It is 6am on a Saturday morning. While most families are still curled up in their beds, Aw Yi Zhong and his father are pounding the pavements around their neighbourhood. For this father and son, long distance running has become part of their regular weekly routine.
Yi Zhong, currently a 3rd year mechanical engineering student from Singapore Polytechnic, first approached his
father for help some two years ago, when he found himself having difficulties breaking the 14-minute mark for his NAPFA fitness test. Mr Aw, a district running champion in his teenage years, used to train with the MR25 group that ran around MacRitchie reservoir. He had just started running regularly again, and happily obliged when Yi Zhong asked for tips.
Mr Aw encouraged Yi Zhong to start by training for shorter 10km to 20km distances and allow his body to condition before moving on to longer, more rigorous races.
Mr Aw recalls, “I told him that he was still young, and there was still plenty of time to train and get better. There was no need to stress out or push too hard, as he would still reach his goal (of running a full marathon) eventually.” Training too hard could put unnecessary strain on the body.
Confident that, as long as Yi Zhong retained his passion for running, his stamina and timing would improve; Mr Aw focused his son on a structured training regime that involved regular runs, incremental distances, proper nutrition and sufficient rest and recovery, to build a strong foundation.
Yi Zhong presently trains with the Singapore Polytechnic Track and Field team and has several distance races under his belt.
Not bad at all for someone who started running fairly recently and struggled to complete much shorter distances.
The benefits however, went beyond improved running performance; father and son also became much closer because of the time they spent together.
Yi Zhong says, “Instead of watching TV together like the typical family, and which is still pretty much an individual experience, we ran.”
Mr Aw agrees, “Nowadays, parents and children each have their own busy schedules at work and at school… you must find other ways to engage each other in a meaningful manner, and to spend quality time together as a family.”
Long runs, usually undertaken in the wee hours of the morning, or in the evenings before dinnertime, take between 30 minutes to an hour. Father and son both agree that these runs make for excellent bonding. Yi Zhong and his dad chat about “everything under the sun” while running – from Yi Zhong’s studies, to Mr Aw’s work, to relationships.
Yi Zhong shares, “Sometimes, conversations can be very superficial, because we get so distracted by all things happening around us. On the other hand, I can have a really good chat with my dad during our runs, because we are really focused and engaged on what we are doing.”
The two run at a mutually comfortable pace, which allows them to chat normally – “If you feel you are panting and out of breath, it means that the pace is too fast,” Mr Aw explains.
Yi Zhong still remembers his first half marathon, where his dad ran alongside him as a pacer. They chatted for the first 5km, but Yi Zhong could not sustain the pace and eventually lagged behind. Nevertheless, he was glad to see Mr Aw waiting at the finish line, cheering him and the other runners on to complete the race.
To Yi Zhong, Mr Aw is a “buddy” and beacon of inspiration. Thus, when he found out about a contest organized by Dads for Life, Yi Zhong submitted a prize-winning entry, which captured his heartfelt appreciation for all that his dad had done for him.
Recently, Tri-Factor was looking for runners from different walks of life and sporting backgrounds, to volunteer insights, and training tips. They wanted the general public community to be able to relate to these individuals’ experiences in training and competing for a triathlon and they appointed Yi Zhong as an ambassador for their Tri-Factor Series 2013.
Yi Zhong wanted to promote the Dads for Life movement as Tri-factor ambassador, as well as acknowledge the inspiration he draws from his dad to run. Aptly he says, “In a way, I will be running for my dad and for Singaporean fathers.” He wrote in
to DFL asking for permission to use the DFL logo on his Tri-suit. The triathlon, Yi Zhong’s first, was held on 18 August 2013.
Until his next race, Yi Zhong will continue to train as much as possible, with Mr Aw. If you happen to spot Yi Zhong in his Dads for Life emblazoned tri-suit, running with his dad, do remember to give both of them a shout of encouragement!
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
Categories: Dads' Stories