3 Slow Laps

My program calls for a core training session today. Instead I ran. I had to. It was at this park, my weekday playground that about 4 or 5 years ago, I got to know one of the gentlest and soft-spoken fellow runner. Introduced to me by Rohaizad, another friend whom I’m seeing so little off these days, Yong always had an easy going demeanor. His favorite shoe was the Kayano. We were among the first group of runners to make the park our own. Memories of our pack (sometimes up to 6 fellas) doing our tempos always make me smile.

Over the years, Yong gradually slowed down. His knees eventually saw him lay off the marathon and I began to see less of him at the park. Whenever I saw him, he was going at a leisurely pace always urging me to go ahead and not let him slow me down. Away from the park, we would bump into each other at my office building, usually over the lunch hour when he dropped by to make his monthly payments. Our conversations were all too quick but he always had a ready smile. Due to his nature of work, I always saw him in t-shirt, jeans and New Balance. The last I saw him was at least 2 months ago when he admitted he hasn’t been running much, devoting more time to his family commitments.

Yong and I are of the same age, and share similar challenges in balancing work, family and our true passion in running. And today I received word that he passed away last Friday. It was a heart attack and had been quick. I’ll miss seeing him and catching up around the office or at the park – rare it may be. I pray that his family stays strong. I pray that he’s in a better place.

So today, I ran 3 laps in memory of my friend. 3 slow laps.

Originally published: August 13, 2012.

Running And Happiness

Running provides happiness which is different from pleasure. Happiness has to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.” – George Sheehan

The Most Succinct Reason Of Why We Run

Sometimes we run simply to get away from the maddening crowd.
Sometimes we run simply to get away from the maddening crowd.

In the RW Blog http://rwdaily.runnersworld.com/2010/10/trapped-might-as-well-run.html, one commenter, PDM said:

“Whether it is a mine entrapment or a divorce, a bankruptcy or a bad review, we all run from something, or to something. The fact remains; we all run to settle our souls. There is a thing that wants to jump out, grab us by the throat, and choke us to death. It is unwieldy and loathsome. It wants our lives. However, through our resilience, we give it no stake hold. We let it live initially, to temper us, then…we kill it, with the ambitions of our heart.”

To all the rescued miners, welcome back! All of you were in my prayers and your tenacity and will to live continue to move and inspire me and I’m sure many others.

Published: October 15th, 2010

Strength And Dignity

JapanThese 2 words came to mind when I observed, as I’d love to, the goings on of the daily lives of the Japanese people. Not those in the big cities, but folks in the smaller towns. Our 2nd day in Kyoto brought us to one such place which was along our way to Arashiyama. We had been treated to the spectacle of Kinkakuji and have got off a 205 bus en route to hopping on board the Randen train. Having had no breakfast we decided to pop into a corner supermarket to grab some grub – I settled for a sushi in a box set while the wife got an okonomiyaki. While enjoying the meal on the bench by the supermarket entrance, what better than to watch the folks go about their daily lives.

Firstly, in Japan, one hardly sees a person lounging around doing nothing. Whether the person is a groundskeeper, housewife, old folk, the Japanese people are always engaged. In doing something. No “Jom minum” mentality we see in Malaysia. In the small suburbs, even home owners turn a small section of their frontage into a business, selling snacks or handicraft and souvenirs.

The photos you see below are those showing the elderly doing their grocery shopping at the said supermarket. It seems that it’s the usual practice to bag your own shopping, once the shopping are paid. The checkout staff will tally up your items and transfer them to another basket. The shopper then will carry this basket to a separate table to bag the stuff or stash them into their shopping cart. All done quietly, with no rush nor the pressure of speed. Age didn’t seem to be a factor as well as both the wife and I were astonished to see a few folks bent double yet were out doing their “chores”.

One of my colleagues asked me what captivated me the most about Kyoto, now that I’ve visited the place twice. It’s not the glitz of the metropolis, because I certainly don’t miss Tokyo’s packed trains even at 11pm. Of course, we know about their famed punctuality, precision (bordering on bureaucracy and steadfastness on clinging to the old ways), food and cleanliness. But what opened my eyes were the peoples’ enthusiasm, appreciation for their natural heritage, sense of order, honesty and pride. Insecurity that we increasingly experience and see here in Malaysia – think security sensors in shops, chained products, non-placement of goods by the store entrance – are not a factor there. In Tokyo I gaped at the electronic gadgets left unattended at store fronts. In Kyoto, I passed a handful of shops without a visible clerk, probably on toilet break.

The other thing is the seeming simplicity of their the Kyotolites’ lives. We already know that their homes are compact. There are, of course, mansions and villas but they’re exceptions. The size of a typical Japanese home would not warrant a 60″ 3D LED TV or a 3+3+2 living room furnishing. Neither would they have space for voluminous bookcases and walk-in wardrobes. Everything will have to be purposeful, equally compact, efficiently organized and laid out. Other than a Porsche Panamera, a Golf GTI and a Mini, I didn’t see another turbocharged car in Kyoto. Tokyo’s Ginza, however, are the opposite with all the flash. All material things that we seem to be chasing and shaping our lives around. A 20×60 home isn’t large enough? Well, move to a 22×75 then! It’s never enough and there’s no end to that pursuit of a “better life”. Instead of pursuing bigger and faster material things to accommodate increasing and seemingly must-have possessions, I’ll be always reminded by what I saw to instead strive to shed and scale back.

And the most important observation? To never equate progressing age to the diminishing ability to stay active and productive. I guess Red’s words in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying” certainly rings loud and true.

Published December 4th, 2012

Are Human Beings Beyond Redemption?

This isn’t a theological posting. I’m not going to pretend that I’m a pious person nor claim to be lofty enough nor understand the issues of the world. There are going to be lots more questions asked and there won’t be any answers. I was reading the newspaper over breakfast and was “assaulted” with so many sad and disturbing news.

It’s either some unethical politicians, some “oversight” by some authorities, some knee-jerk reaction towards current issues plaguing the country, natural disasters (like the coal mine cave-ins in the US and China, and the fires that are consuming Greece), villagers in Papua New Guinea who buried AIDS sufferers alive, global warming, the death of an abused toddler, the continuing ravage of Africa, murders, assassinations… 

The world we’re living in today is pretty messed up. What kind of world will my kids grow up in? Will they be resourceful and tough enough to survive? Will they get opportunities to be the best they can be? Will they be safe? Will there be greater responsibility practiced towards fellow human beings and the environment we live in? We’re not going to be around for long in this world but our children’s lives have just started. Whatever we plan on doing to rectify the situation, we had better start doing now. Be it be more environmentally conscious, educating our children to be forthright, honest, unswayed, or simply be kinder and patient towards fellow human beings. 

At that point I suddenly felt like going home and hug my kids.

I think it was Thoreau who said something like (can’t remember the exact phrase) “Stubborn people don’t want to be told to change because they want to see. Let them see!”

Be the change you want to see in the world.“- Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not a smart person but the message seems to be, it’s up to us to turn things around. We have to be Agents of Change. And I’m assuming that’s the message, as I’ve said I don’t have answers.

Published September 18th, 2009.