Being the most followed Singapore runner on TikTok isn't what makes this runner's story inspiring
PHOTO: RUNNER KAO
With over 120,000 followers on TikTok, he is the most followed Singapore runner on social media. Yet gaining a massive following was not on Kao Rong Sheng's mind at all when he first started on his running journey.
What truly makes Kao's story so inspiring however, is not that he is so well followed on social media, but the simple fact his is a story that the vast majority can relate to.
After all, most people aren't elite athletes or high performing fitness instructors. We struggle with poor daily choices and eating habits. But Kao's story shows that if we choose to take ownership of our life choices, we can chart a different path altogether.
Known by most in the running community as "Runner Kao", many do not know this man's fame on TikTok only came after his YouTube videos, a platform where he regularly documents his running journey, as a means of adding value to the community by sharing useful insights on new routes and training alternatives with his followers and subscribers.
Kao recalls: "I started sharing on social media about my running journey & changed my handle to Runner Kao mainly to remain accountable to myself as well as my online audience. Imagine if you call yourself 'Runner' and not run… how bad will it look?"
"My main motivation to run is for my family, particularly my kids who can’t get enough of me chasing them in the playground."
PHOTO: RUNNER KAO
His talent for content creation was apparent, and his transition into the life of a running creator followed soon after.
Known for his talking head commentary style on his runs, Kao's trusty GoPro has seen him through his running journey right from August 2019, when he first started uploading his videos onto YouTube.
However, it was only a year later in July 2020 that Kao started to dabble with funny videos as part of his transition onto the TikTok platform.
The videos were way better received than he expected, and within months he was receiving photo requests from random strangers on the streets of Orchard Road and in the parks, as well as having many school children flocking towards him wherever he went.
To help him gain inspiration for his runs, he picked up a lot of running knowledge from Reddit Running forums, which he personally feels are way more insightful than the content he could find on Google.
Kao added: "For local runners, my first running idol was Mok Ying Ren from way back. In recent years, I was so inspired by Serena Teoh and Jasmine Goh, whom I even managed to arrange an interview with on my YouTube channel."
PHOTO: RUNNER KAO
As he has rather sensitive feet, he prefers to run on the road than on trails.
"I used to have serious plantar fasciitis that made me contemplate giving up running at one stage," Kao shared. "For this I have to credit the Reddit folks for giving me so much advice that helped me overcome it."
"However, as my feet became stronger due to the routines I put myself through on a daily basis, I went back to the trails and started to enjoy them more and more, especially during the pandemic. For now, I will say I run 80% on roads and 20% trail."
His favourite running memory was that of a half marathon race in Lake Garda of Italy, an event which saw several firsts for him.
He recalls: "At the pre-run convention, I was served free cheese & ham for the first time. And I stayed in a hotel just beside the finish line for the first time."
"It was also a first time I had a helicopter flying over me in a race, with the camera man panning his camera over us to get us pumped.. it was just like being in a movie. And I have not even mentioned running along the breathtaking views of the snow cap mountains in such awesome weather."
While it will take some time before Kao can fulfill his dreams of running overseas again, in the meantime he is appreciative of the local running routes that Singapore has to offer.
"It (my favourite route) has to be running from East Coast Park and the Marina Area. The sea and skyline views of these places are unbeatable," he said.
"Moreover, I’m able to run a long distance without the need to stop at the traffic lights. Jurong Lake Gardens is really sentimental to me as I spent so much time training there."
Kao also has some words of advice for social and leisure runners who feel disheartened in their running journey, just because they aren't as fast as some of the other runners in the community, reminding them to simply enjoy the journey.
PHOTO: RUNNER KAO
"A lot of them are afraid of calling themselves runners as they feel inferior when comparing themselves to the faster runners. In my opinion, as long as you run, you can call yourself a runner, and be proud of calling yourself that," he encouraged.
His personal goals involve creating more relatable content to inspire the next generation to put on their running shoes more often and to start running from a young age.
Declaring himself as an introvert, he prefers to do his sharings online than in person, as he can get really anxious when socialising in groups.
"Be patient and start slow, that's how I started," Kao concluded. "Have a recovery routine and don't just run. Train your upper body strength and it is just as important to take the load off the legs and improve your running form.