11 March 2018:
Why I run.I never liked running. In JC, we frequently had to do around 3.2 km runs around the school during PE. To me it was a torture, and I frequently stopped and walked during the run. As a result I was always one of the last.
In JC, PE was structured with NS in mind. Hence there was a lot of emphasis on doing similar exercises, so that we would be more accustomed to it once we enlist. The runs were therefore meant to improve our stamina for the 2.4 km test.
Which, by the way, I always scrapped through. I remember 12 min 20 sec being the pass timing, and I made sure to get slightly below that. But, it was never faster than 12 min.
In NS, because I went through physical training phase, I was basically made to run a lot, whilst doing other exercises as well, of course. I still didn’t quite like it, but it was something I had to do anyway.
And slowly, my run times started improving. The fastest I ever got was 10 min 20 sec for 2.4 km, of which after that I slightly vomited and was rather nauseated. Ever since then I hovered around 11 min, or 11 min 30 sec.
Initially I didn’t like running because of the stitches I’d get, which I now know is the diaphragm hurting. Then, during NS, I started getting pain in my left tibialis anterior, which progressed to numbness of my entire leg.
I have never sought medical advice regarding this, although I really should have during NS. It could be a problem with blood supply (vascularisation) or nerve supply (innervation). But this is just my educated guess, which isn’t a lot anyway.
So because of that, I generally didn’t like running. The stitches weren’t that bad as my stamina slowly improved, but the pain constantly came as long as I ran for a certain distance / timing.
But of course running is a way to improve fitness, which is something I don’t have a lot of. I am skinny, but skinny doesn’t mean lean, and skinny doesn’t mean fit. Hence, I cannot lift heavy weights, I cannot run that fast / long.
When I came to Manchester, I saw that there were many sports clubs around. Most of them were team sports, which I was either not good / had no interest in. The only one that stood out was a running club.
Unfortunately thanks to procrastination, I didn’t go to any session in semester 1 at all. So when semester 2 started, I decided that I would go for it, and I actually did. Ever since semester 2 started 5 weeks ago, I have been to every session since.
How the club works is that the runners are spilt into 4 (or 5) groups according to ability. In each group, committee member (or two) will act as group leader and bring to group at a fixed route and pace. There is fast, medium-fast, medium, steady / beginner.
When I first joined, I went to steady / beginner. I didn’t want to join a group, fail to keep up and then get demoralised and quit. We did runs of about 4 – 5 km, but with recovery in between.
I was able to keep up in this group, and my pain didn’t act up. Most of the time, I was able to keep up and stay at the front with the group leader. This, of course, was a sign that I should move on.
So last week, I finally made the switched to the group above – medium. No doubt the pace was much faster, but thankfully I managed to keep up for most of the run. Only at the last part (final burst) where I started lagging behind.
Nevertheless, I was glad that I was able to keep at it for most of the run. I ran 8.2 km, which was the absolute longest I have ever run. Next week I will continue in the same group, and hopefully I can progressively get faster as well.
What makes me this interested and dedicated in running all of a sudden? I guess it’s got to do with the fact that I needed to build my willpower. I will admit that I am rather weak-willed. When the going gets tough, I tend to quit, or look to quit.
Which, if you consider that I am studying to become a doctor, is definitely not a good idea. Medicine is said to be one of the hardest courses, and it definitely requires a certain amount of willpower.
The thing with medicine is that although you may have a particular interest in a certain field, e.g. cardiology, as a medical student you are expected to study all fields and pass your exams. You cannot simply specialise as a student.
Hence, that’s where willpower comes in. Because, as strange as it sounds, it is very possible for someone to like cardiology a lot, yet dislike e.g. internal medicine a lot, despite both being specialities of medicine.
In fact, that was already what I faced in semester 1. There was immunology to learn, which I simply had no interest. But again, I didn’t have the choice of simply ‘dropping’ it, since I had to pass the exams, which would have immunology.
Additionally, as a future junior doctor, it is not possible to simply turn away patients with immunology-related problems, simply because I didn’t like it enough to study. We are expected to know a bit of everything, until we officially specialise (for those that do).
So yes, there have been and will be topics that I simply don’t like or have no interest in. And it’s really tough running on motivation / interest, because what happens when those fade? Willpower / discipline is supposed to come in.
Therefore I run. I push myself to conquer further distances, faster paces, to prove to myself that I am capable of more than what I think I am. To tell myself that it is possible to push myself a bit harder even though it may not be enjoyable.
There will be a certain amount of pain and/or discomfort during runs; that is normal. Or, you may simply run out of breath. The easy way out is to just stop running, start walking. This was what I used to do, all the time.
But now, I really try to push myself. I may run at a slower pace, but I try to keep up and go as fast as possible. My breathing gets more frequent, I take larger breaths, but I try to keep up. So far, so good.
And so hopefully, this translates – in one way or another – into my academic pursuit as well. I haven’t been doing quite well in school. I passed my semester test (thankfully); but obviously scrapping through isn’t that good either.
The fact is, Singaporeans studying overseas typically tend to outperform locals, or at least do fairly well. Of course I am not definitely going for that, but it’s still evident that I haven’t been working as hard as I should be.
I really think it’s time for change. I go to study skills workshops, in the hopes that something changes and I can actually start focusing. But my willpower and discipline are weak, and I end up getting distracted and doing something else.
So I run. For fitness, and to tell myself that I can do better. Much, much better. I really need to buck up, otherwise I won’t even pass the first year of medical school. And what will I do else? I cannot imagine a life not practising medicine.
Which is odd, isn’t it? I am so devoted to medicine, yet somehow I am not disciplined enough to study hard for it. I honestly don’t know why, except for the fact that I can’t continue like this.
Recently I looked at The Student Room, a forum for students, one of which is for medical school applicants. I saw how they, in their posts, were so filled with drive and passion. Some were rejected by their dream schools, and how disappointed they were.
And yet, here I was. I got accepted into medical school, and I am wasting my life, time, parents’ money away. Definitely not the best course of action. To end off with a quote from Mark Reid, M.D. for myself:
Student, you do not study to pass the test. You study to prepare for the day when you are the only thing between a patient and the grave.
3 February 2018:
Today was a low point.I had possibly the greatest shock in years today. I arrived at the classroom, my hands reached towards my shoulders to let down my bag, and I realised that it wasn’t there. My laptop was in my bag.
There was 3 minutes before the start of the lesson, and I spent it re-tracing my steps. Went down to the reception, went up to the library. Nothing. I called M, whom I bumped into, and she said I didn’t seem to be carrying a bag.
I spent the entire lesson worrying about where my bag actually was. Best case scenario was that it was just in my room the whole time; worst case is that I took it off but forgot where I did so.
My lesson ended at 12 and I literally ran off. This was probably seen as rude or aloof by my group members, since I didn’t bother to stay and mingle like the rest did. But I really couldn’t afford to do so.
5 minutes later I was back. I distinctly remember thinking what I should do if I turned the keys and the bag was not there. Thankfully it was. My bag was still on the floor, flap opened, laptop within.
Very dramatic, but I literally slumped on the floor where the door was. It was so very overwhelming; I don’t quite know how to explain what I felt there and then. It was a mix of relief, of guilt, of shame.
You know how some people say ‘I need to get my shit together’? I have said it a few times before, but this was definitely the strongest signal yet. The lapse in memory was probably the most shocking ever.
And all this was because I kept procrastinating throughout the week. I’d blame my sleep cycle, but then again I was the sole cause of the sleep cycle dysfunction. So it was really my fault, through and through.
And it was just like in history, the cumulation of multiple contributory factors, leading to a catastrophic failure. Of course, thankfully, nothing severe happened, but still it was potentially severe in consequence.
I also nearly sliced my finger with a scalpel today. I will not divulge too much due to confidentiality and professionalism concerns (just in case), but again this was nothing but my fault. And it would have been a bad start indeed.
I am just very grateful that I eventually adopted a much safer practice to prevent my fingers or those of my partner from getting sliced. The scalpel is extremely sharp, and I cannot imagine what may have happened.
In terms of being a medical student, I’m sure today was surely filled with no-no moments, undeniably. This is only the beginning of semester 2; I have the rest of the semester, and 4 more years to go.
No patients were directly or indirectly affected by my actions thus far. But as I progress and receive more responsibilities, this may not always be the case. This trust isn’t readily given, and I definitely shouldn’t betray it.