Is it possible to juggle a successful career, motherhood and still run marathons? According to these two amazing women, it's not easy, but it's possible.
Viki Lim, 44, has to juggle her three children's extra-curricular activities as well as manage her own legal firm. Yet, she finds time to train for and run in several marathons. How does she do it?
"It's not difficult, but it takes discipline," says the lawyer from Petaling Jaya, Selangor. "I keep a very tight schedule and try to do my runs in the morning before I go to work. I also keep my nights free to be with my kids (aged eight, 11 and 13), help them with their homework, piano and violin practices, and read to my youngest."
For Tan Lee Lee, 38, juggling motherhood, work, and training is not easy but it's manageable.
"Everything has to have a balance. I normally run very early in the morning before my family wakes up. As for race events, I make it a family outing so that I get to spend time with them," says the Malacca-based veterinarian.
Lim started running in 2006 after giving birth to her second child when she tried to lose weight and failed. "My reason for running changes every season. Sometimes, it's about wanting to keep fit. Sometimes, it's about losing weight. And, sometimes, it's about the camaraderie from the runners you meet," she enthuses.
Tan has been running since 2003 during her university days. "It all started when my housemate, Joey, who is an extremely outdoorsy person, influenced me to take up running and hiking," she explains.
"Back then, I ran to stay in shape," Tan says. "But now, there are many reasons that keep me going. Running builds my character. It makes me a better person physically and mentally. During my runs, I often come up with solutions to problems related to work, and get new ideas for family enrichment and personal development."
As for Lim, she says, "When I run, it's 'me' time. It's just me, my iPod, the road and my thoughts … away from the children and being a mum and a wife for a couple of hours." She adds that she tries to train for a marathon or two each year because goals are important.
"This is also a conversation starter with my kids when I share with them what I'm doing and how I'm going to achieve it. I hope that it will inspire them."
Both women admit that having a supportive spouse is important. Lim's husband is an "ultra marathoner". They don't run together literally (as he is much faster than her), but they do sign up for the same events.
Lim explains that their time overseas together is a necessary couple-bonding time. "Having been married for a long time, with three kids and a legal firm to manage, we might sometimes feel too tired, stressed, and distracted to truly appreciate each other. So, to rekindle the relationship, this once a year marathon-cum-holiday is good for our souls and helps us reconnect," she shares.
In Tan's case though, her husband does not run. "But, he is a very supportive person. He told me before that he's proud of his wife being able to run very long distances," she testifies.
Tan does ultra marathons. "Running 100km is a mental game. You have to tell yourself to just keep on moving despite extreme exhaustion or sore blisters. After a certain point, you stop thinking, but those legs just keep on moving," she relates, the passion evident in her voice.
"The biggest achievement is not about completing the race, it is the preparation for the race. The people you meet and the support you get along the way are priceless. The miles of struggles have made me wiser and stronger," she enthuses.
The women's children sometimes join them, too. Lim says: "My eldest son, Jayden, has started joining me. He too enjoys the adrenaline rush and sense of achievement of running. He is also the Malaysian Under-12 Champion in tennis for 2016. I believe that he has been inspired through running and I hope that he will continue to be inspired by me. But my girls, Ashley, and Hannah, they really hate running.
"However, they do ask me about my runs, and I usually bring them to the park when I run, so they will play together and wait for me."
Lim adds that her most memorable run was in Nice, France in November 2014. "After the marathon, it was so cold, around 4°C, with the wind blowing and a slight drizzle." Her husband was supposed to meet her with her winter jacket but there was some confusion.
"Finally, when he found me after one hour, I was crying, shivering, and all wet!" she exclaims.
For Tan, her favourite place to run is Japan. "People will be cheering along the running route from start till finish, there will be a live band playing and some runners come in colourful costumes! Japan has very scenic running trails where you can see a combination of Mount Fuji, cherry blossom trees, and tranquil lakes. It's a small slice of heaven on earth," she beams.
However her most memorable run was the Sydney Marathon in Australia in September 2011. "I found out I was pregnant with my first child a week after the marathon, which meant I was carrying her throughout the 42km run!" she says.
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Are there any issues particular to women runners? According to Lim, being harrassed by other road users is common. "It's not safe to run alone in Malaysia, so always make sure you join running groups, and get a running buddy," she advises.
Tan adds that there are also unique issues faced by women and mothers who run, such as running during pregnancy (when the weight increases and the joints are most vulnerable) and difficulties in finding toilets after long runs.
For those with small children, especially breastfeeding babies who tend to be very attached to their mothers, women need to balance the timings of their runs and attending to the kids. "We also need more safety features for running in parks, such as CCTV cameras, lights, and police on patrol," she adds.
Lim has advice for women who wish to take up running. "Start with small goals, perhaps run 2km, and then, build up from there," she says. "Running is good for de-stressing and it will improve your mood."
Tan's advice for women who wish to take up running is to just go for it: "Running is simple and you just have to get your priorities right and do it."
Both women feel that running should be promoted to more women. Tan says, "More running events specially designed for women, such as the Malaysian Women Marathon, would encourage more women to run."
Lim suggests, "Having running events which include the children will encourage more mothers to run, because they can run together as a family, and the mothers won't feel like they are neglecting their kids."