FOR Dr Pola Singh, the PJ Half Marathon co-organised by The Star in the early years has given him many cherished memories.
“I was never an exercise freak. But participating in the Half Marathon changed all that. When my friends invited me to join in, I told myself ‘why not?’,” he said, recalling how he first started out.
He ended up taking part 15 times with his last run in 1999.
“Work started piling up and age was catching up on me,” he explained.
Dr Pola, 72, recalled that he and his friends would rise early on the day of the run.
“We were excited; we would be there by 6am to ensure that we get a good parking lot. We would usually carpool.”
Their group became bigger as the years passed, he said.
“I made many new friends. I loved the whole muhibbah atmosphere and the camaraderie among participants.
“And I loved that we could ‘own’ the normally congested Federal Highway to ourselves once a year. What a nice feeling!”
After the run, he and his friends would wear the special T-shirt at their next get-together and in the process, motivate many others to take part in the event the following year.
“My friends and I looked forward to it every year. We would prepare in advance; not with the objective of winning any of the top prizes but to improve our time.”
Dr Pola’s best personal time for the 21km run was one hour, 40 minutes in which he was given a certificate.
To prepare for the event, he spent time on practice runs around his neighbourhood “as well as at the steep inclines of Jalan Duta”.
“I loved going uphill. My stamina improved by leaps and bounds. The time spent practising was well worth it. In my maiden participation in 1987, my time was a respectful 1:43:36.
“Seeing the impressive time, I was inspired and just like that got hooked to running on a more regimented basis. I cannot describe the incredible feel-good feeling and the adrenaline rush on race day. It was the beginning of my journey with the PJ Half Marathon.”
Eventually, Dr Pola realised that he could not compete as strongly as previously.
“So I chose to be a passive participant. I filled up the form, paid the fees, collected my freebies and goody bag and runners’ number. I would be there on the day of the event. I would just run for the fun of it at my own pace (as far as I could go) and then turn back as I had no intention of going the full distance,” said the retired civil servant whose last position was director-general of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia.
Of Sikh-Chinese parentage, Dr Pola now has two grandchildren aged nine and 13.
“I will certainly encourage them to take part in the Half Marathon when they come of age,” he said.
Dr Pola, who has been reading The Star since he started working in 1972, said he would often pen “Letters to the Editor” and contribute articles as well.
Inspired by the Star Media Group’s 50th anniversary, he wrote about his memories of participating in the PJ Half Marathon.
Among others, he recalled the carnival-like atmosphere, the multi-racial participants and the prizes.
“About a few weeks before the event, there would be a build-up; celebrities/personalities would be interviewed as well as sponsors and donors,” he wrote.