The most touching moment for him in a marathon is not when he crosses the finish line or receives a medal, but to have someone accompanying him throughout the race until he finishes it.
That someone is his dear wife.
Fung Kam-hung, a former Physical Education teacher, had a part of his leg amputated after a traffic accident some 30 years ago.
It could have been the end of the world for him, but Fung met Chong Bing-ying, a nurse at Queen Mary Hospital who eventually became his wife.
With her support and encouragement, Fung resumed his sporting activities: hiking and distance running, starting from 10 kilometers, then trying the half marathon before doing the full marathon.
He then took up more difficult challenges – difficult even for ordinary people – like the annual Oxfam Trailwalker race.
Last year, the Fung couple partnered with lawyer Raymond Chak Man-lai to form the team Five Legs Never Quit and successfully completed Atacama Crossing race in which they crossed the 250-kilometer stretch of the Chilean desert in seven days in October.
It was not only a test of endurance and skills but, most importantly, of sheer will power.
He gave a vivid account of those seven days of blood, sweat and tears in his latest book, which he hopes would inspire people never to give up in the face of life’s challenges and adventures.
“When I am in a marathon or the Oxfam Trailwalker, I would complain a lot and swear to myself that I would never join the race again,” Fung recalled with a good laugh.
But no matter how convinced he was about quitting, he would find himself showing up in the race again the following year.
Those who have done a lot of distance running would understand the allure, the addiction of the activity.
“Though every run is exhausting, the excitement you derive from the desire to complete it would lure you to the next game,” Fung explained.
“Getting the experience is all that matters. When I finish the race at my personal best, I take it as a bonus.”
On top of maintaining good health, the 62-year-old amputee athlete regards building up confidence and perseverance as the most valuable reward of participating in races.
It also gives him the chance to exchange ideas with youngsters.
“As I get older, plus the fact that I am aided by a prosthetic leg, I know my limitations well. It’s important to avoid injuries and fatigue.”
For example, while preparing for a full marathon, Fung rarely does a distance of 30 km, let alone the race distance of 42 km.
“For a person of average physical strength, it takes three hours to run 30 km, with the remaining 12 km to be completed by sheer will power,” he said.
“For me, it is not quite easy to do a three-hour run. As I am wearing a running blade, if I practice too long and too much, it would cause some friction to my leg. My strategy is to practice frequently to compensate for the inadequacy.”
While many families tend to be overprotective when it comes to a physically challenged member, Fung said his wife takes a very different approach, allowing him and even encouraging him to take on various challenges.
Before he did distance running, Fung joined his wife in weekend hikes.
Since he wears long pants, few people know he has a prosthetic leg. But when they discover his condition, they express shock and accuse his wife of indifference or neglect.
“She is a nurse and keeps a keen eye on me, just in case. But she never sees me as a disabled person and I grow stronger under her influence,” he said.
“She has excellent endurance. Every time I give up before she does. Working as a nurse, she does shifts, which is already quite physically demanding.
“However, she would still be willing to join me in my hiking exercise after a night shift. During the desert crossing last year, she took the food from my backpack to reduce my burden.
“I am moved by her every gesture, whether big or small,” Fung said.
The seven-day ordeal across Chile’s Atacama Desert gave him and his wife lots of unforgettable moments.
He suffered abrasions, muscle cramps and blisters, but they were expected and well treated by his orthopedic nurse.
However, he lost appetite on Day 3 and showed symptoms of a mild heat stroke.
Fortunately, he was able to overcome his illness. What was more troublesome was that his prosthetic leg often got trapped in sand dunes.
He took up the desert challenge for himself, but also for a good cause: to raise funds for the Hong Kong Amputees Sport Association, which provides financial assistance to people who can’t afford quality prosthetics.
Fung, who chairs the local charity, said prosthetic legs provided by the government are good enough for amputees to cope with the demands of daily living.
But when jogging, doing exercises or even just regular walking, one needs for advanced prosthetic devices.
He believes this could improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities, enabling them to become more physically active and enjoy life better.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 22.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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