Sunday 27 October 2013

IPPT: 2.4 to become 3.2? I couldn’t even run 1.5km

Like getting recalled, I’m going back to the army again for this week’s column.

Last week, I cited an analogy I read online which compared full-time national service to being “betrothed to a fat and ugly woman, and you must have sex with her every Monday to Friday for two whole years”.

A reader e-mailed me to complain that in my article, “thought has not been given for the ‘fat and ugly’ females in our society”.

He wrote: “We have been cruel towards parents of such girls by such description. I don’t wish to derive fun out of the innocents, despite your wonderful writing skills.”

Uh... I’m not sure how I should respond to this.

Should I apologise to the “fat and ugly females”? Or to the parents of such females?

Or should I thank the reader for highlighting my “wonderful writing skills”? Ahem. I hope he wasn’t being sarcastic there.

In my defence, the analogy wasn’t mine. It was an online comment by someone else which I thought captured the very male resentment against NS.

It also made me laugh.

In the week following the article, there was a slew of NS-related news.

Swimmer Joseph Schooling being granted a deferment. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saying the Government is looking into giving NSmen a chance to choose their vocation.

But the biggest news, at least to me, involved a number.


For a while last week, that seemed to be the new figure that would be dreaded by the thousands of operationally-ready NSmen in Singapore.

On Wednesday, The Straits Times reported that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was “looking to change” the dreaded Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

One supposed change was that instead of the dreaded 2.4km run, it would soon be the dreaded 3.2km run.

This was like a whole new world. For generations of servicemen, the 2.4km run has been as much a part of NS as “stand by hair” and booking in by 2359.

For those who dreaded the annual IPPT before, they now had 0.8 more reasons to dread it. Talk about a Halloween fright.

But within hours, SAF released a statement that “there has not been any decision to change our IPPT system”.

So it’s back to dreading the 2.4km.

But there was a time when a distance less than that could bring me to my knees.

In my first week of national service on Pulau Tekong, my platoon was made to run a short distance to gauge our fitness level.

During the run, I felt a strange mix of exhaustion, pain and nausea I had never felt before.

I stopped and vomited.

Now I also felt embarrassed. It was the first time I had ever puked in public.

The instructor wasn’t very sympathetic. I suspect he thought I was faking it.

He said: “Come on lah, it’s only 1.5km. Stop acting like you’re going to die.”

But I wasn’t acting.

At the age of 20, trying to run 1.5km for the first time in the army was enough to almost kill me.

So it was a little ironic and masochistic that last month, I joined the 21km Army Half Marathon – voluntarily.

I even paid a $12 registration fee. So I spent money to do something that three decades earlier, I would have paid many times over to get out of.

If only my 20-year-old self could see me now.

He would be wondering why my face looks so wrinkly and lopsided.

I would then have to explain that I’m 27 years older and that he was accustomed to seeing a reflection of himself in the mirror which is a reverse image and that’s why my face looks lopsided to him.

He would also probably wonder why I’m not richer before I shove him back into the time machine and send him back to 1986 to prevent the break-up of Wham!

When you’re young, you think you’re going to live forever.

But as you grow older, you find out you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high BMI, high everything except income, and you're suddenly joining half marathons in your 40s to stay alive.

Even though I no longer have to take the IPPT since I completed my NS seven years ago, I still time how fast I can run 2.4km out of habit when I go jogging.

Yes! I can still pass.

Not sure about 3.2 though.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 October 2013