Finish line's in sight for SG50 runners
AT AROUND 10.30am today, ultramarathon runners Yong Yuen Cheng and Lim Nghee Huat are due to cross the finish line of a 50km run for the 50th consecutive day, in celebration of Singapore's golden jubilee.
As they do, they will be grateful to an army of supporters who helped them through rain, shine and injury for the last 50 days.
Even strangers who have recognised them from the media coverage have offered words of encouragement.
"They tell you 'Jiayou! Jiayou! (Mandarin for 'let's go') - a few more days to go'," said Mr Lim, a 62-year-old editor. "It's a small gesture but it really keeps you going when the going gets tough."
On some days, the runners got a boost from the thousands of students who invited them to join their school runs. On others, members of running clubs and organising partner Institute of Technical Education (ITE) kept them company.
The duo and their pacer Gerrard Lin even inspired amateur runners like Cheryl Ng to run with them.
The 44-year-old bumped into the duo while running at Upper Pierce Reservoir and joined them for 26km that day, before returning to complete 50km with them four days later.
"I didn't think that I could do it, but the runners paced me and encouraged me," she said. "I pulled through."
Friends have also shown their support, offering prayers and frog's leg porridge recipes. "Our bodies feel very hot from being under the sun, so cooling tea from my family members helps," said Mr Yong, a physical education teacher.
The pair have been helped by a five-member team who have been waking up at 5am daily to ensure the supplies van is stocked with $400 worth of groceries sponsored by Sheng Siong and the SG50 fund.
They include 70kg of ice, 27 litres of water and 10 litres of energy drinks. The crew follow the runners closely, stopping every kilometre or so to provide energy drinks or spray water to cool them down.
Mr Lin has run 50km with them every day but one, with techno music blasting from wireless speakers in his bag to keep them going. "He tells us when to speed up and slow down so we can last 50 days, it's a great help," said Mr Yong.
Although critics have accused the two men of being "glory hunters", Mr Lim said: "We are runners. Singers perform to celebrate SG50, we do what we do best to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday and inspire others."
Said Raymond Huang, founder of youth charity Heartware Network, which organised the run: "We hope young Singaporeans realise that building a nation, like this run, takes one day at a time. There may be tears, rain and sun, but we support each other and pull through,"
Last night, the two runners prepared for their final leg at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, which had been due to start at 2am at the Ion Orchard mall.
For the last time in these 50 days, Mr Lim's wife, Deborah Lim, 56, massaged oil between her husband's toes as he fell asleep. "I will miss this run," she said. "We made good friends and shared the laughter and tears. Most importantly, we had each other in these 50 days."