Over the past five years we have been together, friends have often asked me what it's like being in a relationship with a competitive marathon runner, especially when I initially didn't even enjoy running.
The truth is that I didn't think much about what I was getting myself into.
That may be why it felt, occasionally, that the relationship required quite some effort to work. But, looking back, it has been such a fulfilling and enjoyable journey as we grew and learnt to support one another.
When we first got together, Mok was training to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. He was so committed and focused that we would have to plan our dates around his training and work. He trained after work every day, so it also meant that we didn't get to meet much.
This was also a rocky period for our relationship as we had to navigate our different interests and expectations. For example, we hardly shopped together; he wanted to save his legs for training. Saturday-night dates were often early affairs; he had a long run the next morning.
Thankfully, with the experience from previous disagreements and advice from our friends and mentors, we now have something which works for us.
Her tips to make it work
BE OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES
I used to be someone who disliked running - I found it too hot and dirty. However, as I accompanied Mok to his training sessions and running clinics, I met so many passionate runners that I decided to join in. As I got better, I also started to enjoy it and finally understood Mok's passion for running.
Taking part in running events also gives you a chance to make new friends. Unlike other more specialised sports, anyone can walk, jog or run. Runners come from all walks of life, so you will meet people outside your social circle easily.
We have had to change our plans countless times because of Mok's schedule. Sometimes he might be asked to go into work early at the last minute and not have time to run in the morning -we would then have to cancel our dinner plans so that he can run in the evening. As a supporter, I try to be flexible to support him in meeting his training needs.
RUN TOGETHER (COUPLE TIME)
Our running standards are vastly different, but we still try to go for a run together fortnightly. We plan it such that he does his easy runs when I'm doing my hard runs. It works for us both as I have Mok who can push me, while he also has me to avoid overdoing his easy runs too quickly.
Being an athlete is tough; sometimes your loved one may have a bad training session or an injury to deal with. He or she may try to not talk about it but they will definitely be feeling down, so try to empathise and encourage them to continue with their rehabilitation.
Instead of grumbling about losing your precious morning sleep because of a run, see it as a healthy lifestyle change that you're making. For me, I like that we can get so much done before noon. In fact, Mok usually starts and finishes his long runs so early (because it would be too hot otherwise) that we usually end up beating the weekend brunch crowds.
Things would appear to be comparably worse now. Mok is doing his orthopaedic-surgery residency, which is stressful enough as it comes with exams and overnight shifts. Add in daily training and other running commitments, and there is even less "couple time" as his schedule is perpetually packed.
As my way of showing him support, I would watch his training sessions, which led to me deciding to join him on his runs. I also started cycling and rollerblading during his long runs at East Coast Park.
As I got better, I started to enjoy running more and now we actually go for runs together. Also, the more I run, the more I am impressed by what he puts himself through daily.
As a physiotherapist in a restructured hospital, I know how hard it is to drag yourself out of bed to run before/after a busy shift, but Mok still does it anyway. He has the uncanny ability to be determined and very focused on the task at hand, be it running or at the hospital.
While this was initially a point of contention for me, it is now something that I really admire about him, and that makes our relationship even stronger.
Mok Ying Ren
The biggest lesson I have learnt after being married is how selfish our pursuit for excellence can be.
For many years, I was so focused on challenging limits and breaking barriers on the track (and road) that I left everything on the sidelines. It was like a game that could never end.
But I have come to realise that excellence in any field, when achieved at the expense of loved ones, will invariably leave a sense of emptiness in our hearts.
Success in any form will never be able to fill this void.
As I learnt and recognised the sacrifices Belinda had to make, I found myself trying to prioritise her needs in my decision making.
While some might think that this may cause my performance to suffer, on the contrary, this has allowed me to do better, both at work and running.
It's interesting how things actually work, contrary to what we have been conditioned by society to expect. It's worthwhile for all to spend some time to ponder on what the purpose of life and marriage is.