LIV3LY: Hello Jean, thank you for taking time out for this interview! Let’s start off simply. What do you do for a living?
Jean: I’m a P.E. teacher.
LIV3LY: What are your hobbies or passions besides running?
Jean: I love playing team sports, particularly netball.
LIV3LY: What inspired you to start running?
Jean: Actually, running was never my passion. After joining a group of fun-loving people who call themselves the ROCK Runners, my perspective on running changed. Just recently, 26 of the ROCK Runners competed in the Asics City Relay and many of them completed the race with a strong Personal Best (PB).
Someone told me, “I like that I’m racing with my team rather than running for my individual goals!” And that is truly how I feel with ROCK Runners. They are the reason why I am inspired to run!
LIV3LY: Were you always a sporty child?
Jean: Being an introvert growing up, I never really knew how to express how I truly feel. When I was really young, I was diagnosed with a hole in my heart, a congenital condition which prevented me from doing sports.
So, my parents enrolled me in Chinese Dance when I was 6. I had to wear those tight red dancing shoes, bind my feet tightly and do splits.
Back in primary school, my parents forbade me from joining Sports Day because of my condition. It was a big thing back then to be chosen to run. I remember watching all the other kids taking part in the race, and I could only hide at a corner and watch them practise, secretly wishing I was one of them.
I remembered smiling when I watched them cross the finish line. It was ironic because as much as I wished I was competing, I felt happy seeing others complete their races and just being the cheerleader for my friends. Some of them did not know me, but I still cheered loudly and clapped for them anyway.
One day, I was sitting at the quadrangle and saw a group of girls playing netball. I was captivated by the way the girls were laughing, supporting one another and having tonnes of fun. I truly wished I was one of them.
I followed them for three years, from Primary 4 to Primary 6. I didn’t talk much, neither did I get to play but I was a happy follower and supporter. Finally, in secondary school, I made it to the netball school team and the rest was history.
Till this day, I still remember the coach who changed my life and gave me the opportunity to realise my dreams – which is to play netball and represent Singapore.
LIV3LY: Why was netball your first love?
Jean: Whenever I’m playing netball, I find myself in a zone no words can describe. I love the chemistry between teammates, the trust that you give to each other, the support that we have, how we complement one another and how everyone matters.
In netball, you can’t play “solo” and communication is important. I always ask myself what I can do when the team is down. I like to believe that I can be the light that lifts the team up when we are down because as long as one person doesn’t give up, the rest will keep on fighting. We can lose the game, but we should never lose ourselves. I learnt about “WE” and “US”, and not “ME” and “MYSELF”.
Because of the stamina and speed built up from playing netball, I had numerous offers from running coaches to be trained to run for Singapore. I still remember the exact question this particular coach asked me, “Do you want to remain anonymous in netball where you can never be ranked #1, or do you want to follow me and make a name for yourself in track?”
I chose the former and never regretted my choice. Therefore, like I’ve told anyone and everyone, I am not fond of running. In fact, I don’t usually go for races unless I have to or unless it is for a team. Running left a bad trauma on me because of the expectations I felt I had to attain.
LIV3LY: How did you eventually find the motivation to run consistently and put running as a priority in your life?
Jean: At this year’s Asics City Relay Run, I felt freedom while running for the first time. I was literally enjoying the race. We took photos before the run, at the start line with all the first runners.
I had amazing support from the ROCK family and I also had the love from my husband who was running in the same team as me (4th runner). I knew that I had the duty to pass on the baton to someone dear – my best friend/buddy/training partner – who had given me this platform to shine. Her name is Cheryl Tay and she’s someone who means a lot to me.
Running the first leg was pretty challenging as the heat had been worse than expected. But not once did I give up because the ROCK family was waiting for me. As I was running, I thought about the training sessions Cheryl and I had over the past few months.
I am grateful to friends like Kok Liang, Debbie, Yanee, Shan, Desiree, Raymond, and many more who always check on me and keep me on track.
I ran knowing what my goals were for the race: to run within 50 minutes. And I did it with a decent timing of 47 minutes for 10.5 kilometres, an achievement dedicated to the team. I am delighted to have hit my target but the main joy is not hitting a new PB but having witnessed everyone excelling. I rejoiced from the fact that everyone did well because of their effort.
I have faith that all of them would do well because we have been doing regular workouts together (every Saturday morning) in an enjoyable environment with no pressure, just chasing our personal goals with positive vibes.
LIV3LY: How have the ROCK Runners changed your life?
Jean: I no longer think of this as a race. I am no longer running alone. I am running for my friends, my loved ones, and my family. I believe that all of us have our off days and lousy days. All of us face problems and sometimes, we may feel that no one understands or we may not wish to talk much about it.
But the truth is, we are the ones who choose to shut down that wall and we are the ones who refuse to let anyone in. If you learn to open up, there are people who will be willing to listen and offer help. It may not work at that moment but it is okay, and remember, your friends do care. I have learnt that in this family – they don’t judge.
I can be the silliest, the slowest, the weirdest, the craziest, the loudest, but they will still love me. I may choose not to speak up at times and they may not understand but they will still stand by me.
This is because the ROCK family stands by you through thick and thin. Thank you, truly from the bottom of my heart. I am not perfect and I am far from good but this ROCK family loves me. I may not be the fastest runner but in their eyes, it doesn’t matter so long as I complete the race.
I may fail again and again, but it’s okay because that’s when I truly learn. It is okay to fall as long as I pick myself up and not let the problem sink in me for too long.
There is nothing too big for us to bear, except ourselves. In the past, if you had asked me what running meant to me, I would have told you that I dislike it. Now, I can tell you, just ROCK on and have fun! I am proud to be a ROCK runner. Lastly, never let anyone underestimate you or tell you that you can’t do something, not even me. Because you matter! Love yourself because you are special just the way you are.
LIV3LY: When the going gets tough while running, how do you spur yourself to finish the run?
Jean: Take it one lap at a time; think about my close ones; remember the good memories and before I know it, I am at the finishing line.
LIV3LY: Share with us 3 practical tips that you found useful for yourself as a runner?
- Set a goal, break it, and then set another goal.
- Remember, it is okay to have off days. Accept it but never sink with it. Pick up your down days and learn to recognise signals from your body. Love yourself.
- Enjoy the process of running; let the result take care of itself.
LIV3LY: Looking back on your journey as a runner, what is your best advice for someone who wants to embrace running?
Jean: Push yourself even when no one is looking – run freely, fly high, keep going. Find that zone where you can be yourself.
LIV3LY: Thanks Jean! Your dedication as an athlete for the ROCK Runners is inspiring. It is especially encouraging for people who struggle in their commitments towards running. All the best to you, and ROCK on!