This was it.
It was as if all the training was to prepare me for this moment — and I didn’t even realise it.
All the Jurong Lake Runs, the Hello Kitty Run, The Urgent Run for World Toilet Day, the Army Half Marathon — they were just foreplay for the main event on Thursday.
That was the day of my first #runwithBYK.
“Who is BYK?” you may ask.
That’s when I look at you with disgust and ask: “Do I have to explain what a ‘selfie’ is, too?”
If not for this person, many Singaporeans may not have even heard of the word “selfie”, although that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Just like if not for Miley Cyrus, you may not know what “twerking” is and wish you didn't.
And no, I’m not talking about US selfie queen Kim Kardashian, primarily because her initials are not BYK, although like Kardashian, Singapore’s selfie king Baey Yam Keng is sort of like a reality star himself and not at all camera-shy.
And while Kardashian has a spouse who put her in his music video, Mr Baey has a spouse who put him in her play.
So the Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC not only runs but also walks the boards.
I had written so much about the man without actually meeting him that he was in danger of becoming like Hello Kitty, a disembodied construct that exists solely to provide material for this column.
So when the opportunity came to rectify this situation, I leapt at it. Or rather, I took the MRT train to Raffles Place at it.
It all started on Wednesday with a post by Mr Baey on Instagram with the hashtag #runwithBYK and an open invitation to join him in his “first ever evening run at Marina Bay tomorrow”.
His previous runs were either in the morning or in Tampines.
I couldn't join him for the morning runs because I don't usually get out of bed until lunch time.
And because I live in Choa Chu Kang, I avoid going to the eastern part of Singapore since the people there tend to look down on us “westerners” as evidenced by the West Sucks Story Tumblr.
Also, Tampines is very far.
But Thursday evening at Marina Bay was the perfect time and place.
Next, I had to decide what to wear.
My 2014 TNP Big Walk tee had shrunk in the wrong places and my ST Run At The Hub tee makes me look fat.
In the end, I settled on a tight bluish grey Renoma tee which shows off my moobs.
Then I had another problem.
The Instagram said to meet at the Raffles statue by the river, but I Googled it and found there were two Raffles statues in the area.
As if my life wasn’t already difficult enough. Damn you, Sir Stamford, if you ruin this day for me.
So I took a big chance and went to the statue nearest the river.
I was 10 minutes early and saw another guy in running gear hanging around the statue. Was he here for the #runwithBYK too?
That meant I wouldn’t have Mr Baey to myself. My heart sank.
Nursing my disappointment, I walked as far away as I could from the interloper while keeping the statue in sight.
A few minutes later, I saw Mr Baey talking to my new enemy and immediately went to make my presence known.
As I laid eyes on the MP's lean, tanned body in a black Adidas tank top, I finally saw in the flesh why I once called him the Sexiest Man Alive.
He recognised me and said: “S M Ong.”
I could die now.
Shaking my hand, he said: “You look better in person than in your photos.”
I know, right? Not everyone can be as photogenic as His Selfieness.
Then the most coincidental thing in the universe happened. The other guy (the interloper, my new enemy) recognised me and I recognised him.
We used to work at MediaCorp together. He was a producer-director for Singapore’s groundbreaking sitcom Under One Roof, which I also wrote for. I haven’t seen him in about a decade.
He, too, had never met Mr Baey before and decided to join the #runwithBYK after seeing the post on Instagram.
Who knew #runwithBYK could reunite old acquaintances better than Facebook?
Suddenly, Mr Baey seemed like the third wheel.
But after some quick catching-up, it was time to run.
From the Raffles statue, Mr Baey led us past the Esplanade, over the Helix Bridge, past Gardens By The Bay to the Marina Barrage where we took a break. That was over 3km.
Along the way, we were approaching an intimidating flight of stairs when I whined: “Stairs?”
Mr Baey immediately changed direction and we ran up a gentle slope instead. He is considerate like that.
During the break at Marina Barrage, I explained I was still recovering from a 14km run at MacRitchie Reservoir the previous day, so I wasn’t in the best of shape. I think they believed me.
After we took the all-important selfies to commemorate the occasion, it was time to run back, this time round the other side of the bay past Marina Bay Sands and Clifford Pier.
But I lagged so far behind the other two that at One Fullerton, I completely lost sight of them in the evening rush-hour crowd.
Despite all the Jurong Lake Runs, the Hello Kitty Run, The Urgent Run and the Army Half Marathon, I couldn’t keep up with BYK.
Would I see him again?
I figured if I could find my way back to the Raffles statue, I still had a chance.
As I wandered through the maze of tunnels and bridges, I must have stumbled onto a shortcut because I suddenly see Mr Baey and my ex-colleague crossing the road in front of Victoria Theatre.
The road was so busy, I was worried they would be killed by oncoming traffic. That would certainly affect Mr Baey’s chances for re-election.
But I caught up with them and we made it across the road alive.
Alas, it was time to say goodbye — but not before I took one final selfie with the selfie king.
Who knows if we’ll ever meet again?
We’ll always have Instagram.
Here’s looking at you, BYK.
Valentine’s Day is this week. Should I get him something?
- Published in The New Paper, 8 February 2015
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