My SCSM 2018 Journey

Achieving an 8th Position and a timing that beat my Tokyo Marathon 2018 
seemed far-fetched but it became a reality.
(Photo Credit: Finisher Pix)

It started with an Impossible Dream

2016 - 5:34:35
2017 - 4:16:31
2018 - 3:34:46

Last year, when SEA Games Marathoner, Jasmine Goh told me to try for a Top 10 spot at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM), I thought it was an absurd idea. Firstly, I was running leisurely. Secondly, I was nowhere near. However, that thought became a dream, a purpose, a goal, a drive and a challenge.

Training ensued until a turn of event in the second quarter of 2018 and I took a break. About a month before the Army Half Marathon (AHM) 2018, I was reminded of signing up for the race and contemplated dropping it. Double SEA Games and recently, Double National Champion, Soh Rui Yong offered to help me with my training. Hesitant initially as I did not want to impose on him, we somehow started working together.

I went to the race expecting at least a sub-2hr but achieved a 10min personal best instead. It boosted my confidence and motivation. Then, my group won the second prize at the Yellow Ribbon Run, with me obtaining a personal best in 5.5km.

I also broke my own records for half marathon at the Great Eastern Women’s Run, 10km at the REAL Run, 32km at Challenge 32 and finally, a massive improvement in my full marathon at the SCSM 2018 that earned me a spot in the Top Ten! 8th to be exact.

For a race I almost did not start, I achieved a surprised PB at the AHM 2018.
 (Photo Credit: AHM 2018)

Facing the Reality (of Life)
Just like any athlete holding a full-time job in Singapore, juggling with training, family and work takes determination, discipline and commitment.

There were days I asked myself what I was doing it for, especially when I had to wake up to run in the wee hours (think 3am). I even did my speed intervals in the mornings, alone. I had to imagine chasing after somebody. On some mornings, I hoped I would not really see a “somebody”.

November was also an extremely busy period at work. Two weeks before SCSM 2018, I started feeling exhausted and a little under the weather. I was so glad when tapering started and fully optimised that week to recharge. The last thing I wanted was for history to repeat itself - I fell sick just before SCSM 2017.

Nevertheless, my trainings gave me something to look forward to. I enjoyed them thoroughly.

Making the Impossible, Possible
Everything went according to plan until Saturday evening. My daughter had to be hospitalised. I struggled with the decision to race or not. When everything settled down and she had stabilised, Derrick told me to go for the race and he would stay with her.

I managed one hour’s rest and I was not sure if I was in an optimal condition. Pushing away any negativity, I made it to the start line with my running buddies. 

“For the next few hours, stay focus and let your hard work come through. You can do it.” Those were Rui Yong’s words that stayed with me from the start to the end. He was right. I had put in a lot of work to make it to race day and I was going to make sure I finished the race, strong.

Staying focus and thinking strong
(Photo Credit: Finisher Pix)

When we were flagged off, I was surprised to find myself in pretty good race condition. I made sure I took a few sips at every hydration point. When I got to 33km, self-doubting thoughts such as “I have not done anything more than 33km”, “Will I get muscles cramp?” and so on crept in.

I forced them out of my mind, kept my focus on the road and replaced them with confident thoughts such as, “My legs, body and mind are strong”, “Let my hard work come through”, “I don’t believe in cramps” and et cetera even when my Archilles and calves began to tighten.

By 35km, I had overtaken quite a number of people who used to run faster than me. I was beginning to feel positive. I was not focusing on my position but on maintaining my pace. Honestly, I did not know my possible standing or timing - blame it on being poor in Maths. So, I just kept telling myself "stay strong and run on".

Sheares Bridge was a bridge of temptation, to walk. It felt longer than I imagined. However, I knew if I caved in, I might stop running altogether. So, I recalled my inclined trainings at HPB i-RUN and deployed the techniques I told runners – maintain cadence, upright posture and drive the arms.

At the peak of the "bridge of temptation", the Sheares Bridge,
 I was filled with relief I did not stop to walk.
(Photo credit: The Runners Lens)

At the end of the bridge, I looked at the signboard and my watch. I was well ahead of my target! However, the actual distance was longer than my watch. I did some mental calculation and worked out a strategy to finish the race. I did not want to end up walking the last kilometre.

I stopped looking at my watch. All I could think of was “speed interval” and “fartlek”. As I sped down the final stretch, I heard supporters calling out my name and words of encouragement. I told myself, “it is all out or nothing now”. Then, I saw the left turn to the finishing point and recalled Daniel saying, “Run fast when you get here.”.

The sun was so glaring. I gave it all and made for the final dash. I heard my name being announced and wondered if they called out every person who crossed the line. Then, I looked at timing and I was ecstatic! I exceeded my target of 3:45hrs and finished with a 3:34:49 (unofficial timing).

Making a dash for the finishing line
(Photo Credit: Finisher Pix)

I AM Possible – Thanks to you, you and you!
I have been truly blessed throughout my journey. There were people and obstacles along the way that made me doubted my own dream and potential. However, I was also surrounded by people who had a lot of faith in me.

Family support had been critical. My parents were understanding and supportive. My hubby, Derrick gave up his own run so I could have the opportunity to race on that day. It was not easy managing training with two children and a husband who ran too. We had to take turns and did not always see eye-to-eye.

We did not have a lot of support. I am thankful that my in-laws could take care of the children so that we could do our long runs on Saturdays and fulfill our i-RUN duties. My children were also my biggest supporters. They prayed for me before my races and were immensely proud of my achievements.

Rui Yong has been instrumental in my progress. Despite being busy with his goals and new job, he was always there to guide me along. He made sure I was having fun, recovering well and feeling fit. On the same day I came in 8th, Rafael Poliquit Jr., his SEA Games 2015 competitor from the Philippines was crowned the King of National Milo Marathon after following advice from Rui Yong. He was happier for us than for his own winning. When I crossed the line, he was there cheering for me and sharing my joy.

If Jasmine had not seeded that impossible dream into my head, I would not have known what I was capable of achieving. Jasmine never failed to knock some sense into me if I started talking down to myself. She often reminded me to be fearless and relentless. She is also a role model of resilience and perseverance. 

My running kakis, especially Daniel Tan and Tsura were always ready to organise, gear up and accompany me for the early morning runs. They would slow down for me and we would have long chats about running forms, human anatomy and feet landing. Ok. More like they talked while I listened. It was always fun to have Alan Chang and April joining us. Occasionally, we had other runners with us. I was very lucky to run with April for the first half of the race too.

I also started going for sports massages, which I never did. After trying out a few, I finally settled on working with HelpHealSG. Gareth Chew, one of the founders, who happened to be my friend’s brother also followed up closely to ensure I was recovering well.

I have also been blessed to have a group of X-Runners supporting and inspiring one another to excel together. They also set up a support station at Marina Barrage and at the end of the race with essentials for recovery. 

One of my strongest supports, X-Runners, inspired by X-Men
with the belief that everyone has a unique ability to excel oneself.

As a HPB i-RUN trainer, I have also learnt a lot from the sessions and participants. i-RUN helped me in my weekly technical and strength training, especially the inclined training that helped me tackle the Sheares Bridge. The participants were also some of my biggest supporters.

There were many other people who stood by me, sent me prayers, words of encouragement, cheered for me at races and supported me. I am simply grateful for everyone who has touched my life in one way or another. 

The one thing I learnt from the whole experience was, there is something in us that is waiting to be discovered. It starts with a dream. Then, we commit and persevere to make this dream come true. We all have it in us.