Farhan Ariff – Plus-Size Athlete Breaking Stereotype

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Being a plus-size person, to some people, could cause low self-esteem. However, Farhan Ariff embraces his oversized body, breaks the barriers and tears down the stereotype to be the person he wants to be. Despite carrying merely 220 pounds, he feels entirely confident and nonchalant.

In the athletic sphere, stereotyping is ubiquitous. Athletes with bigger bodies often encounter biased comments and criticisms. However, Farhan chooses to challenge himself and shine his way to multisport events.

GROWING UP

Since young, Farhan had always been an oversized boy. The legal adviser who works in a government agency became an active fitness enthusiast starting at 200 pounds. While the athletic journey has not been an easy path for him, Farhan was determined to not spend much time overthinking and worrying about his body size but work hard to be faster and stronger and to be inspired and proud of himself.

GETTING STARTED 

Farhan got involved with multisports when he realized it was extremely difficult for him to even climb up the staircases. “I decided to do something for a change,” Farhan recalled. A close buddy of him advised him to pick up running, and since then, he has been crazily active since 2012.

Then, it started off from there. Farhan’s debut run was 8km, then the distance slowly grew to 10km, and eventually 21km and 42km. At Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2016, he completed a full marathon within 6 hours. Additionally, he has partaken in trail running events and obstacle races.

“I did a 12km trail race, TMBT (The Most Beautiful Thing) in Sabah, back in 2015. The view was beautiful. If anyone who is on trail running, they should try TMBT. You will be running along The Crocker range, and seeing Mount Kinabalu,” Farhan took us a trip down memory lane. After attempting marathons, he switched from running to cycling.

BREAKING STEREOTYPE

Having exercised for a period of time, Farhan began to feel physically lighter, stronger and more confident. “My body kind of fluctuated. At the peak of my weight, I was 260 pounds and was not fit at all,” said Farhan.

When the body size hit him, he started to be occupied with gym sessions. In essence, Farhan went for an all-rounder approach. “I tried to challenge the stereotype, and do things that people think only smaller people can. That’s why I started cycling, road cycling,” he spoke.

Farhan’s physical condition has been transformed through running and cycling. Through training on how to run and cycle, he has developed confidence and discovered how vigorous he truly is. “Knowing that I am not light, so I have been training hard for that. At my lightest weight, I was still 90kg,” said Farhan.

It is definitely not easy, but Farhan said it is vastly vital to perform conditioning and strength training to enhance that. “I have to balance out everything, I usually do all kinds of workouts,”

INVOLVEMENT IN DUATHLON

In 2016, Farhan participated in Powerman Duathlon, sprint category. That was when he seriously involved in duathlons. This year, he also completed the full distance in Powerman. “It’s about testing my limits. If people can do it, I can too,” 

Apart from tedious training, the biggest challenges, to Farhan, are the unexpected injuries and technical problems. The unfortunate events during a race are getting injured and bicycle not functioning properly. The mess-up!

Currently, Farhan will focus on duathlons to strengthen himself. Gradually, he is targetting on triathlons. “I am finding a swimming coach because Ironman would be a target,” he expressed.

As insane as it sounds, the plus-size athlete trains five days per week. Training for duathlon requires run, cycle, conditioning and brick sessions. Despite training five days per week, Farhan trains according to the intensity.

Athletics have taught him that no barrier is too big. He faces challenges on and off the course and multisports have given him an opportunity to face stumbling blocks. Through sports, Farhan has overcome barriers and torn down stereotypes to toe that line and those obstacles have made him even more resilient and stronger.

“You have trained for it, just do it even though you exceed the cut-off time. Don’t give any care to what people say,” Farhan repeatedly reminds himself.

PARTICIPATION IN SEPANG DUATHLON 2018

In the wee hours of 5th August (Sunday), I drove to Sunsuria City, a new unfamiliar territory in Sepang, Selangor. Upon my arrival, I was puzzled when I was informed that the parking was located almost 1km away from the venue. To be safe, Subuh prayers were conducted at the mosque nearby before proceeding to the venue.

Even at 6.15 am, I was reminded of my non-fondness of Sepang and Putrajaya area’s sweltering heat. I was sweating buckets at the transition area, setting up my bike. Observing around, the carpets at the transition area should have been taped to avoid unforeseen tripping. Additionally, the space was a bit cramped, but on the bright side, security was good.

I noticed one of the most important things missing – the portable toilets. Considering the number of people there and a long line at the available toilet, in my opinion, adequate portable toilets should have been provided. Pre-race jitters with the need to empty bladders before race are no joke.

With the numbers of participants swelling, I saw some of them bringing in families too. A relief for them as there’s a nice air-conditioned showroom with children playpen to accommodate their wives, husbands and children.

The race started at 7.30am. During the run, the weather was cloudy, but the air was still with no winds. It was hot. This could get worse when the sun got higher, speaking from experience. During the first run, the route took us around Xiamen University and a stretch of road leading to the venue. Running route was generally okay, flats and small climbs.

The brand new University bears classic Chinese and Stalinist style of architecture. In the middle of a huge field, a statue of their founder stood to face the main administrative building. Participants had to cross the huge bridge at the middle of the lake, which was a nice part of the route.

Running session 1 was completed and the cycling part began. The road began with a patch of non-paved road, very coarse until the participants entered the main road. Later the road brought me through construction sites and the road condition was terrible with small rocks and debris lying around, not to mention patches of cement. Upon entering the highway and into Sepang town, the road reserved for cyclists was a tad too narrow. To avoid slower cyclists, most of the faster ones had to overtake them by going outside the cones, onto the main road.

Even with narrow roads, the traffic management by the police, however, was superb and well managed. Also visible were a few hills, with the biggest one having lots of cyclists dismounting at the peak of it due to tiredness. After that, it was mostly flats and downhill, but you couldn’t speed much as cars too were sharing the road and some were hogging it, bummer.

The route also brought me cruising along kampungs. Nice and serene, with some stretches of road one could maintain around 30-35 km/h of speed. However, the ending of the cycling route was bad. Passing through renovated stretches of roads with lorries coming in and out, rocks, debris, red soil were crossed over. Passing a huge flyover was also cumbersome as cyclists needed to make a beeline, slowing down and cars too were full on road.

Cyclists with punctured tyres were seen along the way due to the road conditions. Luckily, my Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres held on and treaded superbly amidst the bad roads. Was I racing a Paris Roubaix or Dirty Kanza? Well, that’s where the challenge was. Just pedal through.

There was an extra 4 km of mileage at the cycling route. It was 34.4 kilometres. With the weather getting hotter I transitioned to my second run to which, I was mixing running and walking with my jellylike feet. The weather became hotter with no winds to cool you down. Oh well, I was about done, marched on and finished the race. Hooray. Medal collected, photos taken, refreshments consumed and backed home to rest.

 

That’s a bit about Sunsuria Sepang Duathlon. Truthfully, I would suggest that the cycling route be improvised as some of those roads are not suited to road bikes or newbies in cycling.

Additionally, portable toilets should be provided and the transition area needs to be improvised. I thank the organisers and Cycling Malaysia Magazine for providing me with this fruitful experience and may the next events be more awesome.

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