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Wednesday November 14, 2012

Marathoner aims to give children better future through charity cause

Au Yong: ‘You just have to try your best and train hard for it.’ Au Yong: ‘You just have to try your best and train hard for it.’

ALTHOUGH he does not have any children of his own yet, marathon runner Alex Au-Yong feels that he is able to identify and work with young children better, thanks to his given talent.

The cheerful 33-year-old has a noble dream of giving children a better future not just through education but also sports, a field he is particularly passionate about.

The former art director is fondly known among his friends as the ‘Xtramiler’ after his successful completion of a 100km charity run he organised last year.

It was held to raise funds for StART Society but the golden opportunity to run 100km for a purpose also gave him the chance to share his knowledge and skills in art while working with children.

“Sports like any other subject in class is also a form of discipline; you don’t see results immediately, you need to work progressively in order to reach the finish line,” said Au-Yong.

He remembers the days leading to the Xtramile Day project was not as easy as he had imagined it to be.

One of their major concerns was how they might not be able to reach their RM100,000 target.

“There were days when they would call me and say they did not feel we would hit our target and like any normal person, we start panicking,” he said.

To top it off, Au-Yong also had to put in extra hours to ensure he was fit for his first attempt at running the distance.

It was not easy but the team kept their heads together, word soon got around of the run and more people started responding to it positively.

The run was flagged off in Putrajaya, passing through major landmarks before ending at a charity organisation in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya which saw more than 70 runners running alongside Au-Yong.

“Most of them just came to support me, some ran for 10km, some for 20km and some even ran more than what they thought they could do,” he said, adding that he was planning a similar run next year.

The team, he said, was also overjoyed not only because they met their target collection but also the warm response from fellow runners and friends who came to run and support the cause.

The funds collected were channelled to music and dance programmes to some 200 underprivileged children from 14 shelter homes around the Klang Valley as well as outreach programmes in Klang, Sentul and Puchong.

“There will always be people who will tell you that you can’t do it or asking you if you are crazy.

“Well, you just have to try your best and train hard for it,” said Au-Yong who currently works as a brand manager for a sporting gear store in Petaling Jaya.

Going the extra mile does not mean one has to run, as anyone could start going their extra mile through swimming or even cooking.

“Mother Teresa did not need to go out of her way to help the poor but she did and Sabrina Yeap (founder of Furry Friends Farm), who passed away in July, spent most her time saving abandoned animals,” said Au-Yong, who feels there are many other individuals who have gone the extra mile in championing whatever cause they are passionate about.

This Saturday, Au-Yong will be sharing his Xtramile experience at the TEDxYouth@KL where he hopes to inspire others to go the extra mile and make a change in the life of someone else.

TEDxYouth@KL is happening on Nov 17, 1pm-6pm, in Auditorium Tun Dr Siti Hasmah at KL Sentral.

To register for tickets (RM45), log on to www.tedxyouthkl.com/register. The Star is the official media partner.

The event will also feature other presenters such as documentary photographer Sze Ning, Teach for Malaysia fellow Liew Suet Li, yoga instructor Ninie Ahmad, FrogAsia director Lou Yeoh, tech entrepreneur Lim Cheng Soon, CultureRun co-founder Su-Zen Low, The BASH co-founder Bosilika An, mentalist David Lai, indie music darlings The Impatient Sisters and comedian Dr Jason Leong.

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