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The following is a Sept 2004 interview with Powerbar sponsored triathlete, Hairul Azwar Hashim on his transformation from a guy who was a smoker and overweight to a competitive athlete he is today.

1) When did you start running or jogging?

I started jogging around my house during my school days. I was fat back then, so jogging was a way for me to slim down. I wanted to enter races, but my mother wouldn't let me. She said "Studies come first!". So no races for me. Then when I went into university I stopped running totally. During this
time I picked up a new habit : smoking. All my friends smoked, so what was I supposed to do? Follow lah.

I got out of university, got a job and got married. Imagine 7 years of not exercising and with a smoking habit, I gained a lot of weight. Just before my first daughter was born, I said to myself "Enough is enough, I need to get my life back". So I quit smoking (thank goodness) and I started running again. This was about 2 years ago. My weight from 76kg dropped to a low 58kg. But now I gained back abit of muscle and my weight has gone up to 65kg, which I think is ideal. Eventually my running began to evolve and I started to run competitively. I now enter races all over Malaysia with my friends. I've finished countless 10K and 21K races, finished a marathon, finished 2 duathlons and 3 triathlons.... and there's more to come. I got my life back.

Azwar in his early days

2) Was it difficult, since you were on the heavier side of the scales and smoking?

It was very difficult. When I started running, I was still smoking. I wanted to lose weight very badly and the only solution was through running. However my running was held back because of the limitations of my contaminated lungs. I wasn't going to make any improvement if I didn't quit smoking. So I then said to myself "You can have only one : running or smoking. You cannot have both because they don't go together". I chose running of course. So on that day itself, I just quit. Many people wonder how I could quit smoking so easily. It's all about will power and determination. At that time, my ambition to lose weight and look good overcame everything else. I wanted it so badly so quitting cigarettes was easy.

3) How many packs of cigarettes were you on?

I usually finish a pack of 20s in one and a half days. I even smoked cigars and mini-cigar. You can say I was a black chimney during my smoking days.

4) Were there any diet programs that you follow? What about exercise programs?

I followed the Body For Life program. It's a 3 month health program which really works. It's a book actually which was introduced to me by a friend who was successful with it. It involves eating and exercising correctly. It doesn't involve starving which only makes us runners weak. You still eat,
but the healthy and correct way. The exercise part of the BFL program involves weights and cardio workouts. It's a complete program which if followed correcly, you WILL see results. I recommend it.

Azwar (right) pictured with Alden Yap, another triathlete at the PD Triathlon

5) How did your family and friends react to the change in your physic and fitness?

This is tough. My family hasn't been that supportive in my running since day one. Maybe it's because I run too much and I'm always out of the house training. I don't blame them so much.

My friends however always get a shock seeing me because I'm always changing everytime we meet. But nowadays, since my weight is stable, they know I'm OK and not sickly. I do get questions asking how I did it. I'm not shy to say I followed a book and it changed my life.

6) What events have you done (and I know you've done quite a fair bit) and your PRs?

I've been running competitive for almost 2 years now, so I don't have many 'battle scars' compared to other Pacesetters. But I've done many 10Ks and 21Ks. My best PR for 10K is 44m and 21K is 1h43m. I've done 1 marathon so far at the KLIM and my time was 3h53m. I've done 2 Malakoff duathlons (KL and JB) and 3 triathlons (A'Famosa, Bukit Merah and PD). I am now training to lower my times.

7) What's your advice to folks out there who wants to lose weight or quit smoking and turn their lifestyle around?

Do it the correct way. That way, you won't be wasting your time trying every new gimmick you hear out there. The correct way is simple : eat healthy and exercise correctly. It's something we hear everyday but always fail to do. The two come in tandem, ignoring one and you won't reap the full benefits.

Interview conducted by Jamie Pang on September 10th 2004


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