Poly student says running shoeless 'helps brain connect to feet'

Nabin Parajuli, 21, jumps over hurdles during his training. Hurdles are a component of the Steeplechase event.
PHOTO: Poly student says running shoeless 'helps brain connect to feet'

SINGAPORE - Just two years ago, he was a school librarian.

These days, he is a hunky record smashing runner who prefers to cover the distance barefooted.

How good is he?

At the recent Hong Bao Run, Mr Nabin Parajuli came in second to Mok Ying Ren, Singapore's top marathoner who won a gold medal at the Myanmar South-east Asia (SEA) Games last year.

And he was only three seconds slower than Mok.

It was quite an achievement for the 21-year-old because it was his first competitive run outdoors.

"At first, I was advised to wear shoes because of the terrain, but after the first 200m, I threw them away and ran barefoot," he said.

He began running competitively only two years ago, yet managed to break three records in last year's Polytechnic-Institute of Technical Education Track and Field Championships (POL-ITE).

The Nepalese-born Singapore PR, who entered Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) in 2012, won an NYP award for his sporting achievements two weeks ago.

He had no previous sports experience, having been in the Library Club throughout his years at St. Gabriel's Secondary School.

Then, in May 2012, at the age of 19, Mr Nabin took part in a 4km school run and finished fourth.

Mr Nabin said: "After the run, the athletics coach asked me if I had run before, as I had a talent."

NATURAL TALENT

Mr Nabin's coach, Mr Tho Yow Kin, said it was rare for someone to finish so close to the Athletics team members who had been training consistently.

"For someone without any running experience, it meant that (Mr Nabin) had some in-built talent," Mr Tho said.

Mr Nabin took part in POL-ITE 2012 after encouragement from Mr Tho and trained with the NYP Athletics team.

Without a podium finish, Mr Nabin felt that the "results were not good" and the experience pushed him to start training properly.

He said: "Before POL-ITE 2012, I rarely went for training. But after that, I wanted to join Athletics officially because getting to represent the school is a whole different feeling."

RECORD-BREAKING

A year later, Mr Nabin entered the same competition and saw outstanding results - he had broken all records in the Steeplechase, 5km and 10km events.

He said: "I didn't train to break the records, I was focused on being better than what I already was."

And as if breaking the records were not enough, Mr Nabin broke them barefoot.

"The first day I went for training with the team, everyone was wearing their shoes, but I felt better without them, so I just took them off."

And he has not worn them again since.

His love for running barefoot, also known as natural running, has spread to many of his teammates, who tried it out curiously at first.

Many now run barefoot during trainings and in competitions.

"When I run barefoot, my brain can connect with my feet for every step that I take so it helps me to understand my body better," Mr Nabin said.

Good son, good student

After school, the filial son helps his mother at her dried goods stall in Aljunied.

"It is my responsibility. I will cover the shift so my mother can go home and rest," said Mr Nabin.

The shop closes at 10pm, so the Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) student would go to the stall after school or training and stay to the end to ease his mother's load.

Mr Guru Oly, 61, who was involved in recommending Nabin to the school for the award, said: "Nabin has a soft humility and it is a phenomenal feat for a lay runner to become a champion so quickly."

Mr Oly is assistant manager for Sports and Adventure at NYP.

Running coach Tho Yow Kin added: "Even with talent, it is impossible to achieve such high levels without hard work. Nabin also has a wonderful personality and that gets even his competitors cheering for him during races.

"After every race, he will immediately come up to me and thank me first.

"This is not something I will ask my athletes to do, so he is very humble," said Mr Tho.

SPECIAL AWARD

Mr Nabin said the award was special to him and took the opportunity to thank his coach and team.

He added that while his parents were initially cool about his foray into running, they are now his strongest supporters.

Of running, he said: "I'm never going to leave it, even after I graduate from NYP."

Students are STARS at NYP

The Student Talent & Achievement Recognition (STAR) Awards 2014 at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) was held on April 25.

The annual event aims to recognise and encourage the polytechnic's students with special talents and passion in areas such as the arts, community service, leadership, innovation and creativity, sports and adventure.

These students have been making significant contributions to NYP's campus life.

Mr Nabin Parajuli was awarded the Platinum Award in the Individual Sports and Adventure Category for his outstanding sporting achievements.

The Platinum Award represents the creme de la creme among the nominees.

Of the 148 individual awards and 35 group awards given out this year, the only Platinum Award was given to Mr Nabin.

This article was published on May 5 in The New Paper.

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