Organised by the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS), the annual Singtel – SCS Race Against Cancer (RAC) aims to raise funds for cancer treatment, subsidies, welfare assistance, cancer rehabilitation services, hospice care, cancer screenings, public education, research and cancer support group initiatives.
Ninth edition of RAC took place this morning
The ninth edition of the RAC took place this morning, flagging off at Angsana Green, East Coast Park with three distance categories – a 10km and 15km competitive run, as well as a 5km fun run.
The run had been attended by Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development, who was the guest of honour for the event.
Event aims to make a statement against cancer
At the same time, the annual RAC event also exists to make a statement against cancer, to maximise life and minimise cancer, and that nobody should fight cancer alone.
In fact, it is for this reason that the SCS has various cancer support groups to reach out to cancer patients. These were created with the purpose of building patients’ resilience, educating them about self care and helping to release their emotional burden. As well, such groups help to address the various concerns of cancer patients and their caregivers.
One cancer survivor who had benefited greatly from these support groups is Martin Tay, 68, a retiree who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. Martin not only took part in the 15km run at this year’s RAC, but also took the chance to use his run to raise funds for SCS.
Martin had discovered his cancer diagnosis by accident around September last year. He had been receiving a lot of comments that he had lost weight, including from his wife, and that was when the alarm bells started ringing in his mind. So he went for a full body check up, and a follow-up appointment at the urologist then confirmed that he had prostate cancer.
Said Martin, “At that point, I took the news quite calmly. I didn’t panic. The panic in me only set in when an appointment was made for surgery in January this year. After surgery I was hospitalised for three days.”
Fortunately the surgery was able to remove all the cancer cells and Martin did not need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. But he had started to suffer some side effects as a result of the cancer diagnosis: these were incontinence and depression.
That was when Martin had got to know about the SCS cancer support groups. He sought out advice to deal with his incontinence problems, got to know the other cancer survivors at the groups and joined them for various activities, such as gym and mind relaxation sessions.
Said Martin, “When the RAC came around, I joined the run and I was asked by the SCS if I wanted to raise funds for them. I was like, ok sure, why not, so I started my own fund raising page. I thought this was a good way to repay the SCS for the benefits and help that I had received. I went through the same emotional trauma that a lot of cancer patients today are going through and I feel that we should give them as much support as possible. Having been through it all myself, I can empathise with them.” In the end, Martin had raised about $750 for the SCS, thanks to generous donations from many of his friends.
The need for raising not only funds, but also awareness for cancer survivors, victims and their caregivers amongst the general public, is also a meaningful cause that resonates with me; this is because my mother had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014 and her condition is stable today, thanks to the treatment that she is undergoing for it.
To create more awareness for cancer patients, victims and survivors
And large scale events such as the RAC are definitely useful in creating more general awareness of the need for support for not only the cancer patients, victims and survivors but also for their caregivers.
Agreed Shalini Kanagavijayan, 24, an Bachelor of Arts (Psychology and Social Science) undergraduate at the Singapore University of Social Science, “Everyone here knows that they are running for a good cause; as well, running is also getting more popular in Singapore and it is an event that really brings people together. The vibe here is also really good and we are all running for the same reason, regardless of whether someone close to you is affected with cancer or if you are just trying to donate and give back to society.”
Shalini, who had taken part in the 10km run together with her family, knows the difficulties that cancer patients face; in fact she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was just 17 years old. Her cancer had been discovered by chance when she passed out one day and the hospital ran full body checks on her to find out why she had fainted. They discovered that she had a six inch wide carcinoma and so she had to undergo surgery to remove not only that, but also her right ovary as the cancer cells had spread.
It took Shalini about six months to recover from her surgery as well as undergo three cycles of chemotherapy. She said, “During that time, it was terrible. I was not sure what was happening at first and my parents were afraid to tell me. But when I realised what was going on with me, I was in denial at first. But I soon realised that I had to fight this and there was hope for me at the end of the day.”
She added, “Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy but there is always hope and it is about believing in yourself, that you can fight through it. Family support also plays a huge part; my mum and dad were always there for me whenever I needed them and that really helped with my recovery a lot.”
I took part in the 15km category
I participated in the 15km event of the RAC. Going into this race, my intention had been not to treat it as an actual race and run it hard, but rather, to do it as a long run. So with this in mind, I told myself that I would focus on keeping my heart rate in the lower zones that is, my Easy to mid Steady zones as I ran.
I reached the race site at about 6.40am. The 15km run was scheduled to flag off at 7.10am. After spending some time catching up with friends at the race site, I made my way over to the starting pen.
Prior to flag-off, children dressed up as superheroes took to the stage. This is because to the cancer patients, their superheroes represent their caregivers who are always there for them, so in this way, the superhero costumes also tied into the meaning behind this race. As well, three runners were also dressed up in Spiderman costumes. Two of the Spidermen were taking part in the 10km race and the other one was in the 15km race.
Tried to keep heart rate in Easy zone
The run was flagged off about 5 minutes late. I started the run in my Easy zone, but for some reason, my heart rate seemed to be rising too quickly for my liking. This was probably because the pre-race adrenaline had got to me.
But trying to dial my heart rate down in time, I at least managed to maintain my heart rate in the high end of my Easy zone for the first half of the race, before it rose to the steady zone after about 8km of running.
Race route was straightforward
The race route itself had been rather straightforward; we began running from Angsana Green, in the direction of the hawker centre and towards Marine Cove, before making a u-turn somewhere between the Parkland Green and the old Big Splash areas. This is a route that I am familiar with, as I train at East Coast Park quite regularly.
But then, while the 10km runners then headed straight back to the start/finish area at the race village, the 15km runners headed on for another 2.5km in the other direction, towards the Water Venture at East Coast Park, before u-turning back, this time to complete the race.
I would say that running past the race village at the 10km marker had felt a bit mentally depressing, because we were watching other runners complete the race but the 15km runners still had to run for another 5km.
The route was also marked out clearly, with the alert volunteers telling runners when to make a u-turn and clear signages leading the way. As well, the kilometre markers were also fairly accurately positioned throughout the course, according to my Garmin watch.
The volunteers present, did a great job in motivating runners with their enthusiastic cheers and pompoms.
Added Shalini, “It was hot, but everyone pulled through to compete the race and that was really good. I loved the vibe and the feeling of togetherness. It was also great seeing random strangers cheering us on.”
Well Organised with lots of hydration
That said, I thought that the race as a whole, had been quite well organised, with plenty of hydration. There was hydration provided roughly at every 2km of running and most importantly, the drinks were ice cold.
Said Theresa Schweicel, 28, a logistics executive, “The hydration was very good. There was water every 2km which was really nice. I stopped to drink a few times.”
However I must point out that there wasn’t much distinction between which was the water and which was the isotonic drink though, as both were served in the same type of cup; so I ended up sometimes grabbing the water instead, when I had wanted to drink some isotonic instead.
Paths narrow, but no major bottlenecks
As well, though the paths may also have been narrow at times, fortunately the number of runners was also not enough to create any major bottlenecks along the running path, so it was quite clear for me.
Said Ian Berclaz, 44, a business manager at a bank who also ran in the 15km race, “I heard that there were a lot of people taking part in the 10km run, so the paths were a bit congested for them. But otherwise it was ok.”
The only time when it may have possibly been congested could have been shortly after the start line. In fact when I was running on the opposite end of the u-turn, I had noticed quite a lot of runners and walkers who were just starting out on their 10km race.
Added Ian, “It had been a bit crowded at the start of the 15km race too, but you should arrive early and get to the front if you want to run a good timing.”
Sun came out
As the sun came out more strongly in the later stages of my 15km race, I noticed my heart rate rising quite fast; it was a bit of a struggle to slow down and keep the heart rate down. In the end the heart was beating faster than I would have liked it to, but then again, I suppose that the main thing is that I had still managed to keep my heart rate in the Steady zone.
Said Theresa, “The weather got a bit hot at the end, but it was still ok for me.”
Completing the race
In the final two kilometres of the race, I also chatted to a runner to help to keep her spirits up; she had appeared to be struggling slightly in the heat, and was pushing herself towards the finish line. In the end though, she managed to cross the finish line shortly after me, and she thanked me for helping her out.
And when I had crossed the finish line, I collected my runner entitlements, which were a finisher’s medal, banana, some Pokka Sports Water isotonic beverage as well as Yakult. I particularly liked the creamy and milky Yakult because it had tasted really good especially after completing my run.
I also took the chance to check out the various tents on site, upon completion of my run. There were corporate tents with catered food the various companies supporting the race, as well as games available that had been targeted at raising awareness about cancer and healthy living. I took part in some of these games and they were in fact, quite interesting and eye opening.
The first game required me to choose two items that would be found in a typical shopping basket, such as green tea, soft drinks, cereals or chips, and read the ingredients list to look out for unhealthy ingredients like sugar.
This links to the cancer related message of the run, because healthy eating is important in terms of boosting the body’s immune system to fight off cancer and possibly keeping cancer at bay.
In fact, both Shalini and Martin can testify to the benefits of having a healthy diet. They have both switched to a much healthier diet after their brush with cancer – as they are both determined to do whatever they can, so as not to let cancer ravage their bodies again.
Said Shalini, “Having cancer was a blessing in disguise. It has changed my whole lifestyle. I used to be 95kg and severely overweight but after I recovered from cancer, I forced myself to go for walks. Walks became jogs and then jogs became runs. Today I love running and taking part in marathons. I lost 35kg too.”
She added, “Also, I realised that eating well also does help to fight cancer. I watch my diet these days and though there are days when I do crave for my char kway teow or hokkien mee, I keep my intake of these foods to a minimum and eat right for the rest of the time. I used to eat a lot of fast food and instant cup noodles.”
Like Shalini, Martin also admitted that he used to eat everything and anything, but now he tries to follow a healthy diet. He said, “I used to eat anything I wanted, but now my diet has changed to mainly fruits and vegetables. I eat very little meat, now especially red meat. It was a big change, but when you are faced with your mortality, these put fear in you and jolt you to make such major changes.”
For the second game, we then had to stuff three to four marshmallows into our mouth, before reading out a sentence. It was really difficult to do so and it took me a few times before what I was reading out, could finally be understood by the volunteer who was listening to me.
But this game helps to put regular people in the shoes of cancer patients, whose ability to communicate may be impaired after having oral or throat cancer. In the end, I collected a packet of raisins for my efforts from the two games.
As well, in order to support this meaningful cause, runners could also make a donation at the race village, and they could get cute items hand made by the cancer patients and survivors, such as teddy bears and pouches. I decided to get myself a cute teddy bear.
Event was well put together
Overall runners thought that the event had been put together well.
Said Ian, “The organisation was very good as a whole. Thank you to the organisers and volunteers for their hard work in making this morning a success for the runners.”
SCS is tapping on a growing trends of Singaporeans who want to live healthily
And according to the event’s title sponsors Singtel, which has supported the RAC for the past nine years, the RAC is an excellent way to make a statement against cancer.
Said Mark Chong, 53, the Singtel Group Chief Technology officer, “I think that a running event is a very good choice of event to raise awareness because SCS is tapping on a growing trend of Singaporeans to live a healthy lifestyle. There are so many running events in Singapore so it is great to tap on the growing pool of runners to raise awareness. Also, it resonates with how you handle cancer too, to live a healthy lifestyle by taking up sports like running; prevention is always best, of course.”
He added, “Singtel is also very much an integral part of Singapore. We are naturally concerned about diseases that affect Singaporeans so when the opportunity came up for us to support this cause, we stepped forward to do what we can do to help, as cancer is a dreadful disease that has claimed the lives of so many Singaporeans.”
To put things into perspective, one in every three people die of cancer each year, and the rate of new cancer diagnoses in Singapore having jumped up by 17 per cent since 2010, according to the latest figures from the National Registry of Diseases Office in Singapore.
Cancer is a cause that a lot of people resonate with
In fact, Mark himself has also had close ones who were affected with cancer. He had a close aunt who passed away from colorectal cancer when she was in her 50s, leaving behind three young daughters. Also, his wife’s mother had passed away also from colorectal cancer, when his wife had been only 18 years old.
These personal reasons too, had driven him to not only support the cause but also to raise funds for the SCS as well as to participate in the 10km race himself.
Singtel had about 500 runners taking part this year in the RAC. Singtel raised more than $25,000 in total for SCS, in which $6,900 was raised by Mark himself, through his charity campaign.
Said Mark, “Cancer is a cause that a lot of people can resonate with. Almost every would probably know of a friend or a relation, or else someone in their network who has had a brush with cancer.”
He added, “So if you are affected by cancer, do know that you are not alone and reach out to the community to help. There is plenty of help in Singapore available for cancer patients to deal with their condition.”