During my childhood years, I was never a sportsman, nor was I any good in any games. Yes, I did play games, such as basketball, badminton and video games. But, was never good enough to represent my school. I had many friends who represented school, state and even country. They were always an inspiration to me.
Thus, for me to pick up running. It was a challenge.
I started running back in 2012, 2 weeks after my 36th birthday. Why did I suddenly start running? I fell sick for 1 week, on my 36th birthday. It was an indication that I was not living a healthy lifestyle. I was overweight (based on my BMI), stressed with work, and I love to eat and drink. It was an eye opener that I need to do something about my health, especially when you have kids and wife. I would make it a point to jog daily after work. It was really a short jog; 1-2km. Even then, that was very far for me. I would meet familiar faces at the park. They were people 10-15 years older than me that who could run faster and further than me. I remembered how embarrassed I felt.
Then came the first year Spring Live Active Run 2012. I did not join that event. But many of my ex-colleagues did. I would hear their joy and achievements the following week on their 5km run. I thought,” if they can, so can I”. Thus, I started to train. My first Fun Run (5km) was 7th July 2012 Night Run at Le Park. I finished the race, but I felt I could do better. Thus, I started to trained for 10km. I remember the feeling each time I reached 5km, I would ask myself, “Why are you torturing yourself? You could do 5km and be done with it. You fool!”. But, the feeling when you completed the 10km race is totally different. Same goes for when I progressed from 10km to 21km.
What inspired me to move to 42km (full marathon)? Imagine that you run 10km in 1hour, 21km in 2.5 hours, 42km would be 5- 6hours. Oh my! That is very long. But, when I saw the finisher tee for 42km runners during Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) 2012 (when I did 10km). I told myself, that tee is mine next year. However, the journey to running full a marathon (42km) within 1 year of start running was tough. I did not know what shoe was suitable, how to prepare for long runs, what training program to follow, how to prevent chafing. There were many questions that needed answer. Lucky for me, Kuching have a very good running community. I started to join fellow experience runners who have done several full marathons, and were willing to share their knowledge. My first full marathon was Aug 2013, during Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM). The run was an eye opener for me, as I had very bad cramps during my 28km mark. But, with blessing from God, support from spectators and friends, I manage to complete my first 42km below 5hours. The time was not impressive at all. In the full marathon running community, a timing of 4:30-5hrs is considered to be average. Nevertheless, the feeling was beyond words could ever described. Yes, it was hot and painful, but the sense of achievement was enough to overshadow the pain.
Since then, I have been blessed to completed 26 full marathons and 4 ultra-marathons all over. These places include Malaysia, Singapore, Phuket, Hong Kong, Gold Coast, Edinburgh, Paris, Orlando, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo. Many who do not run have asked me, “Is it worth it, flying all the way just to get a finisher medal and Tee?” I would tell them yes; “it is absolutely with it”. Especially, when you plan for your family holidays to coincide with the marathons. It is a good time to meet new people, share knowledge, enjoy the culture and food. I have met many runners from Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of the world who have ran more than 100 marathons and ultra-marathon races. These people inspire me each time we meet up. In fact, they are the ones who inspired me to run ultra-marathons. Ultra-marathons are any distance which is over 43km. The typical Ultra marathon distance are 50km, 84km & 100km. To run Ultra-marathon, it requires a lot of dedication, reading, patience and alone time.
Dedication, because for you to run a 100km race (with cut off time 18 hours), you will need to build up your weekly running mileage to > 90km/week with Long Slow Distance (LSD) at least 30km. As compared to preparing for full marathon, you only need 60km/week to finish at 4:30-5hrs range. Your training program will require interval work outs and hills training to finish comfortable for ultra-marathons.
Reading articles and write-ups in blogs from experiences ultra-runners are good sources, to prepare yourself for races. Here are some key essentials that I use for marathon and ultra-race preparations:
- Always stay hydrated, especially the week leading to your race. Drink at least 3 L water/ day.
- Warm up and cool down during each run, including training. This is to help prepare our muscle for workout.
- Get sufficient rest. Our body and muscles needs 6-8 hours of rest daily to repair itself.
- Increase your protein intake, from supplements or food. Such as beef, fish or soya.
- Wear proper shoes for your run. Our feet need good cushioning and care to prevent injuries; plantar fasciitis (heel pain – inflammation of the fascia of a muscle), blister, fallen toe nails. (I personally recommends Hoka One One for long runs)
- Use protection shields to prevent chaffing. (eg: 2 Tom’s sport shield, Glide, Vaseline, surgical tape)
- Get use to the electrolytes/ gels that you plan to consume during race day.(My personal preferences are TinZaitun Madu Kelulut , Hammer gels and Amino Vital
- Have a good training program and follow it. Train smart not hard.
Patience and alone time are key essential, as we will be by ourselves during our long training runs early in the mornings or late at night. Some may find this hard or boring, but for me, I find this as a good time to reflect on many things. When I am alone running, I could hear my own thoughts. I could talk to God. I could search myself. I have found that I could relate better in life. I could apply the tools that I have learned in running to our day to day life. It teaches us that in life, there are many challenges, we need time to figure it out and work smart on the matter. As long as we are dedicated and committed, the result will show in the end.
The intent for this article is to share with everyone who is finding it hard to pick up running or finding it hard to improve. It is possible. If I can, so can you. The important thing to keep in mind, is to have fun doing it. That is why you see me in costumes when I run.
“It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and the journey, not in the destination.” – John Bingham.