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From hating running to clocking 100km in two months: How I found joy during COVID-19

Running has become a therapeutic activity for some because of the circuit breaker.

Phoon Jia Hui
Phoon Jia Hui

Published: 15 June 2020, 8:41 PM

Circuit breaker was a largely uneventful period. I found myself with plenty of time, with not much for me to do.

Not even work, as a number of my freelance projects came to a halt too, bar a couple of writing assignments like this one. I did take up some online courses in marketing, but even then, it was not enough to occupy my time.

While others are able to indulge in online gaming, I’ve never been a person who found an interest in playing games. I did spend time watching shows on Netflix, but there came another dilemma – what happens when I run out of interesting shows to watch?

So I turned to an activity that I never once thought I would grow to like, let alone indulge in it – running. But I did, to the point of clocking 100km in distance ran during the 55 days of circuit breaker.

To be honest, I hated running previously. Prior to the circuit breaker, it was probably the last form of exercise I would do – that’s how much I dreaded it. The only time I would be running is to chase after a ball in my weekly futsal sessions with my friends, or when MINDEF sends me a reminder to complete my IPPT.

But the circuit breaker came and along with it, plenty of sports facilities closed. With no football or futsal-related activities, I needed to find something to keep myself occupied and active. I’ll admit – I’m an active person and the lack of activity is not something I can get used to. Then, there’s also the matter of beating cabin fever.


I always had a mask with me whenever I headed out for runs, because I don’t think I would have the energy to run away from the safe distancing ambassadors if I bumped into one! Photo credit: Phoon Jia Hui


So I turned to running. After all, that was probably the only excuse one can find to head out, apart from getting essential activities, and was a good way to try out the new pair of Adidas Ultra Boost running shoes I got at a sale at the end of March.

Obviously, I’m no Usain Bolt. Or even a Soh Rui Yong. So it was not much of a surprise that I started really slow.

But I slowly progressed from 3km runs to 6km runs and by then, I was going on a run on alternate days at Jurong Lake Park, which is nearby my place, in the evening.

Even then, the timings of these runs weren’t fantastic though, but I started challenging myself to keep my pace at below six minutes per kilometre.

It was tough initially as I struggled to come to terms with all this running. The last time I ran so much was during my national service days – ah yes, I remember why I used to hate running now. Not only did I have to get used to my new shoes, I had to contend with the aches that came after every run which somewhat did discourage me from achieving my target.

But with every run, it became easier. The aches lessened, and I found myself going faster. The turning point then came on the 25km mark in mid-April – it was also when I thought to myself if I should try to hit 100km by the end of the circuit breaker.


My Adidas running shoes that I managed to get at a sale, and it came with free customisation too! Photo credit: Phoon Jia Hui


Sure, that distance sounded daunting for someone like me. More importantly, I had doubts about myself and didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But having set that challenge, I decided to go on with it to prove those around me wrong. But more importantly, it was to prove to myself that no challenge is too hard and if I set my mind to it, I can definitely do it.

Run after run, I edged closer to my target. With 10km left of the 100 on May 25, I decided to finish it off with a bang and achieved a rather decent timing as well – completing the run in slightly over an hour.

If there was anything I’ve learned from this experience, it will be to never give up.

As the saying goes, ‘It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop’. You can stop and walk a little to take a breather, but always remember to keep going until your set target – or even more, if possible.

I’ve definitely contemplated giving up on numerous occasions. But as cliche as it sounds, an inner voice told me it would be worth it. And indeed, having completed 100km, I do feel good about myself and I’m proud of being able to achieve something during this period. While there were bad days, I did not let that get into me but used it as fuel for my motivation and pushed myself further instead.


My usual running route. On days when I ran earlier in the evening, I’m able to spot the beautiful sunset. Photo credit: Phoon Jia Hui


Running has also become therapeutic for me. Despite being a reserved person by nature, the fact that I was cooped up within the four walls of my room at home for most of the day wasn’t for me. To be able to view the sunsets has this calming effect, and it certainly helped me with my mental well-being, too.

While the circuit breaker may now have ended, I still make it a point to go for runs at least thrice a week to just keep my fitness levels up and get some fresh air outdoors.

Although there’s no target right now, I could work towards joining my first marathon once the whole COVID-19 situation is finally over.

Now that will be an achievement for life.

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