She hates running but does it to see the world

With 114 marathons under her belt, including more than 80 per cent overseas, adjunct lecturer Aileen Ho has seen much of the world. Her experiences led her to publish Around The World In My Running Shoes last year, where she shares tips on pre-race p
With 114 marathons under her belt, including more than 80 per cent overseas, adjunct lecturer Aileen Ho has seen much of the world. Her experiences led her to publish Around The World In My Running Shoes last year, where she shares tips on pre-race planning and post-race activities.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Her "travel-thons" have taken her from the high altitudes of Mount Bromo in Indonesia to the bright lights of New York City.

For someone who has completed a whopping 114 marathons and worn out at least 40 pairs of shoes since her first race in 2004, Aileen Ho has a surprising thing to say about the sport.

"I hate running. It's very boring, and I don't like to sweat," she said unabashedly.

Instead, what compels Ho, who holds a master's degree in sports management, to run marathons is the opportunity for her to stamp her mark around the world in her own way.

The chirpy 39-year-old said: "I want to see the world - and I can do this just by bringing a pair of running shoes with me."

Currently an adjunct lecturer at several educational institutions, Ho typically runs up to 16 marathons a year, usually with a small group of friends.

Unlike other marathon runners who clock increased mileage in the lead-up to a race, her thrice-weekly runs never go beyond the 10km mark, and are mostly on the treadmill.

Armed with a handy camera on her runs, she quipped: "I just want to enjoy the four hours or so by sightseeing, soaking in the atmosphere and local culture."

She even made the effort to learn the Korean language to interact with locals when she runs in South Korea, where she has completed 13 marathons.

Her experiences abroad have led to her publishing her own book, titled Around The World In My Running Shoes. It was released last year.

Rather than solely documenting the races, the book shares tips on pre-race planning and post-race activities.

Ho, however acknowledged that her frequent adventures are taxing financially and time-wise.

To accommodate her avidity for running abroad, she switched from being a sports programme manager to lecturing full-time in 2011 for more income. She then became an adjunct lecturer in 2013.

She also ensures that she participates in at least two races each trip to minimise cost and time spent - often neglecting research on the race, which she intriguingly embraces.

To her, the occasional language barriers can be tricky but not insurmountable. She said: "We need to figure out things like how to travel to the city outskirts for the race. It is fun for the mystery and novelty behind it."

Even her younger brother Ryan has hopped on the wagon. The 38-year-old, who participates in Ironman triathlons, accompanied his sister in four marathons abroad last year.

However, her gung-ho approach has sometimes led to negative experiences.

At the 2013 Samcheok Marathon in Korea's Gangwon province, Ho and her friend decided to press on despite suffering from a bout of food poisoning, which struck two days prior.

She said: "There was even an ambulance and patrol car escorting us, but we refused to surrender.

"When I got back to Seoul, I literally could not stand any more. That's when I learnt you shouldn't push yourself when unwell."

Given her headstrong mentality, it is no surprise that she has signed up for her ninth Osim Sundown Marathon on Saturday, having taken part in every edition of the night race.

Yet the opportunity to lace up her New Balance shoes overseas continues to stir Ho.

She said: "I'm always on the lookout for places that I have never visited, it keeps you going. The world is so big… there are so many places to explore."

With an appetite for adventure this insatiable, it seems only a matter of time before she starts work on a sequel to her book.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'She hates running but does it to see the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe