An article by guest writer Mohanadas Kandiah. Refer to “About the Writer” at the end of the post.
“Taxi! Sorry Uncle Taxi Driver, I am a little sweaty and smelly … so sorry ah … I would like to go to home“
- Date: Sunday, 5 Dec 1993
- Event: The Mobil Singapore Marathon
- Marker: 18 km only
A year later, a very much similar story…
“Taxi! Sorry Uncle, I am a little sweaty and smelly … so sorry ah … I would like to go to back home“
- Date: Sunday, 4 Dec 1994
- Event: The Singapore International Marathon
- Marker: 22 km only (an improvement over 1993)
Yet another year later (I know what some of you are thinking), sorry to disappoint you, but the story is slightly different.
- Date: Sunday, 3 Dec 1995
- Event: The Mobil Singapore Marathon
- Marker: 42.195 km
- Venue: The National Stadium, Singapore
- Time: 5 hr 35 min
- Feeling: Yes! I did it!! I am a marathoner!
Why run a marathon?
Ask a non-runner for one reason to run, and you will give a dozen excuses as to why you should not run. Ask a runner for a reason to run, and you will get a dozen reasons as to why you should run. The six common reasons cited for running a marathon are:
- Getting fit
- Raising money and awareness for charity
- Stepping out of one’s comfort zone
- Making new friends
- A sense of accomplishment
- Inspiring others
How to run a marathon?
It is very simple – Run with your heart, not legs
Running a long distance race is very different from running shorter distances. The body is stressed for many more hours under a variety of different conditions:
- Training programs is from short races
- Many more hours on the race course as compared to shorter runs
- Post-race recovery will take a longer time
Yes, running a marathon is both physical and mental – I would put it at a quarter physical and three quarters mental. It requires many long hours of training and preparation.
Training can only be easier if one enjoys it, and running must be always be fun – it must never be a chore. There are so many training programs available on-line, in books and magazines and through professional coaches. But many such programs do not teach one on how to have fun running a marathon! It is something that I have learnt though my years of running, and it is very much that ‘something special’ that keeps me going race after race.
To date, I have run 209 races – 173 full marathons and 36 ultra marathons. An ultra marathon is generally considered distances greater than the standard 42.195 km, although the definition is not totally clear, and most people tend to use 50km as a yardstick. My longest races were a 101 km single stage race and a 250 km staged-race. Staged races are held over a few days.
In 2012, I managed to do 39 races of marathons & ultras. To date, for 2013, I have completed 23 races. To help me run marathons, I observe a few ‘house-rules’:
- Always encourage other runners, and be encouraged
- Forget about the timing – it’s not important – completing the distance is – let the Kenyans win the marathon, I will enjoy it.
- I run with a camera, take photos along the course, very often its candid and not stand and pose shots
- Interact with the locals, especially if it is a marathon in a ‘third world’ (so sorry, personally I do not like to use this term, but it probably best describes to most readers)
- Always ‘thank’ the volunteers at races and at water points – without whom there would not be a race
- Never complain about the terrain or course
- Never complain about the weather – as it is decided by the Great One above
- ‘Must help’ and ‘look out’ for other runners who are in difficulty
- Share my experiences while running – a 5 hour race is an awfully long time, and is a good way to motive runners
- Always thank supporters who make an effort to be on the course cheering us, especially if they are disabled, as it takes a lot of effort on their part to be there
- I run with a whistle – as noisy as it can be, it is also a good way of enlightening the course and crowd and occasionally, I have used the whistle for traffic control
- Must always cross the finish line with a smile and not a ‘facial cramp’
- In overseas races, always cross the finishing line holding our Singapore flag proudly
The turning point in my races
In Dec 2009, I ran the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore with a 62-year-old diabetic friend. At the beginning of 2009, he could hardly run 500 m. I did not know what to expect of him during the marathon, as a diabetic’s needs are quite different from ours. I had emailed to some medical friends and a marathon-pacing group in Australia, asking for their advice.
Together, armed with our ‘7-Eleven stall’ – our goodie bag with power gels, glucose and other goodies, we embarked on our mission – to run his first marathon. We proudly crossed the finish line in front of the City Hall, at the Padang in 7 h 5 mins – not only was it my longest marathon, it was also my friend’s life changing expedition – he became a ‘marathoner’ and has gone on to do another 12 marathons since!
If I can be a catalyst in changing somebody’s life – then, why not? It certainly made the both of us feel great! This has become my vision.
My most enjoyable race
Many friends have often asked me which is the best race that I have run.
Until I did “The Big Red Run” (www.bigredrun.com.au) in July 2013, every race was as good as the one before, and will be a good as the next one.
The Big Red Run, a 250 km race across the Simpson Desert, Australia was different. It was organised as a fund-raiser for the “Born To Run Foundation” (www.borntorun.com.au) – particularly for Type 1 Diabetes. Greg Donovan, whose son is T1D, started the Foundation. T1D patients have to rely on daily insulin injections. The Race Director was Adrian Bailey, a Welshman living in New Zealand and himself an elite athlete.
I met Greg and Adrian a year earlier at the Gold Coast Marathon Expo, and we have become good friends. Greg’s vision, together with Adrian’s execution, gave a very emotional 3 dimensional feeling to the 6-day race.
“We met as strangers, became friends, and finished the race as a family”
This is the best I can describe the powerful implication of this race:
All of us enjoyed the fellowship with fellow-runners and volunteers, including professional medical Teams.
Pat Farmer, an ex Australian politician and an elite athlete was such an inspirational person to have on the course. (http://poletopolerun.com/pat-farmer/)
I do wish we had many more people like Pat in this world!
Some of the runners who had participated were T1D. They shared their stories, their difficulties and how they had to cope.
As for myself, the long runs gave me ‘sometime to myself, to reflect on things around me and the office, was able to ‘think aloud within’ and be at peace with myself. The desert can have such a mesmerizing effect.
Next year’s (2014) edition of the Big Red Run will be held from July 7–12. I would love to be able to repeat the race!
Coping with injuries
Every runner, at some point of his running life, will be injured – no escaping this dark world of sports injuries.
I was unable to run for 3 years from 2000 to 2002 due to plant facilities and Achilles tendonitis. It was probably the most painful and difficult years.
I often tell my friends that a runners’ best friends are the Sports Doctor, the Physiotherapist and the Chinese Sinseh. Yes, somewhere along the way, our paths will cross. No escape route. I am currently managing and nursing an injury for the past 7 months. Mental strength is important to cope with medical conditions.
Western trained doctors would very often prescribe painkillers or to abstain from sporting activities – runners know that it is not possible.
Here is where the friendly neighbourhood sinseh plays a role.
Running for Charity
More and more runners and charity organizations are using running events as a ‘fund raising exercise’.
For some of the bigger marathons like Boston & London, the easier way to get a confirmed entry slot is to ‘run for charity’. For the London Marathon, the charity section is rumoured to be to the tune of GBP 50 m!
Where do I go from here?
I am not a competitive runner, and would love to run as long as I can. Running has become part and parcel of my life and difficult to detach.
The many friends that I have come to know through running and we have sort of become part of each others’ lives. The running community is big, and getting bigger. And the community is also getting ‘younger & older’ at the same time – there are more younger and older runners.
Sadly, unlike golf, the money and exposure is not quite there. Even our ‘National TV – TCS Channel 5’ will show live golf games, but never running events. In golf, a dozen or so adults, some with ‘pot bellies’ hit a small ball into a hole … And the prize money is filthy big.
Importing ‘foreign talents’ to participate for Singapore is not the solution, especially when recent history has shown that these ‘foreign talents’, Singapore is still not ‘Home’. They have returned to ‘their Home’ after finishing their expatriate terms in Singapore (I often wonder if they do return their Singapore passports).
I have also been a long time critic that Sportsmen and Sportswomen should not be honoured according to the number of medals they win at competitions, but rather the ‘insignificants’ who make a difference to the sporting community at large.
About the writer
The writer is active on Facebook under the name ‘Mohan Marathon‘. He has many more photos and personal views shared over there for those who are interested.