SINGAPORE- After 50 gruelling days of running 50km daily, ultramarathoners Yong Yuen Cheng and Lim Nghee Huat crossed the finishing line at 10.32am on Thursday. Both joy and relief were written on the faces of the two exhausted men. The challenge they took on to mark Singapore's golden jubilee had finally been completed.
The runners sprinted past the finish line, buoyed by about 50 cheering supporters who ran the last 8.5km with them.
At 11.20am, they will take part in the South-east Asian (SEA) Games flame-kindling ceremony. They will use two parabolic mirrors to capture flames from the sun. This flame will be transferred into a safety lantern, to be used to light the SEA Games torch later on Thursday night.
Co-chair of the SG50 committee Dr Tan Lai Yong will also present certificates of accomplishment to Yong, 43, and Lim, 61, as well as pacer Gerrard Lin. Lin also ran with them on all days but one when he had to travel to another running meet. The ultramarathoners will take a well-deserved rest after 11.30am and meet with their supporters.
Yong, a teacher, and media producer Lim started their final push at 2.15am at Ion Orchard.
Having had only five hours of sleep the previous night, they jogged and walked throughout, with a single-minded Mr Lim leading the pack. Pacer Lin kept energy levels high with his jokes.
Despite yawns and a desire for coffee, the runners were attentive as they ran round the Marina Bay stretch to avoid a disastrous tumble so late in their journey.
Among the supporters who turned up to run the home stretch with them was Institute of Technical Education employee Chen Joo Soon. The 54-year-old had also run 50km with them the day before but took pains to join them in the last lap despite not getting any sleep the night before. "It's a meaningful cause and I want to support the runners till the end," he said.
Yong and Lim said their feat of endurance was to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday and commemorate the resilience of the nation's founding fathers.
When they started the first run on April 15, Mr Yong said: "What they (the founding fathers) did was great, it required resilience and endurance to overcome challenges and build the nation we enjoy today. In our small way, we hope to inspire Singaporeans to remember that spirit."
For their efforts, they were selected to help ignite the SEA Games flame, which will be used by Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong to light the official SEA Games torch in the evening.
The torch will be passing through several iconic spots in the Marina Bay area on a 2.5km parade on Thursday.
Members of the public will be able to see the torch parade from places such as Clifford Square, Merlion Park, Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, The Float @ Marina Bay and the ArtScience Museum. It ends at the Marina Bay Sands Event Plaza where a host of activities will take place.
The flame will then be transferred into a safety lantern and travel by water on its final leg to the National Stadium for the opening ceremony on Friday.
It will be brought into the National Stadium in a Torch Relay by 13 athletes before the finale - the lighting of the SEA Games cauldron.