I had always thought that running was an individual pursuit until I began running ultramarathon distances. That was when I learnt the adage that “if you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.”
In 2014, the Lord gave me a calling to lead Singapore’s oldest and largest home hospice—HCA Hospice Care—as its fifth president. As I am an avid runner, it was natural for me to attempt to raise awareness and funds for this noble cause by running an extraordinary distance. With the loving support of my wife, Joan, and our two daughters, Ella and Alexandra, we embarked on an ambitious project—“100K for 100K”—a campaign to raise $100, 000 by running 100 kilometres.
The moment we committed to that endeavour, we realised we could not accomplish that task by ourselves. We sought help, and were immediately embraced by a larger community comprising other family members, close friends and colleagues from HCA. Collective sacrificial labour was poured out lovingly and selflessly. When I finally crossed the finish line of the 2014 North Face Ultra 100K race, we had raised $152,000 and shared the availability of home hospice service with countless folks.
Ultrarunning (running any distance longer than 42.195 kilometres) requires the runner to start and finish as an individual. However, no endurance runner—even world class elites—ever achieves his goal through his own effort. Many caring people are needed to pace, encourage, replenish the supplies of (such as isotonic beverages, energy gels, hot meals, changes of clothes), cheer on and, most importantly, pray for the runner. Likewise, for hospice care, individuals in their last stage of life’s journey are embraced and supported by a loving community in order to finish well.
I have been privileged to serve as HCA’s president for five years and, as a fitting farewell, I will run 200K to raise $200K on 29–31 March 2019 at the Monster Ultra 200. This gargantuan effort is dedicated to my late brother-in-law, Ching Sim Lie, who died last year, less than five months after being diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer.
In our journey with him, Sim Lie demonstrated how his steadfast faith in his Lord Jesus helped him overcome fear, forgive and seek forgiveness, and bless his loved ones with precious words and loving acts. In short, he granted us a glimpse of how the body of Christ operates in suffering.
What we cannot do on our own, we have the privilege to do together. It takes a village to help us overcome, to persevere and to finish well. In ultrarunning, as well as in our earthly sojourn, it is not good for man to be alone. I do not run alone and I will not die alone.
Dr Tan Poh Kiang is a general practitioner serving the community in the HDB heartland. He has served as the president of HCA Hospice Care since 2014. He worships at Pentecost Methodist Church.
Photos courtesy of Dr Tan Poh Kiang