City Harvest Church is full of running enthusiasts. City News speaks to three God-loving road-runners about what running does for them.
When did you start running races? Have you always been a sporty person?
I took part in my first race on Oct. 9, 2011 when my cell group members invited me to join the Nike SG 10K. When I first started training it was quite embarrassing: we would run for about 2km at East Coast Park, stop at MacDonald’s for a soft drink and rest for 30 minutes before we completed another 2km! Anyway, I did complete the Nike run with much heaving. Before that, I was never really a sporty person. The last time I ran was six years ago for my IPPT, and that was 2.4km. Despite the not so sterling start I continued my leisure running and participated in a few 10K races—I even attempted a 21km race. I would try to run once or twice a week, each time about 5 to 7km.
You’re now in the midst of a trial — how has running helped you?
It was in June 2012 that I started going through the lowest and darkest times of my life. The challenges I had were many and beyond comprehension. I was faced with the loss of my freedom and the success I’d built up; my integrity was being doubted and above all, I had to pay a hefty legal cost. I knew I would be put through tremendous stress and pressure, and I was reminded that we are body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). I was determined to overcome these difficulties; I placed further emphasis on my spiritual discipline in prayer and Bible-reading to build up my faith. I want my mind to be sharp and focused, and that comes from a healthy body. I wanted to be fit to avoid any medical complications from stress.
I started running even more regularly, increasing my speed and distance. I joined Team Fatbird, a running group that helped me to improve. I also run on my own and I take those times to pray, meditate on God’s goodness, clear my mind and think through matters. I would run in various places like East Coast Park, Changi Village, Mt Faber and Punggol.
There is a saying by Dr Jason Karp, a running and fitness coach: “Running is a metaphor for life, life has moments that are difficult and test your resolve. Do you push through that discomfort for self-discovery that lies the other side?” It seems the tougher things are getting, the more I push myself to run further; somehow believing that my physical endurance will also enable me to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:14).”
One week after the end of the first tranche in court, I ran in the Sundown half marathon and achieved a personal best (my PB is now 2hr 27m)!
What benefits has running brought you?
Since I started running seriously, I have I lost two inches off my waist, my cholesterol is lower than the previous year and I have made new friends though running. My colleagues have been inspired to cut down their eating and drinking to pick up running. My wife Li Li even started doing 2.4km on weekends. As of now, I’ve taken part in a 32km race and have been training for the StanChart full marathon with Team Fatbird, putting in 30 to 50km per week.
What advice do you have for people who want to start running?
It’s never too late. And don’t be put off with your current state. I will always remember my 5K runs and the McDonald’s visits at the beginning of my running journey. Then came the 10K, then the half-marathon, then 32K and now I am going for the full marathon—all in two years.
The beauty of this sport is that one can choose to take it as a recreational activity or competitive sport, solo or group fun; it’s all up to your preference. To me the main thing is to find satisfaction, stay injury free and enjoy!
John Lam, 45, will be running the Standard Chartered Full Marathon 2013 this Sunday. He has been married to Khoo Li Li for 16 years and they have two children. He works in the marine industry, and is above all, a committed Christian who loves CHC.
You ran your first ultramarathon—a 100km race—this year. Tell us about it.
It was the Sundown Ultramarathon 2013, which flagged off on Sep. 16 at 6pm at the Marina Barrage. The biggest challenge was probably running overnight. My strategy for the race was run 2km at 7mins/km pace and walk for two minutes then continue another 2km at 7mins/km pace and so on. At every 10th kilometre, I would walk for five minutes. At the 50km mark, I changed to a fresh pair of socks and did some stretching before setting off on the next 50km. Throughout the entire race, I carried a hydration vest and two water bottles so that I would not need to stop too many times for water. I completed my race in 14hrs 23mins.
That is amazing. What other such races you have taken part in?
I have participated in 16 marathons—my personal best is 3hrs 44mins at the Standard Chartered Marathon HK this year). I’ve also done eight half marathons (personal best was the Army half marathon this year at 1hr 42mins). I’ve also taken part in give triathlons here and overseas, in both sprint and Olympic distances.
When did you start racing?
My first running event was the 2008 Sundown Marathon. One fine day, my army buddy just asked me to sign up for it, and I’ve been running ever since!
What is your motivation for running?
To maintain a healthy lifestyle and to challenge myself to improve for every race.
How do you train for an ultramarathon?
My preparation started six months before the race. I did progressive training: 10, 15, 21, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 kms. In between I would have running events that I signed up for. I would do two training runs every week, usually on Wednesday and Sunday.
You are part of CHC’s security ministry as well. How does running long distance help you in your ministry, or vice versa?
I think both require the Spirit of Excellence. In everything we do, we give our best.
Does your family run with you?
I’m single, and yes my family is very supportive. My brother-in-law runs with me, together with a few running kakis.
How does your spiritual life figure in your running?
Bible verses help me during races. I would say to myself Phil 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” over and over again.
Jacky Lo, 26, is a Relationship Manager with ANZ Bank. He has been a CHC member since 2004 and has served in the security ministry since April 2005.
You are active in running races and triathlons. How did you begin racing?
It was only in 2008 when I first picked up running races in Singapore. I remember it was the Shape Run (5K). I ran for the freebies, encouraged by my colleague. Feeling good about it, I continued with more runs even though I was running alone. Next, I did 10km, 15km, 21km and then a full 42km marathon all by myself. I found it tough to get my members in the local cell group to run with me!
Have you always been athletic?
I guess so. In all the 11 schools I attended, I always had extra-curricular activities that occupy my schedule (Girl Scouts, Science Honor Society, school paper, student council and sports). I was in the volleyball varsity team since Secondary 3 and competed in the regional and national games. I was a member of the national youth volleyball team but didn’t make it to SEA games because of a knee injury. Then, because of my strength in sports, I didn’t have to pay for my college education. I played for the University of the Philippines (my country’s state university) and by God’s grace still finished a cum laude (with honors) despite the hectic college life.
But running wasn’t really my thing until I came to Singapore.
Has running become part of your routine?
Yes, running should be an ongoing thing for me, with or without races. The races I sign up for only push me to train and get my body conditioned. I find that when I don’t run for a long time, I easily get tired.
We now have this group among the Filipino CHC members that runs every Monday night. Our 10 to 14km route is just within the city (Marina Bay, Indoor stadium, Mt Faber or ECP). Our group chat on Whatsapp is named, “3 John 1:2” which aims to see everyone prospering in all things and be in health just as our soul prospers.
Personally, I run just once or twice a week. Monday and one other day, as time allows. If I can’t run, I’d cycle to run an errand or swim a few laps at the condo.
Next year I plan to go for two triathlons, one biathlon and about five or six other runs. I plan to run a marathon somewhere outside a tropical climate for a different feel.
Why did you start participating in triathlons?
I am a natural adventurer, always wanting to try out something new, go someplace new. Swimming is my weakness, so I took up triathlons to overcome my fear of swimming in open water. Also, sometimes when I get bored running on the road, I would pick up off-road races like the New Balance Real Run that takes runners through different terrain: trail, road and sand.
Currently I’m into trail runs after my last triathlon in September. My cell group gave me a pair of trail shoes as a birthday present and I intend to use them well. Last year I got a road bike as a present from them. All my gifts are sports-related!
I have a member who used to be workaholic, being the sole breadwinner of the family. But I could see that he’s a people-person and very evangelistic. During cell group meetings and services he learned about experiencing the abundant life in Christ. I conducted Bible study with him and another hardworking father about his age, and the three of us would run on Mondays. Then the influence grew and we spread the word that it’s great to be healthy not only in spiritual stuff but in bodily matters. Sports activities have become an evangelistic tool for us, not only for attracting people but also retaining them.
Last weekend (Nov 24) we took part in the FCG (Filipino CGs) Amazing Race Season 4. Our CG formed five groups to compete in that. Sports holds a strong attraction for prospects. Sports fellowships offer a great time of bonding, encouragement and discipleship.
You’ve also taken to organizing runs. Tell us about those.
I spearheaded a series of Fun Run amongst members of the Filipino members in CHC. We run for a cause and raise money to support our leaders. This year we did three runs – City Run at Marina Bay, Nature Run at Macritchie and the latest: the Skywave run at Mt Faber. We’re scheduled to do it again next year while the trial is ongoing. The race is open to about 40 to 70 people per run and we also give awards for fastest runners, including kids.
You have a full time job as a sales team leader, serve in CHC ministry, and still find time to run and train for races. How do you do it?
All this multi-tasking wouldn’t be possible and effective without God’s grace all over me, and the support of dedicated individuals sharing the same goals and passion.
Guen Joyce Gonzales is 33 (but has a body age of 20). She first came to Singapore in 2002, and graduated from the School of Theology in 2005. Today she is a Singapore permanent resident, working as a sales team leader overseeing a team of four. She has served in the Filipino Ministry since 2010, leading cell group, overseeing the sound crew for Filipino service, raising up Bible Study teachers and guitarists in the Filipino zone, and discipling members.