Cerys on Running Through Covid in Singapore
I AM A RUNNER – Cerys Shanley
In May 2017, I decided to try Park Run. It was Singapore, it was hot, it was humid and I hadn’t run for a long time, since I left the UK. I finished in 34 minutes, and I felt so sick. I tried again the following week and the time remained the same 34 minutes. Over the next few weeks I drifted between 33, 34, 35 minutes and I felt like running was maybe not for me. I gave up.
Fast forward to May 2019 and I got up one Saturday and thought I’ll try again. Welcomed with open arms by the West Coast Park Run Singapore family I hear “Come on Mrs Shanley!” as I stumbled towards the finishing line. I taught at Dulwich College (Singapore) and so many families, children, parents, and teachers (aka The Dulwich Runners) were part of this amazing weekly event. The run directors encouraged every runner/plodder/walker every week with such inclusion. I felt motivated.
So, I started researching how to be a better runner. I bought books and read about technique and of course I bought some new kit! I started enjoying the runs but I also started volunteering as one of the marshals. The camaraderie between runners and organizers was inspiring and coffee at the end of the run became an opportunity for locals and expats to share their running stories.
Between the September and November I achieved 6 PBs in a row in-between marshalling and my time was down to 29.54! I had finally done it – 5km under 30 minutes. At the end of year Park Run awards, I won Most Improved Female 2019. Never had I ever felt so accomplished. I felt like Paula Ratcliffe winning the London Marathon only obviously much slower.
I was running consistently below 30 minutes and 29.08 was my PB when Covid arrived in Singapore and stopped everything. No more Park Run. Schools closed and teaching became the dreaded online zoom. I knew I needed to keep running (and keep sane). So I ran every morning around the local area, a 5km loop. My 5km time was down to 27.34. I began extending the runs and I started running a 10 km. Then one morning I got up and I wondered if could I run a half marathon? So I did 4 laps of my 5km loop. Security guards on the apartment blocks must have thought I was crazy running around and around the block. But I did it and I didn’t stop. I ran my first half marathon in 2hrs 18 minutes. Then logged onto zoom for online teaching not quite believing what I had just done. I don’t think my husband, nor my own children quite believed me either. I thought maybe I could be a runner.
We all eventually went back to school with restrictions but group events were still banned in Singapore so still no Park Run. The communications with the Park Run family continued with a comedic Whats app and good old Strava. Virtual pats on the back continued!
I ran before school or after school. 5kms, 10kms and more 21kms. Then April 2021, with a friend and fellow teacher Katie and we ran 30km! and got a taxi home. I started trail running and even did a few races, always racing against my myself not caring about the times of others. I’m never going to be the fastest or the greatest runner but at 45 I felt strong, fit and my mental well-being was so good. I even managed a PB OF 26.50 in the August of 2021 paced by Chris the most determined runner / coach /Deputy Head you’re ever likely to meet.
We left Singapore in December 2021 and we now live in Lima, Peru. Park Run Singapore is back and the West Coast Park Runners are in full operation continuing their incredible work celebrating runners of all speeds. Unfortunately, there is no Park Run in Lima. I have amazing routes of 5k and 10km that run along the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the weather is much cooler than Singapore but I need to get the mileage up again. So, if anyone is in or around Barranco, Lima reading this, look me up. I need a new running family!
I am originally from Aberdare, South Wales. I am an international school teacher currently living in Lima, Peru, with my husband and two teenagers. I started my running story in Singapore where I worked previously. It has literally been a journey from jungle to coast, from one side of the world to the other and finally post covid with holiday runs back in the valleys. I can finally say I am a runner.