The marathon man

Ng Keng Hoong, 69, doing warm-ups in the yard of his house.

Life need not slow down to a snail’s pace for seniors. Ng Keng Hoong started running after his retirement and he hasn’t stopped since.

RETIREE Ng Keng Hoong, 69, has survived a heart attack and undergone angioplasty but he refuses to let any health scares stop him from running marathons. Even hurtful words can’t break his spirit.

Ng started running in 2001 and to-date, has run 20 full marathons (42km). Besides Kuala Lumpur, Ng has competed in marathons in Bangkok and Chiangmai in Thailand, Singapore, Xiamen in China, Taipei in Taiwan, and even Inner Mongolia.

In February this year, Ng participated in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

This June 30, he will be running as an official pacer at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2013. In November, he will be taking part in the Penang Bridge International Marathon which will be held on the second Penang bridge.

Next March, Ng plans to run his first marathon in Chongqing, China.

After each gruelling run abroad, Ng rewards himself by extending his trip for a holiday with his wife, Jenny Leong, 68.

Known as Uncle Sonny in his running fraternity, Ng has no plans to hang up his running shoes.

“Running has turned into a passion and I will run marathons as long as my body is able to,” says Ng, who resides in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Ng picked up running together with his wife back in 2000. Both of them were new retirees then.

That same year, they met runners from the Pacesetters Athletic Club of Malaysia and decided to join the club.

The club currently has about 2,000 members. Every Sunday, members from different area groups meet at the Bukit Aman car park in Kuala Lumpur for their runs of 10km or 20km.

“After the run, the members would adjourn for breakfast,” says Ng, who belongs to the Gasing Hill area group. He had served as exco member of the club for six years and assisted in the club’s events.

I retired in 1998 but was recalled to work for another two years. My wife retired in 2000. To encourage one another, we decided to run to keep fit,” says Ng, a former chief clerk with the Employees Provident Fund.

He also gets encouragement for his pursuit from his two sons, both engineers, who are based in Singapore.

When Ng retired, his peers recommended activities such as line-dancing, mahjong and karaoke sessions, card games, and day-trips and excursions.

But Ng says such things aren’t their cup of tea. “We belong to the outdoors and my wife loves sleeping under the stars!”

Ng ran his first marathon, the Penang International Bridge Run, in June 2001, after training for six months.

A year later, he ran his second Penang Marathon. In August the same year, Ng participated in the Seremban Half Marathon before he had a minor heart attack. After the run and photo shoot, Ng was walking back to his car when he had a blackout for a few seconds. When he came around, he felt lethargic, rested a while, and went to see a general practitioner who suggested that he checked into a hospital.

Ng was taken to a hospital in Seremban and kept overnight for observation. The next day, he was transferred to a medical centre in Petaling Jaya.

He recalls: “The cardiologist did an angiogram and found that two of my main arteries were blocked. He recommended angioplasty, and advised me to lay off running for two months.”

Ng took part in his next full marathon in 2005. As a heart patient, Ng sees his cardiologist once every eight months.

Ng is an active volunteer for various sporting events organised by the Pacesetters Athletic Club. He takes delight in seeing runners having an enjoyable time as he helps behind the scenes.

Every year, the Standard Chartered KL Marathon relies heavily on volunteers to make a success of the event. These volunteers help the organisers to ensure that runners from across the world have a great time in the city and experience the best of Malaysian hospitality.

This will be Ng’s fifth year as a volunteer at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon.

“A runner understands a runner’s needs,” says Ng. “It gives me joy to see so many runners, especially first-timers. When they find out that I’m an experienced runner, they have lots of questions (on attire, shoes and preparations for the run). It gives me great pleasure to answer their queries.

“Last year, I was recruited to be a six-hour pacer. This year, I will also be leading participants as an official pacer at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2013. There are 21 official pacers at this marathon.”

When Ng registers for a marathon, he will follow an 18-week training programme. In fact, in March he started training for this year’s Standard Chartered KL Marathon.

“I’m active every day of the week. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I will be hiking in Gasing Hill. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I will be running between 8km and 15km. I reserve Sundays for long runs of a minimum of 20km,” says Ng.

When he first started running in marathons, Ng used to get aches and pains after each run.

“Now the aches and pains are history. After a long run (of 30km), I feel a bit tired but after a few hours’ sleep, I’ll be fine,” Ng shares.

The seasoned runner who gets all fired up after a marathon is living proof that life need not slow down with age.

You can check out a video clip of Uncle Sonny's interview here:

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Sport , Senior , Marathon , Uncle Sonny , health , exercise


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