Keep up with the RUNners is a series that features runners from all walks of life. Meet Shafiee Barahim who has been keeping fit over the years, and who has taken part in Marathons and Ultra-Marathons!
About Shafiee Barahim
Occupation: Former Teacher
Having worked as a teacher for slightly more than two decades, Shafiee Barahim has decided to keep himself fit through consistent running. He started running in 2016, and his interest in running heightened during the Covid-19 restrictions period.
Running competitions during Covid-19 restrictions
Did you participate in any running competitions during the covid-19 restrictions period?
I have been taking part in virtual running events organised by the Running Guild (Singapore). During the Covid-19 restrictions period, I completed the 100 Miles Challenge twice (in Oct 2020 & Oct 2021), the Lucky 88.88km three times (once in Feb 2021 and twice in Feb 2022) and the Shiok 200km thrice (Jan 2021, Dec 2021 and Jan 2022).
I am grateful to be among one of the 19 recipients who were awarded with Running Guild Ultramaniac Award in 2021, after I managed to complete 4 events covering 499.88km in 2021.
Were these competitions any different from pre-covid competitions?
For events organised by Running Guild (Singapore), participants were given a choice to either complete an event in one attempt using a predetermined route set by the organiser or to accumulate the distance, for example 200km, in more than one run over a certain number of days determined by the organiser.
Unlike in a physical race which is flagged off at a specific day and time, the virtual run offered participants the option to decide which day and time he/she would make his/her attempt on the virtual race. This may benefit runners who wish to run at night and on days when the weather is favourable.
To make it more challenging for myself, I always aimed to complete every event in a single attempt. I would normally choose a weekend where I felt that I would be ready to run long distances.
What was your motivation like during this period?
During this period, many of us started to spend more time exercising as many of us wanted the freedom to be out of our homes, especially after working at home during the day. For me, I ran more frequently during the Covid-19 period to stay healthy and to also prepare myself physically and mentally before I made any attempt at any virtual race.
I heard that you took part in 3 marathons in 3 different cities, an incredible feat! Tell us more about your marathon journey.
I signed up for the KL Standard Chartered Marathon (KLSCM) and Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM) in 2020. However, due to Covid-19, the races were postponed to 2022. For 2022, I only signed up for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) and Khaoyai 100km Ultra Marathon.
Although the thought of running back-to-back marathons seems crazy, I did not think it was impossible since I did not have the intention of reaching my Personal Best time in any of these marathon races. It was more important to me to complete all these races within the cut-off time set by the respective organisers.
Fortunately, I managed to finish the full marathon races during KLSCM, SCSM and PBIM. I considered myself lucky to be blessed with good health to be able to complete the KLSCM, SCSM, PBIM and Khao Yai 100km within 45 days, and to run in 3 different countries (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand). I completed the SCSM, PBIM and Khao Yai 100km within 14 days.
Could you describe your experience in each of the marathons? How different was it competing in the different competitions?
KLSCM – It was my first full marathon race in Malaysia, after having competed in Singapore, Thailand (Bangkok), Vietnam (Da Nang) and Australia (Gold Coast). We ran on the main roads around Kuala Lumpur, and the route was full of slopes and even included a few flyovers. Fortunately, the weather that night was clear, even though it had been raining on most afternoons.
SCSM – This was my 3rd SCSM and 4th full marathon race in Singapore since my first race in December 2017. Somehow, I always fared worse in local marathon races as compared to overseas marathon races (especially in Gold Coast and Bangkok where I managed to run a sub-4h 30min). As I needed to keep my legs fresh for PBIM and Khaoyai within less than 2 weeks, I did not push myself hard for SCSM and for the first time, I clocked slightly more than 5 hours in a full marathon race.
PBIM – I was contemplating whether to run this marathon race as I thought it would be better to rest my legs before the Khao Yai 100km. However, as I was already in Penang, I decided to run the race at a more relaxed pace. Even though I ran my worst timing for a full marathon race during the PBIM (5hr 17min), I was very happy to complete the race along Penang Bridge, which was full of elevations. Fortunately, the weather was favourable too.
Khao Yai 100km – Even after running the PBIM, which was 6 days before Khao Yai, I felt ready for this ultra-marathon race. I believe the back-to-back full marathon races were part of my training for this 100km race. In addition, the races held in Thailand have always been well-organised where the crew would always provide excellent support to all runners. I managed to complete the race in 15hr 25min, much quicker than what I predicted – 17hr 15min.
Which competition was your favourite?
My favourite race is definitely the Khao Yai 100km Ultra Marathon. Khao Yai 100km was my first overseas road ultra-marathon, and my timing in Khao Yai can be considered to be my PB for 100km. One day, I hope to complete a 100km race in less than 15 hours.
How did you feel, finally being able to compete physically after about 2 years of virtual competitions?
It was great to take part in a physical race again. It is a good reminder to all runners alike, never to take physical races, especially those held overseas, for granted again.
How was your experience running the SCSM while recovering from Covid-19?
A few days after I completed KLSCM, I tested Covid-positive after I returned to Singapore. Whenever we take part in a physical race, there is always a risk of being infected with Covid since the race involves a mass gathering.
Even though SCSM was held in less than 21 days after I’ve tested positive, I did not do any cardio during the 14-day period and instead did some muscle strengthening exercises at home.
How did you train to prepare yourself for these marathons?
I do not have a coach nor am I attached to any running club/group. I run whenever an opportunity arises. Sometimes, I do short runs on weekday evenings and long runs on a weekend morning. As I am not working towards any time goal for my full marathon races, I train with the goal of having better endurance for ultra-marathon events. Despite this, my long-term goal is to hopefully achieve a sub-4-hour full marathon race.
Do you have any special pre-competition and post-competition routines?
Like any other marathoner, I watch my diet before my marathon race. I will also carbo-load during this period, and will avoid oily and spicy food, including prata and biryani rice, which are my favourite food.
Pre-Marathon, I will apply gel at my sensitive areas to avoid any blisters and chafing during the run. Lotion will also be applied on my thighs and calves for faster recovery. Post-Marathon, I will take Magnesium supplement to aid in muscle recovery and wear my recovery compression tights. This, coupled with proper stretching, has enabled me to recover quickly, in time to complete my back-to-back marathon races as planned.
What are your biggest takeaways from your experience competing in the post-covid-restrictions physical competitions?
Slowly, we are seeing more local and overseas physical races returning. Never take these physical races, for granted anymore. As long as I am still blessed with good health and strong legs, I plan to participate in other marathon races in other countries and cities. I am hoping to run in at least one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors someday. So far, I have tried to ballot for Berlin and London Marathon races. Unfortunately, I have been unlucky thus far.
What is the next competition you will be competing in?
I have yet to register for any marathon race in 2023, but am looking through the list of possible road races that I can participate in. Currently, one of my Personal Records for longest distance covered in one activity is 200km, which I already ran 3 times virtually in Singapore. I am still contemplating taking part in a physical race in Malaysia to re-write this record of mine.
Generally, what are your hopes and dreams for the running community?
During the Covid-19-restrictions period, especially during Circuit Breaker, many of us started to exercise, with more running clubs and groups being formed. I do hope that we continue to stay active, whether we are running or cycling, to keep fit. I hope the running community in Singapore continues to stay cohesive and supportive of each other, even if our interests and aspirations may differ.