Fit And Fab

Running to meet people and explore new places

Running has expanded Mr Azlan's social network.
Running has expanded Mr Azlan's social network.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

The sport has helped Azlan Ithnin overcome his body-image issues and depression

Q When did you start exercising regularly and why?

A In 2009, after an episode of depression, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon.

I was in national service then and I ran about 10km every week to keep up my fitness level. I completed my first marathon, the Adidas Sundown Marathon, in 2010.

Later that year, my father, who had diabetes, was hospitalised. His health deteriorated and he died earlier this year.

The experience made me reflect on what running meant to me, why I had to continue and not take my health for granted.

Q What other benefits did you reap after taking up running?

A Running has expanded my social network beyond work. This was especially so when I started going overseas for races in 2013.

I realised that you can go out and run and explore new places. I enjoyed meeting runners and race organisers, as well as promoting ultra-marathons.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A From a very early age up until national service, I struggled with body-image issues and depression. I was often bullied in school because I was small and skinny.

In 2012, I succeeded in bulking up through weight training. But I felt burdened by the regimen and found the gym a boring environment. I longed for the simplicity of running and went back to it.

Q What is your diet like?

A I abstain from soft drinks, except during ultra-marathon races overseas where they offer a lot of food and drinks. I cut down on sweet food and drinks whenever possible.

  • Bio Box


    Age: 28

    Height: 1.61m

    Weight: 50kg

    During his schooldays, Mr Azlan played some badminton and cycled occasionally.

    He started running regularly during national service to keep fit. After a bout of depression in 2009, he decided to do marathons.

    In 2011, he met ski-mountaineer and long-distance runner Kilian Jornet at an event in Singapore and decided to switch to trail-running.

    Mr Azlan, an administrative executive at a local university, is single. He has travelled to Sabah, Hong Kong and France for trail runs and ultra-marathons.

    He also blogs about his running experiences.

    He is training for the Osim Sundown Marathon on March 25 next year. It will be his seventh time taking part in the night run. This will be his 11th marathon and he aims to complete it in under four hours.

    Mr Azlan lives with his mother, a 63-year-old housewife, and an elder sister.

Q What are your indulgences?

A The caramel macchiato from Starbucks and potato chips.

Q How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

A My workplace is supportive of my running endeavours. It allows me to leave work on time to train, as well as travel overseas for races.

Q How do you manage interruptions in your exercise schedule?

A I don't run much during fasting month. But I try to run two to three times a week after breaking fast to maintain my fitness.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A Good company, health and music.

Q What's your favourite and the least favourite part of your body?

A I don't have a favourite body part. But my least favourite would be my right shin, due to a previous injury which tends to resurface. I injured it last year after completing the 100km TransLantau race in Hong Kong - the first time I had run a distance of 100km.

I didn't get it treated and it caused me discomfort for a year. After seeing a physiotherapist earlier this year, I feel much better.

Q What are your must-dos before and after a training session or race?

A I need quiet time to listen to music before starting a training session or race.

Q What is the most extreme thing you have done in the name of fitness or diet?

A I had to endure a six-hour training session of running up and down Bukit Timah Hill while preparing for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Courmayeur Champex Chamonix, an ultra-marathon race in France in August. It was the longest training session I had ever done.

Q How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphernalia?

A Every available space in my room is occupied with something related to running. My most prized item is my first 100km finisher medal from the TransLantau race. I was one of the last few to finish, after about 30 hours of being on my feet.

Q Do you think you're sexy?

A Not at all. I'm just a normal guy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2016, with the headline 'Running to meet people and explore new places'. Print Edition | Subscribe