Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Up close with Mohan Marathon

Mo and I at Island Ocean Marathon 2013

Mohandas Kandiah a.k.a. Mohan Marathon

Singapore's very own Kenyaporean

In the spotlight

Never have I been to Eldoret, in particular the Elgon View area, nor have I encountered a member of the Kalenjin tribe of that region.  Yet on a particular day in November last year along a particular stretch of road in Penang, something caught me totally by surprise.  Well let's just say I momentarily forgot about my bloodied toes or my always on the verge of cramping legs.  A sight that nearly made my eyeballs pop out of my head.  This while I was questioning my sanity at running 42.195km for the first time in my life. Only mad people run that far, the voice in my head said.  So I must be running to the loony bin then.  That was when I heard him.  Loud. Whistle blowing. Hands clapping. Urging people on.  Larger than life itself.  Who was this character? After seeing him in action I didn't need to seek out a Kenyan.  They were after all the boring people up front winning all the races.

That my friends, unbeknownst to me was Mohandas Kandiah, better known to the runners in the region as Mohan Marathon  He also answers to Mo.  A man who has run so many marathons that he has been affectionately dubbed a Kenyaporean.  Let's see them try to run as many! On first viewing Mo doesn't look like your typical long distance runner.  Then again neither does yours truly.  At least we have that in common.  Yet Mo is a running machine.  He runs week in and week out.  While others dream of running this or that marathon, he has nearly done all of them.  This is one man who is always quick to smile or laugh or stick out his tongue during a run, while others trudge on with zombied expressions on their faces.  Mo is so full of life and he likes to spread the joy to his fellow runners.  That's why it's next to impossible to miss him in any run.

Mo in action at Island Ocean Marathon 2013

The second time I met Mo was at the Island Ocean Marathon at Langkawi.  By then we were already Facebook buddies.  Mo caught up to me when I was walking into the hotel lobby.  With open arms and a quick snap from his trusty camera he welcomed me.  We dined together at the carbo loading buffet.  More talking than eating.  So forget the makanathon thing.  That only happens after the run.  So I thought it more than appropriate to kick off my new "Up Close with..." post with someone whose name is synonymous with marathon running...  I am positive that anyone who has heard of him would have many questions to ask.  I have come up with some of my own.  I am sure my readers will have their own too.  Hopefully for now the following will suffice... 

Q: How did this incredible running journey come about?

A: I failed my medical back in 1988 and had to take some drastic steps in changing my lifestyle and habits, and also the company of friends who are runners made the decision somewhat easier.

Q: How many marathons have you completed? (Including ultras)

A: To date, 208 marathons & ultras... hopefully 209 by this Sunday (Brisbane Marathon)

The Big Red Run

Q: You just ran the inaugural 250km Big Red Run. What are your thoughts on it?

A: I was not sure what I was getting into when I decided a year ago that I was going to do it. Hadn't a clue what it was going to be like to run almost 300 km for the week ( that's because I did the Gold Coast Airport Marathon a day earlier )

However, it was for a good cause - to raise funds for Type 1 diabetes. Many of the runners who participated in the event were also Type 1 diabetic themselves.

I was not sure how my body was going to recover doing a marathon everyday for a week, including a double marathon. Maybe in life, its good to take a plunge first... then worry about the currents, tides and  "whether I can swim" later.

Haha.... I guess that's me and am so proud to say that there I am one of the 4 from Singapore / Malaysia to have completed the race, and looking forward to next year's. I think the Australians are great sports people and great at organising races.

It has been two weeks since The Big Red Run, I am still thinking of it ( very positive thoughts ), still enjoy seeing the posts on Facebook on the race... I have never had this kind of feeling and attachment to any race before...

" We ( the runners & volunteers ), met as strangers...., we became friends....., and we finished as a family "  - that's the best way I can describe The Big Red Run.

The Big Red Run

Q: Long distance running is supposed to do very positive things to our brain. What say you?

A: Long distance running takes a long, long time for me.... haha, you know what I mean bro, timing is not important for me, its the fellowship and the fun that I have enroute that is important.   Of course it does positive things to us as we have to be positive to enjoy the distance and time. We should have a positive attitude to the race for a few reasons:
- helps us do it happily
- makes us want to come back for more races
- makes everyone ( around you during the race ) happy as well, as we send out and share positive vibes.
- makes us recover both physically and mentally quickly

Q: Do you feel that running helps improve our sex life?

A: Running is a 'total body workout"

Q: How many days in a year do you sleep in your own bed?

A: The answer is 'none' - as I don't have a bed - I sleep on the floor... but I am in Singapore usually Mon - Fri,
and out on the weekends.

Q: How do you train for a marathon?

A: To be frank - I don't - only because I run too many races a year ( 39 marathons and ultras in 2012 ) and doing a personal best (PB) is not in my vocabulary. I do run once or twice on week days with friend(s) after work.  (Mo's PB is
3h56m at Hangzhao International Marathon in 2010)

Q: What are your tips to full marathon virgins?

A: When I first attempted a marathon in Dec 1993, I DNF-ed (Did Not Finish) at the 18km, a year later in Dec 1994, I only managed just short of 22km.... Only on my 3rd attempt in 1995 did I cross the 42km line in 5h35m.  I know what it is like not to finish a marathon & finishing the first.... thoughts are still very fresh in my mind.
I can only say to the FMVs out there a few things:
- pace yourself
- train sufficiently - you don't want to wait 3 years like me to finish the first marathon
- run with your heart and mind, and not your legs.
- have fun, interact with the other runners.
- encourage others and be encouraged yourself
- never complain, be positive
- many people have said 'listen to your body'... I have a slight twist to this saying
  'Do not listen to you mind, as the mind usually gives up before the body'
- Finish the race with a smile.... not a facial cramp!

HatYai International Marathon 2013

Q: What do you gain the most from running?

A: The fellowship with other runners, like yourself. I also like to interact with the locals, especially if it is a marathon in a third world country.

Q: What race haven't you run that you would like to run in the future?

It used to be 'any desert race' ... now that I have done The Big Red Run, I wanna do it again! 
There are so many that I have not done, and would love to. Unfortunately, I cannot qualify for Boston and it is so difficult to get an entry in London's.  If I can, I would love to take a year off and do all the races in the USA and another to do all the races in Australia.

Q: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you during a run?

A: In June 2010 I ran the inaugural Dili Marathon. The local people there were somewhat shy and reserved, and never seen a marathon before. I had the pleasure of running with the Norwegian High Commissioner to Dili, Ms Eva Irene Tuft, who was running her first marathon.
Eva told me to greet the locals with "Bondia"... and that's what I did... I was screaming "Bondia Timur Leste" and dancing along the way, trying to 'connect' with the locals. Then came this guy and greeted me "Bondia Mister Bean" - that's it... "connection made"!

Q: Is there a ritual you go through before a race?

A: Oh yes... used to be ritual, now more like a  'habit'... wake up 2 hours before race, have my super strong "Nescafe O Kosong", toilet and shower, and relax in front of the TV.

Q: What is the toughest race you have ever run and why do you say so?

A: One of the tougher, but beautiful race which I DNF-ed was the Moonshot Mountain Marathon in Queenstown, New Zealand. So, it was 'unfinished' business.... I will be back for it in 2014

Q: Which full marathon do you recommend all of us to run at least once? And why.

A: Very simple - rule of thumb - MUST do your own motherland marathon.... and any others that suits your travel plans. Never complain on course or terrain... every marathon has to be different. Learn from mistakes and share what you have learnt.

Q: What sort of mindset should the long distance runner have?

A:  Haha... that's easy... Just be "brain dead"! Actually, engage the mind, talk to others, enjoy the scenery. It is when the mind runs idle, it sends undesirable signals to the rest of the body.

Honolulu Marathon 2012 with the great Yolanda Holder (center)

Q: What kind of things should be added to a marathon to make the experience better?

A: It works both ways.... as organisers, basic marathoners needs and safety issues must be taken care of, eg water, electrolytes, road marshalls, finisher tees and medals.   And also, we, as runners, can 'value add' to the marathon in our own ways, eg. sharing on Facebook, writing blogs

Q: What do you look forward to at the Kuching Marathon 2014?

A: In March 2006, I ran a marathon in Kuching. Sadly, it was their first and only... As organisers / sponsors, marathon dates should be clearly set on the calendar. Avoid clashing with other regional marathons as more runners travel around the region for races. There must be continuity in the series of marathons.... it has to be an annual affair.  I hope the Kuching Marathon organisers come up with a date quickly, as I have to block that weekend. 


Muar Cross-Country 21km Run 2013

Mo is also a member of an exclusive group of runners called the Marathon Maniacs ((MM#1332).  There is a reason why they are called maniacs.  If you want to know more about them, click here. And there you have it folks, my first "Up Close with..."  Thanks Mo for being so candid with your answers.  We hope to see you and meet up with you in many more marathons in the years to come.  It's always a joy to hear you in action before we even see you.   Who knows one day you may actually grow white hair like Uncle Oliver Ker and attract all the hot running groupies.  However for now am sure you will continue to enjoy what you do best - bringing joy and happiness to us all whenever you run.  The Kenyans have nothing to fear from you.  They win races and you win hearts and gain friendships.  When I grow up I hope to be like you.  Then again a happy heart is always young!

Monday, 29 July 2013




Kuching's 24-hour low-cost gym

Back to Basics

Working out at Night

The biggest mistake I made last year was not working out at all during the entire month of Ramadan.  The problem of course was that after breaking fast and prayers there was little time for me to do any sort of work out since the gym closed at 10pm.  So what I would do come every Ramadan was to freeze my membership for the entire month.  That meant a whole month of virtually no exercise for me.  Last year I didn't lose weight. Instead I gained weight! Five kilos to be exact.  The biggest fear for me was that this scenario would again be repeated during Ramadan.  So you can imagine how happy I was to discover that Level Up Fitness, the gym I belong to, had opened up a 24-hour no frills gym at Arena Sukan at Jalan Wan Alwi.  For an additional RM10 I could become a member of LUF24HR.  What's more for the entire month of Ramadan that fee was waived.  So in essence I was using the gym for free.  Of course it also meant I wasn't freezing my membership.

So when the fasting began I shifted to LUF24HR. Of course the staff will only be on duty for a certain duration.  Please refer to for more information.  What is important to realize is that anyone who wishes to become a member of this 24-hour gym needs to get an electronic key in the form of a wristband.  To do so one must pay RM150, which is refundable upon termination of contract.  After the staff have gone, which is usually by 10pm, to open the glass doors to the gym, those electronic keys must be used.  Once inside there is a turn-style to get in.  Again the electronic key must be used.  Then the machine will ask for your thumbprint scan before you can enter.  I thought this was a brilliant idea, as then the gym would know who exactly clocked in beyond a reasonable doubt.  The fact that there were numerous CCTVs also meant that the comings in and goings out of member could be monitored.  I am all for gym members' safety especially late at night.

Since this is a no-frills concept gym do not expect towels or lockers.  Yes there are spaces available to put your workout stuff if need be, upstairs and downstairs.  Downstairs is where the free weights and assorted cross-fit equipment are located.  There is also space to stretch and do other free forms of exercises there too.  The floor to ceiling glass walls give us a good view of the outside and at night this is especially nice as we can see the cars wheezing by on the main road.  There are also lots of mirrors for those who need to view their body beautiful from every angle.  Upstairs its all about the treadmills, elliptical cross-trainers, stationery bikes and numerous weightlifting machines.  I as a rule stay away from machines I am not familiar with.  Injury of any kind is always my biggest fear.  What I want to use most are the treadmills, cross-trainers and stationery bikes.

The machines available are a varied mix of old and new.  There is one top of the line treadmill.  For reasons I will not get into I prefer the older ones.  For me it is always nice to run for 60 minutes.  So thankfully those machines have all been set to go that long.  A neat thing I discovered on two of the machines is that the touch screen can get me a running track or a 5km running route.  Of course it's nothing special, but in between watching the TV screens and what's happening outside it makes for a nice change. Also it can be programmed to go into marathon mode!  Those who run long on treadmills can now rejoice!  I was grinning from ear to ear when I discovered that.  At the other Level Up Fitness it would be impossible for me to run on the treadmills for long periods after 5pm onwards as there would be queues of people waiting to imitate a gerbil like me.  At LUF48HR late into the night it would most probably be only me and all those treadmills so I can go on for as long as I like.

Only way in after 10pm is via electronic key
Glass doorway leads into the gym
Read the small print
24 hours of working out possibilities
Feels like LRT time!
Check your wristband here
My electronic wristband key
Am all thumbs now
Open Sesame!


Safety is always big concern with me as mentioned earlier.  A lady from the other Level Up Fitness gym did ask me what I thought about training alone at nights at LUF48HR for women.  My best advice to her was to go in a group if she was the kind who feared for her safety.  For me the mere presences of CCTVs and also panic buttons was enough.  In fact there were panic buttons placed strategically all over the gym.  There was even one in the women's changing area.  Doors are limited to the single toilet and single shower.  Both work really well.  There's also a men's urinal.  If you need to change outside, huge floor to ceiling curtains can be closed around you for privacy.  There are two of these, one for the men and one for the women.  What's more CCTVs face out from the men's and women's changing area so that anyone heading towards them can be monitored.  I could see a lot of planning went into taking care of members well being.

When I worked out late at night I could see the security personnel for the entire Arena Sukan area patrolling.  This was a welcome sight.  My only worry was always that a member would bring a friend in.  I guess this can easily be rectified if members wore their electronic key wrist bands at night.  So members know that the others are members too.  In fact all I want to do is workout and train and not have to worry if the person next to me or behind me is a member or not.  I am sure I can take good care of myself, but others might not be so lucky.  This may seem like a small matter, but when it comes to women it will become a huge matter.  Another thing I notice is that after midnight the main gates outside are closed by the guards.  This is an extremely good thing.  When I came out of the gym there can clearly see me as the entrance is in sight of the guard house.  So when I drove off they opened the gate for me.

Space to do your thing
Very motivating sign
I want muscles!
Always friendly and helpful staff
Upstairs rest area
Two machines to keep me cool
Bicycles that go nowhere
Rowing your boat?
Elliptical cross-trainers
The scariest machine at the gym for me!
For me to run like a gerbil
M is for Men

W is for Women

Panic button
Do they Transform?
Machines that make me want to confess to anything
Machines I don't even know how to use
Will it make me taller?
She knows I am ready


When there is free flow of hot or cold water how can anyone complain?  I like the rest area upstairs very much. If I needed to check on work I could easily do it there.  Of course there are a few things that would be much appreciated at the gym.  But then again this is a low-cost gym so I it is supposed to come with no frills.  I know I will be heavy with all that berbuka puasa goodies, so the sight of a recently put weighing scale was much appreciated.  With CCTVs everywhere it's hard for anyone to take anything, let alone bring a friend in.  For that a penalty of RM50 will be imposed on the gym member.   I realize my upper body strength is limited.  So a chin-up bar would be much appreciated too.  Also maybe monkey bars or those jungle gym ropes that go up high so that I can improve my climbing skills for obstacle races in the future.  I know a certain Kenny Sia must be grinning and shaking his head when he reads this.  Yours truly does ask too much for RM10 extra.

So now I have no worries if I need to train during Ramadan at all.  What more even after that I plan to go to LUF24HR again.  The thing is I like the power to choose when I want to go to the gym.  There have been many a time I wanted to run early in the morning and it was raining or the sky was heavy with rain clouds.  Now I have another option.  This gym has opened up lots of possibilities for me.  Though I must admit running long on the treadmill is the most boring thing ever.  However it is really safe when I stop to consider what's out there.  Trust me I have been chased by dogs, nearly hit by bikes (head on again!) and eyed by motorcyclists in a most disturbing way.  When we run alone on the road in the wee hours there are so many dangers out there.  I am a big guy and I know I can run myself out of danger if I have to, but still, there is always the feeling that someone might find my water bottles attractive...

LUF24HR might not work for everyone.  Those who need to company of others will find it a very lonely place after 10pm.  I have been there till well past midnight. Maybe because I like training alone so it mattered naught to me.  The music still blares loudly.  The air-cons keep me cool and two windmill like fans spin slowly to circulate the cool air.  So anyone wanting the freedom of going to the gym whenever they want too, do give LUF24HR a chance.  You will be surprised at how easy it is to workout when you don't have to worry about the time.  The fat old man running on the treadmill well past midnight is real.  Do say hello.  He is a really friendly and sociable chap.  You don't have to be a runner to be his friend, though most of the time running is the only thing he talks about.  At the end of the day it's all about working out, and being a member of not one but two gyms, has a lot of advantages for me now.  Thank you Level Up Fitness for continuing to blaze the trail for gyms in Kuching.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Power of Love Charity Run

5km and 10km runs

Date: 20th October 2013
Time: 6.30am
Venue: Crown Square Kuching
Registration fees: RM35 (inclusive of free t-shirt)
Contact: 016-9852098 (Mr Ho) or 013-8189896 (Mr Bun)
Closing date: 6th October 2013
Details: here
Form: here

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Charity Walk for Hearts


Walking for a good cause

Organized by UCSI University

Benefits Sarawak Cheshire Home

Nothing much was supposed to happen during the month of Ramadan.  Yours truly ran at night, mostly doing my gerbil imitation.  The night before the Charity Walk for Hearts I was at LUF24HR till the wee hours.  My marathon training never stops even during the fasting month.  If not I will surely put on weight.  Last year it was like 5kg of goodness around my waist.  The rest of me is fine.  There's this invisible magnet around my waist that just attracts fat cells.  So when I heard about this Charity Walk for Hearts organized by the UCSI University Sarawak Campus I knew I had to join especially since it benefited the Sarawak Cheshire Home.  As a boy I lived nearby and would often go there to help out because I was a member of the Red Crescent.  It was nice to see many people wearing the light green, orange and yellow t-shirts that we were given for signing up.  Just another t-shirt to add to my ever growing collection, but this is just the sort of thing that is not surprisingly very close to my heart.

Associate Professor Dr. Li Jianyao
Associate Professor Dr Li Jianyao, Dean of Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management, UCSI University Sarawak Campus, addressed the crowd.  This event was organized by the students of Diploma in Hotel Management.  They spent two months to plan for this event.  They are proud and happy that they have helped successfully raised RM4,000 for the Cheshire Home.  Mr Anthony Jong, Assistant Honourary Treasure, Sarawak Cheshire Home, was on hand to receive the mock cheque.   Also on hand was Mr Harvard Wong, Project Manager of Charity Walk for Hearts. 

L-R: Ashley, Dr. Li, Harvard  and Anthony

 Let the walk begin...


Participants ready to go
The signage made me smile
So we didn't lose our way
Following the crowd
Even the cat waved us on
Not part of the walk but me likes!

To the finish we go...


Me, Anthony Lau and Reuben Su
Nasa Zaidul looking very happy indeed
The only four-legged participant
Berbuka Puasa goodies
Lucky draw hamper time!
UCSI group photo
Reuben with Andrea Ong, the emcee

A jolly good time!

I truly enjoyed myself. From the moment I contacted the tireless Aron to register for the walk I knew this was going to be a wonderful event.  Aron went to the gym to to help me register one evening.  Later he would drop off the t-shirts at another gym in the evening.  Now that is what I call truly hands-on service.  This augurs well for the whole USCI University as well if there are ambassadors such as these.  Then there was Andrea who was so helpful with her notes.  It's the little things that always make me happy.  Like the fact that the kind lady helped me with my berbuka puasa goodies.  I was surprised at the amount of food I had gotten, and that was something to look forward to in the evening.  There was no shortage of refreshments and snacks for those who participated.  Everyone was really friendly.  The Reservoir Park venue was the perfect choice too.  Even though we started walking a bit late, we didn't feel the heat, as we talked up a storm all the way to the finish line.

I was later informed that it wasn't actually a 5km walk. The route had been shortened! Hence the readouts of 3.8km and 4.3km on different GPS tracking devices.  In fact they shortened it because several OKUs were supposed to have joined in the walk to.  Unfortunately they didn't turn up.  That's the sort of thing that makes my heart smile.  Thus the charity walk was aptly named.  Yes this was a charity event, but it was also a walkathon awareness programme.  The fact that so many youngsters participated was a tremendous sign.  This was definitely a job well done and everyone who had a part in organising the Charity Walk for Hearts should give themselves a mighty big pat on the back.  The residents of the Sarawak Cheshire  Home might not know you but I am positive they are ever so grateful for what you have done.  Keep up the good work guys!

The Reservoir Park


In my excitement to write about the Charity Walk for Hearts I forgot to tell people from outside Kuching more about the Sarawak Cheshire Home.  It was officially declared open in November 1969.  However it's formation went back as far as 1966.  A group of people who had heard about the works of the Cheshire Homes, founded by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire began to make plans to establish a home in Kuching  to serve the incurably sick and handicapped for whom there was no special places.  By May 1966, Group Captain Cheshire himself visited Kuching to see into the possibility of establishing a Home here.  The Sarawak Social Welfare Council gave momentum to the fund raising drive with a generous grant.  This grant has been continued annually by the Ministry of Welfare.  The hard work and many contributions of interested individuals from all over the State has since made the construction and running of the Sarawak Cheshire Home possible.