85 year old’s 101st Full Marathon @ StanChart Marathon S’pore 2015

For one 85-year-old marathon runner, the recent StanChart Marathon (SCMS) 2015 had marked a brand new milestone in his running journey.

Oldest active marathoner in Singapore

That runner was Chan Meng Hui, who had completed his 101st marathon at SCMS 2015 – which took place earlier this month on the 6th of December. Chan had successfully run the 42.195km race in a timing of 8 hours 38 minutes and 5 seconds.

Chan Meng Hui completed his 101st marathon on 6 December. (Photo credit to SCMS).

Uncle Chan Meng Hui completed his 101st marathon on 6 December.
(Photo credit to SCMS).

I caught up with the inspirational marathoner – a few days after his completion of the race.

Said Chan, currently the oldest active marathoner in Singapore, “People have always asked me why I keep running – but running is my passion. Whenever I see people run, it makes me itchy to run myself as well. But I don’t worry about timing anymore – I only want to cross the finishing line because I am not a fast runner anymore.”

A special race singlet was designed for him

At the SCMS starting line, Chan had been wearing a blue singlet with the words ‘101st Marathon: Chan Meng Hui” proudly emblazoned on the front in big, white letters. When I caught sight of him inside the VIP pen at the front, I thought that these words on his singlet were very inspiring.

Said Chan, “The ‘101 marathons’ were printed on my tee shirt for me by the organisers. But my orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Kevin Yip, added my name on. They took the trouble to print this personalised running jersey for me, so I knew that I had to try my best in the marathon. By hook or crook, I had to complete the race.”

I met Uncle Chan in the starting pen.

I met Uncle Chan in the starting pen.

And Chan was with the Kenyans at the starting pen. It was very inspirational to see him at 85 years old and still be running 42.195km.

The marathoner said, “I originally was at the very back, but the announcer kept on asking where I was. My friend told me that I had better go to the front – and the race organiser brought me in front of the Kenyan people.” This is because Chan is not an ordinary runner – he’s a VIP!

Many runners enthusiastically called out his name

Through the race, Chan added that many runners had been enthusiastically calling out his name and shouting words of encouragement. Many runners even stopped to take photos with him along the way.

Said Chan, “At first, I was wondering why everyone seemed to know me, including some European runners. Then I realised that it was because of my tee shirt! Everyone was shouting my name and I greeted them back so often that my throat became hoarse.”

Chan relaxing at a Toastbox outlet post-marathon, during our interview.

Uncle Chan relaxing at a Toastbox outlet post-marathon, during our interview session.

Greatly enjoyed the marathon this year

During the run itself, Chan said that he had generally enjoyed this year’s marathon as compared to last year’s one. He explained, “They had changed the route this year – so we didn’t need to run past the housing estates by the Kallang River. But I thought the change was for the better – and there was less congestion along the running course too.”

He added, “There were also drink stations located every 2.5km apart and that was good because there was plenty to keep slow runners like me, hydrated.”

His son accompanied him for most of the way

Like last year, Chan wasn’t alone in his running of the marathon. For most of the distance, he had his son to accompany him. Said Chan, “My wife told my son to follow me. He never trained for the race, but he joined me somewhere around the 10km to 15km mark and paced me from there all the way to the finishing point.”

But even though he had some company, running his 101st marathon didn’t come without its challenges though.

Heat and rain were the biggest challenges

To Chan, the biggest challenge was the searing heat – which took its toll on many runners that morning. He said, “I am a slow runner and the heat was terrible, especially at around 12 noon. When I reached the U-turn point at East Coast Park, about halfway into the race, it started to get very hot. I had to cope with the heat by spraying water over my head and drinking plenty of fluids and this helped to some extent.”

He added, “Towards the finishing line, at the F1 pit building, it started to cool down. That was about 37km to 39km into the race. But I was not expecting the rain at all – it started to pour very heavily. But what could I do? I had to keep on running. I have no raincoat and did not even have a hat, but my son gave me a towel to cover my head and that helped out a bit.”

Kept pressing on despite the harsh conditions 

Did he ever harbour thoughts of giving up at any point during the race?

During the race, not once did Chan harbour thoughts of giving up.

During the race, not once did Uncle Chan harbour thoughts of giving up.

Said Chan, “When it started raining, taxis could not go inside. Even if I wanted to take a taxi and go home, there wasn’t any. The only option left for me was to simply drag on till the finish. During the early part of the race though, I could have taken a cab – I actually asked if there was a sweeper bus and found that there wasn’t one this year.”

Instead of picking them up in a bus, the slower runners or those who had wanted to give up during their run – had been diverted towards a shorter route and were not entitled to their finisher tee shirt and medal.

Overwhelmed at the reception when he crossed the finishing line

When he was approaching the finishing line, Chan felt that it was a completely surreal experience for him and was overwhelmed at the same time, by the reception that had greeted him at the finish point.

Uncle Chan crosses the finish line. (Photo by Straits Times)

Uncle Chan crossing the finish line.
(Photo by Straits Times)

He explained, “When I reached the 41km mark, I could hear a lot of people shouting words of encouragement to me. I continued my walk-run strategy and crossed the finish line. I was quite happy with my timing.”

Added Chan, “And when I finished the race, everyone was crowding round me to take photos with me. I said, what for, I am one of the last few runners. But people told me that I am the oldest runner taking part, yet I managed to finish and that they were so inspired by me as a result.”

In fact, one of the runners whom he had met, had been so inspired by Chan – that he took up the challenge of running in the SCMS marathon himself. Said Chan, “One runner whom I was running alongside for some time, told me that this had been his first marathon. I asked him why he wanted to run. He told me that he had read my book and that it had pushed him to train up for a marathon.”

Chan was presented with a special '101 Marathons Finisher' tee shirt. (Photo by Straits Times)

Uncle Chan was presented with a special finisher’s tee shirt.
(Photo by Straits Times)

At the end point too, Chan was given another special finisher’s tee shirt, which had been designed specially for him – and had the words ‘101 Marathon Finisher’ on it. He said, “I will keep this tee shirt in a special place as the material seems like it is of a good quality.”

Happy with how his 101st marathon went

Following the marathon, Chan added that he had taken one week completely off work to recover and rest his legs and body. He said, “It took me three days to fully recover the use of my legs – maybe probably because I didn’t train as much as I would have liked to.”

Chan, photographed here with his motorbike, was pleased with how his 101st marathon went.

Uncle Chan, photographed here with his motorbike, was pleased with how his 101st marathon went.

He added, “I am generally happy with how this year’s marathon went and the happiest part was when everyone was running along and shouting my name – I had to keep going back to take pictures with people. Last year, not so many people called me, probably because I did not wear a special tee shirt. It was a very good experience though.”

Would Chan try running the marathon again next year? The seasoned marathoner said modestly, “It depends on my work commitments and whether my body can take it.”

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