STORY OF A CIT­I­ZEN RUNNE

EDAN SYAH AND HIS RUN­NING DREAMS

New Straits Times - - Front Page - Aznim.ruhana@nst.com.my

TENS of thou­sands of run­ners will take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur this Sun­day for the an­nual Stan­dard Char­tered KL Marathon.

It’s one of the most an­tic­i­pated races among recre­ational run­ners in the coun­try, and prom­ises to be a fun and ex­cit­ing event.

But this year’s edi­tion has taken a more com­pet­i­tive turn as Malaysian marathon run­ners vie for a spot at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in Au­gust.

The 42km marathon was ini­tially axed from the list of com­pe­ti­tions, pre­sum­ably due to a lack of medal chances, but has since been re­in­stated.

All eyes will be on the likes of Tan Huong Leong a.k.a. Leo Tan, who broke the na­tional record af­ter he fin­ished the Tokyo Marathon in Fe­bru­ary at 2:28:19. Last year’s KL Marathon win­ner in the Malaysian men’s cat­e­gory, Muhaizar Mo­hamad, and run­ner-up Mohd Jironi Rid­uan will also com­pete.

But one Malaysian run­ner who will not be there is Edan Syah. The ge­nial 29-yearold com­peted at the Bos­ton Marathon sev­eral weeks ago and is pac­ing him­self be­fore his next race tar­get — the SEA Games.

Un­like other run­ners, Edan is much closer to get­ting a na­tional call-up. He fin­ished the Gold Coast Air­port Marathon last year at 2:35:05 to be­come Malaysia’s fastest marathoner in 2016, and he’s been train­ing un­der the Na­tional Sports Coun­cil’s Kita Juara (We Are Cham­pi­ons) pro­gramme, where he is the sole marathon run­ner.

It’s said that it was his re­sult that led to the marathon be­ing brought back into the fold.

Ac­cord­ing to Edan, the SEA Games qual­i­fy­ing time is be­low 2:38, and he’s con­fi­dent that other run­ners can hit the mark too.

MAKE THE TEAM

“Af­ter I qual­i­fied last year, more peo­ple are also try­ing to qual­ify,” says Edan. “It’s good to have a marathon at the SEA Games. For run­ners, whether or not we go on to rep­re­sent the coun­try, it’s a good feel­ing to be among the fastest in South­east Asia. But I hope we will have a few can­di­dates to in­crease our medal chances.”

The list of SEA Games ath­letes will only be fi­nalised closer to the event, but it’s al­ready clear that the marathon setup is a bit dif­fer­ent to other sport­ing events.

Run­ners like Edan aren’t nur­tured from child­hood, they don’t take part at the Sukma games and they don’t com­pete full time.

Edan’s moniker is the Cit­i­zen Run­ner, sig­ni­fy­ing how he’s just a reg­u­lar guy with a day job who chooses to run marathons be­cause he likes it. It’s not un­like other peo­ple who are will­ing to sac­ri­fice their time, money and en­ergy to race on the week­end. It so hap­pens that he’s faster than many of them.

“I want to prove that even if you started late, even if you don’t have a Sukma back­ground, you can still com­pete at the in­ter­na­tional level. I’m the first in­de­pen­dent ath­lete in the Kita Juara pro­gramme so I’m break­ing the bar­rier, so to speak,” he says.

“It’s a bit tough; marathon is not the first sport that the coun­try sees. It’s not like the 100m sprint. Peo­ple see marathons as a recre­ational sport but I want to show that we have ath­letes with po­ten­tial. I may not be num­ber one in the re­gion but Malaysia should re­ally con­sider ad­vanc­ing the sport to the next level.”

Edan works full-time as a run­ning coach at the Smart Ath­let­ics Club, where he trains other “cit­i­zen run­ners” to achieve their dreams. He also has a de­gree in graphic de­sign, and still does it on the side. He re­cently helped de­sign the na­tional SEA Games uni­form for the ath­let­ics team.

FOR YOU, MUM

Edan ad­mits that a sports-re­lated ca­reer is not some­thing his par­ents had ex­pected of him, con­sid­er­ing that his fam­ily comes from an aca­demic or ed­u­ca­tional back­ground. But his mother’s death in 2009 changed his per­spec­tive, as well as his course in life.

“I started run­ning in 2008,” says Edan. “I was study­ing and run­ning was a great way to re­lieve stress. Then my mum passed away from cancer. When I ran my first marathon in 2011 in Sin­ga­pore, I ran for her. I knew that run­ning a marathon would be hard, but so is fight­ing cancer. And I kept go­ing un­til to­day be­cause of my mum.”

Edan has com­pleted three out of six

World Marathon Ma­jors, in­clud­ing the Bos­ton Marathon twice. He’s done Chicago and Tokyo, and has set his sights on New York, Lon­don and Berlin. He’s also pleased to have fin­ished be­low his per­sonal tar­get of 2:45 in those cities, ex­cept dur­ing his most re­cent out­ing.

“I was slower this year at Bos­ton than my first time in 2015 be­cause of the weather con­di­tions. My fit­ness level was good and I was con­fi­dent of get­ting a good re­sult, but I did not ex­pect the weather to be hot and dry.

“Whether or not we go on to rep­re­sent the coun­try, it’s a good feel­ing to be among the fastest in South­east Asia.”

Edan Syah

“I suf­fered a cramp quite early on, around 21km. It’s likely that my hy­dra­tion plan didn’t work be­cause I trained in Malaysia and the weather in Bos­ton is dif­fer­ent. So I sort of messed up there,” says Edan, who fin­ished the race at 2:47.

Get­ting the body well-ad­justed to the lo­cal weather is key to get­ting a good re­sult. Edan took a month off from work for the Gold Coast marathon last July and trained there for some time. Con­sid­er­ing the re­sult, his hard work cer­tainly paid off.

Mean­while, be­ing part of the Kita Juara na­tional setup has al­lowed him ac­cess to top-notch fa­cil­i­ties at the Na­tional Sports In­sti­tute in Bukit Jalil. He trains with na­tional track ath­letes, and has a ded­i­cated coach from Kenya to help him make the best of his pos­si­ble out­ing at the SEA Games.

Edan at the 2017 Bos­ton Marathon.

PHOTOS BY ZUNNUR AL SHAFIQ AND COUR­TESY OF EDAN SYAH.

A selfie with Youth and Sports Min­is­ter Khairy Ja­malud­din at a Kita Juara event. Edan is the sole marathoner in the SEA Games prepara­tory pro­gramme.

Edan at the 30km mark dur­ing last year’s Gold Coast Air­port Marathon.

Edan tak­ing part in the Lu­cozade Sport TriFit Chal­lenge fol­low­ing the launch of car­bon­ated ver­sions of Lu­cozade’s en­ergy drinks.

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