Walking 200km to welcome 2019 and kick off Singapore's 200th year celebrations

SINGAPORE – Two men are ushering in the New Year in a novel manner.

Last Saturday night (Dec 29), Mr R. Subramaniam and Mr G. Suresh Kumar set out on a 200km walk. They have walked non-stop in a 20km loop around East Coast Park and along the park connectors, forgoing sleep, and taking breaks only for their meals and to go to the toilet.

The endeavour is clearly no walk in the park. Mr Subramaniam and Mr Suresh are the final two of eight walkers who originally embarked on the full 200km route, which begins and ends at East Coast Park. Six dropped out along the way due to fatigue or foot blisters.

Another 140 attempted just part of the distance, either on their own or as part of a team relay effort.

When The Straits Times spoke to Mr Subramaniam and Mr Suresh, both of whom are veteran walkers, they were taking a break for breakfast. They had 40km more to go, and were aiming to finish the walk by 8pm on Monday (Dec 31).

Said Mr Subramaniam, 55: “You tell anyone you’re planning to walk 200km, they’ll tell you you’re crazy.

“(But) being a Singaporean, the bicentennial year is significant. This is the first such long-distance walk to be organised in Singapore, so I’m thankful to be able to join.”

Mr Suresh, 46, is a Malaysian, and both men, who have been friends for over 25 years, race-walk regularly. In preparation for this walk, they joined the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon earlier this month, which they completed in about 5h 40min.

Mr Subramaniam has also represented Singapore in competitions such as the World Masters Athletics Championship in Perth in 2016 and in Daegu, South Korea, the following year. He walks about 150km a week and says he “can walk faster than most can run”. On a regular day, he has no problems walking 5km in 30 minutes or less.

Though the two friends are no stranger to long distance race-walking – earlier this March, they took part in a 210km walk that ran over four days, starting from the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur to Maran, Pahang – the current effort is the first time they are going without designated rest or breaks to sleep.

Mr Subramaniam brought four pairs of shoes and socks to change into along the way, and Mr Suresh has three. But they have not been able to change their footgear since the start of the walk due to severe blisters.

“I’m scared to take off my shoes – I don’t want to see the mess,” said Mr Subramaniam, half in jest.

He added: “It’s also better for us to keep moving. When we sit down for a long time, the aches and cramps start to come.”

Said Mr Suresh, a clerk: “Though I’m from Malaysia, I’m very happy and honoured to be a part of Singapore’s bicentennial history.

“We haven’t slept since Saturday, so we may be ‘counting down early’ tonight,” he joked.

The walk was jointly organised by the Geylang Serai Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Singapore Masters Athletics (SMA), Geylang Serai Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, and supported by the National Parks Board.

Said Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef, who came up with the idea of the bicentennial walk: “We wanted to be inclusive – people living in private estates and HDBs joined – and we also managed to attract quite a number of mature walkers. That is a good analogy for Singapore’s resilience over the years.”

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