Somewhere between 1987 and 1990, out of 5 very important half - marathon races ever run in Malaysia, I ran and competed in two races in Malaysia against Murusamy Ramachandran or better known as M. Ramachandran, the Malaysian greatest long distance runner ever.

Running SAA Cross Country Race and then Sunday's Kuala Lumpur Half -Marathon 
Between the period mentioned, I won and came in first in the SAA Cross Country Championships, Immediately, after receiving the prize, I had to leave for Malaysia from Singapore to run in the KL Half - Marathon. Mr Chan Meng Hui, a vateran race organiser and an avid runner himself did all the travel and hotel arrangements. The journey to Kuala Lumpur took between 6 and 8 hours. My hotel room-mate was known as Ng Kuan, a MR25 runner. The next day, I felt good to run the race there, although my legs were feeling a little sore from the Saturday Cross-Country race and the long travel, where it is hard to straighten the leg. It was my first day meeting with a great personality like M. Ramachandran. 

Start of the KL Half-Marathon Race
At the start of the race, I remember running as a big group and the group was going very fast and I had to tag on to them or I will be left far behind. I used to have a lot of respect for Malaysian runners as they usually win the 1500m, 5000m and 10000m races in the SEA Games, at that time. Here I was competing with a 1500m gold medalist of SEA Games, whose name I have forgotton. The next person that I was competing against was with M. Ramachandran. There was also a Malay runner who was the fastest Malay runner amongst all Malaysians. People revere this Malay runner. I was told that he could represent Malaysian but he just run races only in Malaysia.

During the race, I tried all my best to cling to these runners. There were several sting of pace pushing by this Malay runner. From a big group of about 12, over time, the group dwindled from 8 to 6 to 4 runners. I was fortunate to be not oust by the severe sting that this Malay runner was giving us. However, I saw the fluid and ease of running by M. Ramachandran and that made me wonder whether he was tired or not. He seemed like sitting and waiting for the knockout that he might give any time. From the 10km mark, it was the four of us running as a group. The pace was easier to follow as compared the first few kilometres. Over time, the Malay top runner was not able to shake off the three of us. I was surprised that I have gone past all the runners except for the three runners. That made me at ease. 

Last Two Kilometres of KL Half-Marathon Race

As we reached the last two kilometres mark, I saw the surprising surge of M. Ramachandran to give everyone the final knockout. Pursuing him was the 1500m gold medalist for SEA Games. Both runners started to pull the pace further and further from us. Their speed was phenomenal such that the Malay runner and I were just keep running and watching, not having the ability to close up. I told myself to do my best to close up, even though I was seeing the gap becoming bigger. Finally, at the finish, M. Ramachandran did a time of 1hr 12 min plus with the 1500m SEA Games runner doing the same time but few seconds slower. My time was a big personal best of 1hr 14min for that time. Why I was very happy after the race was because the distance was measured by AIMS, an international organisation that certifies the route's distance. Hence, I believe this is very accurate distance. The Malay runner came in third and I came in forth. 

Trengganu Half- Marathon (1990) Aims Certified Route
My most memorable Half - Marathon race ever.

Few years later, after doing 15min 31sec for the Singapore Open, I ran the Trengganu Half - Marathon. I did a time of 1hr 10min 52 sec coming in 7th overall. I realised that I had beaten all the Malaysians in the race except M. Ramachandran. M. Ramachandran did a time of 1hr 6min 59sec, beating a top Kenyan runner. He came in first to take the M10000 ringgit worth of cash. That race, I believe, was a phenomenal run as many expected the Kenyan top runner to win. In a hot and humid weather like Malaysia, M. Ramachandran could do a fantastic time like that. The race was also AIMS certified. Even though, I have run Johor Half - marathon in 1hr 07min coming in second, I feel that that race was not AIMS certified. Hence, I was not happy about this although I had a very good personal best of 1hr 07min in Johore Half - marathon. It was a very memorable day for me. It seems that that race was also the best time M. Ramachandran had ever done. 

M. Ramachandran - The Invincible 

In my life, I have never seen M. Ramachandran getting defeated in races. He was invincible. M. Ramachandran had always proven that there is no such thing as impossible and he is a symbol of invincibility. He is also a true inspiration for me as an athlete and I used to look up to him in awe. He is a very silent person and he talks less. M. Ramachandran shows by performance. He doesn't put down anyone and is a very simple person where person can easily talk to him. The great thing about M. Ramachandran is that he is not puffed up with pride. Always he remain humble. Humility was his trademark. Hence, let us find out about this interesting and great personality called M. Ramachandran.

I shall discuss M. Ramachandran interview in three parts. 

An Interview with Ramachandran Murusamy

What is your age and on which year were you born?
Right now I am 44 years old. I was born on 9th April 1966. 

Why did you take up running?
I took up running through my own Interest. I was very interested in running.

Can you share with us your personal best for various middle to long distance events?

My Personal Best Timing for Various Distances

 800m        - 1:53.14 (1993)
1500m      - 3:51.70 (1993)
3000m      - 8:15.17 (1994)
5000m      - 14:06.84 (1994)
10km        - 29:30.19 (1994)
10km        - 29:05.11 (1993)
Half Mara - 1hr 06.57
25km        - 1hr 17min.55 (1990)
Marathon  - I did not run any marathon race.

What is the Malaysian marathon record, currently?
The Malaysia marathon record time is 2hrs 26m.

What do you think about marathon races? Does that interest you?
I do not prefer to run marathon races.

Who motivated you to run?
My parents and family members motivated me to run.

Can you tell me exactly at which age did you take up running?
Since 15 year old, I took up running seriously.

Which are the events that you are still holding the Malaysian National Record?
At present, I am still the current Malaysia National Record holder for 5000m and 10000m for the track races.

Are you still holding any SEA Games Record? Can you say where and when did you do it?
I am still the current SEA Games Record holder 5000m with a time of 14:08.97 (1993) and I did this performance in Singapore.

How many medal have you won in the SEA Games so far? Can you tell me how many of them are gold?
In total, I have won 10 medals, of which the first two were 2 silver medals that I had won in the 1987 SEA Games, in my 1st SEA Games performance. I won another 8 GOLD Medals in SEA Games from 1993 to 1999. In each and every SEA Games, I kept winning 2 golds, both in 5000m and 10000m as well.

M. Ramachandran - Secret of success for running and his story
I realised that in the earlier interview of M. Ramachandran, the answers given were short, sharp and simple. When I discussed this with Rama, he decided to give more details as to how he had groomed himself to be an elite runner who brought 8 golds and 2 silver medals to Malaysia in the SEA GAMES. Here, he gives some sound advice that will be helpful for the young developing athletes. I hope you enjoy reading. Over time, I am in fact thinking of writing a detailed story on his background and the stories that had made him the greatest long distance runner in South East Asia. Having seen him run in the past, I have never seen him losing races but only winning. Let us look at the training secrets that made him to be the number one in Malaysian in the past. 

Are you married and do you have children?

I am married to my wife S.Chitra. My children names are Vikneshwaran (9 years old) and Kirrthana (5 years old). I decided to quit competitive running in 1999 and a year later I was married to Chitra.

How is you wife's support in running?

Chitra gives me good support to run and compete. At present, she is supportive to me in coaching as I have a new passion of developing the young ones to excel in this sport.

Can you tell us about the past when you were young and on how you were developed to an elite runner?

Many are surprised of me as I am an asthmatic patient and suffered terribly between age 6 and 10. When I was 10 to 12 years old, I was more of a footballer in school and playing football, earlier on, gave me confidence to involve in athletics. I also realized that I had good speed. Later on, I started training for 400metres and eventually stopped playing football. Mr Shahrom Suhaimi, his school teacher identified me as a potential runner and advised me to ride cycle to school, which was 10km away, so as to improve his endurance. Later on, I started training for 800meters. At 15, I represented my school in inter-district championship in 800metres and 1500metres races. However, I only managed to win silver medals and not gold. At age of 16, I finally succeeded in getting gold medal in district and state level.

How was your parental support in running in the past ?

My father by the name of Murusamy was a great and constant support for me. He did not miss any of my running events in Singapore while he was working in Singapore since I was a 7 year old. My father was very supportive towards my running to the point that he ensured that he collects each and every article or news in paper and records every of my event. My mother, S.Muniammal, would always bless me before any event by giving me a 10cent coin. Upon receiving the blessed 10 cent coin from my mother, immediately and straightaway, I do not feel worried about the outcome of the race. The first race that my mother watched was the 1993 Singapore SEA GAMES with my whole family and relatives. In fact, my mother's sitting photo was splashed in all major newspapers when I won both the SEA games gold medal in 5000m and 10000m event. My continuous motivation to do well in sports is because of God . 

What do you do now as you are not racing competitively?

I still take part in road races and track events and it is only at interbank level. However, I still keep myself fit by running between 10 and 15 km daily. At the same time I coach Malacca long distance runners for the Malaysian Sukma Games. The events I coach are 800m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 10000m athletes. I am right now developing a runner by the name of J.Karthik, aged 21, who is currently ranked among the top runners in the country for 3000M steeplechase event. Another national athlete who is at present one of the top three in the country for the events 5000M and 10000M is T.Narendran who is also 21 years old. 

As for coaching, I didn’t undergo formal training. My experiences were my formal training since I had myself experimented with each and every tactics. I learned this by training through the years in Panchor Oil Palm estate. Throughout my personal training, I had been vigilantly keeping records of my timings, exercises, trainings and so on to ensure success using my first hand experience. I design training programs according to each individual's taste, strengths and weaknesses.  The one advantage I have with the athlete is my successes of the past and the athletes know that my words have something in it to believe.

Have you trained in altitude?

Unlike some long distance runners, I have never trained in high altitude since I do not believe that training under high altitudes would bring dramatic changes. 

Who was your coach and did you do any form of self-training to improve in running?

Earlier on, I used to coach myself most of the time since I trained alone. But once I joined centralized training in Kuala Lumpur I was coached by my personal coach by the name of Jeganathan. He was coaching me since 1987 until I had to quit competitive running. I felt at home with Mr R Jeganathan who took special interest in my progress and my coach was even willing to use his own expenses to watch my performance in the overseas. 

I used to record my progress daily and in detail. As for my coach, he plans training schedule for me. Anyway, I will give feedback to my coach about the next trg program in order to ensure that the schedule suits me  and the coach will alter the program to suit my needs. 

Were you doing strengthening training when you were doing well in running?

I was doing strengthening training usually twice a week. I do circuit training and hill running for strength training. I did not do any form of gym work out even while running in national and international games.

Who was your biggest opponent in the past?

My biggest opponent in a race is non other than my own self. Before any event, I see my present time as the greatest challenge to beat. I do not care who I have to fight with or from which country the opponent was from. For me, my own opponent and target to beat was my own timing in order to become the greatest long distance runner in Malaysia. I believe in beating myself as the challenge. Even though the person who is about to get second is so far behind, my intention is still to race as faster to beat my ownself.

What advice would you give to young athletes in order to become champions?

For young athletes, my advice is simple. Don’t search for excuses when you fail. Find the reason how you could have succeeded. I was an asthma patient, but I excelled in long distance. I got my inspiration from Swami Vivekananda”s words, “Arise…Awake…Stop Not Till Your Mission is Achieved”. If young athletes persevere till their mission is achieved, success will take place. Furthermore, never under any circumstances miss any of your training. In all these years, I have hardly missed any training myself. Even when I travel overseas, I program my training in such a way that I could train somewhere on the way during stops.

I feel that athletes must be more focused in training and be disciplined and independent, whether being watched by coach or not. Even in overseas, one should be empowered to train alone and not to miss their own target. One should be ready for any type of meet or challenges if the time comes..any time should be the watchword of young athletes. 

What work are you doing as a career? How was your company supportive in this endeavour?

I worked as an officer in MAYBANK . My employer gave me full support since the day I joined MayBank in 1987 until now. Without their support, it would have been impossible for me to concentrate in the training because they give me time off during off session and gave me full pay leave during competition time. I do not have to go to work until 1993 and I just concentrated on SEA GAMES. I have my deep gratitude and appreciation for the generosity of Maybank in granting me leave from training. Even now, after quitting sports, Maybank still supports me by giving me leave to coach athletes. This, I feel, is one way Maybank could show their dedicating and contribution my passion which is running. However, I still feel that it is difficult to juggle coaching with job. As such, I prefer to work in the bank and do coaching on a part time basis only.

Which race was your toughest race to date?

My toughest race was the 1993 World Athletic Championships because I had to run with many world class runner.

Who was your toughest competitors in the past?

1. The toughest competitor was runners from Indonesia and Myanmar while I was competing in the SEA GAMES.

2. In the ASIAN Level athletes from Qatar and Saudi Arabia were the toughest competitiors

3. In the Commonwealth and World Meet, athletes from Ethopia and Kenya were the greatest competitors

Why did you finally stop running?

I finally decided to stop running completely because I wanted to give way to young athlete to take part in long distance event. However, the sad thing now is our country is we are not able to bring out runners who excel in 5000m and 10000m yet.