The three round coffee shop tables, lined up together to seat all of us, was laden with Health Promotion Board (HPB)-approved hawker fare – from plates of steaming-hot reddish-brown rice piled high with assorted Chinese dishes, to breaded fish fillets the size of size seven running shoes, still crackling from the boiling oil they had just been submerged in.
The multitude of food made up the MH Runners’ first dinner together. Sure, we were a bunch of Men's Health pavement-pounders who were passionate about leisure running. But we didn’t love our food any less than we did our running: The 13 of us who turned up that Saturday, the 17th of March, wanted to check out if the food served at HPB’s first healthier coffee shop would be able to live up to all the recent media hype about tasty, yet healthy, hawker fare. And so, our run that day was planned around the healthier food hub. We wanted to work up enough of a sweat – and burn off at least an hour’s worth of calories – before letting ourselves loose.
Our 8km route earlier that afternoon’s run was a hodgepodge of Bukit Batok’s smooth-surfaced park connectors, and slimy, algae-covered mud paths which meandered alongside a large monsoon canal. No less eclectic was the runners of our group – from the race-hardened, mileage-swallowing speedster to the wide-eyed novice trying to improve his striding style. These were differences we set aside that afternoon: There were no podium-finishes to achieve, PBs to break or ultra-endurance distances to complete, just endless stretches of tranquil, lallang-lined pathways – a rarity in the concrete build-up of a housing estate – to enjoy.
And the genuine camaraderie of the MH runners was demonstrated when the early completers of the route cheered to the finish-line at Bukit Gombak MRT station, the youngster afflicted by a calf strain. And it was the same friendship which we brought to the dinner tables at the coffee shop at. That evening, we discovered that food was as powerful a unifying tool as our interest in running.
Our plates might have been piled a tad too high with brown rice or fish-and-chips during dinner that evening. But when it came to good company that extended beyond mere running, we were enjoying it in all the right doses.
See you all at our next MH Runners run at MacRitchie Reservoir park on April 21, 2012 (Sat)! Watch this space for more details.