Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making Running An Extreme Sport?

Queer as it may sound but the thought of running is enough to make me tired.

I am sure good runners swear that there are techniques involved in running. Somehow, compared to other sports such as tennis and golf, the so called techniques are less visible. This is because little or no sports equipment is used in running. Surely you do not hear anyone go "Wow! Look at that swing!" when they watch a running event on TV! In fact, in a long distance running race, there is nothing much to watch other than at the finish line.

Running is such a convenient sport and yet it is not my game. I have nothing against running, actually. In fact, I admire runners.

In my earlier blog article (
Running With A Mind Of Steel) , I gave my dedication to marathon runners. To me, running a 42-km race is tough but running a ultramarathon is even more jaw-dropping.

The Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is one such race.

On 23 Jan, 55-year old Singaporean Lim Nghee Huat took part in the race and run five times the distance of full marathon. He came in 26th and became the first Asian to complete the 217- km race, taking a total time of 52h:37m.

Man! I can't even run 2.4 km without feeling like I am halfway to hell and this guy makes running sound so easy!

Brazil 135 Ultramarathon is extremely difficult because it takes place in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains. Only 20 km out of the 217 km are on flat land and the rest are either uphill or downhill. The cut-off time for this non-stop foot race is 60 hours and that is a solid two and a half days!

The race in Brazil is part of the 135 Mile World Cup Series. The other two are 'Badwater Ultramarathon' which is a race in the desert and 'Arrowhead Ultra', which is a race in the snow.

That was not the first time Lim took part in an ultramarathon. In Jul 2007, he completed the 217-km Death Valley Challenge, the world hottest non-stop foot run with a time of 51h:49m.

Lim is no stranger to the running community. He had represented Singapore in triathlon competitions as well as the grueling Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 1989, where he was the fastest finisher from Asia outside Japan. He has been a running champion since 1972 and has set two national records when he ran 168 km round Singapore to help raise funds for the National Technological University's Endowment Fund in 2005. He was then 52, the oldest runner and he emerged in first placing with a timing of 24h:45m.

After the Brazil race, Lim is already planning for his next venture. He intends to run a distance of about 1,000 km from the South of Thailand to Singapore. (I would have just taken a plane!)

Since 2005, Lim has been dedicating his ultramarathon runs to raise funds for the community. For his race in Brazil, he raised $20,000 and he decided that it shall be dedicated to the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA). He noted that the STTA has been attaining outstanding achievements in recent international competitions and that was his way to show his appreciation to STTA for making Singapore proud.

However, I am somewhat taken aback by his 'act of charity' for two reasons:

Firstly, $20,000 seems so meagre compared to the effort involved in the race and secondly, why STTA when a long list of people are surely in a more dire situation than the paddlers?

Lim must have felt very strongly about the glory that STTA has brought to Singapore and besides, it is his total prerogative to decide on who should receive the fund. Nonetheless, I hope that for his next race, he will consider raising funds for those who are more in need of help.

If you are inspired to do the same, you can consider starting your training regime like Lim. In order to prepare for the Ultramarathon, he ran 45-80 km every weekend and 15-20 km on weekdays since Oct 2008. (I don't even drive that far!) With that kind of rigorous training, perhaps you too can take part in the next ultramarathon.

I wish Lim all the best in his upcoming 1000-km race.

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