“I was running the wrong race”: Southeast Asian Games gold medallist Mok Ying Ren
Dr Mok Ying Ren // April 28, 2023, 8:38 pm
In 2015, Mok took a year off work to train in Boulder, Colorado, in a bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. It would be a watershed year, but not in the way he expected. All photos courtesy of Dr Mok Ying Ren.
I am Ying Ren, most people call me by my surname Mok, and I am married to Belinda. We have two children now, Emma and Caleb.
Not too long ago, I was a double Southeast Asian Games gold medallist in the triathlon and marathon events and a multiple national record holder in the half marathon and 5,000m running events.
I had endorsement deals from major running brands, airlines and insurance agencies. Things were going really well.
Death of a dream
In 2015, I took a year off work to train in Boulder, Colorado, in the United States, in an attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympics before starting my Orthopaedic Surgery Residency in 2017.
But, one month into my training, everything changed.
I developed a sharp pain in my right knee and it was downhill from then on.
Despite seeking help from therapists in the US, I failed to qualify for the Olympics and the 2015 Singapore South East Asian Games.
In the end, my one-year stint in Boulder ended in disappointment.
I was obligated to post about shoes I was not wearing, drinks I was not drinking, and runs I was not running.
I underwent two MRI scans, which found no structural damage in my knee. Despite spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on physical therapy, none of them helped, and the pain persisted.
My pain affected me mentally as well. As a social media influencer, I had social media accounts to maintain.
During this period, my sponsorship deals were still in operation. I was obligated to post about shoes I was not wearing, drinks I was not drinking, and runs I was not running.
There were only so many throwback posts I could do. I could not fake it forever.
Eventually, I was dropped by sponsors, no longer winning five-digit prize money, and no longer being requested to give running talks.
Just a couple of years ago, I was on “Mount Everest” with people clamouring to be a part of me. And with a snap of the fingers, all was lost.
Fixated on fixing
In 2018, during my darkest moments, a friend asked me to attend church to seek miracle healing.
With a self-centred desire to fix my problem and get my life back on track, I started going to church. But I did not truly understand the Gospel at the time.
I almost sacrificed everything to stay afloat.
In an attempt to extend my running legacy I even started a start-up with a friend that aimed to secure sponsors for local athletes as an agent. I also had dreams of creating a coaching app.
Unfortunately, all these decisions came at a cost to my marriage and surgical training. I almost sacrificed everything to stay afloat.
In retrospect, I do not think I was saved then. All I wanted was for running to be returned to me so that I can get back on with my life.
I attended church, read and sang about Jesus Christ but did not know Jesus.
Thankfully, God continued to work in me.
Podcasts were my go-to for my travel entertainment on the trains.
God revealed to me the diagnosis of my struggles, just like a spiritual MRI scan.
By God’s providence, I was exposed to faithful Bible preachers online. Listening to their weekly sermons had the effect of Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of my soul and of spirit, of my joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of my heart.”
By His grace, God revealed to me the diagnosis of my struggles, just like a spiritual MRI scan.
He showed me how running was simply a means to feed my desire for the praise of man.
Each time I won a medal, each time I was on the front page of the national papers, the high was palpable.
I had an addiction to the praise of man, and running successfully provided for it.
But that is not all. Painfully, through my other struggles, God showed me how this addiction permeated every aspect of my life – my marriage, work and friendships – like the yeast that Jesus has warned us about. (Luke 12:1)
I had suppressed the truth and replaced the fear of God with the fear of man.
Meet You at the finish line
My attempts to pursue success, achievements and medals through running were merely well-crafted strategies that my mind had come up with to gain the world’s affirmation and to mask my biggest problem of sin.
Today, seven years on, my knee pain still exists and bothers me daily as I walk down a slope or attempt to run for a bus.
His affirmation is sweeter than every human praise and louder than every cheer on the stands.
I sin because I am a sinner, not the other way around.
Through His Word, I have learned that God’s standards are infinitely perfect, holy and righteous, and that I cannot meet them.
But, at the cross, Jesus did what 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
What I received, through the cross, is Jesus’ cloak of righteousness and His affirmation of me as His child.
This gift is not because of any successes I have achieved, nor the good I have done, but because of what His Son has done for me.
His affirmation is sweeter than every human praise and louder than every cheer on the stands and, most importantly, it is everlasting and eternal.
Even though I face temptations daily, Christ continues to call me back to Him to receive His love and forgiveness.
The reality is that I was good at running marathons, but the truth is that I had always been running the wrong race.
Now that my Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed my life, my deepest desire is to complete the race that He has set before me and to meet Him at the finish line.
Mok Ying Ren shared this testimony on Easter Sunday (April 9) at Redemption Hill Church. It is republished with permission.
“It had to be the Lord”: Former national swimmer Joscelin Yeo on her life’s dramatic turnaround
“Coaching is humbling”: S’pore’s head swim coach, Gary Tan, on servant leadership
“With my horse, I can run, I can fly”: Paralympic equestrian Gemma Rose Foo on God’s gift to her
“God doesn’t need a gold medallist to glorify Him”: A national athlete’s journey of faith
We are an independent, non-profit organisation that relies on the generosity of our readers, such as yourself, to continue serving the kingdom. Every dollar donated goes directly back into our editorial coverage.
Would you consider partnering with us in our kingdom work by supporting us financially, either as a one-off donation, or a recurring pledge?Support Salt&Light