Shape Run 2013 finishers medal

“I’ve always run for personal achievement, partly because I grew up hating running. That’s why I did my 100-Day Challenge last year (where I ran for 100 days straight) because I wanted to prove something to myself. But it feels different when you’re running for something bigger than yourself. Yesterday’s Shape Run was like that for me. This finishers medal doesn’t make me feel proud of myself for having crossed the finish line. It represents to me friendship, commitment to a personal cause and a reminder that sometimes in life, it’s not always about fulfilling my own goals.”

Some weeks back, my friend Eunice Olsen asked if I’d like to do a 5km run with her. I said ‘Yes’ without giving it a second thought.

The truth is, I had not run competitively since I passed out from heatstroke at last year’s 10km Shape Run – somewhere at the 8km mark, I’m told. That experience traumatised me somewhat, suffice to say I never did carry out the rest of my plans for 2012, i.e. to compete in at least three 10km races.

My initial ‘Yes’ was based purely on friendship. I’ve known Eunice for 8 years or so, and we’ve kept in touch on and off, always meaning to meet up but never actually making it happen – due to the insane nature of our work. So it was wonderful to actually pin down a date and time for a catch-up lunch after all these years. Because we promised we’d keep in touch properly this time, I wanted to honour that.

Catch-up lunch at Chop Suey

Catch-up lunch at Chop Suey

During that catch-up lunch, Eunice updated me on a project she’d been working on called WomenTalktv.asia. She told me it was an online platform that featured ordinary women who did extraordinary things; that it was all about women empowerment. She revealed that after completing two terms as a Nominated Member of Parliament, she felt a little lost for a while until she founded this – it felt like a renewed sense of purpose.

I listened to her and I listened to her, because when she is excited or passionate about something, she embarks on a soliloquy! And her passion is infectious – I was captured by her vision and her mission.

A couple of weeks later, Eunice called me to ask if I’d host WomenTalk’s media launch. I said of course. In preparation for that, I watched the video links she sent me, read up more about the online portal, and got to understand better the motivations behind it.

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I got it that it was a labour of love (she was funding this project from her own pocket). And I could sense that this was a calling for her. It was something bigger than herself, like a powerful current that picks you up and pushes you forward, almost beyond your control.

I could understand that. As Deputy Editor of Vanilla magazine (MediaCorp Publishing), I constantly felt I was part of something bigger than myself. I still think Vanilla was a magazine ahead of its time: We celebrated real women, ordinary women, who did extraordinary things, and we put them on our magazine covers, devoting 6 to 12 pages to telling their stories.

And it was my role to find these “cover girls” every month and to write about them, to give voice to their stories.

With some of my Vanilla cover girls... it was like a growing sorority!

With my Vanilla cover girls… it was like a growing sorority!

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Few people know that it was Vanilla magazine that conceptualised, pushed for and initiated the Singapore Woman Award – honouring ordinary women who did extraordinary things. It’s now a huge annual event in MediaCorp. It was our early vision to acknowledge such women, not just those successful in business or politics.

I had always told my Senior Editor Theresa Tan that I would write for Vanilla even if I were not paid a cent. So when Vanilla was forced to shut down due to lack of advertising, I felt a part of me had died.

Since 2008, after DARE and Vanilla failed to make it on the market, I’ve felt like Singapore did not have a dedicated media platform that celebrated inspiring ordinary women.

Most of the awards dished out by women’s magazines were becoming a joke to me, and I felt I could only turn to NGOs like the UN Women and Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) for a channel to volunteer and contribute.

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In many ways, WomenTalk is the first media platform in years that I feel is authentic, credible and worth supporting. For me, it has much to do with the fact that I get where Eunice Olsen is coming from – she is authentic.

And from the videos she shared with me, and the featured women whom I met in person – like Haslinah, Lena and Pin Xiu – I knew this online portal was the media platform for women empowerment that Singapore has been waiting for. Except it extends beyond Singapore shores to include ordinary woman all across Asia!

Eunice with Haslinah, Lena and PinXiu, three inspiring women featured on WomenTalk

Eunice with Haslinah, Lena and Pin Xiu, three inspiring women featured on WomenTalk

So this was the second (and more important) reason I said ‘Yes’ to running the 5km Shape Run yesterday. Eunice had checked with me if I’d feel comfortable running in a WomenTalk t-shirt. “Only if the t-shirt is dri-fit!” I had joked.

But of course I’d be honoured to don the WomenTalk pink tee! Just as I’d been proud to don Women Make A Difference’s pink tee many years ago…

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WMD GE Run 2006

This is my personal mission statement. It has been for years. And it anchors my CV.

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So, yesterday’s Shape Run was not only the first time I’ve put on my running shoes again after a year-and-a-half, but also the first time in a long time I’ve donned a pink tee again. It’s a reminder for me that I’m part of something bigger than myself.

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Source: Straits Times, 28 Oct 2013

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At this juncture, I want to sincerely wish my dear friend Eunice Olsen all the best with WomenTalk.

To Eunice – It’s good work you’re doing so don’t give up. I hope you know that there are people out there (like me!) who support you and believe in your vision. I hope God leads you to them on your journey, so that more can run this race with you.

Find out more about WomenTalk by clicking on this link, and share it: www.womentalktv.asia.

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