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!

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