Covid-19 did not stop five veteran athletes from creating a new Singapore walking record.
R. Subramaniam, 57, R. Tanaball, 68, Jeyakumar Dharmalingam, 64, K.S. Rajanthran, 57 and Perumal Thurairajoo, 58 completed a 100km relay walk from Changi to Tuas in 13 hours and four minutes on Sept 20.
Their effort earned them a place in the Singapore Book of Records for the fastest "5 x 20km" walk.
Said Mr Ong Eng Huat, president of the Singapore Book of Records, after presenting the five with the achievement certificates: "While many people indulge in casual walks, the unique thing about them is that they are competitive race walkers.
"The time that they took to complete the 100km is quite amazing as they are in their fifties and sixties."
All five have known each other for more than four decades. They grew up with a passion for athletics and have represented Singapore in various international walking competitions.
They are also members of the Swift Athletes Association, which is made up of former athletes who volunteer their time in organising events, coaching athletes and participating in veterans' athletic events.
Balancing their work and family commitments, the five have maintained high levels of professionalism by training regularly and being committed to the sport.
They started preparing for the feat from the beginning of this year and met twice a week to train and walk for distances up to 30km.
This helped them confidently start their relay walk at Punggol Park in the late afternoon on Sept 19 and finish at Gilstead Road at 5.04am the next day.
Each walker covered 20km and had to adhere to traffic rules as they walked past the heartlands, the central business district and industrial areas.
According to Singapore Book of Records officials, their pace was twice that of an average person's.
"We could have completed the race earlier if not for the waiting time for traffic signals at road junctions," said Subramaniam, who already had two Singapore walking records to his name.
In February he completed the "Longest walk around Singapore" by covering 103.6km in 18 hours and 47 minutes and last month set the record for the most number of steps (501,370) walked in 10 days.
Covid-19 saw the cancellation of walking races in Singapore and across the globe. But the five veteran walkers were determined to maintain their fitness and create a record in the process.
"The oldest in our group is Mr Tanaball," said Subramaniam, a property agent who along with Jeyakumar and Rajanthran won the 10km walk (team event) gold at the 2017 World Masters Athletics competition in Daegu, South Korea. "He was our coach during our youth. We still address him as coach and are happy to achieve this record along with him."
Tanaball, who represented Singapore in the 20km walk at the 1979 SEA Games in Jakarta, joined the group to motivate the others.
Jeyakumar, a principal technical officer with SP Group, said age is not a barrier to "what one can do and achieve".
Two years ago, he suffered a back injury after a fall in Australia and was unable to participate in strenuous sports activities for a year.
At the end of last year, after getting medical clearance, he started his walking activities again.