Run, Jaffar, run!
Pounding the pavement for a once-a-week run is usually an afterthought for most of us after a busy day at work. But to intrepid 57-year-old Jaffar bin Ahmad who works as an office assistant, running six days a week is just a piece of cake. And he takes part in ultra-marathons too.
BY: Tan Boon Leng
It is the evening peak hour and traffic on the road is slowly piling up. Belching exhaust and the screech of rubber tyres braking to a halt provide the backdrop to a lone diminutive man clad in a bright blue singlet running on the pavement. Legs pounding like pistons, Jaffar bin Ahmad, is running from his office in downtown Orchard back to his flat in Taman Jurong. He does the mind-boggling 16km run home four times weekly. Jaffar’s feet do not get a breather on weekends. He covers 32km on Saturdays and another 16 to 20km on Sundays. Agelessonline tries to catch up with him for this interview:
Most people would have hurried home to a warm dinner with the family after work. But instead you run home four days a week! What made you do this?
I suppose it has become a routine and habit for me. When I was living in Tampines and first started running in 1990, I was already running to my workplace in Pasir Ris, and back home after that. And now, I see this almost-daily run as a form of exercise and training for the competitions I take part in throughout the year.
So you were not very active before 1990?What inspired you to pick up running?
One morning in 1990, I met some elderly Chinese who were brisk walking and practising Tai-chi to keep themselves healthy. I was suffering from severe backache for a year and a half, and asked myself if I should follow their example of embracing a healthier lifestyle. I started walking and jogging intermittently for three months, before going for longer distances after that. Slowly, I grew to enjoy running and I have been running ever since to maintain my health.
Because of my back pain, I never did sports then, much less dreamt of running competitively.
Are your family members supportive of your sporting activity?
They are used to it, and probably thought it is a useful activity for an old man to keep fit. (He chuckles.)
Do your family members share your passion in running?
My family (wife, 53, homemaker; son, 16, a student and daughter, 22, service crew) are not into running. My son loves to bowl and breakdance though.
For most people, running can be a drag. How do you keep yourself motivated and ‘fresh’ since you are running practically every day?
I vary my running routes on weekends, sometimes running from Taman Jurong to MacRitchie Reservoir and sometimes to Pasir Ris or Tampines. I stick to the same running route from Mondays to Fridays. I knock off at 5.30pm and I tell myself that I need to reach home by 7pm. This target keeps me motivated and focused.
Have you ever participated in running competitions?
Of course! I run competition races spanning distances of 4.3km, 5km, 10km, 21km and 42km locally and in Malaysia. I have also completed the arduous ultra-marathon, an annual event organised by my running club MR25, where we try to run as many rounds as possible within 12 hours on a 10.5km route in MacRitchie Reservoir. I am happy to say that I managed to finish in the top 10 positions in most of the events I competed in.
Tell us about the first running competition you took part in.
The Singapore International Marathon in 1992 was my first competitive run. It was doubly memorable as the event took place on the morning of the inauguration ceremony of the new bridge leading to Sentosa where the run was held. I finished the distance of 42.195km in a time of close to four hours, which was pretty good for a first-timer. To cap off my day, I finished the run with my right toe-nail peeled off!
How did you feel after you breasted the finishing line of your first competitive run?
I was very excited to finish with the thousands of other elite and fun runners after spending the wee hours of the morning waiting for the run to start.
Do you pay any particular attention to your diet or nutrition?
I do not have any special diet to adhere to. I make sure I get enough daily sleep and drink sufficient water on normal days. If I am competing, I will avoid oily food one week before the run. As I run so often, I started taking glucosamine two years ago to maintain healthy joints.
What safety precautions do you take when running home?
I run only on pavement, and if I have to run on the road, I will make sure that I run against the traffic flow. Also I respect the traffic rules, for example, when the lights turn red, I will stop and jog on the spot until they change.
To prevent dehydration, I will drink half a glass of water before, during and after my run.
What advice do you have for a senior who wishes to take up running?
For beginners, start off by alternating between brisk walking and jogging for 2km to 3km for three months. Then jog the same distance for the next three months. After that, you may slowly increase your intensity and distance if you choose to.
Other points to note would include warming up your muscles by brisk walking or jogging for 10 minutes before your run and stretching post-run to prevent muscle stiffness. Also invest in a good pair of running shoes that has enough cushioning to prevent injury to your feet.
Is there anything that will deter you from your almost daily run?
Apart from one compulsory rest day a week for my body to recover, only a serious injury and the danger of a lightning strike will lay me off. Even when it is raining heavily, I would still run, except that I will be more careful.
Finally, do you think you will ever stop running?
I may reduce my participation in competitions gradually but it is a definite ‘no’ for me to stop or give up running altogether.