An Interview with Chang Teck: Cancer and Running

Featured in articles of The Straits Times and TODAY, we interrupt our once-weekly interview features to catch up with skin cancer survivor, Goh Chang Teck. He shares with us his experiences on running and living day by day. 

LIV3LY: When did you start running, and what made you decide to start?

Chang Teck: As a teenage boy, I hated and despised running because of the times I was made to run hard and fast in every hockey training I had together with my team mates in Teck Whye Secondary School. Even though I was a goalkeeper, I didn’t understand the reasons of being one, and dreaded every session, including running. However, as individuals in a team vying for top honours in the Singapore hockey scene, we took it in our stride to compete with each other to see who can run the fastest and furthest, thereby improving our fitness as a team.

It was because of this competitive spirit that has been instilled into me since young, that I decided to take up a dare - to complete a marathon, posed by a friend who has completed several marathons by then. That was back in 2011, when I attempted the Sundown Marathon for the first time. I was 18 years old then, and I did not know what to expect as the furthest I have ran in my whole life till then was a miserable 10km race in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2009 - which felt like hours.

The marathon essentially kick-started my running adventure, as I caught the running ‘bug’ and signed up for countless races. It was like a drug that I could not get enough of, as I wanted to experience the high of crossing the finishing line over and over again!


LIV3LY: What is the most unforgettable experience(s) in your running life?

Chang Teck: It would be the Tokyo Marathon that I took part and completed in 2014. The Tokyo Marathon is one of the most prestigious races around the world, being one of the six races of the Marathon Majors which included the Chicago and Boston Marathon.

Entry for the race is based on a balloting system because of the oversubscription rate. More than 300,000 people will register for the race 6 months prior, and only 30,000 runners would be selected for all categories of the event. I was extremely lucky to get the slot on my first try, because I have Japanese friends who have tried to register for the event for five years, and had no luck getting in every year.

 For the marathon itself, the crowd support was just tremendous. It was my first time experiencing the whole race route surrounded by people - cheering you on no matter who you are or where you come from. It shortened the route mentally for every participant because everywhere you looked, you didn’t have to worry as you would be well taken care of if anything were to happen to you.

Being able to speak Japanese was a plus as it enabled me to thoroughly enjoy the whole marathon experience – pre and post-race – rendered to me. Everything from logistical support, to simple things like portable toilets was planned out, leaving participants with nothing but praise for the event. Even though I did not clock a personal best for the event, the experience itself was just surreal and ultimately unforgettable, no matter how many races that I have participated in.


If you are losing faith in humanity, go cheer on a marathon!


LIV3LY: What are some of the things you have learnt after running for so many years?

Chang Teck: I run not because I have to, I run because I need to run. If I didn’t run, or exercised in the first place, I don’t think I would be the person that I am today, because running, or basically sports itself, has changed my whole life.

Suffering from cancer is not easy because I live with the reality that anything can happen to me at any point of my life. That is why I run - running requires no reason or motivation for us to do it in the first place; because we are but creatures of passion, never reason - we don’t need to justify running because it makes us feel good about ourselves.


I learnt to never regret the things that I did or did not do, because everything happens for a reason, and if there are ways to change or improve something, you jolly well take the initiative to do it.


Sports, especially running and hockey, has built my character and instilled values in me that no formal education can hope to teach. I am motivated by the fact that with every run or training session, there are new things to learn about myself and the world that I did not know in the first place. For example, hockey has taught me how important it is for everyone involved to work as a team, even though you may not be playing on the pitch. Your cheer as a substitute is as important as the direction provided by the coach, because without your presence, your teammates would not know that you have their back.

 After numerous marathons, countless races and a few ultramarathons, the most important thing I have learnt is to listen to your body. We only have one life, but there are so many races and events out there which are held almost every week. One setback in a race or hockey match isn’t the end of your life, because every experience good or bad, is an opportunity for us to grow into better and stronger people than we ever have been.


LIV3LY: Who do you usually run with and why?

Chang Teck: I usually run alone because I tend to prefer running in the mornings. It is much cooler, and I do love being able to take in the sights of nature and its surroundings when I do my runs at the Green Corridor. It calms my senses and energises me for the day ahead.

However, at times, when the going gets tough, I do appreciate running with my teammates from Trackstar Athletics, because every individual there has his/her own unique abilities and strength as runners. When we run and train together, it takes my mind off training as I know that they have my back and I have theirs. Whenever you feel like you can’t complete a particular segment of your workout, the psychological motivation from them is a needed boost to bring you through your training.

In addition, I do meet up and run with my running kakis from Running Department once in a while. Running Department comprises of runners from all walks of life, and being able to know almost every single one of them is something I am thankful for. Running with them is always an enjoyable and unforgettable experience because of the jokes we crack that only we understand, and the support that comes from them not only mentally, but also physically and emotionally in races. A ‘sng bao’ can serve as a much needed boost during a marathon!

Also, a special shoutout to my mates from Runderbolt! Formed only this year, we are a team of 4 average runners who came together because of how crazy we are when we are together. Having participated in a few relay races this year, we are looking forward to more runs together, and great achievements in the races we have signed up for!


LIV3LY: Coming this far on your ‘adventure’  as a runner, what advice would you give to people looking to pick up running as a sport, or sports in general?

Chang Teck: I would tell them that they should not be afraid of trying new things, no matter how young or old they are.


You are never too old to dream a new dream - or in this case, it is never too late to start trying something new, because who knows, it might be just the thing that would change and improve your whole life!


Life is like a bow and arrow, the arrow can only be shot by pulling it back. Whenever you feel like life sucks and it is pulling you back, just know that it is going to launch you into something great when you take the initiative to try.


LIV3LY: A great analogy on the bow and arrow! Thanks Chang Teck, and we wish you well on your future running endeavours!


LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

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