Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beaten By Mount Faber

Since young, I know I can run but not the podium finisher type though.  In my school days, I liked to compete in the 1,500 metres and as far I could remember, I was among the top 10 finishers in one school competition.  The venue then was the National Stadium but too bad, there were no nice pictures of me running then.  We were too poor to own cameras.

During my NS days, I remember I was always third in IPPT at company level.  My nemesis is an Indian army mate whom I have never beaten and without doubt, he had no match in his hey days.  If I happen to meet him today, I am not sure if I can still outrun him or not.  Anyway, we have lost contact for many years.

I was in my early 20s, just completed NS and already started working at Changi Airport.  That year was 1983 when our company organised their first 5 km cross country run at Macritchie Reservoir.  I didn't train much for the run but still managed a creditable 5th position.  I have always thought I am young and I can still run a good race even without much training.  On the same year, our company was invited to participate in a run organised by PSA Sports Club.  We were competing in the individual and team event and the distance was more than 6 km which will start from the club at Telok Blangah Road and run up to Mount Faber and finishing at the club.  The best six runners were selected to represent the company and I was ranked 5th.  Only the timing from the best four finishers are counted for team event challenge.  In my team, we had a national middle distance runner and he is an Indian.  In my team, we had four Indian runners and two Chinese and I am one of them.  One of our Indian runners always run bare-footed, a lanky chap and he was one of our best runners in the team.

Again, I did not train for this event.  I did not think much about the route up Mount Faber which stands at 105 metres above sea level.  Admittedly, I was too complacent.  I know I won't be among the podium finishers but I should not be very far off or I thought so.  PSA sent a strong team.  When I looked at their runners, they certainly looked very young and fit.

When we were flagged off, the run along Telok Blangah Road was not too bad.  It is a flat road and I was pacing well and consistently too.  When we turned into Mount Faber, the real test awaited us.  I was not even into half way mark on my climb, my two calves started to harden like a rock.  At that juncture and much as I would like to push harder, my legs just could not carry me forward.  I was forced to stop momentarily and had to walk up the rest of the climb.  By then, many runners simply streamed past me like a breeze and all I could do was to look at them.  Mount Faber may be just a small hill but I was completely beaten by it.  I did not train for the run, did not even train the climb and I realised I had the toughest run of my life.  

I remember I did not come in last but certainly not among the front pack.  All my team mates finished way ahead of me.  Our national runner came in first in his individual event and fortunately for us, we finished second as a team behind PSA.  Thanks to the team, I still brought home a trophy but I was not proud of my own achievement though.

Sometimes, I still run up Mount Faber on my leisure run with friends but each time, I was reminded of my humbling experience.  I am much older now but I am very confident I can still outrun myself in my younger days.  I have been running fairly regular and I have learnt to respect the slope up Mount Faber, never to take for granted.  We need to train and there is no short cut to it.  Finally, I always have healthy respect for our local Indian runners for, aside from the African runners we know too well, Indians are born natural middle and long distance runners too.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Angry Passenger, An Even Angrier Staff

Sheepishly, I admit I packed a belly of fire in me when I was much younger, for the slightest provocation could ignite me.  It was my first job at Changi Airport after completing the army stint and I was probably 21 or maybe younger.  That year was either late 82 or early 83.

We were the ground handling agent for Alitalia, a national carrier of Italy and I was tasked to assist with the check-in.  The flight was bounded for Rome with a stopover in Bombay.  That particular flight was delayed for some few hours and therefore, we were told by our superior to open the counters later.  However, an irate passenger called the airline office to insist that the check-in counters be opened as scheduled.  Rendered no choice, we then proceeded to prepare the check-in.  During our times, it was not computerised like the present days.  We had to do everything manually and therefore, some time is needed to get ready.  For each counter, we need to scroll through all the airlines' logos, the flight alphabets and flight number.  Missed one, we will have to go through everything again - such a pain.

While setting up, this highly irate passenger kept ranting away.  There, my colleagues and I were trying to set up the counters for check-in and here, we had this chap who could not stop ranting away.  I was greatly put off by his attitude, probably he thought "customer is king".  From that moment on, I lost it and I shouted back at him.  At the top of my voice, I yelled to him to shut up or I will punch him on the face.  Guess what happened next?  He suddenly kept quiet knowing I meant business.  The check-in was smooth sailing from there on.

Had he continued, will I really beat him up?  What will happen if I really did?  Fortunately, I did not or I might land myself in even hotter soup.  Keeping cool under tense moment is still the best option and though, I understand this but sometimes, I forget.  This is growing up for me and one lesson learnt.  Life goes on.