Prison officers share their passion for running to help inmates stay active

SINGAPORE – Since picking up running about 14 years ago, Singapore Prison Service (SPS) chief warder Amir Hamzah Abdul Razak has progressed from running 5km races to ultramarathons of 200km.

The sport has also helped the once heavy smoker kick the habit and seen the 37-year-old forge stronger bonds with his colleagues such as rehabilitation officer Mustafa Kamal Fasalul Rahman.

Kamal was the one who inspired him to pick up ultramarathon running and over the years, the pair have participated in running events together, including the latest Yellow Ribbon Virtual Run 2021, which has raised over $91,000 so far from donors for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

They completed a 75km route that took them to Singapore’s past prison locations to commemorate the SPS’s 75th anniversary. The full journey took a week to plan and over 11 hours to complete in one night.

While participating in various events, the avid runners have also found ways to engage inmates in their passion for the sport.

Amir often gives tips to inmates running in the yard to improve their form and posture, teaching them simple core training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) techniques to help them avoid getting injured.

One of his most memorable moments was seeing an inmate’s progress over time.

He said: “There was this inmate who would spend his one-hour yard time running around the yard. I shared some running tips, corrected his running posture.

“At that point, HIIT was in trend, but you need to train with a timer, but in prison you don’t have a watch so we go by counting.

“We improvised on how to train and you could see that over time, he improved in his running, his physique and he told me that once he gets released, he wants to run the Yellow Ribbon Run.”

Kamal, who used to be a SPS physical training instructor, helped to organise a vertical marathon for inmates to fulfil the “healthy living” component of the National Youth Achievement Awards this year.

He planned the route for the event and set up a water point. In the lead up to the vertical race, he trained 40 inmate participants, who successfully completed it in half an hour.

The 38-year-old said: “Some of the younger ones had issues running, most of the less fit ones were the younger ones.

“I reminded them that they are still very young, just to get them to run. Because some of the older inmates who run regularly, you can see that their fitness is there so we’re just behind them, pushing them along to make sure that they don’t get injured.

“We had gradual training – we did three sets at first, then after that five sets, before we increased it to seven sets and decreasing the rest time in between and they got better at it.”

Apart from sharing their knowledge of running with inmates, Amir and Kamal have also inspired other colleagues to pick up running.

Amir said: “Running is my passion – it’s something I like to do and when I train someone, I don’t hide anything. I want them to benefit too.

“On top of that, I’m not that elite, I do learn from other runners too.”

Over 5,400 participants have signed up for the Yellow Ribbon Virtual Run, which started on Sept 1 and ends next Thursday. There are two main categories this year – the YR Inspire (any distance) and the YR Challenge (60km) – which have to be completed in the shape of a ribbon.

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