything. It became "a form of punishment" for her.
In 2010, Gunn reached a turning point in life when she completed her first half-marathon. The feeling of accomplishment at the finish line was so fulfilling that her mindset towards running shifted.
When Gunn first moved to the tropics, she struggled with the heat and humidity so she stopped running. It was only early this year that she came across a running club on Instagram and picked up running again. Her job as a vet makes it hard for her to get out and exercise at the end of a long shift, but that doesn’t stop her from training for her first duathlon in Singapore.
"I saw what I’d achieved, both physically and mentally, from my training, and so I stopped using running as punishment. From there I did a few more half-marathons and a 16-mile trail run before I moved to Singapore in 2015."
Entering national service on the heavier side, his army days helped Gilbert shape up and also mould his passion for running. He even represented his combat unit’s cross-country team in the division games and completed his first half-marathon.
However, the 33-year-old architect’s running journey was disrupted after he enrolled into university and was unable to cope with his architecture studies and an active fitness routine. Thus, his weight ballooned back.
Later, Yang experienced the loss of his father and a failed relationship, which left him in depression. Fortunately, he rediscovered running as a catalyst to overcome his depression with the encouragement from his peers.
He then signed up for a half-marathon in 2014, which was 8 years since his previous one, and hasn’t stopped running since.
"I’m stronger now, knowing that I’ve walked through the darkest days of my life. I enjoy running and am always happy to lace up and discover new routes!"
There was a period in her life when Cheryl Tay was obsessed with her appearance. All she wanted to do was lose weight, thinking she would be more liked that way.
The 31-year-old founder of a body image movement recalled how she used to run 20km in the morning, 6km in the evening and do three hours of kickboxing – every day for a few months. On top of that, she was also starving herself. This caused her to fall prey to eating disorders and she remained very miserable despite losing a lot of weight. For the next few years, Tay refused to run and it became something she dreaded.
However, all that changed when she broke out of the shadows and depression. She learnt to love herself right and appreciate her body, thus creating Rock The Naked Truth.
It was only two years ago when she revisited running that she decided to take up triathlons.
"I realised how much the body is capable of and how there is so much more of ourselves to discover. I like challenging myself so I currently take part in Ironman triathlons, something I previously said I’d never do! We only have one body to live in and it’s our responsibility to take good care of it!"