By Noah Tan, Today, 27 August, 2016
Singaporean Tay Boon Teck hopes to finish the 21km half-marathon in less than three hours.
Photo: SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon
SINGAPORE — For more than 20 years, Tay Boon Teck lived an active lifestyle and ran regularly around his neighbourhood park in Admiralty. He also often participated in long-distance running events and was regarded as one of the fittest within his circle of friends in the sport.
But Tay’s world came crashing down four years ago.
While enjoying a quiet night at home, he suddenly felt a sharp, needle-like pain extending from the back of his chest to his heart. Gasping for air from the agony, he suddenly noticed that only one of his lungs was inflating when he inhaled.
He was rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with spontaneous pneumothorax — a life-threatening condition where the lung is prevented from inflating completely because of a build-up of air in the space between the lungs and the chest.
Tay was successfully operated on, but as the condition had affected both his lungs, he had to undergo surgery again six months later, and it was only a year later that doctors declared him fully recovered.
But the close brush with death had scarred Tay, who refused to run again despite being given the all-clear by doctors to do so, as he feared it could trigger a relapse of the condition.
However, being absent from the sport he loved made Tay feel miserable. As he told TODAY: “I felt extremely unhappy when I couldn’t run. Without running or any exercise, I felt that life was quite mundane and routine.
But I wasn’t sure if I could ever run again, especially because my condition was lung-related. In running, that’s the organ that you use the most. I had a phobia that, if I ran, it would cause a relapse.”
But it was hard to keep Tay away from the sport for long. Apart from taking walks to keep himself fit, he also began reading articles on running websites, which made him realise that there were others who had suffered from life-threatening illnesses, but eventually recovered and started running again.
This inspired Tay to start running again early last year, and it culminated in the 44-year-old building enough confidence to sign up for the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS).
Although he was unable to complete the full marathon — dropping out at the 38km mark — Tay said that the fact he was back running was already something to give thanks for.
“The first time that I started running again was overwhelming,” said Tay, a technical manager at a communications company. “I felt a sense of joy, because it was such a blessing to be able to return to the sport I enjoyed so much.
“After running for months without any repercussions, I decided to push myself to the next level and give the SCMS a shot. I ran until I couldn’t feel my legs any more and had to give up after 38km. Nonetheless, I still felt happy because at least I gave the marathon a shot.
“The experience gave me a boost and I’ve already done seven runs this year.”
Tay, who is married, added that his family was initially concerned when he told them he would start running again.
“My family was not ready for me to start (running), especially when I told them I would be doing a marathon,” he said. “They were worried and told me to rethink my decision to run a marathon.
“But, I told them, ‘you don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so we might as well make the most of each day and not burden (ourselves) with such fears’.”
Tay’s next race will be tomorrow’s Safra Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon (AHM). He hopes to finish the 21km route in less than three hours.
“My previous timing for a half marathon was about 2hr 40min, so my expectation is to finish it around that time,” said Tay, who runs about 8km four times a week.
“I won’t push myself too hard because you never know what will happen. I still have to think of my family ... doing a run is my own interest, and I need to take care of myself so I can take care of them.”
Tay’s long-term goal, however, is to continue running until he grows old, and he said that he has now learnt to better appreciate the little things in life.
“I hope to be able to continue running all the way until I’m old and in my 70s or 80s,” revealed Tay, who also identified the Jeju marathon in South Korea as a race that he hopes to tick off his bucket list one day.
“I’m taking care of my mum at home. She’s in her 70s and wheelchair bound, and I hope I’ll never reach that stage.
“I want to be healthy and be able to take care of my wife even when I’m old, while also doing my running and staying fit. I believe that running is the best way to stay fit both physically and mentally.
“After everything, it has given me a greater appreciation of life and the gifts that we have and sometimes take for granted. We need to seize the day and do things we love while we still can.”
Photo by Maridav
Picture posted by Depositphotos Inc