Run, rest, repeat: An athlete's life

Teacher quits job to train full-time in bid to represent S'pore in next year's SEA Games

They call him "old man" even though he is just 32.

Competitive athletics, where most usually hit their peak in their 20s, is usually not very kind to those in their 30s .

But that has not deterred Mr Muhammad Shah Feroz Moheden from quitting his job as a physical education teacher at Innova Junior College in July to train full time.

His aim? To qualify for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in the 3,000m steeplechase next year.

He had always wanted to represent Singapore in running, but did not get to do so until the 2015 SEA Games. Then, host nation Singapore fielded both him and Mr Colin Tung in the 3,000m steeplechase.

Mr Tung, 27, finished in 11th position. Mr Feroz did better, in ninth place, clocking a personal best of 9min 42.78sec.

"I felt like a new life was found when I crossed the finish line, and the fire in me came back. I have been living without a soul since 2006," he said, referring to how he had almost quit running for good that year due to mental fatigue.

GIVING HIS ALL

I can't turn back time for a day or session wasted due to laziness, and I don't want to leave any room for regrets.

MR MUHAMMAD SHAH FEROZ MOHEDEN, on why he trains so intensively. He left his job as a teacher and survives on his savings.

Now, for the first time, he is dedicating his days fully to training. Previously, he had to do so while serving in the army, pursuing his university degree and working at Innova Junior College.

This time, he wants to put in 100 per cent commitment, he said.

INSPIRATIONAL SIBLING

Feroz has always been strong mentally. He taught me about discipline and to go ahead with achieving goals, no matter what people say. We call him the superstar of the family because we seldom see him around. He is always training, even during Hari Raya.

MS FARAH NADIA, on why nobody in the family is surprised at her younger brother Mr Feroz's determination.

Without any income, the bachelor has been living off his savings. The only sponsorship he has is his training gear from New Balance.

He takes public transport from his home in Serangoon North to train at locations such as MacRitchie Reservoir, Bedok Reservoir and East Coast Park. He also exercises at the gym in Safra Toa Payoh.

DETERMINED

Feroz has a lot of drive. He will do it against all odds.

MR BALAMURALI ANNADORAY, a close training partner who believes Mr Feroz will qualify for next year's SEA Games.

He trains twice a day except on Thursdays and Sundays, when he trains once in the morning.

Mr Feroz also tries to have his meals at home, to ensure his savings of $40,000 can last for a year and cover an overseas training stint that will cost about $15,000.

It takes a lot of discipline to head out before sunrise.

"I can't turn back time for a day or session wasted due to laziness, and I don't want to leave any room for regrets," said Mr Feroz.

His family and friends are not surprised that he quit his job to chase his dream.

"Feroz has always been strong mentally. He taught me about discipline and to go ahead with achieving goals, no matter what people say," said his eldest sister, Ms Farah Nadia.

"We call him the superstar of the family because we seldom see him around. He is always training, even during Hari Raya," added the 35- year-old nurse.

To qualify for the the 2017 SEA Games 3,000m steeplechase event, Mr Feroz has to shave 36 seconds off his personal best, to match the bronze medallist's timing at the last SEA Games.

He believes he can close the gap, but his progress has been hampered by a recent hamstring injury on his left leg.

"Feroz has a lot of drive. He will do it against all odds," said his close friend and training partner, Mr Balamurali Annadoray, 34, who has known him for 15 years.

It takes courage to put everything on hold for a year when success is uncertain, but the soft-spoken Mr Feroz is fiercely determined. "I will never know if I don't try," he said.

The younger members of his running group, Trackstar Athletics, set up by his coach and former national distance runner Elangovan Ganesan, 41, call him "old man".

But this "old man" has always been attached to the sport, said Mr Feroz. To live with no regrets, he is determined to give it a good run.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Run, rest, repeat: An athlete's life'. Print Edition | Subscribe