1,000km over 20 days but runners lose little weight

AFTER running 1,000km over the past 20 days, ultramarathoner Lim Nghee Huat, 61, has lost only 2kg. His companion Yong Yuen Cheng, 43, has not lost any weight at all.

This is because even though they cover 50km every day, they also take in a huge amount of fluids and calories from energy drinks, bread and fruit.

"I think we take in double our normal calorie intake just to burn it off," said Mr Yong.

They get food and drinks from a supplies van, which follows them closely behind. Every day, a supplies crew of about five people wake up at 5am to ensure the van is stocked with 70kg of ice mixed into energy drinks, 27 litres of water, 15 litres of isotonic drink, bread, fruit and energy gels.

The duo, who are running 50km for 50 days to celebrate Singapore's golden jubilee, slow down every kilometre or so to get refreshments. Post-run, they eat three carbohydrate-rich meals.

The duo have been running at a pace of about seven hours for 50km, which gives them time to replenish lost calories, said Dr Jason Lee, head physiologist at DSO National Laboratories, which studies military endurance.

Still, the lack of weight loss has surprised family members. "I expected him to lose at least a little bit of weight with so much activity," said Mrs Yong Pui San, 43, wife of Mr Yong.

Said a lean Mr Lim: "We've just run out of fat to burn."

Yesterday, they completed 50km in eight hours and 26 minutes, their slowest so far. The duo were weighed down by the hot weather, injuries and aches from running for so many days.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck ran 6.6km with them around the Marina Bay. While running, he closed a deal with BreadTalk founder George Quek to sponsor the two runners with bread and kaya in the next 30 days.

"They were having BreadTalk stuff anyway, so it's a small gesture of support," said Mr Teo.

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The runs have not been injury- free. Mr Yong is soldiering on despite a strain to his right Achilles tendon last Friday. Special tape around his foot provides support while exercises recommended by a physiotherapist should help him recover faster, he said.

Said Mr Lim: "Some people think we are crazy, but we have trained for years to come this far. Just put one foot before the other and the goal is closer in sight."

kashc@sph.com.sg

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