Meet the ‘crazy’ marathon man of Singapore

Gail Chai
Fit to Post Sports

If you come across a slight, lean runner pounding the pavements of Singapore while dragging a tyre using a rope tied around his waist in the next few weeks, give him a thumbs up and a pat on the back.

Because he's doing it all for a good cause.

Gerrard Lin — aka 'Ah Siao' — is undergoing intensive preparation for next month's Standard Chartered Marathon, where he will be running the full 42.195km marathon route for the first time in his life.

But the 30-year-old is taking crazy to a whole new level as he will be dragging a 14-kilo, 17-inch car tyre throughout the entire route.

Lin is doing this as part of the "Match for Life" running team, where he is raising funds and awareness for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP). The programme supports patients with blood diseases such as lymphoma, leukaemia, who are searching for a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant to have a second chance in life.

He has so far been spotted along Mount Faber, City Hall, MacRitchie Reservoir and East Coast Park on his twice daily runs.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore on Monday at a hawker centre near HarbourFront in between his training sessions, the freelance martial arts instructor said the tyre symbolises the endurance that a patient undergoing chemotherapy and treatment has to go through.

"What I'm doing is actually no big deal because I get to go home, rest and eat, but patients with leukaemia do not get this privilege," he said over lunch.

"A tyre would create awareness and this persona, this crazy ah beng will raise eyebrows because it is different and unconventional compared to people who run for charity, showing they are righteous," he added.

Asked why he named himself "Ah Siao" ('crazy' in Hokkien), he said he's not interested in attracting any fame for himself but adopting his "crazy" moniker would allow him to draw better and bigger awareness for his cause.

"I would rather remain anonymous, I want the focus to be on charity itself because if I use my own name, I will fall into the trap of thinking that I am so great just because I am helping someone and doing a good deed," Ah Siao said.

"I will get egoistic, especially if people start coming up to me because they know of my name," said the runner, who is currently single. He even readily admits his own family members do not know of his efforts because he does not want them to worry.

"Ah Siao is someone people can relate to because everyone has this residential "ah beng" in their life, or at least heard of one so it's very easy to connect to a person like that. I don't want people to think I am noble or admirable because I run for charity, I cringe when people call me that. I want people to be aware of the difficulties a patient who needs a bone marrow transplant has to go through and for them to step up and donate or go for the DNA testing."

Conventional wisdom usually calls for a first-time marathon runner to train for 6 months, gradually increasing one's distance by 10 percent every week.

But Ah Siao said he only started training early last month, which gave him only about two months to train until the December 2 race.

"I have no time for nonsense training and run twice a day, at least 10km for each session so that amounts to about 100km a week. It has been so-called 'hell' for me but running and training for this cause helps me see things from a different angle and I realise why I want to keep pushing myself — thinking about the patients waiting for a stem cell transplant motivates me," he said.

Asked why he chose to support the BMDP programme, he said he signed up for the cause during one the of "Match For Life" roadshows. He said the odds of finding a suitable bone marrow donor are 1 in 20,000 and many of these patients die without an acceptable stem cell transplant. By running, he hopes to overcome the public perception that bone marrow transplant is painful and causes a lot of discomfort.

"There is actually no hassle involved and it is as simple as a blood transfusion. For example, if I have leukaemia and I buy 4D, I have a better chance of winning 4D than finding a match. I want to raise awareness and let people know that it is a simple process — your name is put in a registry and all you have to do is a cheek swab to test if a person's DNA matches that of a patient with a blood disorder."

"When I realised that the odds are stacked so high, I wanted to do as much as I can for these patients. The more people know about the charity the better because there could be a flicker of hope. You never know if you are a suitable donor," said Lin.

He is not the only unconventional runner taking part in this year's StanChart Marathon.

Fauja Singh, believed to be the world's oldest marathoner at 101 years old, will be participating in the marquee running event but is doing the 10km race.

The British centenarian marathoner and his team will be running to raise awareness for the SportCares Foundation, a Vision 2030 initiative that aims to leverage on the power and positive impact of sport as a force for social good.

Fia Permadi, an Indonesia-born Singaporean, who broke her left thigh bone after falling in a bus in April last year, is another runner making waves. Calling and dressing herself as "Wonder Woman", the 40-year-old will join the likes of Ah Siao and Singh by taking part in the marathon as well. She will be running the full 42km and said her recent injury is not going to deter her.