100th marathon in sight for Singapore's oldest marathoner

SINGAPORE - He is often among the last to cross the finish line at marathons.

But 83-year-old Chan Meng Hui is showing no signs of stopping - not until he has 100 finisher medals and certificates under his belt.

Undoubtedly Singapore's oldest marathoner, he has completed 94 such races since he took up running at 50 years old.

Said the sprightly man who will turn 84 in January: "I will stop running the full 42.195km race only after my 100th marathon.

"I'll still take part in the shorter distances. Hopefully, then it'll be my turn to wait at the finish line instead of the other way round."

When he does hang up his running shoes, it will mark the end of what has been an extraordinary ambition, one which has seen him pound pavements in countries such as the United States, Switzerland and Thailand.

Chan already has his final six marathons firmly in his sights.

After next Sunday's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), he will end the year by taking part in his running club MacRitchie Runners 25's annual ultramarathon.

Next year, he plans to take part in one marathon in Hong Kong, another in New Zealand and the Sundown Marathon, before hitting No.100 - fittingly - at the next edition of the SCMS.

"I've never missed an edition. It feels like the right marathon to be No.100," said Chan whose son and grandson will be cheering for him at the finish line next week.

For someone who stays away from oily and fried food nowadays, he was not always this health-conscious.

Indeed, before he retired at 55, the former insurance salesman smoked up to three packets of cigarettes a day and also drank heavily.

Once, he finished drinking at 5am, washed up and went straight to work, reeking of alcohol and nursing a hangover.

A trip to China in 1979 made him rethink his lifestyle when he saw folks in their 90s still enjoying an active and healthy life.

Chan knew he had to change the way he lived or risk an early death. Upon retirement, he vowed to stop smoking and drinking - and stuck to it.

It was then that he started travelling worldwide to take part in marathons.

From traversing the steppes in the Mongolia Sunrise To Sunset 100km race to coping with freezing conditions in Norway, Chan said, with a chuckle, that he has also found himself in some memorable situations.

The grandfather of three recalled being mistaken for a burglar in Tromso, Norway. "My running partner and I stumbled onto a private property accidentally while looking for our hotel," he said.

"The door opened and there were four men playing card games inside. We saw a gun on the table and thought: 'Oh no.'

"Thankfully, we showed them our papers and said we were here for the marathon. The nice men even let us stay for the night."

He also made headlines in Hong Kong.

Said Chan: "I was running on the highway when I had a stomachache. There were no mobile toilets nearby so I said to the medics in my limited Mandarin that I needed the toilet.

"They couldn't understand me and the ambulance sent me to a nearby hospital thinking I was in trouble.

"When I reached the hospital, there were a stretcher, paramedics and nurses waiting for me."

In the end, he used the hospital's toilet before the ambulance dropped him off on the highway to continue the marathon.

The incident was reported in the next day's papers and Chan still keeps a clipping.

While the end of his marathon pursuit may be in sight, he said: "I cannot imagine life without running.

"When I don't run, it's like something is missing. I feel lethargic.

"When I run, I feel free and it keeps me fit. I seldom fall sick.

"To me, that's most important."

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