He was dead set to complete his fifth annual birthday marathon.

Muscle cramps however forced 47-year-old Ali Shirkouhi to stop mid-run due to muscle cramps but the determined runner managed to push himself to finish 47 kilometres for the fifth completion of his annual birthday marathon.

The Iranian who seeks to be the better version of himself with his passion for running, has been living and working in Kuala Lumpur as a web developer and graphic designer for 14 years.

He actively participates in numerous marathons and running events around Kuala Lumpur including the annual Kuala Lumpur Standard Chartered Marathon.

Wanting to push himself further and for a new thrill, in 2017 at age 42, he decided to start a new tradition where he would run the same distance in kilometres as per his age every year on his birthday in April.

He managed to keep that tradition going until 2020 when Covid-19 forced him to stop.

Shirkouhi spent the time with leg exercises during the pandemic and he even trained at his condominium’s carpark during the movement control order.

This year, he was in high spirits to continue the tradition but was faced with another obstacle – his heart problem, where he was advised by his doctor to postpone his birthday run from April to August.

As a result, he decided to use the time to further fortify his training and endurance.

According to Shirkouhi, he has been practising for his 47km marathon by running 20km alternate days every week since the beginning of the year.

“It’s like alternating days. Sometimes I would do 5km per day, sometimes 10km.

“However, the process of coming back to the track is difficult. I had to start slowly, I started with 1km to 2km at first and it slowly went up.

“Although treadmills seem like a viable option, it is not advisable for long runs because of the heating problem it’ll tend to get. For long runs, it’s better to do it outdoors,” he said.

Accompanied by his running partner, Siva, at 3am on August 21, Shirkouhi began his 47km marathon at the The Central Park in Desa Park City, Kuala Lumpur.

Despite the marathon not going as planned, Shirkouhi managed to complete the whole 47km in six hours and 40 minutes.

This is due to the muscle cramps he endured mid-run which has forced him to take a short break.

“The muscle cramp started at kilometre five, and it was getting worse and worse on every lap. My running mate (Siva) recommended me to take Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to bring my sodium level up.

“After I took a small bottle of ORS which he had prepared beforehand, the muscle cramp gradually eased, but I still could feel a little bit of pain in my calf throughout the whole running time.

“At kilometre 34, my muscle got cramped again, and it forced me to stop and take rest for a while,” he said.

After managing to slightly get rid of the pain through a short break and muscle stretching, Shirkouhi continued his run.

“Afterwards I just continued running with the pain and ignored it the whole time till the end.

“Even though the last seven kilometres got the best of me, and I couldn’t run consistently, I persevered and completed the 47km in six hours and 40 minutes.”

Shirkouhi was overjoyed to finish his fifth annual birthday marathon saying that he really did give his best to achieve it.

He added that the venue he had chosen for his marathon also plays a crucial role in his annual birthday marathon.

He said that facilities such as water stations, washrooms and easy access parking lot made the location ideal for solo runners.

When talking about the future, Shirkouhi aims to continue his birthday marathon tradition until he reaches 50 years old.

He added that he might be going for a combination of running and cycling for his next tradition.

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