Decision to live healthy takes 48-year-old to finish line of Arctic marathon

  • Focus
  • Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016

A feat to be proud of: Sia Chien Vui set out to make a change in his life after being diagnosed with high blood pressure. He decided to take up running and soon joined marathons all over the world.

RUNNING was never Sia Chien Vui’s cup of tea and it was not his workout of choice by a longshot, but that all changed when the 48-year-old fainted about a year-and-a-half ago.

“The doctors diagnosed me with high blood pressure,” he said, adding that the need to exercise and change his lifestyle drove him to try running.

“It all started when my friend forced me to join a marathon in Chiang Mai in December 2015.

“I was so cramped and sore the next day, I couldn’t even climb into a bathtub,” he said, recalling the post-marathon day.

He said he felt quite disgusted with himself as he had lost out to people who were older than him and he finished last in his group.

“I decided I should do something about it and get fit,” he said.

And he certainly did! Sia, affectionately known as Norman among his friends, has travelled the road and ran 19 marathons since then.

“After one year of running, I would have run 21 marathons by Dec 28 this year,” he said.

Sia said the Polar Circle Marathon was a challenge due to the cold weather and snow. — Photo courtesy of SIA CHIEN VUI
Sia said the Polar Circle Marathon was a challenge due to the cold weather and snow. — Photo
courtesy of SIA CHIEN VUI

Looking at him now, he appears years younger than his age and the change is amazing.

The Sabahan’s latest feat was the Polar Circle Marathon from Oct 29 to 30, during which he joined the half (21.097km) and full marathon (42.195km).

He said he checked and confirmed that he was the only Malaysian to join and to complete the event.

According to the marathon’s website, the Polar Circle Marathon is often referred to as “the coolest marathon on earth” and takes place in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

“A part of the route takes place on the ice cap itself, but the main part of the course is run on the gravel road (often snow covered) that connects the ice sheet with the small township of Kangerlussuaq, just north of the Polar Circle,” read the site.

It also said that frostbite was a risk at the Polar Circle Marathon, but it would not cause severe injury if treated correctly and in time.

Sia said the hardest part of the marathon was the first 10km as it was buried in snow.

“This was the first time I was running in the cold so it was a totally different experience.

“The place was deserted and the temperature was -15°C,” he said.

When asked how it differed from other marathons, he said the desire to finish was strong as there was no help on the way.

“In most city marathons, if you don’t finish, you get to tap out if you get too tired and can’t go on.

“There would be a vehicle to pick you up. But in this marathon, there’s no such thing.

“You will need to hike back on your own. So when you start, you cannot give up,” he said.

He said in city marathons, food and drinks would usually also be provided.

Sia with his finisher‘s certificate that states his time of 9:40:13.
Sia with his finisher‘s certificate that states his time of 9:40:13.

“In Greenland, we had breakfast at 6am and the run started at 9am and we only got an energy bar at noon.

“It was the most delicious bar I ever tasted!” he said with a laugh.

One of his memorable moments during the race was when it got so cold that he could not open the energy bar.

“I had to ask the helpers there to open it and feed me as my hands were numb,” he said.

When reflecting on how far he had come since running last year, he said that in the chase for money, he forgot about his health.

“Friends are always questioning my running, saying I am not making money while doing this.

“But for me, taking care of your health is the most valuable thing.”

Next year, Sia said he would be focusing on running in seven continents and four deserts.

“I hope to inspire others to travel and run while taking care of their health. During my travels, many other runners have asked about Malaysia.

“And I’m proud to tell them about my country as we are not known for running on an international platform,” he said.

Sia has turned over a new leaf in life in just one year and it goes to show what you can achieve if you put your mind to it.

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