2016 was a cathartic year for me and 2017 has been much of the same. Grieving over the loss of one of the most significant people in your life requires much time, kindness, and tolerance of yourself. My healing comes in the form of travel, training, and being with my children. These things just make me feel better. At the beginning of last year I roamed the globe to soothe my heart after my Dad passed away. Then in May I decided to enter a relatively short 15km race on a whim. Prior to that I had only completed a Unicef 10km run in Hong Kong in 2010, which left me injured. So I had only really been running 5km distances for fitness ever since. I had 2.5 months train for it. I’m not really sure now why I suddenly decided I wanted to run in a race out of thin air but I was compelled to.
Serendipitously, I had a shoot with Sara Black, fashion photographer, triathlete, and all around inspirational woman who I immediately connected with. I shared my desire to run and she has been a motivator and supporter ever since that day. After I finished the 15km I signed up for the Singapore Standard Chartered half marathon in December of 2016 which was the day before my Dad’s first year anniversary in heaven. Sara was actually the one who planted the seed for me to run a full marathon. I’ll never forget that moment when we were shooting again and she said, just do it! You’re halfway there anyway! Something in me just clicked and I thought she’s absolutely right! I signed up for the Paris Marathon the very next week. And on April 9th, 2017, I did it! 42.2km, which took me 4 hours and 26 minutes. I’ll take that time for my first marathon!
My groundwork for this marathon was very condensed. I began training for the half marathon in September with Gemma Needham and the Momentum Running Club in Singapore and the race was in December. I then started my full (remote) marathon training in January with Coach Miguel Lopez in the Philippines for the Paris Marathon, which was slated for April 9th. This made my training super intense, as I had to hit my (high) mileage every single week and dedicate a lot of time solely for the purpose of getting equipped to run the marathon due to the short time frame. The experience has been a wholly challenging and fulfilling mental exercise. I’ve learned that you don’t just need your body to be in tip top running form to be in the game, your mental muscles have to be in excellent shape as well. You need to be committed and focused, otherwise the long hours and tough physical preparation will get to you. Throughout the process I often trained solo and that was the hardest part of the whole regime. Being alone with your thoughts while you’re pushing yourself to your limit is not just extremely difficult, it can break you. The last 2 weeks before the race were my waterloo. I wanted to quit every day. That was my tipping point. Luckily I had my support system who were able to talk me off the ledge (mainly my dear husband David) each time. I have definitely bolstered my mental acuity but I still need and want to do so much more to strengthen my mind.
I think the reason that running helps me with dealing with the loss of my father is that I can concentrate on one singular goal while simultaneously working on myself, both mentally and physically. When I’m running, especially long distances, I think a lot about my Dad and myself, and my life, and I fall into an almost meditative state where everything gains clarity.
Before 2016 I had never ever had the desire to run a marathon. It didn’t hold any appeal for me. In fact I couldn’t imagine why people would want to run 42 km, let alone how they finished it. It is a surreal and surprising journey you find yourself traveling on due to cataclysmic events. Two years ago, I never would have envisioned that I would be the proud owner of a marathon medal! It is also remarkable to discover what you can accomplish when you want something badly enough. It takes an incredible amount of work and discipline but the results make the hardships worth it.
Running a marathon has given me so many gifts. It has allowed me to bond with amazing souls through my training. It has shown me that I can achieve more than I can imagine if I just make a commitment to see it through right till the very end, no matter how challenging. It has taught me that I need to fall many times because the lessons are always in being able to get back up. It has made me realise I’m stronger than I think.
I love this kind of lifestyle because it works on all facets: mental, spiritual, and physical. Running a full marathon has been a metamorphic experience and I can’t wait to do all over again.