Every chance we get, we take time to speak to our amazing team of athletes about their experiences at some of the most exciting races around the world.
We ask them for their personal insights, lessons, and pointers on the road leading up to the race, and of course, on race day itself. This week, we speak to two athletes who started their year off preparing for one of the most anticipated marathons in the world: the Tokyo Marathon.
Fresh from her ‘A’ Race, July – one of Coached’s athlete ambassadors – shares her thoughts with us on how the race went for her and why it was one of the most unforgettable experiences to date.
Before we get into the race, tell us a little bit about yourself, and your history with sport.
July here. Mom of one. Back in 2010, I was overweight at 65kg. Early in 2014, I decided to start working out at home. I did Dancing, Zumba, and Aerobics, learning all of it from YouTube. I also started running leisurely at the park, as I was inspired to lose more weight and be fit.
That same year, a friend invited me to join a Fun Run event overseas with a distance of 16km (I finished it in less than 3 hours). I took it up a notch with another Fun Run event, which was to be my first half marathon (finished under 4 hours). I wasn’t satisfied with my timing at the time and I was motivated to continue to join races. In that same year, I did my very first marathon – Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) 2014 (I finished in 6 hours 45 mins). Since then, I started to get serious with running, joining more running events and started learning to do proper training.
Over this time, I’ve noticed that running helped me get healthier! I’ve lost weight than I expected, and today I’m down to 44 kg.
How were you training before you started training with Coached? What motivated you to join us?
For a year, I just ran… and ran and ran. I added to my mileage every single day. Into the second year of my running journey, I joined the Pinoy-SG Runners for strengthening and core workouts, which we normally do once every week. I ran 4 to 5 times a week (either in the mornings or evenings). My workouts usually included Speed, Easy, Long, and Short Runs.
Over time, however, I knew that to be a better runner, I needed to have a detailed and personalised training program. That’s why I joined Coached. The platform helped me build a training programme based on my profile, which also carefully paced the training according to the races I wanted to participate in. The programme also prepared me for the demands of my race. With weekly reports giving me feedback on my progress, I was always conscious of how well I was doing to stay on track. The training program was also flexible enough to adjust training sessions without worry, which was perfect for me due to my personal commitments. I also updated as I received advice from the coaches.
You ran a solid race. How do you feel right now?
Weeewww! That was the toughest full marathon race I ever did. Even though I didn’t feel fully ready, I was able to run a great race. For now, I’m enjoying the recovery process.
Among all the races in the world, why did you choose the Tokyo Marathon?
I am one lucky girl. My very first time doing the balloting, and I got in! It was totally unexpected. I’m blessed!
Tell us what you did to prepare in the past months leading up to the race.
I followed my Coached personalised training program. However, I suffered from pain in my legs (legs, heels, calves, glutes), just two weeks before the race day. I had to back down, skip a few days of training and rest.
What was going through your mind the night before?
I was a bit sceptical about racing well. Then again, I managed to convince myself that I could do this; I told myself, “You’re a very powerful being, just by yourself. Believe in that, don’t give up, and you’ll go a long way, whichever road you take”.
Give us the low-down of the scene at the race venue before the race
It was all well-organized. There was definitely a huge crowd! 36,000+ runners from Pen A to L. Tokyo Marathon volunteers are full of hospitality and very helpful. They supported the event from the start line all the way to the finish, complete with friendly smiles. Runners were all well guided by the volunteers, with huge marking signs for the Gate Entry, Baggage Truck, Portable Toilets, Water/Sports Drinks, Food Stations, Changing Rooms, and Medical Stations.
Any unforgettable highlights during the race?
Amazing atmosphere, supporters cheering on the runners. Special events along the route, a variety of groups which boosted our excitement to run by giving musical, dance, traditional Japanese folk entertainment, and other types of performances along the way.
Water/isotonic drink stations were present every 2km to 3km each side (left and right). Food such as banana, tomatoes, bread, gels, chocolates, soft drinks (coke), candies, and muscle spray was given along the way. Marvellous, scenic view…. Temples, buildings, gardens, shrines, and parks; it was all just lovely.
What were the most important insights from the racing at Tokyo?
The first came to me within the first few kilometres of the marathon. I noticed that as we ran down the streets of Tokyo there were loads of people who came to cheer us on. Many of those on the sidelines may have personally known a runner in the race and came to cheer them on as they ran by. However, some others may not have known anyone and were just there to cheer on all the runners. Either way, these spectators came to cheer the athletes on and that was good and admirable.
The screams of energetic fans helped to lift spirits. Despite the mental difficulty and physical pain, the marathon runners pushed their bodies to keep a consistent pace, with the hope that they might register a PB (personal best) on this unforgettable course. There was a sense that every runner was pushing hard to give their very best.
On a more personal note, I came to understand the significance of good “running form” and core strength. I remember very clearly how Coach Ben told us about this. “Good runners are able to run with good form”, and that “a runner’s core strength allows them to keep good form, especially as fatigue sets in when they are nearing the end of the race”. It is at the moment of fatigue when it is most tempting time for a runner to have poor form, which only slows their pace and makes the run even harder.
Finally, I realised that the preparation, training for, and completing a marathon is a great accomplishment and a thoroughly enjoyable and gratifying experience in itself. It’s always magical for me. Running is not just another form of exercise, but is a discipline that challenges our selves to be the best we can be. Without a doubt, we can run as individuals, but running reaches accomplishment when we compete in a race with other runners, while supporters cheer on the sidelines. Running shows us that life is not only about sharing the road with others, but is also about sharing the depths of our inner lives with others while encouraging them on to be the best they can be.
What were some of the moments you felt the proudest of?
That I never gave up. I was able to push my body to its limits, maintain a certain pace, and finish the race in under 4 hours 30 mins.
Seeing that you’re doing so well, what’s next on the race calendar?
The Income Eco Run 21km in Singapore at the end of April 2017.
In one sentence, sum up your experience from this race.
I’ve learned patience, perseverance, and dedication. Now, I really know myself and I know my voice. It’s the voice of pain and victory and that no matter what comes, you never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place – that is, the unique you.
… and it’s a wrap! Well done July! Thank you, July, for sharing your inspiring journey to Tokyo Marathon. We’re excited to see you progress even further as you prepare for Income Eco Run 2017!