It has been a long road back for S Muruganathan.
The Woodlands Secondary student won a bronze medal in the National Schools' C Division 800m race in 2011 but a painful disease curbed his potential.
Today, the 16-year-old is painfree, and has set his sights on becoming a national long-distance runner.
In February last year, Muru was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, a painful condition involving the inflammation of the knee which is primarily caused by bone growth during adolescence.
Even though he continued to train, the pain made it very tough.
"I could not complete the distances I usually run and would have to stop halfway," said the Sec 4 student, who is taking his O levels this year.
"I could not perform like before and I could not run for a period of time as it worsened.
"I felt useless and blamed myself. During my school's cross-country competition, I was held back in the final stretch by the pain and lost to someone who wasn't even in the athletics team, which discouraged me even further."
Despite the setback, Muru persevered.
He was cleared of the condition in May last year.
At this year's National Inter-School Cross Country Championships, the team captain helped Woodlands to a sixth-placed finish, the highest since the school's athletics club was re-established around six years ago.
On a personal level, Muru came in 13th out of 306 runners, bettering his previous best finish of 14th place in 2011.
Outside of the athletics team, Muru is an exemplary student. He is a student councillor and school camp leader.
Woodlands Secondary's head of physical education, Rudy Irawan Samat, who is also the teacher-coach of the athletics team, said: "Muru is a very responsible student who takes challenges seriously.
"He is looked up to as a good senior and role model, not just by the team, but by his peers as well."
When it comes to running, nothing seems to be enough for Muru, who easily chalks up 60km a week.
Training on his own
Aside from school training, the teenager also wakes up at 4am to run along the Woodlands Waterfront before heading to school.
When there's no training after school, he jogs in the evenings.
Such dedication has seen him reap rewards. Muru received the Peter Lim Scholarship thrice in the past four years.
While he regrets not winning more medals with Woodlands Secondary, Muru is keen to help his juniors.
"Everyone was so happy this year when we came in sixth in the cross country because we wanted to repay our teachers for their hard work," said Muru.
"Before I start school again, I will go back and help my juniors by training with them and coaching them.
"I think I will be going to a polytechnic, so I will join the athletics CCA, do my best there and try to make it into the national marathon team."
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