A 200km walk to mark founding of Singapore

Veteran walkers R. Subramaniam and G. Suresh Kumar (with cap) on the last 40km of their 200km bicentennial walk yesterday. Eight walkers started the attempt last Saturday but six dropped out along the way.
Veteran walkers R. Subramaniam and G. Suresh Kumar (with cap) on the last 40km of their 200km bicentennial walk yesterday. Eight walkers started the attempt last Saturday but six dropped out along the way.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Veterans walking 200km almost non-stop to usher in 2019, celebrate Lion City's milestone

Two men are ushering in the New Year in a novel manner.

Last Saturday night, Mr R. Subramaniam and Mr G. Suresh Kumar set out on a 200km walk, organised as Singapore marks its bicentennial this year. They have walked non-stop and taken breaks only for food and to go to the toilet.

The endeavour is clearly no walk in the park, though the route begins and ends at East Coast Park.

Mr Subramaniam and Mr Suresh are the final two of eight walkers who started the walk. Six dropped out along the way due to reasons such as fatigue and foot blisters.

Another 140 attempted just part of the distance, either on their own or as part of a team relay.

The Straits Times spoke to the two veteran walkers yesterday when they made a quick stop for breakfast. They had 40km more to go, and were aiming to finish the walk by 8pm yesterday.

Said Mr Subramaniam, 55: "You tell anyone you're planning to walk 200km, they'll tell you you're crazy.

"(But) being a Singaporean, the bicentennial year is significant. This is the first such long-distance walk to be organised in Singapore, so I'm thankful to be able to join."

Mr Suresh, 46, is a Malaysian and has been friends with Mr Subramaniam for over 25 years. In preparation for this walk, they joined the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon earlier last month, which they completed in about 5hr 40min.

Mr Subramaniam has represented Singapore in competitions such as the World Masters Athletics Championship in Perth in 2016 and in Daegu, South Korea, the following year. He walks about 150km a week and said he "can walk faster than most can run". On a regular day, he has no problems walking 5km in 30 minutes or less.

Though the two friends are no stranger to long distance race-walking - they took part in a 210km walk last March that ran over four days, starting from the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur to Maran, Pahang - the current effort is the first time they are going without designated rest or breaks to sleep.

CONSTANT MOVEMENT

It's also better for us to keep moving. When we sit down for a long time, the aches and cramps start to come.

MR R. SUBRAMANIAM, on not disrupting the momentum of the walk.

Mr Subramaniam has four pairs of shoes and socks to change along the way, and Mr Suresh has three. But they have not been able to change their foot gear since starting because of severe blisters.

"I'm scared to take off my shoes - I don't want to see the mess," said Mr Subramaniam, half in jest.

He added: "It's also better for us to keep moving. When we sit down for a long time, the aches and cramps start to come."

Mr Suresh said: "Though I'm from Malaysia, I'm very happy and honoured to be a part of Singapore's bicentennial history.

"We haven't slept since Saturday, so we may be 'counting down early' tonight."

The walk was jointly organised by the Geylang Serai Citizens' Consultative Committee, Singapore Masters Athletics and Geylang Serai Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, and supported by the National Parks Board.

Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef, who came up with the idea for the bicentennial walk, said: "We wanted to be inclusive - people living in private estates and HDB flats joined - and we also managed to attract quite a number of mature walkers. That is a good analogy for Singapore's resilience over the years."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2019, with the headline 'A 200km walk to mark founding of Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe