IT WAS no ordinary Wednesday. They were celebrating Deepavali, the festival of lights. Victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.

I awoke that morning slightly later than usual. Over the past weeks, I had made countless offerings to the deities of meetings and the gods of overtime. I was weary. Battle-worn.

After I let my breakfast set in the freezer, I laced up my running shoes as I would every morning, and hit the roads.

Perhaps I was suddenly bored of my usual running route, tempted by the sight of my favourite bus heading down town. Or perhaps I had some time to spare that morning, free from the chains of work. My legs picked up speed and followed the route of the bus, all the way to the heart of the city.

The day I ran to the city. The day I ended up doing a 20.1K run. It’s funny how some months ago I told myself I’ll partake in a half marathon at least once in this lifetime. I’d chuckled at the absurdity. But that day, the goal seemed almost feasible.

I didn’t know then that 3 days later – today, a Saturday – I would run my first half marathon, a 22K city trail. 

My first half marathon - a city trail!

Earphones in, on foot, same route, different pace. It was nice, and sort of surreal.

I took in all the sights and smells. Early risers having local breakfasts of chwee kueh and roti prata, raising cups of kopi and teh to their lips. The markets filled with shoppers, their eyes and hands expertly picking out fresh produce. The shelves of bakeries already loaded with freshly-baked goods, their scent permeating the air.

The smell of incense prompted me to look, out of curiosity, as I ran past a Hindu temple. A house of gods. Buzzing with activity as worshippers offered their prayers.

Shops I’d never noticed before, despite having travelled the same path by bus countless times. Hipster cafes, quaint eateries. An old-school traditional coffee house, part of its signboard aptly reading “Kafei Dian” (literally meaning “coffee shop” in Chinese).

I approached the city and felt a sense of familiarity coupled with a tinge of strangeness. I commuted to the city daily for work; that morning I stood there in a different context. I didn’t have a single cent on me; in fact, I didn’t bring anything apart from my earphones, ancient iPhone and the key to my front door. I was far away from home, drenched in perspiration, alone. That was a queer feeling… I felt like I was dreaming.

Suntec City, Marina Square, Millenia Walk; Raffles City, Marina Bay Sands, and the highway that leads to my office.

I ran home then, shortly before the winds picked up and rain drops came falling down from the heavens. I was lucky to have completed my running excursion in perfect weather.

Later that afternoon after the rain had ceased, I took that bus down the same route and relived my run in fast-forward mode. I gazed out the glass window with different eyes. In awe, actually.

Because the day I ran to the city, I changed.

I woke up, pain-free, alive and well.

I have trusty running shoes to take me outside.

I run because I am fit enough to live an active life. 

I have a gadget to map my running route. 

I ran back home without worrying about security. 

I had no need for my wallet because I knew I would return home without trouble. 

I live in a protected, safe state where everybody co-exists peacefully.  

I rode the bus down the same route because I can afford public transport. 

Day after day, I’d taken for granted privileges denied to so many others.

So focused on life’s pettiness that I’d neglected to appreciate my blessings.

In the midst of my struggles at work, I’ve had to go to in early, knock off late, and work through weekends. I’ve had to sacrifice precious healing hours. I called life unfair. I felt injusticed, disadvantaged. Imbalanced.

But that day, I found a sort of peace. A light within.

Through this light I saw that I’d allowed myself to indulge in self-pity and anger far too long.

Deepavali. Victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. 

I think it all makes sense.

And I run with new hope every morning, before the break of dawn, knowing that what lies within me is far stronger than the obstacles that lie ahead of me. xx J