RUNNING can be a lonely affair but ultramarathoners Yong Yuen Cheng and Lim Nghee Huat received a boost yesterday from 3,000 teenagers, who cheered them on as they set out on their 50km run.
With pacer Gerrard Lin, 31, bearing the South-east Asia Games flag, the two runners circled a 400m track in Hwa Chong Institution with 200 students. It was a rousing opening of the annual sports day for Hwa Chong Institution, Hwa Chong International, Nanyang Girls' High and Chinese High.
The high spirits were in order, as it was the 42nd of their series of 50km runs over 50 days to celebrate Singapore's golden jubilee and commemorate the resilience of the nation's pioneers.
Students came up to the runners and wished them luck. They were not surprised to see Mr Yong, 43, a physical education teacher at Hwa Chong Institution, looking upbeat despite his punishing schedule.
Said 18-year-old Glenn Tan, a kayaker who trained under Mr Yong: "Ultramarathons are not new to him. He knows how to take care of himself. It's really inspiring to see your own sports teacher walk the talk."
Yesterday, Mr Lim, 62, an editor, and Mr Yong completed 50km in 61/2 hours and five hours and 46 minutes respectively. Their route took them through Dunearn and Evans roads and Ulu Pandan.
Though some routes are tougher than others, paradoxically they have been clocking faster times than the seven-hour average of their earlier runs. "Our bodies are now used to running 50km daily," Mr Lim said.
"We don't feel so tired so we have been taking fewer breaks," said Mr Yong, who achieved a personal best of five hours and nine minutes last Saturday.
Both have also recovered from niggling physical ailments that dogged them two weeks ago.
Dr Jason Lee, head physiologist from DSO National Laboratories, advised the runners to be aware of the "last leg" syndrome, in which runners tend to push themselves harder and risk injury as the end comes in sight.
With the final run just a week away, that is the last thing they need. "Now that the goal is in sight, we won't let our guard down," Mr Yong said.