Renowned marathoner Mok Ying Ren on the greatest race of his life
Mok Ying Ren // December 5, 2020, 9:37 am
I was a very athletic kid.
In primary school, I was the fastest kid for 1.6km and I got the best results for fitness tests. Subsequently, I did cross country, triathlons and marathons. In university, I ran about 150km a week.
I began winning in major competitions from 2007. I won the South East Asian Games Triathlon twice and the Singapore Marathon seven times.
In 2011, I set a 5,000m national record.
Honestly, I did running because I was good at it. And who doesn’t like to win? The sense of being on a podium holding a gold medal is great. It makes you feel high. And this feeling was addictive.
Winning also came with lots of benefits. Brands came knocking on my door. They wanted me to post stuff on social media. They wanted me to give talks. They just wanted me.
Driven to continue winning, I even took a year off work to try and qualify for the Olympics.
A TIME OF TRIAL
But things took a turn in 2015.
While running, I sustained a right knee pain. It hindered my ability to train and took away my joy in running.
I had multiple MRI scans done, went through cycles of physiotherapy and strength training, and was very compliant with my treatment. But nothing could get rid of the pain.
I never even really found out what it was.
That was one of the lowest points in my life because I felt that my identity as Singapore’s top runner had been robbed away from me.
When people asked me when my next race was or how my training was going, I had nothing to say.
On the outside, I looked like I was at the peak of my life. I was running and winning medals. I had a medical career ahead of me. Yet deep down inside, my life was spiralling downhill.
The search for answers began to consume me.
There were days when I cried, days where it was just hours thinking about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time spent going for rehabilitation.
Eventually, I came to the end of myself. I had nowhere else to turn to.
ROUNDING THE CORNER
Two years after sustaining my knee injury, I decided to attend a church.
I went with the sole purpose of getting my knee healed. But even as I was pursuing a miracle, God was pursuing me in His own ways.
Through Bible reading and sermon podcasts, I realised I had put my identity and my hope in my achievements.
I saw that I was stuck in this jail for the longest time because I had to keep up a positive façade on social media in order to maintain my social standing.
It was all so hypocritical and fake.
But I now know what it means to be free. Freedom comes when you know the truth in Christ.
And the truth is, when I once thought my broken knee was my biggest problem, God revealed to me a bigger problem: I was spiritually dead.
Because of sin, I was destined for eternal separation with God and for hell.
Yet in His great mercy, I was given a new life. Because of Jesus, I can receive forgiveness for my sin and restore my relationship with God.
And instead of placing my hope on myself and my achievements, I can now place it all on Christ.
Truly, I have never felt so liberated.
RUNNING THE RIGHT RACE
In the past, I didn’t have a reason for my pain. I tried to seek out the answer by consulting specialists and going for therapies.
But at some point, I realised that the answer could be found in something greater.
Like Paul’s thorn which was kept there to keep him humble and make him fit for the gospel, this knee injury brought me to Christ. If not, I would still be stuck in an endless cycle of trying to win.
So I now have an explanation and a purpose to my knee pain – and everything else in life. And I’m happy with that answer even if I don’t have a medical reason why I have this knee pain.
After all this time, winning in races and running in so many competitions, I’ve found that I was running in the wrong race.
I was running for myself, running for my own fame, running for my own glory. And none of that is what truly matters.
What matters in this life – the right race to run in – is the race towards Christ.
So are you running the right race?
This article was first published on Stories of Hope and has been republished with permission.
THINK + TALK
- What is the race you are running in life?
- What lies at the end of the race?
- Is it something that you might never get or something that can be taken away?
- Would you consider running towards Christ? He is waiting for you with outstretched arms.