For the love of running
Three individuals have found solace in running for different reasons.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Three individuals in their 50s have found their passion in running. Each has different reasons why they have turned to this form of exercise, however, the commonality is they are not stopping any time soon.
Ageless Online finds out more about their reasons and how others over 50 can also enjoy running:
A motivation to quit smoking
Fifty-five-year-old Daniel Chia had been smoking for 12 years. He started the habit at the age of 16. However, in 1987, he found his reason to quit. A friend brought him to MacRitchie Reservoir to run a 5km, however, he could barely manage 1.5km. He shared: “I simply couldn’t continue as I ran out of breath and had to walk the remaining distance. My friend completed the 5km and after that he laughed at me for not even running 1.5km. And so, I told my friend that I would quit smoking and prove to him that I can do it.”
It took about a month for the father of two to completely quit smoking. When he started to run, he admitted, “it was really hard because I was simply very unfit from both a lack of exercise and a poor lifestyle”. But his persistence paid off. Now he can run beyond 1.5km and has done several full and half marathons (to name a few – the Standard Chartered Marathon, Kuala Lumpur Marathon, Army Half Marathon, Penang Marathon, the recent Run for Cover 42-hour treadmill marathon, and ironically, the MacRitchie Cross-Country Marathon and the MacRitchie Ultramarathon). He has done some of these marathons with his wife.
He used to run twice a day (morning and evening), six days a week, with each run lasting about an hour. Now that he is driving a taxi, he can’t afford to run as regularly but still does at least one run a day, six days a week, either in the morning or evening. On the weekdays, Chia runs 10 to 12km and on the weekdays, he runs 20km.
He added: “From running, I have become stronger and more fit. I don’t fall sick easily so I save lots of money on doctors’ fees. I eat better, sleep better and more importantly, I have made more friends.” Running is the only form of exercise he does.
Asked how others over 50 can share in his love of running, he advised: “Firstly, invest in a good pair of running shoes – that’s all you really need for running. As they’re above 50, go for shoes that provide more cushioning and support. Secondly, find a few friends to run together. Thirdly, find a nice place to run, in a park or by a waterfront.
“Lastly, as you are above 50, warming up and stretching is very important because our body takes a longer time to warm up and recover from the previous exercise. After run, it is also very important to cool down and stretch again, and drink much more water than you usually would.”
A chance to de-stress from work
Another individual who has also found love in running is 58-year-old father of one, Brian Ang. A director of a company, Ang started running in 1988 as he felt he wanted to get in better shape and has since ran a few marathons and the Half Iron Man in Singapore. “It was my main form of exercise then, but I did do some strength training using free weights. I went for regular health check-ups and consulted my doctor to make sure that I was fit to run.”
However, he stopped running for 10 years as he developed knee problems due to the heel stride method of running, he shared, but started running seriously again two-and-a-half years ago. “During the last two-and-a-half years of running, I researched about new forms of running methods – the fore-foot running and barefoot running methods. Since I was experiencing knee pains previously, initially I ran shorter distances, about 5km to 10km, with the Minimus (brand from New Balance) lower platform running shoes. I began to strengthen my core muscles and practised these new running forms. My knee problems have since gone.”
Ang runs on the weekdays, three times for 10km each and on the weekends, he runs 15km on average. However, he is training for the Berlin Marathon and is planning to increase the distance on his run on weekends to 20km to 30km. He shared: “I enjoy running because it is a sport that can be done alone. Running is also a time for me to de-stress as work can be stressful, but when I am on my runs, I am in the ‘zone’, concentrating on my breathing and enjoying the scenery. I also run with running clubs, and through that and research, I have learnt new running methods and techniques.”
In the past two-and-a-half years running, he has done two full marathons and several half marathons in Singapore, and two full marathons in New York and Tokyo. Like Chia, he recently was a participant for Run for Cover organised by Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
His advice for those over 50 who are keen to run? “Those who are in their 50s and have not ran in the years before should not eliminate the possibility of running as a form of exercise. However, it is important that they do their research beforehand so that they don’t get injured. They should consult their doctor and physiotherapist to make sure that they are tested fit to run, perhaps join a running club, and invest in a GPS watch that can record the distance run, speed and time, and with heart rate monitor to ensure that they are running within their heart rate zone.
“It is also important to get their muscles and joints conditioned before attempting any strenuous running activities. Now, the 50s are like the new ‘late 30s’ – people are better informed and are generally in better shape.”
Finally, there is 55-year-old Koh Thong Mui who manages to find time to pursue his passion for running. He is an administrative assistant in a stock brokering firm. The father of four was motivated to start running after his Army days in the ’80s. Today, he takes part in at least two to three races or marathons a month, with each having a distance of at least 10km or more. Said Koh: “I prefer running as this is a sport where I can do alone, as other sports might require a partner.”
For him, running has allowed him to maintain his overall health and fitness at his age, and it also gives him a chance to bond during the races with his brother, Koh Thong Gan, 57.
He added: “Due to work and family commitments, it can be difficult to find time to meet up. I’m glad that my brother and I share the same interest which allows us to meet up every now and then, and catch up on each other’s lives. Running has definitely made our relationship stronger as we get to motivate and encourage each other along the way.”
Besides encouragement, both brothers will also give gentle reminders to drink more water, and to pay more attention to their health. While they do not always run side-by-side, running at a similar pace provides them with the motivation to complete each race. The brothers recently ventured into the dark jungles of Mandai together at the Energizer Singapore Night Trail 2014, a night-trekking experience.
Added Koh: “Since I started running, I’ve seen improvements to my health. I used to be underweight and often felt weak, but now I feel much tougher after taking up running.”
And finally his advice for those over 50? He shared: “If they have been running, continue to keep it up. If they have just started running, it is important to be aware of their own fitness level and try not to force themselves too much.”