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Wan's Column - Sustaining the Beginners’ Program

Since we started the beginners’ program on 6th May 2006, I have not missed a single session except for one when I went out of town with my family for the school holidays. While the number is not entirely encouraging it cannot be considered a disaster. We have an average of 5 to 7 coming in each Saturday with the highest of 12 recorded on the first week when Dr. William gave the talk. Honestly, I never expected a roaring attendance from day one. I recall trying to call Dr. William Chan the night before to manage his expectation that the group is small. I discussed this with my partner Jamie Pang before we decided to launch this program. No matter how small is the group, we believe there is value to what we are doing. If we could change the life of a few individuals, motivating them to start running as a sustainable fitness program, we are already contributing to society. The 2 hours we invest each Saturday (including traveling time) is a small contribution we make to society as a whole. Moreover, we too have a mild workout before the usual long run or road race we normally do on Sundays. We are killing two birds with one stone!

On 27th May 2006, the Saturday that I missed the session as I took my family for the Kiwanis Motor Treasure Hunt to Cameron Highland. When I was at Rawang at about 9.00am, I got a SMS from Chong Ting Chow, one of the beginners in our program. It read “ Completed 3.4km without walking, not going for nasi lemak”. Chong age 50 was my school mate and a member of the Pacesetters Athletic Club, Malaysia. Prior to this, his running is confined to once a year participation in the Brook Pacesetters Bonding with his son, a 5km run that he walks most of the distance. Each year, his son has to wait for him at the finish line to finish together as required by the rules. I can imagine why he was so exited, he has always confesses that he does not have the stamina to run but after much persuasion, he agreed to join the program. Since joining us, he has diligently followed the program with 2 to 3 short runs around his house in the morning during the week days. Yesterday, I took him the Carcosa Route (4km) and he completed it without trouble. After the run I also introduce a few strengthening exercises that we could do at the park for the stomach and upper body. When the group was first started, I notice some regular joggers in our group, maybe a little rusty but have no problem completing the 3.4km route without walking. These individuals are not beginners as far as I am concern but they are welcomed anyway. Chong is the typical individual I am targeting at and it has been proven that this simple brisk walk cum jog program does work. It is even shorter that the 10 weeks as provided by the New York Road Runners. At the moment, we only have 3 individuals that are still not able to jog the whole 3.4km route as they joined the program midway and I hope they would preserver and achieve their target in the weeks to come.

We have our fair share of drop-outs, I expected this from day one. It is now time we recruit the next batch to join us. There is nothing wrong with having a mixed batch as we could cater for the beginners as well as those who we considered “graduates” from the program. For the graduates, we encourage them to run a little longer, say 4 to 7km and trying taking part in a few selected road races to motivate them further.

Wan Yew Leong
11th June 2006



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