In this new series, Danamic features people from different walks of life to find out more about how they have been coping since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the shores of Singapore.
Para-athlete Shariff Abdullah has overcame 29 full marathons, conquered 5 ultra-marathons and given motivational talks for 12 years but even he was left feeling rather downcast when the circuit breaker measures first kicked in.
Speaking to Danamic over the phone, the 51-year-old confessed: “Even as a motivational speaker myself, we are not perfect. This lockdown situation has affected me as well and at the start I did feel down and weak. I was lacking in motivation to do anything and there was also a feeling of wanting to give up.”
Known affectionally in the running community as the “Blade Runner”, Shariff, like many others, has been affected by the Covid-19 situation, with his monthly income taking a huge hit. His full-time job in the security industry was thrown into jeopardy when the security course that he was undertaking got postponed due to the circuit breaker. As there were new rules requiring security personnel to possess that particular security course certification, Shariff has been unable to take on any security-related jobs while waiting to complete his course.
Similarly, his regular motivational talks for both corporates and schools in Singapore and Malaysia have all been postponed to next year. His love for running marathons has also been forced to take a backseat, with the cancellation of all events.
“I had so many invitations to run, especially this year but they have all been affected. There were even six invitations from Malaysia but now it’s not possible to go,’ he lamented.
However, despite these setbacks, Shariff has chosen to remain positive and continue his regular workout routines both in the confines of his flat as well as under his void-deck.
“This Covid-19 pandemic has affected my exercise routine as I would usually go to the stadiums for my training. But because of this, I have to train indoors more and even when I train outside under my void-deck, I will have to put on my mask and it can be uncomfortable. But I still make it a point to exercise everyday as it is something that keeps me positive and gives me something to do during this period,” explained Shariff.
“It’s not about challenging someone else but more about keeping yourself healthy, fit and strong. There are plenty of people falling sick nowadays and by exercising, it helps your immunity as well as your mindset.”
Beyond keeping up with his structured exercise routines, the man who once ran a marathon in the freezing conditions of the North Pole has also used his newly found free time to rethink his career options.
“Because of this situation, I have started to think more about my career. I have been in the security line for a long time but I feel that perhaps it’s time to change and upgrade myself,” Shariff shared.
“That’s why I have decided to take up a sports course after the circuit breaker to become a gym instructor or athlete coach. Sports has been part of me since I started in 2009 and I have learnt so much from my experiences so I thought why not I try to educate others as well.”
While the pandemic has undoubtedly been distressing for everyone, some positives have still emerged during these dark times and Shariff has had a first-hand experience of some of them.
“I have noticed several good things that have occurred as a result of this circuit breaker. For one, it has brought my family closer together,” he revealed.
“We have had many more opportunities to eat together. My daughter is saying that she is now able to see my face every day as compared to the past where I would often be going overseas for runs.
“Also, people are focusing more on using social media and video applications to connect with each other. I have managed to pick up the use of such technology and started to post more of my exercise videos online to motivate others as well. That’s why I feel thankful for this technology during this period if not things will be much harder.”
As someone who has had to overcome a great deal of adversity both physically and mentally in the past, Shariff knows all too well about what it feels to be lost and helpless. And this was why he has some advice for people who are struggling with mental health during this trying period.
“For people struggling, I would tell them not to give up. Keep pushing yourself. There’s always hope and stay positive,” he shared.
“Perhaps you can find your way by listening to motivational videos on Youtube. But for those without access to the internet like the senior citizens, maybe just put on your mask and go for brisk walks once a while to clear your mind and all the tension that you are feeling.
“This Covid-19 situation is just like running our own marathons where we will face some challenges along the way. But as long as we don’t give up and fight, we will be able to cross the finish line together.”
Photos courtesy of Shariff Abdullah