What should bus drivers do to get home after they finish their duty? Should they hop on to another bus or take the MTR?
Well, if you ask Lai Chun-tung and Chu Kwok-wah, they would probably suggest a healthy jog back home.
Lai, 64, and Chu, 51, have been driving vehicles for most of their working lives, with the most recent assignments being the stewardship of passenger buses.
Despite the hectic schedule, the two have found time to indulge in one shared passion — jogging — and become dedicated amateur marathon runners.
Prior to working as bus drivers, the two said they led an unhealthy lifestyle, taking in a lot stress and hardly exercising.
Lai, who is 5 feet and 3 inches tall, once weighed over 160 pounds when he working as a minibus driver. In his own words, he used to look like “a plump winter melon”.
“There was no air-conditioning in red minibuses back in the 1970s. I was always doing the night shift.”
“Not only did I have to stay alert on the road, I also needed to evade the police and grab passengers. The work was so stressful that I couldn’t help lighting up one cigarette after another,” recalls Lai.
His life took a turn 30 years ago when he witnessed the death of his mother, and later even his father, due to cancer.
Being the eldest of ten siblings, Lai found himself having to shoulder family responsibilities and serve as a role model for his brothers and sisters.
Realizing that he needs to be there for his family, he quit smoking once and for all.
But quitting smoking made him bloat up, Lai says, a complaint often echoed by long-time smokers who give up suddenly.
“My belly became so big that it stuck to the steering wheel. Meanwhile, I had to keep the seat in the forward position in order to reach the brake pedal as I am short. That was awfully uncomfortable,” he says.
It was jogging that helped Lai to reduce his belly and get back in shape.
The newfound love for running gradually became a habit for life and Lai felt good about himself.
Experiencing the benefits of a changed lifestyle, the bus driver began extolling to others the joys of jogging and the potential impact on people’s health and happiness.
Fellow driver Chu was among those that Lai managed to convince about the virtue of regular runs.
About 16 years ago, Chu bumped into Lai on the staff bus and learnt about the latter’s personal experience.
Enlightened by Lai’s story, Chu also took to jogging and, in fact, became a running partner.
The partnership has continued ever since.
Chu was initially working in the logistics industry, where the stress levels were even higher.
“The working hours were poor, and I was smoking even though I suffered from rhinitis and cough from time to time. Later I decided to become a bus driver instead.”
“Then I met Lai on the staff bus one day, learnt about jogging and began going for runs with him. In a few months, my health improved.”
As bus drivers, Lai and Chu have to work for about ten hours a day. Given this, how can they possibly have enough time for the sport?
Well, their secret is this: After work, take a jog back home instead of availing some transport.
“We can run anytime we want. Usually we do it after work,” says Lai. “I was working in Sham Shui Po recently. It takes me about two hours to run from there to my home in Tseung Kwan O.”
Chu says humbly that he is not as good as Lai, and that it takes him in excess of an hour to run a 19-kilometer stretch from the bus depot to his home in Tseung Kwan O.
Both Lai and Chu agree that driving a regular bus, unlike the case with a truck or a minibus, is not a race against time. The work is more like running a marathon, where one requires lot of patience and skill to ensure the safety of passengers, they say.
“It takes some time to get used to bus driving, as suddenly so many lives are in your hands. Only when you have learnt to slow down and relax will the stress vanish.”
On Saturday, Lai and Chu will be racing as a team of two in the 10-kilometer NWS Geo Hero Run that will kick off at the Geopark in Sai Kung.
Here’s wishing them all the best!
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 9.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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