Class of 2009, Bachelor of Psychology

Class of 2012, Master of Clinical Psychology

What does running mean to you? The values it brings may vary among individuals. For alumna Cheung Ieng (Vivi), running takes up a fairly large proportion of her life as it has guided her to get to know herself again and rediscover her personal values. Vivi gave people a deep first impression as a talkative and cheerful girl, making it hard to believe her extraordinary life experiences at a young age. Her story started from completing her master degree from UM, running a business, suffering from depression, starting the treatment of her illness, beginning to run to becoming the first female runner in Macao to complete the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) in Europe, Vivi said that these experiences had bought new perspectives on her life, “Life is like trail running that always full of ups and downs, brace yourself to overcome the difficulties, then you will realize that you are actually stronger than you think”.

Overcoming psychological illness with the support from University mentors

Vivi studied psychology in UM, speaking of her Alma Mater, she believed that she had met a group of good mentors and friends in the department, which were the most unforgettable memories during her time in UM, as she said, “The teachers in our department take good care of us and we still maintain our friendship even after graduation”. After obtaining her master degree, she started to run a business and opened an organic and organic and natural skin care product store. However, being busy in operating the store had gradually created emotional distress for her, which had eventually increased the symptoms of her depression. Speaking of her experiences in stepping out from the shadow of depression, she had expressed her heartfelt gratitude to her teachers and classmates for their caring and support, which had encouraged her to face her problem and seek for professional psychotherapy in Hong Kong.

“Running” through ups and downs

As a cross-country runner, Vivi admitted that although running has played a crucial role in improving her mental health, she still believed that seeking for professional psychotherapy should be the best remedy to tackle the problem, as she emphasized, “Many people believed that my problem was cured by running, but actually it is psychotherapy that really saves me. After receiving treatment, I try to adopt my therapist’s advice to find out my own interests and running happened to be an effective way for me to relieve stress.” She realized that spending time alone in nature can help her to learn to listen to herself, as she said, “I enjoy trail running as when I get out on the trails I get to experience stunning landscapes and feel the unique physical experience during process.” As blunts the brain’s response to physical and emotional stress.” As exercise triggers the release of endorphins in the brain that helps to alleviate negative feelings, Vivi has found the source of happiness, later she even turned running into her own interest and setting goals for herself to complete.

Although Vivi did not take up running for a long period of time, she has become the first female runner to complete the cross-country running race UTMB in France from an amateur runner in just a few years. Talking about this most-cherished race experience, she said, “UTMB follows the route of the Alps, we need to climb with a total elevation gain of more than 10,000 metres within a period of time and equipped ourselves to face very changeable, and at times hostile, weather conditions. When I was suffered from hypothermia during the race, I started to ask myself the purpose of participating into this race? But then I realized that besides of the physical capability, I also need to show my perseverance to complete this competition, so I told myself to keep going.” She believed that running is a useful exercise to train her perseverance as it allowed her to overcome obstacles that look insurmountable when she was hitting a low patch.

Trail running lessons for life

From feeling lost in life to working hard and being succeeded, Vivi has always running with enthusiasm. Besides of trail running, she has also participated into the trainings for road running and marathon in recent years. She compared trail running with life as both of them are full of ups and downs and many unforeseen factors, as a runner, you have to adjust your attitude to overcome the difficulties and move forward with perseverance. She did not even consider her “ranking” in competitions and her “gains and losses” in life because she hoped to live in the present, maintain the balance of life and try her best to accomplish the goals, this trail running spirit has exemplified in her life attitude.

People make people happy

In order to record the running moments and share personal experiences, Vivi opened an online sharing page titled “Vivi’s Running Diary” in 2016, she said, “I hope to use my past experiences to encourage people who are feeling overwhelmed to step out of your fear zone, seek for treatments to alleviate your problem, then you may have courage to start your life all over again.” She suggested that people should take care of their emotional status, be brave to share their feelings and believe that the roads are always there as long as they do not give up.

Vivi expressed that when she only competed with herself to achieve her personal goals when she runs, she believed that “We should stick to our decisions and be responsible for our own lives instead of living under others’ expectations.” She suggested students to set up their life goals, cultivate themselves to overcome hardships with positive mindset and constantly equip themselves with different skills to make their lives valuable.