The Olympic Spirit: Running this Race Called Life
Full-time athlete Shariff Abdullah, better known as the Singapore Blade Runner, trains six days a week and rests on Sundays. "People ask me, 'why don't I stop all this and get a proper job?' but I know that I won't be happy if I were to do something I don't enjoy," he said. "Life is short, I want to make the most out of it." PHOTO: CALVIN YANG
When he broke off with his then-girlfriend more than twenty years ago, Mohammad Shariff Abdullah knew of only one solution to his problem - suicide.
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"The breakup was not easy for me to go through. I remembered thinking, 'I am disabled and I cannot get a proper job, and now, my girlfriend has left me. What else can I look forward to in life?'" said Shariff, who was born without a left foot and has been wearing a prosthetic leg since he was five.
As he stood at the edge of the second floor of Paradiz Centre along Selegie Road, he called his then-girlfriend to bade goodbye before taking his supposed last step.
"I thought that it was the end," he said, recalling of the events that led up to the attempt to end his life. "But I didn't know there was a net below and it broke my fall. Maybe God had other plans for me."
He sustained some injuries after falling to the ground and was immediately taken to the nearby Singapore General Hospital.
"When I was at the hospital, the doctor knew what had happened and warned me, 'If you are going to do this again, I am going to put you in IMH (Institute of Mental Health) and charge you in court. I will let you go this time,'" he said.
44-year-old Shariff owns two prosthetic legs - a standard walking leg and a trekking leg - and two running blades - a Ossur flex-run artificial limb and a Sahara prosthetic blade. Both running blades cost an average of S$6,000 each and annual maintenance amount to S$4,000. PHOTO: CALVIN YANG
However, the episode was not the only difficult period in his life. Growing up, Shariff faced many other obstacles.
"Life was not easy. I remembered being called names like 'bad luck' when I was a child," said the 44-year-old, who switched between four primary schools in six years. "When I was a teenager, it was difficult getting a proper job." The full-time athlete and freelance motivational speaker was once a private investigator, cleaning supervisor, disco bouncer, bodyguard and security specialist.
For most of the jobs, he kept his disability a secret as he feared rejection if his employers knew of his handicap. "If I were to tell people about it, I know I won't be able to get a job or get a flat," he explained. "I wore long pants so that no one knew of my disability."
For the marathon enthusiast, running helps him in many different ways. "Running allows me to solve a lot of problems," he said. "Besides helping me to clear my thoughts, it also creates awareness that disabled people can also do any kind of sport." PHOTO: CALVIN YANG