Marathon: Paralympian William Tan to raise awareness for wheelchair racing at Gold Coast Marathon

Paralympian William Tan hopes his participation in the Gold Coast Marathon will pave the way for marathon wheelchair racing to return to Singapore and inspire seniors to be active.
Paralympian William Tan hopes his participation in the Gold Coast Marathon will pave the way for marathon wheelchair racing to return to Singapore and inspire seniors to be active.PHOTO: DR WILLIAM TAN

SINGAPORE - He will be the first Singaporean wheelchair racer to compete in the Gold Coast Marathon on Sunday (July 1) but, to Paralympian William Tan, the significance of the milestone goes far beyond that.

Not only is the 61-year-old doctor celebrating his 10th year in remission from Stage 4 leukaemia, he hopes his participation will pave the way for marathon wheelchair racing to return to Singapore and inspire seniors to be active.

"I don't think it's something to shout about because honestly the culture of wheelchair marathon racing in Singapore is unfortunately dying and a lot of us haven't got the opportunity to race in Singapore," said Tan.

He last raced a full wheelchair marathon here 16 years ago.

Still, the man who has recorded many firsts acknowledged that it is "empowering" to be competing in the Gold Coast Marathon, which is on his bucket list.

He made history in 2005 by setting a world record as the first paraplegic to finish 10 marathons on seven continents in 70 days.

In April, he became the first person to complete the Pyongyang Marathon in a wheelchair.

"This is the 40th year of the Gold Coast Marathon and I think it's about time. My wife and I have been to the Gold Coast and drove along the streets, but this is an opportunity to race on the roads, which is something to look forward to," said Tan, who is aiming to qualify for his 11th Boston Marathon next year. He left for the Gold Coast on Thursday and is one of at least 450 Singaporeans set to line up for the 42.195km event.

This will be civil servant Lim Han Chee's 10th Gold Coast Marathon, thus earning him an invite to the Gold Coast Marathon Legends Club for those who have run in at least 10 editions.

The 50-year-old noted: "The race offers a flat course and good weather, with the added lure of the golden surf beaches and the spectacular Pacific Ocean view under the clear blue sky. The (chilly) temperature of between 10 to 20 deg C is ideal not just for running but fast running."

Administrative executive Shirlene Poon is entered in her first overseas marathon and is looking forward to the cooler conditions.

The 26-year-old, who will compete in the Sept 23 Straits Times Run, won a five-day, four-night all-expenses paid trip to run in the Gold Coast Marathon. The contest was organised by ST and Tourism & Events Queensland.

She said: "The event is a great way to interact with more people from all around the world and with our shared passion for running, I believe there'll be a lot of stories to hear and share."