He ran his first Full Marathon at the end of 2012, dragging a 9kg tyre behind him – and finished the race within seven hours. He had a mere eight weeks of training for this marathon – definitely unbelievable for someone who did not previously consider himself a regular runner.
Since then, 30-year-old Gerrard Lim has completed more than 50 running races and clocked between 1,000 to 2,500 kilometres – all with him pulling a tyre. He is doing this to raise awareness for the Bone Marrow Donor programme in Singapore.
I recently interviewed Gerrard about his tyre-dragging feats. Here is what this Freelance Fitness Instructor said.
How long have you been dragging tyres in races?
I have been doing this since 2012, when I first participated in the StanChart Full Marathon.
Since that race, I have been dragging tyres for races on a regular basis. More recently, I have dragged tyres in the KL and Hong Kong Marathons.
Why do you drag tyres during races?
I do it to raise awareness for bone marrow donations. This is for people with leukaemia – cancer of the blood. We try to get to pledges of people’s bone marrow by taking DNA samples (from potential donors) and putting it into a database. There is a 1 in 20,000 chance that a donor can be a perfect match for a patient, so we must play the game of numbers.
How easy is it to do pull a tyre?
The tyre I used is around 9kg (like for the recent MediaCorp Hong Bao Run). So it’s not about the weight of the tyre but about friction and a mental thing. Anyone can do it. It is about whether you have the mental strength to continue all the way.
Training wise, when I decided I would do it in 2012, I had eight weeks to train for the full marathon. During my first training session, I gave up at two kilometres. But I told everyone that I would complete the actual race. It’s a matter of just gritting your teeth and going forward.
How much running have you had, prior to your tyre-dragging run at the 2012 StanChart Marathon?
My background is actually in tae kwon do. I set a goal that’s way beyond what you are capable of. When you first start, you doubt yourself. It is like what many people do for their first marathon outing.
Prior to that, I had never run before. So that first attempt at the marathon was with a tyre. I talked to top runners in Singapore and spoke to running groups that were quite friendly, such as the Newton Running Club and the New Balance Running Club and did training with them.
For all of my fun and group runs on weekdays and nights (at for example, the MacRitchie or Pierce Reservoir), these were all training runs with a tyre. Slowly, I began to get the feel of things.
I was definitely not a runner before that. My furthest distance was 10km, or the Army Half Marathon but that was more than 10 years ago. I believe that once you set a goal and with enough passion, you can achieve the impossible.
What makes you take the next step forward is the idea, the feelings and emotions that you get when you are helping a kid with leukaemia. Someone with leukaemia may not recover. But for me, it may take 8 or 10 hours, but I can rest and still recover after that.
For the 2014 MediaCorp 8km Hong Bao Run, I found it really hot. (Gerrard was wearing a rather thick Chinese costume). But once again, I used my mental strength to overcome the heat.
What gave you the idea of dragging a tyre in the first place?
Everyone would like to raise funds for their charities by running a marathon. In 2012 alone, 80,000 people signed up for StanChart and maybe 50,000 finished it.
To be different, I ran as the character, Ah Siao. He’s an ex Ah Long runner who has turned good and he runs with a heart of gold. We wanted to let people see that this guy is just like you and me. There is a potential Ah Beng in all of us.
Basically, to describe it in terms of an analogy, the bone marrow people and I decided that we wanted a “purple cow.” We did not just want an ordinary cow – simply running a marathon for charity is the “ordinary cow.” But we wanted to be different. When you see someone who is running with a tyre, you would think: Who’s that? Maybe I want to know more about this character and to find out more about him. So that is how we got this thing (awareness of the Bone Marrow Donor programme) going.
The programme is tough to sell, though. People have a lot of misconceptions about it. So what I want is to start the conversation going – to clear misconceptions.
What is the biggest challenge of running with the tyre?
That would be the thought of giving up. An 8km, 10km or even 20km run is within the means of my physical abilities. But beyond 21km, you kind of hit the wall. At 30km, you definitely bang into the wall.
Has the thought of giving up ever occurred to you while dragging the tyre?
I think that it is nothing different from someone who is attempting his first marathon or someone who is taking part in a wheelchair race. Somewhere during the race, you do get demoralised.
If I were to give an analogy, it would be like aqua jogging because it feels as though it never ends. You will get demoralised if you look at the road because it feels so long and the hills are so steep.
When I trained at Pierce Reservoir, my first thought was, wow, the hills are so steep. When I did the KL Marathon, the roads were horrendous – so rough and all. So it is not the weight that kills me. It is the friction with the roads.
How many races have you run with the tyre since the 2012 StanChart Full Marathon?
Maybe more than 50, but I am not sure of exactly how many. The total distance that I have done with the tyre is somewhere between 1,000 to 2,500 kilometres, though.
Where do you plan to go next with your running and bone marrow awareness project?
Currently, this character, Ah Siao, has a social currency now. People are noticing him. He is in the newspapers and radio. The Bone Marrow people and I are making a documentary about Ah Siao that will be shown on Channel 8 at 10.30pm, on 4 March. From there, we will see how we can take him further to show people about how a guy can run – dragging a tyre.
So maybe that will inspire people to say, just go out for a run. That is what we hope. If you see me running around with the tyre, you will be inspired to go out for a run because that is a form of healthy living. And maybe this will make you connect with the Bone Marrow Project too.
Why do you feel so strongly about the Bone Marrow Donor project?
Well, if you look at the odds of getting a bone marrow donor – 1 in 20,000 – the analogy is that if I have leukaemia today versus buying 4D, I have a better chance of winning 4D than getting a bone marrow donor. If you look at odds like this, you are compelled to do something. No, it is nothing to do with a personal experience.
I took this initiative on my own, with no thoughts of getting famous or being in the papers. So the bone marrow people and I just wanted to see what I could do. The only important thing is that whatever you do, you need the emotional purpose of what you want to do and with that, miracles can happen.
For more details on Gerrard Lim and his cause, go to: https://www.facebook.com/AHSIAO69
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