When 36-year-old Mr Chin Wei Chong chose to run 250km across the Sahara Desert for charity, many did not know that he was indeed gambling with his life. The marketing communications director was diagnosed with a heart murmur last year and doctors had initially refused to approve his participation in the six-day race.
On the other hand, his buddy and fellow runner, 35-year-old Mr Ian Lye has his own set of challenges too. He has to juggle between work, studying for his part-time Masters programme and a strict training regimen consisting of a weekly mileage of 120km over four to five runs each week.
It was therefore not surprising that support from both families were initially minimal.
This changed, however as the runners made a continued dedication to train for the Marathon des Sables (MdS), a world-famous race started in 1986 by Frenchman Patrick Bauer. To convince his wife further, Mr Chin even underwent Electrocardiogram (ECG) and treadmill tests in Singapore, eventually obtaining the go ahead by French doctors who analysed him.
Nonetheless, beneath all the trials and tribulations that continue to test their will lies the duo’s biggest drive to run a blazing run – to help animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) build a new shelter for jilted dogs, a cause especially dear to Mr Lye.
“The work of SOSD, in particular, has been a cause that is deeply personal to me, as I adopted one of the first dogs rescued by SOSD in December 2011. He is called Christmas because he was rescued on Christmas Day in Punggol,” Mr Lye told Vulcan Post.
“The work they do is indeed admirable, but the struggle for the resources necessary to do it is a constant uphill one. I felt that fundraising through this race would be one way to help Dr Siew and his team achieve their dream of building a new shelter for their dogs when their lease expires soon,” added Mr Lye.
With the help of netizens, Mr Chin and Mr Lye, who both met each other while serving for the Republic of Singapore Navy more than 10 years ago, hope to make this ultra-race a success. A crowdfunding project hosted on Geofundit is currently open to raise funds for SOSD’s new shelter.
The project has raised more than S$7,000 as of today, a “somewhat decent and encouraging” progress but an amount still far of its targeted S$100,000. The team has about slightly more than a month – 35 days to be exact- to reach the goal.
This is not the first time SOSD has utilised crowdfunding in its charity drives. Late last year, the group raised S$53,600 via the same platform for its inaugural flag day. The gross total amount collected, including revenue earned offline, was S$138,424.77.
Conquering the MdS requires not only sheer grit, but also a robust, almost superman-like mentality. In an exclusive online interview with Vulcan Post, Mr Chin revealed his team’s strategy to take on the Sahara, a boundless desert with annual temperatures averaging at 30 degrees Celsius.
“Our plan is to run 1 km at a time! Keep ourselves hydrated, get the necessary nutrients. Rest well at night. Most of all, its mental. I think we need a positive mindset to conquer little milestones one day at a time to reach the finishing line,” Mr Chin quipped.
Mr Lye shared similar sentiments, saying the duo would “try not to think of the vast distances that lie ahead, but instead focus on conquering little mental milestones along the way each day”.
Besides training with a backpack that weighs between 7-10 kg prior to the MdS, the running duo have been participating in other marathons, including the Sundown Ultramarathon 100km in September last year.
More than just raising funds for SOSD’s new shelter, both Mr Lye and Mr Chin hope that their effort would also increase awareness among Singaporeans about the plight of street dogs in the country.
“Too often the dogs’ plights are overlooked, and the street dogs themselves are viewed as a nuisance or worse. By raising awareness on this issue, hopefully this will change the attitudes of Singaporeans toward street dogs, eventually leading to an integration and wider acceptance of mongrels in our society,” Mr Lye said.
Mr Chin added: “I hope my two little ones will be inspired to achieve good things in life. With determination, passion and hard work, the sky’s the limit for the boys. The future’s bright for them and I hope they will grow up to be responsible young men, taking pride in everything they do and also having the compassion to give back to the less fortunate, be kind to animals and be responsible citizens.”
You can help support Mr Chin and Mr Lye by donating on SOSD’s Geofundit page.
Featured image credit: Dr Chiew of SOSD