Running has given Ahmad Nizam an ultra new healthy edge in life since his 110kg days. (Fiz Said)

10 years can mean a lot in life if you live life to the fullest. For father-of-two Ahmad Nizam bin Yunus, his transformation is nothing short of phenomenal, from the moment he donned running shoes.

The 46-year old manager in a multinational oil and gas company was into football during his university days in United Kingdom. As with most people, it took a massive weight gain to trigger Nizam from Ipoh, Perak into rebuilding towards a healthier lifestyle. He now runs a lot, and with his wife too!

ToughASIA: What inspired you to take up running?

Nizam: It all started back in 2011 when I was obese with a 110kg bodyweight and a 42-inch waistline. I was searching for suitable activities to make me healthy. I saw my friend travelling in and out of the country just to compete in running and marathon events. Then, I read about American ultrarunners Scott Jurek and Dean Karnezes running more than the usual 42km full marathon distance in one go. I started to be interested in the ultrarunners lifestyle and its training disciplines.

When I shared my ambition to run a full marathon, I was made fun of – that it would be impossible for me to do it.

In summary, I love challenges. If I can defeat these challenges, it will make me stronger.

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ToughASIA: What keeps you motivated to train now, even when there are no races? 

Nizam: On weekdays, I will be running – as early as 5am for a 10-21km distance. On weekends, I run ultramarathon distances of between 50 to 100km. (SOP permitting)

I will spend one day on a weekend doing a virtual IRONMAN Challenge, or cycling of not less than 100 km in one go (when lockdown SOP permits). The discipline has become my daily habit and I enjoy doing all the activities. Furthermore, I have achieved my target lean body of 71kg with 173cm height, where I feel great and confident when facing the world.

ToughASIA: Where are your favourite running locations? 

Nizam: I love running from Petaling Jaya, Selangor to the heart of Kuala Lumpur, around Putrajaya, trails in Taman Lembah Kiara in Kuala Lumpur and occasionally trails and hills in Penang. For most of these activities, I love to do them alone or in solo manner. Running alone gives me zen and I love it so much.

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In his earlier running days, Nizam just kept putting one foot in front of the other

ToughASIA: What is the most memorable race you have competed in?

Nizam: Gopeng Ultra Trail 100km back in 2019. Running through never ending hills, hot weather, and being in the jungle at night, and overcoming my fears and weaknesses in completing the ultra race. I ran the last 50km distance with painful foot blisters until the finish line.

ToughASIA: What is your proudest moment in running?

Nizam: To be ranked 51 among 3,000 local ultra runners in the 2019 Malaysia Ultra League. I could never have imagined 10 years ago that I would be among the top 100 ultra runners in Malaysia.

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Jubilation for the 51st ranked ultra runner of the Malaysia Ultra League.

ToughASIA: What is the most difficult part about running and how do you overcome it?

Nizam: The first step is always the hardest. You can ask every runner – the first step from your home door is the hardest. After 500 meters, I will always be at ease with my running.

ToughASIA: Are you dabbling in multisports like duathlon and triathlon too?

Nizam: Apart from ultrarunning, I am into duathlon, triathlon and am preparing myself for my first IRONMAN race (hopefully after the MCO is over). I have also done races including Powerman Asia and Kerian Duathlon.

I loves all types of cycling. I cycle a road bike and have joined a series of 160km century ride events. I cycle MTB off-road and gravel bike for my bike-packing adventures – cycling hundred of kilometres with a camping gear and luggages from one place to another. I really love the simple outdoor lifestyle.

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ToughASIA: What keeps you going into 2021 and beyond as a runner?

Nizam: I still continue to run at least 100km per week, cycling more than a hundred kilometres in a day. At the same time, I still maintain my ultrarunning fitness, cycling fitness and am sharpening my swimming techniques. At least, when the MCO is lifted and all races are allowed again, I would be ready there and then.