Every time marathon runner Shariff Abdullah nears a finishing line, a chill goes down his spine instead of a sense of exhilaration at completing a race.
For two years now, the 47-year-old - better known here as Singapore’s Blade Runner - has been struggling with the nightmares he suffered since the 2013 Boston Marathon in the United States.
Shariff - who uses a prosthetic leg as he was born without a left calf - was just 800m away from finishing the race, when two bombs ripped through the crowd at the end line, killing three and wounding more than 260 in a terror attack. He escaped unscathed, but the mental scars remain to this day.
“The fear is always there, especially when I am nearing the finishing line of every race. I will get nervous and struggle to get there because of what happened,” Shariff told TODAY on the sidelines of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) media briefing at the Hotel Jen on Wednesday (Nov 18).
“I have taken part in just about four other marathons since then. My most recent marathon was the Mandiri Jakarta Marathon last month.
“And when I was nearing the finishing line with some friends, I told them to go ahead and leave me alone, as I needed my own space to calm myself.”
At times, Shariff felt like giving up the sport completely, but decided he is no quitter. He has been preparing for next month’s SCMS, which will be held during the Republic’s hosting of the ASEAN Para Games (APG).
“This is a truly special year because it is Singapore’s Jubilee,” he explained. “Even though I couldn’t take part in the APG because I am a long-distance runner and the events are only for shorter distances, I want to run past the Sports Hub and show the Singapore para-athletes competing at the APG that we must not give up, that we must push on and bring glory to Singapore.”
Last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which saw 129 killed in the French capital and a bombing narrowly thwarted at a football stadium, have put the spotlight back on security at mass-participation events.
SCMS organisers Spectrum Worldwide stressed that safety has always been an important aspect of their planning, and security will be enhanced this year.
“We take the safety of our participants and stakeholders very seriously,” said Chris Robb, managing director of Spectrum Worldwide.
“We wouldn’t publicly say what those security enhancements are, for obvious safety reasons. We work with our own security advisors, operations team, and relevant government agencies to understand the threat levels and their recommendations, and we put that all together to make sure we’ve got a robust plan.
“There is also an onus on runners to be vigilant, and we urge the public that if they spot something, they work with us.”
Besides security, Robb also assured all runners from 111 different countries that they will not face the situation of having to run inaccurate distances, akin to what happened at last weekend’s Standard Chartered Marathon Bangkok, where runners were made to run 7km more in the half-marathon. “The most important thing is to acknowledge a mistake happened, and ensure it will not happen again,” he said.
This year’s SCMS will be held over two days for the first time, with the 700m Kids’ Dash taking place as a standalone event for the first time to ease congestion.
Organisers also announced a 19-act entertainment line-up for the event on Wednesday, designed to make Singapore’s marquee running event a fitting sporting finale to the nation’s jubilee year.
Singaporean Ranjith Vijayan, 37, will also add spice to the event, as he attempts to set a Guinness World Record of more than 175 solves on a Rubik’s Cube while completing the marathon in less than five hours.
“In the past, I wasn’t able to run even 1km without wanting to quit,” said Ranjith. “But including a hobby into running helps take my mind off how tough it is. If you include a fun element in everything you think you wouldn’t be able to do, that makes it easier in completing it.”
As he nears the finishing line next month, Blade Runner Shariff may want to give that Rubik’s Cube a try.
Event: Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2015
Date: Dec 5 to 6
Categories: Marathon (42.195km), Ekiden team event (42.195km), Half-marathon (21.1km), TO/10km wheelchair, 700m Kids Dash
Race routes: Marathon (Start: Outside of Mandarin Gallery at Orchard road, End: Padang), Half-marathon (Start: Sentosa Gateway, End: Padang), 10km (Start: Esplanade Drive, End: Padang)
The registration deadline has been extended to Nov 30. For more information, visit http://www.marathonsingapore.com/.