Running For Life: Singapore’s Oldest Marathoner, Chan Meng Hui

At the Run for Life race, which was held at East Coast Park last weekend, I caught up with Singapore’s oldest marathoner, Chan Meng Hui, aged 84.

Inspirational 84-year-old runner Chan Meng Hui.

Inspirational 84-year-old runner Chan Meng Hui.


This inspirational Singaporean athlete, who still works in his own courier service business, had recently completed his 99th marathon last month – at the MacRitchie MR25 trail marathon. So the Run for Life event had been an easy 10km race for him – which he had finished in 1 hour and 45 minutes. That is certainly no mean feat, considering his age!

After completing the race, Chan still found time to share a little with me, on what his book, Run For Life – on sale during the weekend event – was about.

He also spent time talking about his love for running – and staying healthy.

Here is what Chan said. 

Tell us a bit about your inspirational book, Run For Life.

This book is about my life story from the time I picked up running. I wanted to write something and get more people to be inspired by me – to stay active and healthy.

And I’m happy many have read it and have decided to do running. They told me that they picked up the sport because of the book. Some have said, I am only 45 but you started to run at the age of 55. So if I do not change my lifestyle now, I would not be able to survive for the next half of my life.

Marathon #99 completed at the MR25 trail marathon.

Marathon #99 completed at the MR25 trail marathon.

How do you maintain your good health?

To stay healthy, the only way is to exercise – in the long term. It is not like, I run today and I will get fit tomorrow. It is not a short-term process, but rather a long-term one.

Many people run and give up after one year. But if you do not maintain continuity, your fitness will drop and you will have to gain fitness all over again. Many people give up running, because the results achieved are not fast enough. But you have to continue. You cannot give up halfway.

Running and keeping fit really depends on yourself. It is how you take care of your own body. Nobody else can do it for you. If you do not treasure your own life, it is no point.

When did you start to run?

After the adults' 10km run, it's the Kid Dash (500m) at Run For Life.

After the adults’ 10km run, it’s the Kid Dash (500m) at Run For Life.

When I retired, I started running and I found it very useful. I got a lot of benefits and was hooked by it. I actually used to be sporty during my younger days but I gave up sports after I started work as an insurance sales representative.

Now, I am hooked into doing sports again. I actually chose running because it is the cheapest form of sport. You get a pair of shoes and you can run anywhere. You do not need to wait for people to play with you, like for tennis or badminton.

Why do you do running? Why not cycling or swimming, which you can also do by yourself?

Cycling and swimming are also single person sports, but for myself, I can’t swim so I don’t really like swimming and when I once dropped my false teeth into the pool, I gave up on swimming.

With Chan Meng Hui.

With Chan after his 10km run

As for cycling, I find the seat very uncomfortable and I also can’t ride – I am not very good at it. So that’s why cycling on the road is tough for me.

So I decided to do running. I feel that no matter how far the running distance is, you can alternate walking with the running and you will finish a marathon.

Nobody can take away your happiness when you cross the finishing line.

You recently completed your 99th marathon at the MR25 Trail Marathon last month. Tell us more about your run.

It was very tough. Running just three rounds on the trails there is equivalent to running a full marathon on the roads because the terrain goes up and down and that is very tough – not many people can finish it. But I did.

It was actually supposed to be four rounds but I did three and a half rounds, which the organiser said is equivalent to a full marathon on the roads. So I didn’t run the full 42km – one round is 10.5km so I ran about 36km there. But you can consider it to be one marathon because of the tough terrain.

Tell us more about your upcoming 100th marathon later this year and how you are training for this race.

Runners snacking on ice cream after Run For Life.

Runners snacking on ice cream after completing Run For Life.

That would be the StanChart marathon – which is going to be my last 42km race. I want to train for it to get a good timing. I also want to make sure that when I finish, there are still people waiting for me at the end of the race.

Based on my experience with the MR25 marathon, I think that I’ll have to train very hard for this last one – to finish it in a good timing. I am starting my training now. To run a long distance, you need to accumulate mileage so that you will have no problems.

To start with, my mileage is 50km per week now but I will graduate to do 80km. I will stay on this mileage till the third week before the marathon. Then I will taper down.

The main thing is accumulating mileage to run a marathon. Hopefully from next week onwards, I will run maybe 10km per day and longer on Sundays. Mondays to Fridays will be a total of 50km and on Sundays maybe I will do 20km. I will be running six days a week and maybe on Saturdays, I will rest.

My target is to finish in eight hours because the cut-off is 8 hours and I understand that they are very strict so I want to make sure I finish – maybe at around 7:55 hours.

Chan Meng Hui takes on the MacRitchie trails.

Chan takes on the MacRitchie trails.

What comments do you get on your running and still working at age 84?

People say that they very seldom see people at my age running long distances.

And many friends and my children also ask me why I still work, but I say that if I do not, I’ll get bored at home so I must do something and help to pass the time. I can also meet a lot of friends too when I am working. For example, like at today’s run, many people called out to me – but I could not recollect where I had met them!

I understand that you are going to write a second book. Tell us more about this.

I will tell more stories, about especially how I achieved my 100th marathon.

I want to inspire people. When they get fitter and take up sports because of me, I will be happy. For example, a family texted me recently to tell me that their father read my book and he has now given up all the night life and other nonsense – to stay healthy.

And what tips do you want to leave with readers?

If you are not fit, your family will have to look after you and your country must use funds to take care of you. So you may not have a good quality of life. Consequently, you will not enjoy your final days. So people must keep fit and stay healthy.

Chan’s book is available at major bookstores in Singapore.

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