Running start to nation's 50th birthday

Ultra-marathon runners Lim Nghee Huat (in green) and Yong Yuen Cheng starting the first of their SG50 special runs, accompanied by ITE students and staff, to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday and pay tribute to its founding fathers and pioneers.

While most people are taking refuge from the heat in air-conditioned places, two men are sweating it out in the run of their lives.

Teacher Yong Yuen Cheng, 43, and MediaCorp Chinese current affairs editor Lim Nghee Huat, 61, embarked yesterday on an attempt to run 50km daily for 50 days in a row.

The duo, seasoned runners who have done ultra marathons of more than 200km, are doing so to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday and pay tribute to its founding fathers and pioneers.

Said Mr Yong: "It required resilience and endurance to overcome challenges and build the nation we enjoy today.

"In our small way, we hope to inspire Singaporeans to remember that spirit."

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who flagged off the duo at the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) College West, said: "Building a nation is a never-ending journey."

Both men said this would be their toughest run ever.

Mr Lim said: "Usually after running 50km, the body takes one or two days to recover. But this time, we will be doing it for 50 days straight."

Mr Yong said the greatest challenge would be the heat. "It is hot and humid in Singapore, especially now."

Dr Philip Koh, chairman of the medical board at Healthway Medical Group, said such extreme exertion could lead to health risks. "You could tear a muscle or your heart could shut down if it is under too much stress."

But Mr Lim said that as seasoned ultra-marathon runners, he and Mr Yong are sensitive to their bodies' needs. "We will push hard, but safety comes first."

They will run seven routes through places such as MacRitchie Reservoir Park and Labrador Park. But if it rains too heavily, they will continue at the indoor track at the Sports Hub.

They will be supplied with water and food like bananas. A supplies and first aid van will follow them throughout their gruelling endeavour. Singaporeans can pledge running miles at - the run is called Go50: A Nation In Motion - to express support.

ITE staff and students will take turns to run alongside the duo, who will be honoured at the 28th South-east Asian Games torch light-up ceremony on June 5.

Track the progress of these runners in The Straits Times in print and online.

This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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