31-year-old completes 31 marathons to raise awareness for Bone Marrow Donor Programme

A supporter handing Mr Gerrard Lin a sunflower at the end of his 30th marathon yesterday at Novena Specialist Centre. The martial arts instructor hopes to sign up 1,302 donors – one for every km he ran during his March Madness – for the bone marr
A supporter handing Mr Gerrard Lin a sunflower at the end of his 30th marathon yesterday at Novena Specialist Centre. The martial arts instructor hopes to sign up 1,302 donors – one for every km he ran during his March Madness – for the bone marrow donor registry. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

MOST runners would run a marathon a year, but for Gerrard Lin, today would mark the completion of his 31st marathon in 31 days.

The 31-year-old martial arts instructor ran a full marathon every day under his "March Marathon Madness" campaign, starting on March 2, in a bid to rally more bone marrow donors. "March Madness" also refers to American college basketball championships.

With his race finale today, Mr Lin will have logged a total of 1,302km once he finishes his last marathon around the Tiong Bahru area.

He embarked on this endeavour to raise awareness for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) - Singapore's only register of voluntary bone marrow donors - in a bid to encourage more people to step up as donors.

Over the next 10 weeks, he hopes to get 1,302 donors - one donor for every km he ran during the marathon.

Speaking to reporters, supporters and BMDP members after his run yesterday, Mr Lin said: "I hope people can ask themselves 'if he can run so many marathons in so many days, why can't I just spend two minutes to do a cheek swab?'."

This is not the first stunt that Mr Lin, otherwise known as "Ah Siao" - which means crazy in Hokkien - pulled off for the programme. In 2012, he dragged a 14kg used tyre over 42km at the Standard Chartered Marathon to raise funds for the group.

Yesterday's marathon route - from the BMDP office in Sinaran Drive, along Thomson Road, then VivoCity and Tanjong Rhu and back to the start - took about seven hours.

Even though he is an avid marathoner, he rarely runs such "ultra-marathons", the BMDP volunteer said. Doing so was no easy feat and he had to cope with a leg injury on his second day.

"You must know your body and go one day at a time... All I can say is the human body is amazing," he said. To prepare for the marathons, he ate fruit and vegetables and made sure he got sufficient rest before each run.

Dr Ong Joo Haw, registrar at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's Sports Medicine Centre, said that while such ultra-endurance events may be tolerated by the well-prepared seasoned endurance athlete, he would not recommend it for the average recreational runner.

He said: "Some common problems that one may encounter running such long distances on consequent days include abrasions, overuse injuries (particularly of the lower limb), overtraining and exposure problems such as sunburns... With such an intensive programme, most runners will not be able to recover properly in between runs, even with reasonably good nutrition, hydration and rest."

The recruitment of donors will take place over the next 10 weeks, with Mr Lin approaching running and fitness clubs to get more donors to sign up with the register.

BMDP president Jane Prior said there are at least 50 patients waiting for a match at any one time. The non-profit organisation receives 40 requests for bone marrow donations each month.

"Too often, people say that they don't have the time to sign up but I hope the enormity of Ah Siao's efforts will resonate and give them the courage and push they need to take that first step," she said.

With the odds of finding a donor being one in 20,000, the organisation hopes to get as many on the register as possible. The BMDP hopes to target another 7,000 donors this year.

The organisation is also looking for donations to cover $200,000 worth of laboratory tests and equipment cost involved in adding new volunteer donors to the register.

Software engineer You Yilun, 31, signed up on the spot at the BMDP office yesterday, after hearing of the marathon campaign. "Doing a cheek swab is not life threatening. If I can save someone's life, why not," she said.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

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