By Chan Hui Mui/Red Sports
The Singapore Blade Runner Mohd Shariff completing the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in 2009. (Photo courtesy of Mohd Shariff)
Born without a left foot, Mohd Shariff, 42, is the first runner in Singapore who runs on blades and he has named himself the “Singapore Blade Runner”. Inspired by the World Double Amputee Runner Oscar Pistorius, Mohd Shariff picked up running early last year and has completed an incredible 157km worth of races. This is his story.
Red Sports: Tell us about your background.
Mohd Shariff: Life was not easy for me. During my younger days, people around will laugh (at my appearance) and at times they called me all kinds of names. However, I have to accept it and be strong.
I went to Rosty, Yio Chu Kang, Labrador and Changkat Changi Primary School. I did not study well after my father and foster mother passed away. The life that I was going through was like hell. I kept changing schools and moving from house to house. No one wanted to take care of me because I am a handicap and they called me “bad luck”.
When I met up with my real mother, who left me when I was a baby, things got worse. I was forced to stop school, and I had to help my step brother to sell “nasi lemak” in the kampong due to our financial situation. I still remembered some people saying that when I got married, my children will also be handicapped. Now, I am married with three grown up children, and they have been doing well for the past 17 years. Thank God!
What is your current occupation?
I am a full-time athlete with The North Face Singapore, and also a freelance Motivational Speaker who talks about the success of “an amputee runner”.
Could you share with us your medical history?
I was born without a left foot and at the age of six, I started wearing a prosthetic leg. In August 2008 while I was working, I felt pain at the stump area and doctor said that there was a skin infection. I needed to amputate five inches of my leg. I started to wear a prosthetic leg again only after three months of recovery.
Before picking up running, what are the sports that you were involved in?
During my younger days, I used to do kayaking and tracking. In April 2009, I won my first gold medal for javelin at the National Track and Field Championship organised by the Singapore Disability Sports Council.
When did you start running?
Hahaha! Just one year and two months ago and I could not believe it.
Why did you pick up running? Anyone who inspired you?
It’s a passion and I want to inspire everyone to join sports to keep fit and strong. I have a running mentor who is motivated and I am inspired by him. World Double Amputee Runner Oscar Pistorius inspired me to pick up running.
What was your first race? Why did you pick that race?
The Great Charity and Sunset Run. I was just testing out on the run, so the official one would be the Saucony Passion Run where I noticed I had the potential to run. I then started to order the flex-run leg.
What are the events that you have completed?
I cannot believe that I have completed 157km worth of races in 2009! From the Great Charity Run, Sunset Run, Saucony Passion Run, Army Half Marathon, The North Face 100, New Balances Real Run, Penang Bridge International Marathon and Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.
What do you enjoy most in a race?
I get to see all sorts of runner’s attitude and of course, the route.
What is the most memorable race and why?
The Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2010, I was running the full marathon. At around the 18km mark, my good leg was attacked by cold muscle cramp and I have to walk and run to the finishing line. I finished in approximately six hours and two minutes, where I collapsed and cried due to the sharp pain. The moment inspired many runners and supporters, and I am really touched.
What is your longest distance race? Adidas Sundown 84km Ultramarathon?
Yes, I did the Sundown Ultramarathon. However, at the 68km mark, my spine was injured and did not want to force myself for another 16km. With the advice from the medic, I had no choice but to stop. I felt disappointed to give up after months of training. But nevertheless, I will be back in 2011!
What goes through your mind when you race?
All ideas will come out. For example, you will be reminded that you need to attend a meeting, and you get an idea on what or how to plan for the meeting. Or things like, the mind will start to push you to complete the run.
What is your training like?
I train six days a week with weekly mileage up to 200km.
What is next for you?
Big plans ahead. In 2011, I wish to run in the Sahara Desert Race where I will be running 250km for seven days. In 2015, my team and I will conquer Mount Everest.
What do you hope to achieve in 10 years time?
I want to be a running coach for able bodied and athletes with disabilities.
What do your friends/family think of your hobby?
My family and friends has been supporting me all the way and they know I can achieve more goals ahead.
How do you balance your hobby and other commitments (work, family)?
I have a schedule for my training and races. During my rest day, I will spend more time with my family and if there is no talk, I will normally cook, and do housework or fetch my younger daughter back from school.
Anything you would like to share with our readers on Red Sports?
Keep going and always believe in yourself to achieve.
Mohd Shariff crossing the finishing line in one of his races. (Photo courtesy of Mohd Shariff)