Superhumans are no different from you and I

AGE IS NOT A FACTOR: At the age of 100, Fauja Singh completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2011 in eight hours and 25 minutes. On Dec 2, 2012, he drew admirers when he took part in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore.


    Jun 15, 2016

    Superhumans are no different from you and I

    ONE man, one year, 370 marathons.

    It was April 13, 2014. He was watching the London Marathon live on TV when his partner teased him: "You'll never run a marathon."

    Rob Young took the challenge. He was determined not to run one but 50 marathons in 30 days.

    He looked up marathon records and found out that officially an American, Larry Macon, ran 157 marathons in 2012. He later shocked the world of sports by running 239 marathons in 365 days.

    Unofficially, Ricardo Abad of Spain ran 366 consecutive marathons in a single calendar year, in 2011.

    But first, Rob took the challenge of running 50 marathons in a month. He started rather inconspicuously, tackling the Richmond Hill's track with a friend in tow for verification.

    He finished his first run in a decent time of four hours and seven minutes. He completed his 50th marathon at around 10.30pm on May 29, 2014.

    The myth of "The Marathon Man UK" was born.

    Rob was aiming to surpass Macon and Abad's records. He was looking at 370 marathons in one year.

    He ran his 100th marathon on July 16, 2014, even finishing a 100-mile race in between, clocking seven minutes shy of 24 hours, and many other ultra runs.

    Rob ran his 276th marathon on his 276th day of the challenge. That was on Jan 13, 2015.

    On April 13, 2015, he completed his 370th marathon, all in 365 days.

    His astonishing achievement was well documented in his book Marathon Man: One Man, One Year, 370 Marathons.

    Then, there is the legendary Reinhold Messner, who is not only the first person to have summited Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen, but also conquered 13 other 8,000m peaks.

    His conquest of climbing all the 14 mountains without supplemental oxygen took him 16 years, starting with the 8,125m Nanga Parbat in June 1970 and ending with Lhotse (8,516m) in June 1986.

    He didn't stop at climbing mountains.

    He trekked 2,800km across the Antarctica, attempted the Arctic crossing from Siberia to Canada and traversed thousand of kilometres through the Gobi, Thar and Taklamakan deserts.

    Closer to home, we have Mohd Noor Mohd Amin, a photojournalist attached to the Utusan Melayu group in Malaysia.

    He set himself a target to climb the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu 50 times in 50 days in conjunction with Malaysia's 50th anniversary celebration. He did it in 60 days because of sickness and bad weather.

    He came out with another audacious plan - to climb the mountain 111 times in 111 days. He started his climb on Dec 31, 2009, and completed his feat at 11.55am on April 20, 2010, 111 days later.

    There were two days when he was not able to climb, which he compensated for by climbing twice a day for two days.

    I have seen Mohd Noor's agility when I was the chief editor of the group back in the 1990s.

    The group was a key partner in the quest to put the first Malaysian on Everest.

    At 11.55am on May 23, 1997, M. Magendran and N. Mohandas summited the world's highest peak.

    Mohd Noor was the official photographer.

    He was at Base Camp back then. He attempted his bid to scale Everest last year but the earthquake prevented climbers from seeking glory.

    We have seen many such people around us, regardless of age and background.

    What drives these people and many others to the extreme? Age is not an issue.

    At age 100, Fauja Singh completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2011 in eight hours and 25 minutes.

    At 98, Gladys Burrill competed in the Honolulu Marathon in slightly more than nine hours. She is believed to be the oldest woman to have done that.

    What matters is that they made it.

    Bahadur Sherchan was 77 years and 340 days old when he summited Everest in 2008.

    Khalid Yunos of Persatuan Kembara Malaysia would have been one of the oldest persons to reach the peak of Everest in 2007, had he not been forced to turn around at 7,200m in 2007. He was 64 then.

    In 2011, at 68, he attempted the even more gruelling and dangerous climb from Tibet. He was already 68. Today, at 73, he is still climbing mountains and hopes to summit Everest again next year.

    "Challenges are never there. They are invented," says Messner.

    And, yet, most of us can't even keep ourselves healthy by exercising at least 30 minutes a day.

    What a shame.


    Johan Jaaffar was a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company.