Tears flowed and hearts filled with emotion as the wake of 89-year-old Mr. Chan Meng Hui, dressed in his “101st marathon” singlet and surrounded by finisher medals earned over the last three decades, was held to pay tribute to Singapore’s beloved “oldest marathoner.” His passing on 21st February came as a shock to everyone in the nation’s running community.
“We thought he would live forever,” said fans who point to Uncle Chan’s past history as a heavy drinker and smoker—until he fell in love with running and became one of Singapore’s most high-profile example that it’s never too late to take up running. His renaissance didn’t take place until he was in his 50s.
The media has been so taken by this running phenomenon over time, they featured stories about the demise of Uncle Chan on newspaper and website pages, but it was the local running community who mourned the 89-year-old most of all.
Having achieved the heights of success by tackling the Great Wall of China, Mongolia’s daunting steppes and marathons that would have destroyed the will of younger runners, Uncle Chan welcomed the most extreme challenge and insisted on running every race has his own pace.
When we entitled his profile of the “young” 83-year-old Uncle Chan under the headline “Age is Not an Excuse: 83 Year Old Grandfather Trains for His 93rd Marathon,” he may have thought that bringing this feisty man to reader’s attention needed to be done immediately because who knew how long he would be around?
But underestimating Uncle Chou proved foolish once again. He just kept going. It’s been 6 years since that article ran. While the photo accompanying Uncle Chou’s profile shows how youthful he looked, his tenacity kept him going until he reached his goal of running 101 marathons.
In fact, just showing up for marathon 101 proved that you can’t count out a champion, which is why warnings from friends and family that trying for this landmark event went unheeded. Taking his well-deserved place on the covers and interior pages of Asia’s top publications, Uncle Chan received his well-deserved sendoff in the media when the news of his death became common knowledge.
Will we see his like again? One can hope so—though nothing about Uncle Chan’s well-lived time on this earth will be duplicated and perhaps that’s the eternal life we all hope for when the day comes that we put on our celestial running shoes and join him for a run across the clouds!
Five things we can all learn from Uncle Chan:
- Just because you make mistakes, you can still achieve redemption.
- Travel your own path when setting goals, not the goals set by others.
- It is never too late to adopt and embrace a healthy lifestyle.
- When you are confident of your success, other people’s opinions don’t matter.
- All things in moderation. Life was meant to be savoured, not gulped!
How can you show the world your admiration for Uncle Chan? Why not run your next race in his honour—whether you’re 22 or 92? His spirit is sure to run with you—no matter which distance you choose to complete.
Featured Photo Credit: Facebook/SCSM