This vibrant and energetic runner is certainly a common sight in marathons – both in Singapore and overseas.
And you would probably recognise Mohan Marathon easily if you see him – for he is often blowing his whistle loudly and clapping and cheering on fellow runners. Occasionally, he may even whip out his camera to take candid shots of runners.
I know that I have personally encountered Mohan a few times during my own running events – and had even thought he was a little crazy at first because of his antics.
Has completed 230 marathons and going strong
But this 54-year-old stockbroker, whose real name is Mohandas Kandiah, is anything but crazy. In fact, he is an inspiration – having completed around 230 marathons and ultras so far.
Mohan didn’t always start out as an avid runner, though. In fact, he used to detest running!
Completely unfit in his 20s
“I could have died at the age of 29 because I was completely unfit at 28 – with heart problems, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and I could easily finish a bottle of brandy a night. Basically, my life was messed up,” Mohan said.
But a medical diagnosis proved to be a wake-up call. So Mohan decided to do something to change his lifestyle and improve his health, by taking up distance running – but it was far from easy at first.
Did not finish his first marathon
Mohan admitted that he didn’t even finish his very first marathon – in fact, he bailed out at the 18km point and took a taxi home.
“That was the Mobil Singapore Marathon in December 1993. I had only trained with short runs of about 5km to 8km and I did not know how to pace myself at all,” explained Mohan.
Finishing the 1995 Singapore Marathon changed his life forever
It actually took him three tries before he finally managed to cross the finishing line in 1995 – in the Singapore Marathon. But once he did, the experience changed his life completely.
Said Mohan, “When I ran into the stadium, it felt so fantastic and gave me the feel-good factor. I felt so hyped up that I signed up for marathon after marathon – after that.”
Completely addicted to marathon running today
Today, Mohan is now addicted to marathon running – despite being struck down by Achilles Tendonitis and Plantar Facilitis about six years into his running journey. This had kept the marathoner out of the sport for three years.
“That was the most depressing part of my marathon running career. I saw all my buddies running and I was limping around and unable to do anything,” Mohan said.
Returned to running with a vengeance
So when he could run again, he came back with a vengeance – slowly increasing his total marathons completed within a single calendar year, gradually from six to 10, to 14 and then to 21.
One thing led to another and before he knew it, Mohan was running over 30 marathons within one year during his peak.
The 1995 Singapore Marathon will always be close to his heart
But his first-ever completed marathon back in 1995 will always remain the closest to his heart.
Said Mohan, “The fondest memory is definitely my first one. That’s because it was the start of many more to come.”
Running all over the world
Indeed, that particular race had marked the beginning of a great marathon running adventure, that has brought him to roads and trails over the world, ranging from Bangkok, Hong Kong and Shanghai, to Honolulu, Brisbane and Sydney (both in Australia) and Auckland (New Zealand).
One particular overseas race that he remembers well, was last year’s Great Ocean Road Marathon, near Melbourne, in Australia. Mohan had competed in every race category on offer, including the 45km one.
“My friend’s son ran with me for the last 500m in the 45km race – with the Singapore flag in tow. A lot of Australian children also ran together with us – with the sweeper bus behind us! That was quite funny but hilarious at the same time,” Mohan said.
Ran Some Tough Races
The marathoner has been in some tough races, though. One of his hardest runs was the 65km Hong Kong Round the Island Ultra Marathon.
“The first time I tried it, I gave up after 45km. The Hong Kong trail has lots of steps and I did not train well for it. But at least I completed 45km so it wasn’t so bad! The following year though, I went back and finished the same race,” said the determined runner.
In a mountainous marathon in the South Island of New Zealand, Mohan had a nasty fall – and rolled down a ravine, freaking out quite a few of his fellow runners.
“There were so many hills and mountains that I completely underestimated the dangers. But I used to ride a motorbike, so I knew how to break the fall and didn’t sustain any serious injuries.
I was quite shaken by that myself too, and when the sweeper bus came round, I boarded it and figured I would give this race a miss,” said Mohan.
Running Back-to-Back Races
Mohan has also done some pretty crazy back-to-back races.
He said, “Once, I left Singapore on Thursday and flew through Tokyo and Detroit before landing in Orlando in the USA. I arrived at Orlando on Friday and then did the half marathon at Disney World on Saturday – followed by the full marathon the next day. And then I flew back to Singapore and was back in the office again on Wednesday!”
Still though, Mohan plans to do something even crazier, come mid-October. Explained the runner, “I have signed up for the Putrajaya Night Marathon at 8pm and then the Kuala Lumpur Marathon at 4.30am the very next morning. How I am going to run two marathons back to back? Well, we’ll figure something out!”
But knowing Mohan, he will probably complete both races – with no problems at all.
Recently returned from the Big Red Run in the Simpson Desert
After all, these two back-to-back marathons are probably nothing, compared to the challenging Big Red Run that Mohan completed earlier this month. This was a 250km multi-stage charity race held in Birdsville, a small Australian outback desert town (1,600km from Brisbane) in the Simpson Desert – to raise funds for Type 1 Diabetes.
“That 250km race was very mental, but good in the sense that the fellowship was there and the logistics were well taken care of.
“I also liked the cause. In fact, a lot of the race volunteers had a family member or friend with Type 1 Diabetes – or they even had it themselves. So I thought it was a very meaningful run,” said Mohan.
Still some races that Mohan hopes to run in
But despite having run in so many different places in the world, there are still some races that Mohan hopes to participate in.
He said, “I have not participated in the bulk of the races in Europe or America. If I can afford it and have the time, I would take a whole year off to do races in Europe and another year to do the ones in America.”
He also harbours a dream of running in the famous London and Boston marathons, but is unable to get a slot, due to the races being oversubscribed or having stringent qualifying times.
Driven to help his fellow runners
Today, Mohan is more driven to help his fellow runners to get to the finishing line – rather than focusing on his own race timings.
He said, “Well, I’m not going to get any faster nowadays. So instead, I choose to go slowly and run with people, chitchatting with them along the way, making friends and interacting with the locals.
“When you help people, never expect anything in return, though. Do it because you want to and it is a lot easier and keeps you wanting to help people more. You must be willing to help others and be helped yourself – if you are lagging behind.
Added Mohan, “Deep down, I am sure those you help will not forget it, because for them, it is something big to be able to complete their race.”
That is why he tries to motivate other runners nowadays – and he is now widely known worldwide, for being the runner with the loud whistle.
Said Mohan, “Somehow rather, people always hear the whistle and they know I am coming. I am associated with it worldwide – even my friends in Honolulu remember me because of it, when I ran the marathon there.”
Mohan also sometimes whips out his camera to take candid shots of runners, for the happy memories.
Helped a friend with diabetes complete the Singapore Marathon
One of his most enriching and feel-good marathon experiences was when he helped a friend suffering from diabetes and who could barely run 500m – to complete the 2009 StanChart 42km Marathon. That experience had changed his friend’s life forever.
Said Mohan, “Everyone was telling him to downgrade to the half marathon because of his condition and I could see the disappointment in his face. So I then told him, look, let me train with you – but I didn’t have a clue what to do.”
But Mohan not only helped his friend to train for the race but also ran alongside his diabetic companion and led him all the way to the finishing line.
Said Mohan, “We crossed the finishing line in seven hours and five minutes. We ran into the Padang together, both holding the Singapore flag.”
Added the runner, “it changed my friend’s life so much that he went on to do about 12 or 13 more marathons. If he can do it, why can’t anyone else?”
So Mohan is now a stark contrast from the 20-year-old who once said that doing overseas running is crazy.
“I used to laugh at people who go overseas to run and do so many marathons. I actually thought it was stupid! Now I am the stupid one! That’s life – karma really gets back to you!” Mohan quipped.
And the runner is happy to share that his personal best timing for the marathon is 3 hours and 56 minutes – set in 2010 at the Hangzhou Marathon, when he was 50 years old.
Tips for Runners
What tips does Mohan have for runners who want to complete a marathon?
“Very simple. Do not stress yourself up. Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart and mind and it will be so easy to do the race. Simply enjoy the journey – from the moment you click the mouse to register for the race,” said the marathoner.