He almost gave up at the 15km mark, but the thought of his students pushed him on.
In the end, the 68-year-old completed the 21km race in just three hours, qualifying him for the Finisher Medal, given to those who finish in three hours and 30 minutes.
The seasoned half-marathoner had previously participated in six other races before taking part in the recent KL Standard Chartered International Marathon 2022 on Nov 13, but had not been running for the past few years.
“But I was confident that I would still be able to qualify for the Finisher Medal," said Soo.
His personal best in the run was two hours and 37 minutes. Impressively, he managed to hit 10km in just one hour and seven minutes.
But it was not an easy feat and the 15km mark proved particularly challenging.
“As the sweat trickled down my forehead and mixed with my tears, the faces of my students kept me going.
“I was totally determined to cross the finishing line even if I had to limp across it! I absolutely did not wish to be transported back by the sweeper bus!” related the retiree from Johor.
Completing the race, however, was part of a bigger picture – to raise funds for the community centre he founded.
Soo started Perkhidmatan Komuniti Sempurna in 2009 to provide free English and Bahasa Malaysia tuition for poor students in Kluang, Johor.
As a licensed and registered counsellor, he also provides free counselling for at-risk students, who are usually from broken families, because he feels that they are more likely to drop out of school.
“Like many other NGOs and social enterprises, we were also struggling to survive the past few years. Thus, the centre had not been fully operational due to limited funds,” shared Soo.
In an effort to raise at least RM21,000 for the community centre's operational costs for 2023, Soo decided to take part in the marathon.
Before the run, he had managed to raise RM3,000 from well-wishers and donors. But he hopes that more supporters will respond to his appeal now that he has completed the run.
“At its peak, we had five teachers and nearly 300 pupils attending the free weekly tuition at the community centre,” said Soo, adding that with more funds, he will be able to pay the teachers next year.
Soo said that given the recent disturbances to students' education due to the pandemic, there is likely to be a larger demand for tuition in the future. At-risk students are also prone to drop out of school.
“Even though there were online lessons, many students could not have access as they faced challenges such as lack of digital devices or unavailability of Internet coverage. Some students have even dropped out of school altogether,” he said.
"After all, I am only 68 and not 86!” he quipped. "I am just glad that I can combine my passion for running with social work.”
For more info, email Soo at email@example.com or WhatsApp him at 012-761 8288.