Oct 5, 2015

Arif's running secret to happiness

Life is all about the journey. Most have a great career, have a family and retire happy.

But for Dato' Mohamad Arif Abdullah, a father and civil engineer, his life is all about getting up at 5am, lacing up his running shoes, grabbing his water bottle and hitting the road before breakfast.

Because Arif is an avid marathon runner, what began as a hobby, has evolved into an indispensable part of his life. And because of his zeal and advocacy of a sporting lifestyle, it is no wonder that he gives the National Sports Day initiative big thumbs up.

"I first heard about it (National Sports Day) when reports of the 2015 Standard Chartered KL Marathon wanted to be postponed from Oct 4 to Oct 10 to coincide with the National Sports Day," said Arif.

"Nevertheless, it is a great move, and a good initiative from the government agencies involved."

Arif believes National Sports Day has come at the right time, especially since the level of healthy living among Malaysians is subpar to say the least.

"You cannot run away from the fact that our lifestyle is centered on technology, and that is affecting the general population. Even the attention on sporting events in schools is not good enough. It is a huge concern, so National Sports Day came at the right time.

"However, National Sports Day must focus on sending a message to Malaysia in its inaugural year. It must shout out 'Hey, we need to start moving now, get active and get out there!’.”

“In the following years, National Sports Day should evolve from a one-day event into something bigger. We are talking about multi-day events, or even a one-week programme. From next year onwards, it should be taking things to the next level.

"And National Sports Day alone will not be enough. It must be the starting point for more and more events like this to sprout all year round. The message needs to be passed on," Arif explained.

Arif, 49, will be taking on a huge task himself in just under two weeks, as he will head to Germany to race in the grueling Berlin Marathon on September 27, hoping to beat his personal best record there. Once successfully completed, it would be Arif's third major marathon after London and Tokyo respectively.

"Berlin will be the last of the three major marathons I will have completed. In addition, I am trying to break my personal best, and if I am going to achieve that, it will have to be ... no, it has to be in Berlin, where it is famous for world records," Arif added.

The Berlin Marathon has seen 10 world records broken since its inception, with three of those feats achieved in the last four years.

"The biggest challenge will always be the last couple of kilometers when there is absolutely nothing left in you. It will just be your mind telling you to carry on, one step at a time, while praying hard that you do not have cramps," he said with a chuckle.

Given his clear determination and passion for running, it was a little surprising that Arif only turned to an active lifestyle when he started working back in 1990.

"I was horrible at sports when I was young. But when I started working, at some point it made logical sense. You have a career, family and other things in life – you need something to balance out your world, and blow off some steam. For me it is running.

"Running, what I also consider as my 'me time', helps me stay focused and be optimistic about things. To top it off, there is no better feeling than when completing a run. In fact once I was introduced to races in 2008, I caught the bug and never looked back."

On the one advice he would give to anyone looking to start running, Arif only has three words: "Join a race. Join one, and leave the details of the run on your table. Psychologically, the fact you have joined means that you will think about it, and you will start to go out and walk and eventually run.”

So where will Arif be on Oct 10 when Malaysians are out there celebrating National Sports Day?

"I have not decided yet," he said, smiling. "But I will definitely take my family out for a great time."

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