Meet retiree Elson Wong. He’s a pretty typical guy with a life-long passion for all types of sports. Before he retired three years ago, he held a job most athletes would love: He worked for the Singapore Sports Council (now Sports Singapore) where he served as a lifeguard for 20 years. Before devoting his life to the Council, he was a member of the Singapore Police Force for 26 years, 17 of which were spent instructing new recruits, regulars and national service personnel.
When he’s not enjoying his long-awaited retirement, Mr. Wong divides his time between sedentary activities like listening to music and watching TV and a few athletic endeavours that belie his age! You’ll find him running, cycling and rollerblading to stay fit and have fun. His memories of the Sundown are precious so we’re proud to count him among our 10 loyal Sundown interviewees.
RS: How long have you been running and taking part in running events?
Mr. Wong: I have been doing both since 2007 when I started running seriously at age 59. It’s the easiest form of physical activity in my opinion, because it allows athletes to get a good workout without having to buy very little apparatus. It is also not like other sports where you need to book courts or have another partner like tennis or squash. Running is a sport that you can do it yourself, on any open space, five foot way, trail or open field.
RS: Do you participate in the Sundown Marathon alone or with someone else?
Mr. Wong: I’m a twin and I joined my elder brother for the Sundown Marathon in 2008. We even managed to talk our youngest brother into joining us in the 2010 Sundown Marathon. He also happens to be a twin — but in his case, his twin is a woman and she doesn’t like running. Our love of sports seems only to have impacted the males of the family! Were it not for injuries, my twin would have run all of the Sundowns with me over time.
RS: Which category do you run at the Sundown Marathon?
Mr. Wong: Usually, I run the 42.195 km full marathon category because this is an endurance event and I like nothing better than to test my tolerance level.
RS: As a faithful participant in this race, what does the Sundown Marathon mean to you?
Mr. Wong: I think the fact that I wouldn’t miss this marathon for the world says a lot about my loyalty.
RS: How do you think this iconic marathon has evolved over the years?
Mr. Wong: The Sundown Marathon is unique because it’s the only night marathon in Singapore and I have loved watching the way the event has evolved into Asia’s largest night race over time. As someone who has been in every Sundown, I take pride in its longevity.
RS: Can you share with us which edition of the Sundown Marathon is the most memorable and why?
Mr. Wong: That’s an easy question: my most memorable Sundown Marathon was in 2013 because it was my fastest 42.195 km race. I was overjoyed to finish with a personal best of 05:52:48.
RS: What inspires you to join the Sundown Marathon every year?
Mr. Wong: I’m a big believer that quality of life is enhanced by being physically active, and every time I participate in a Sundown Marathon, I get an opportunity to challenge myself; push the limits, year after year. It’s my pleasure to compete in as many marathons as I can, but the Sundown will always be my favourite.
RS: What are your preferences when it comes to “must-have” gear?
Mr. Wong: I always wear my heart rate monitor watch when I run, but unlike younger runners, I have yet to start wearing earphones. If given a chance, I might like to try them out some day.
RS: Can you describe your running achievements?
Mr. Wong: My proudest achievement is definitely completing four marathons in the same year! The four I ran in 2015 include the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon on 25th January, the Sundown Marathon on 4th July, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on 18th October and the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on 6th December.
RS: Once a Sundown Marathon is history, what do you do with your finisher medals, bibs and tees?
Mr. Wong: I am quite proud of this memorabilia and hang all of my Sundown Marathon finisher medals in a cabinet with a glass door. My bibs reside in a file and all of my finisher t-shirts hang in my wardrobe.
RS: If you were the Sundown Marathon race director, what changes would you make to the next edition?
Mr. Wong: If I were the race director, I would like to take the Sundown overseas so it could be staged in as many countries as possible. I’m really excited that the organiser has announced the staging of Sundown Marathon in Penang this year and at Taipei next year.
RS: If you could give one piece of advice to a new Sundown runner, what would it be?
Mr. Wong: My advice to a new Sundown runner would be to prepare properly for the race and I would share my favourite philosophy: “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” That’s been my motto for much of my life and it’s not just applicable to sports, but to all aspects of life.
RS: What or who inspires you the most?
Mr. Wong: I am always inspired by those who refuse to give up easily! I view failure as a “first attempt at learning”; a stumbling block, not the end. In my opinion, END stands for “effort never dies” and I use that phrase to help me power through many marathons. As for who inspires me most, I’d have to name my twin. The two of us were feature runners in a 2010 Sundown Marathon YouTube film “The Running Twins.” It may still be around if it hasn’t been taken down.
RS: What do you want to achieve in the next year?
Mr. Wong: Obviously, running the 2017 OSIM Sundown Marathon is at the top of my list!
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