Just when you think you're tough enough


Saddam Pittli: Unearthing an Obstacle Course Racing Champion

Saddam Pittli (center) won the Beast category at Spartan Race Iskandar Puteri in Johor recently. (Spartan Race Malaysia)

If your mum ever told you that you’d never be a champion of playing in the mud and jumping over obstacles, you can tell her she was dead wrong now.

Just in Spartan Races all over the globe now, 1.3 million people are taking to jumping over wooden walls, scaling nets strung 3 meters high, pretending to be construction workers by flipping huge tyres and carrying 35kg buckets filled with stones. And, some are even made champions out of this new sport known as Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), namely our very own homegrown Mohamad Saddam Mohamad Pittli.

Popularly known as Saddam, he might look skinny, but make no mistake, he is strong. He’s known to overtake his rivals while running with a bucket filled with 35kg of stones! The army Corporal based in Kuala Lumpur (KL) won the Beast category racing as an Elite at the Spartan Race held in Iskandar Puteri, Johor over the weekend. That’s a speedy 21km with 30 obstacles in 1 hour and 48 minutes!

Saddam won the first ever Spartan Race he participated, in the Beast category no less! (Facebook/SaddamPittli)

Racing 21km over 30 obstacles in rough terrain, Saddam was going to run this as part of his training but his competitive ‘Beast’ mode kicked in when he met international athletes from the United States, Germany and others at the event. He decided to lay down the gauntlet and not to let them rule on his home ground.

Midway through race, as soon as he saw an American athlete started to tire at the Bucket Carry, Saddam siezed the chance to overtake him. Never looking back, he went on win with a comfortable margin. Proudly maintaining his zero-burpees streak in the last few races, he didn’t have to do any burpees in this one too as he didn’t fail any of the 30 obstacles and thus avoided penalties.

Another championship in the bag, winning the South East Asia Regional Series in the Philippines this year. (Facebook/SaddamPittli)

How does one train to be a ‘construction worker’ without actually being one? The Perak-born hailing from Teluk Intan carries weights on his treadmill runs to simulate Bucket Carry and Sandbags, his favourite obstacles. Besides that, he practices on obstacles provided at his army training camp and sharpens his running speed on tracks around KL and Selangor. But basically, he also uses any playgrounds as his training ground especially if they have monkey bars.

Depending on the terrain of the race, Saddam chooses between regular running shoes, and trail running shoes for muddy, more demanding turf. He uses the Suunto 9 GPS running watch, but has stopped wearing gloves after a slippery Twister obstacle course incident that caused him to slip.

Prior to OCR, Saddam was actively running in track and road races. He seems to be a jack of all trades yet master of them too, as he entered and won a CrossFit competition as well. In looking for a sport which required upper and lower body strength plus endurance, Saddam came across Spartan Race which then entered Malaysia in 2016. He raced the Beast, known as the toughest race of Spartan Race back then and won the elite category on his first attempt.

AROO! (Facebook/SaddamPittli)

Over the next few races, Saddam received a sponsorship offer, and has travelled to compete in the Spartan Race World Championships in US twice in 2017 and 2018, in addition to other races in Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines and Singapore. He ticked yet another box by winning the Spartan SEA Regional Series this year. Always aiming to improve, Saddam’s vision for 2020 includes Top 50 ranking in the world, and to qualify for the World Championships yet again.

Another regional competition that catches Saddam’s eyes is the Philippines SEA Games next month, where OCR will be contended for the first time. Saddam will be competing in the individual 5km race with 20 obstacles and in the team 4x400m event. Bouyed by winning the Gold at Asian OCR Games 2019 in Philippines last July, he is confident to repeat his success at the games.