Mok Ying Ren is a marathoner, doctor and an ambassador of BRAND’S Essence of Chicken. He is a two-time South East Asian games gold medalist in the triathlon and marathon events and is currently taking time off as an orthopaedic surgery resident to pursue his Olympic dream in the marathon event.
Dr Mok shares with us three tips on how he applies the sport of running to his life .
“Marathon running is no doubt a gruelling sport which involves running 42.195km. I have been running marathons since 2009 and training for it has seen me run up to 180km a week. This works up to about 12-15 hours a week of running. Many of my friends joke that I run more than they drive in a week! With such an immense amount of time spent on running, I have definitely took away lessons that be applied to life.”
Preparation is everything
People do not often understand what goes on before a marathoner stands on a starting line. The marathon itself is an event that takes a lot out of you and one is unable to do more than 2 to 3 high performance ones a year. The reality is that every single run is a preparation for the big day. On top of training, there are also other aspects of preparation such as nutrition (what to eat before, during and after training), equipment (type of shoes for different terrain and workouts), recovery (getting adequate sleep) and social life (cutting down on late night social events).
This is exactly the same in life. If you have a goal in mind, it is important to prepare for it on a daily basis. If you are a student, studying consistently throughout the semester will prepare you to perform better in the exams. If you are a businessman, building your network on a daily basis will get you further in your field.
Sometimes, less is more
However, ironically, sometimes stepping on the brakes every now and then can get you further in life. Running is a weight bearing sport and each step that we take on the road is a stress on our musculoskeletal system. Due to the nature of the athlete’s mind, I must admit that I have sometimes pushed myself too hard and over the edge. In 2011, I was bent on breaking the national record in the 5000m, which is 12.5 rounds on the track. The national record then was 14:57.61 set in 1995 by N. Ganesan. To break the record, I needed to run faster than 2min 59sec per km. I remembered hammering lots of speed work and interval training in the bid of getting my times faster and I ended up developing a pain in the heel which got worse and worse. I refused to let myself take a break from the running and recover from the injury. In the end, even though I broke the record in the end with a time of 14:51.09, I was unable to run for the next 6 months.
On hindsight, if I had allowed myself to take a break, I may not have gotten the record so soon but would have been able to keep running without injury. This would have allowed me to keep building on the fitness after the record rather than taking such a long break, letting my fitness go to waste.
In life, sometimes knowing when to take a break can get you further. Looking at this concept in a different perspective, sometimes working less and spending more time with your family and loved ones gives you “more” in life.
Never give up
In endurance training, we learn not to give up on a daily basis. Training runs of up to 3 hours is a mental challenge and so are fast speedwork that leave your lungs gasping for air. In 2005, when I was still doing triathlons, I took part in the SEA Games qualifying race, hoping to win a berth to represent Singapore at the Games. I took a hard crash and suffered from dehydration during that race that required hospitalisation and I failed to qualify for that edition of the Games. However, I persevered and went on to not only qualify for the 2007 edition but also win a Gold Medal. In 2011, I suffered from bad plantar fasciitis and had to forgo my chance to represent Singapore in the 5000m. But in 2013, not only did I qualify for the marathon event, I won Singapore’s first ever Gold Medal the marathon event. Each time, I honestly felt that the odds were against me but something in me made me want to try again, again and again.
Perseverance is definitely one of the biggest takeaways from endurance training but it is not easy. It requires humility and courage to know that you have been beaten by the situation, but not be willing to be kept pinned down.
Endurance training by its nature is long, arduous and can sometimes even be lonely. But the time spent alone allows for much personal reflection, which is part of the course of preparation and self-improvement and everyone will take home different life lessons. No matter how challenging it may seem, it is worth the effort you put in and I encourage you to join me on this journey.
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