A race in memory of his daughter

When avid runner Harry Teo lost his 14-year-old daughter to bone cancer almost three months ago, he also lost one of his biggest fans. For the 47-year-old, who has completed more than 15 marathons and ultramarathons in the last 10 years, races are a family affair, and his daughter Kristie would often support him.

"She would cheer me on," said Mr Teo, who has a 17-year-old son.

"I will miss that."

Yesterday, he dedicated his latest ultramarathon, the 50km leg of trail running event The North Face 100 series, to the memory of his daughter.

He completed the distance in just over seven hours.

"I wanted to run this race to celebrate her life," said Mr Teo, who ran the race in his adventure trail running sandals.

"Running an ultramarathon is similar to her life, with a lot of obstacles and a lot of unknowns. The idea is to keep going until you cross the finishing line."

In April 2013, Kristie, then a pupil at Evergreen Primary School, had complained of a pain in her hip after taking part in the school's sports day.

"We thought that it was a pulled muscle, but after three weeks of rest, the pain didn't go away," said Mr Teo, who works in the petrochemical industry.

Two months later, Kristie, then 12, was diagnosed with Stage 4 pelvic osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

The family's priorities changed soon after. Her 47-year-old mother quit her job as the principal of a childcare centre to look after her.

Kristie, who had secured a place in the Singapore Sports School on her talent in netball, had to decline the offer. She also had to amputate her left leg and undergo post-surgery chemotherapy.

Mr Teo noted, however, that the disappointments did not stop Kristie from living life to the fullest.

She went on to attend classes at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary), and travelled with her family to Seoul and Gold Coast in Australia for her favourite roller-coaster rides.

Even in her final days, Kristie was a fighter.

"She didn't give up, even until her last breath," Mr Teo said.

He completed yesterday's event at MacRitchie Reservoir with 32 runners from the Trailblazer100 group. It was formed earlier this year by running enthusiasts from HCA Hospice Care, which looked after Kristie in her final days.

Trailblazer100 has close to 60 members, including family members of cancer patients.

By creating awareness via the race and other activities, it hopes to raise $1 million by 2017 for the hospice care provider.

An online fund-raising drive set up by the group has raised over $30,000.

Three months on, Mr Teo said his family has found different ways of coping with the loss, but added that for him, the long runs are his way of dealing with grief.

"Just like running, there may be pain, tears and moments of doubt," he said.

"More importantly, the long runs give me a chance to thank God for the happy moments spent with her."


This article was first published on Oct 11, 2015.
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