Come lunch hour, Raffles Place is typically beset by promoters and the odd, gimmicky flash mob – but this Thursday afternoon, the main draw was a far more sincere proposition.
Passers-by were stopping to gape at a slim, flame-haired man pounding away on a treadmill. It was none other than Gerrard Lin, aka “Ah Siao”, best known for completing the 2012 Singapore marathon with a 14kg tyre tethered to his waist.
Lin’s latest feat of insanity: running two full marathons over two days, smack in the middle of Singapore’s business district.
“This year, we decided that something needs to be different, a bit more interesting,” the 30-year-old told Yahoo Singapore before embarking on his 84km challenge.
“We wanted to tell people in the city, ‘hey you work a lot, you’re under a lot of pressure, but there’s something you can do’.”
Members of the public were also invited to run alongside Lin on adjacent treadmills, helping shave kilometres off his personal endeavour.
The act would also symbolise “how attracting donors eases the journey of patients suffering from leukaemia, lymphoma, and other blood diseases towards finding a bone marrow match,” read a press statement.
Among those turning up in support were footballers from the S.League’s Courts Young Lions team, with Canadian winger Sherif El-Masri and defender Emmeric Ong gamely stepping up for a mid-day jaunt on the machines.
The “real” Gerrard Lin is quiet and unassuming; his responses framed clearly and carefully. But put a camera in front of him and the “siao” (Hokkien dialect for crazy) persona swiftly materialises.
His life story, however, unfolded in the opposite direction. Hailing from a family background he described as “low-middle class”, Lin grew up in Tiong Bahru – “back then, a place for ruffians… gangs like 369”.
He was a pre-teen “on the fringe” of full-fledged “Ah Beng” territory, until he enrolled in River Valley Secondary, where he credits the good teaching environment for helping him change course.
Lin would go on to St Andrews Junior College and graduate from Nanyang Technological University with a degree in marketing. He now works as a freelance instructor in taekwondo, which he has practiced for nearly 15 years.
“Could have gone either way,” he shrugged. “I could have been someone with a lot of tattoos; a real ‘Ah Long’ runner.”
Going for broke
Incredibly, it was only in October last year that Lin took to marathon running, as a means to ramp up his long-time social volunteering.
“I never was a runner, but when I decided to do it, I thought I’d do it in a big way and drag a tyre along,” said Lin. “If I can do it, maybe some might say ‘this guy has done so much, I can do just a bit’.”
He was quick to deflect notions of celebrity – despite a Facebook page with over 1,000 likes – and insisted that he remains largely anonymous.
“I went to a running group two days ago and no one recognised me,” said Lin.” They know about the tyre dragging, (but) they don’t know this face… which is good.”
That may prove difficult after this week’s showcase at Raffles Place, and increasingly so if he achieves his next goal of finishing in the top 10 at the Singapore marathon this year.
It will be, to say the very least, a tall order – but so was hauling a tyre over 42.195km. Doubt Lin’s threshold for pain at your own peril.
“This year’s Jurong Lake Run, I did a 10km tyre-dragging run on crutches, because I broke my metatarsal two weeks before,” he recalled. “At the end, some kid came up to me and said, ‘eh wah you very good ah I want to be like you in future (sic)’.”
The kid was probably too polite to call out Lin for what he is: “siao”.