I am not a runner, not by far. Let me get back to that in a bit. My name is Michael, born and raised in The Netherlands. The majority of my family hails from Aruba. Currently, I live in Singapore and work as a partner in venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures.
What does running mean to me? In short, a lot. Let me start by saying I am not a runner by nature. Life in sports began for me as a martial artist—almost 10 years of Judo and eventually Karate. I had the honor to represent the mid-weight category in the National Dutch Karate Team. After my last year practicing karate, I took a break from sports to focus on graduation and my career. Missing the thrill and spirit of sports, I looked for a new challenge and outlet. It is hard to explain, but it feels almost like running found me during that time. Running provided the ideal combination of exercise and accomplishment. I could run anytime and anywhere.
Running for me started in February 2008, the same month my father passed away. The first few runs felt sluggish, but it didn't take that long to improve. Before I knew it, running became a constant in my life. There have been moments in my life where I would hit a wall. A complex problem at work I can't solve or a personal roadblock I can't seem to get around. I would literally put on my running gear and go for a run. It's not that all life's mysteries were magically solved after my run, but it clears my mind and gets me in the right direction. It really doesn't matter if I had a great or a bad run, I always tend to feel better. It's my confidence builder.
One of the most rewarding parts of running is the running community. It's one of the most diverse communities I have witnessed. Just go to any marathon event, and you'll see people from different ethnicities, genders, and ages. Running doesn't discriminate. Although I currently run alone most of the time, I fondly think back of our running crew in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. We had a group of 7 or 8 runners, male and female, all different backgrounds. Like clockwork, we ran 10K every Thursday (if I recall correctly). It wasn't important how fast or slow you ran. As long as you enjoyed the run and had a positive attitude. No judgment, no ego, just run.
Lastly, running has helped me pace myself. In an article I wrote in November 2018, I quoted a New York Times article about Eluid Kipchoge. The New York Times article stated, "what is most unusual about Kipchoge, 33, and his diet of monastic extremes is the one thing he does not do, overextend himself in training. He estimates that he seldom pushes himself past 80 percent — 90 percent, tops — of his maximum effort."
I took this lesson to heart, and ever since, I have decided to focus my run exercises on endurance and not so much on being fast. The funniest thing happened when I slowed down my runs. Training for a race became more enjoyable. During my runs, I was able to pay attention to my form, pace, and stride. I became much more aware of my environment, I was more "in the moment." After completing 7 marathons in the past few years, I am already looking forward to getting a few more under my belt next year. Thus far, my long runs have become more relaxed, and I am actually faster than I was 2 years ago. Coincidentally, I met Eluid Kipchoge in Abu Dhabi one year after reading the New York Times article.
I went as far as to try and implement this at work and at home. It's still a learning journey, but I am trying to be more aware in the moment, as opposed to rushing to the next meeting or doing 17 things at the same time.
I feel fortunate to still get inspired by so many people. Sometimes I go out for a run, and I see so many people running to achieve their personal goals. Losing weight, staying fit, or clearing their mind, it doesn't really matter. The fact they got up and started running inspires me.
Thank you, Last Running, for sharing my story. See you on the next run. Maybe I am a runner after all.
Photos: Jonathan Chan