When I was 15, my family moved to a newly developed area. There was a new department store that occupied two stories out of a building right across from my home. It was a small retail chain called Klasses, which has since gone out of business. One of my favorite past times was to window shop there and enjoy the free air conditioning in the hot and super humid Hong Kong summer. I remember that there was a corner where they carried a brand called ‘UCLA’. Those ‘UCLA’ merchandise were special and it cost a whopping USD$15 for a nice singlet, which was beyond my affordability. However, I would still touch the singlets whenever I walked past. Apparently, the price point was out of reach of their other customers too as I found the items would stay on the hanger until they got dirty and dusty. That was also the time when I learned that some of the outstanding Olympic level athletes trained at UCLA. Little did I know that I would eventually go to school at UCLA…
I was at UCLA in the early 90s. The story of the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, and his 10 time National Champion Team was still new to me then. I also learnt a few things about the UCLA football team too. When they came to the cafeteria, you KNEW they had arrived as they were a group of numerous oversized boys!
In my department, there were a few young faculty members – outstandingly hard working and talented. All of them were doing their best to get their tenure professorships. Getting a tenure professorship from UCLA is a big deal as it took a lot of work. My former department head, Dr John Beumer, used to say to a few of us, “You guys better work together to get more accomplished and you would have a better chance to get tenure. Working alone will be much harder.” Dr Beumer was talking about team work. No wonder he is known for his great team!
About two months ago my oncologist friend, Dr See, messaged me to get my office to join the Singapore Cancer Society 100km relay. I pondered on the idea, and got my running buddies, Jing Song, Doc Ashley and Erich to underwrite the 100km. (I know my running friends had different training/running schedules and I did not want to interfere with that). Thus I decided to sign up in the name of my office, ‘Specialist Dental Group’. After lobbying for a few days, I realized I had barely four people (!) to cover that 100km in 14 hours. Even though I knew by right, that each of us could practically cover 30km+ in under 3 hours, it was a tall order indeed! From there I started to get various friends from the dental industry and our running village, aka the Kampong Runners, to join. At that point, we were still under 12 people even after I managed to get the impressively fast Chee sibling marathoners from our Kampong Runners group to say yes.
With that head count, we marched on and started the 100km on the evening of March 2, 2019 together with the 208 teams at the National Stadium. After putting one foot in front of the other for many hours, we managed to complete the 100km. We were the 5th fastest team to complete 100km (We met our target at about 3:30am!!!) What was impressive was that our runner and non-runner work colleagues (aka SDGangels), our Kampong Runner teammates, and family & friends visited us at various time during the night (or early morning), brought in food & drinks and some stayed on all the way to cheer for the team!! That was beyond priceless!!
The Singapore Masters Track & Field Association (SMTFA) assembled a team of 25 athletes (aged 38-75, average age was 51) and managed to outrun all the younger and faster teams. Our team was one of the casualties. However, IMHO, our team ‘Specialist Dental Group & Friends’ WON!!!
I learnt it from John Wooden – he used to tell his UCLA players before they played a game, “When it is over, I want your heads to be held up high. Giving your best is the only way to hold your heads up. The result will take care of itself’”
‘Specialist Dental Group & Friends’ was probably was the smallest team among the top teams! We were only 10-50% of the size of the other teams. However, each and every one of us gave our very best in every single step regardless of the number of laps we ran. With that, I know our team was the champion! It is the inner scorecard that counts.
I am grateful to be part of the team.