A month before the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 19, I was diagnosed with a mild tendon injury.
During the course of treatment, I learnt that the overpronation in my flat feet was a contributing factor. I had experienced intense pain in my feet during several long runs, which is why I went to the doctor in the first place.
My training came to a screeching halt, as I was not allowed to run for two weeks straight. Naturally, I was upset. Three months of training had been done diligently, and it was so close to race day.
The one good thing that came out of this incident was that I got custom-made insoles to correct the biomechanical problem in my feet. They would help prevent future injuries. I am so thankful for that.
ADAPTING TO INJURY
Despite the setbacks, I pushed on. I could not run but I could do water-based training.
I'm no athlete but research was on my side. Studies have shown that cross-training can help you maintain your aerobic fitness while you're injured, and water-based training is great because it has zero impact on the joints.
Under the guidance of swimming coach Rachel Wee, I did hour-long pool sessions that comprised mainly exercises that simulated running. These replaced my running sessions.
When the doctor gave me the green light to get back to jogging, I did several relatively pain-free jogs of 5-7km, and continued with the water-based training.
Long runs were out of the question, and frankly, they felt like a distant memory (no pun intended). Before race day, 24km was the longest run I'd clocked, so you can imagine that I was more than slightly nervous about the marathon.
Before I left for Los Angeles, my coach Andrew Cheong of SSTAR.fitness tweaked my race strategy. There were 22 aid stations throughout the course and the plan was for me to walk for one minute at every alternate station. My target pace was 8:31min/km. My target finish time was between 6hr to 6hr 15min, barring any unforeseen circumstances like having to use the toilet.
I got to Los Angeles several days early to acclimatise but the truth is, I was jet-lagged throughout.
What got my spirits up was meeting the rest of the VIP runners. Skechers Performance hosted more than 60 runners from 35 countries to race the marathon. I was the only representative from Singapore. (Read about them on SkechersGOrunLA.com.)
I got to hang out with some of them and it was fun hearing about their training journeys. The more experienced ones shared their tips and it was awesome being around others with the same end goal.
The day before the marathon, we went to the expo to collect our race bibs and I loved that there was official race merchandise to buy, from cool kicks to limited edition apparel. I got a whole bunch of stuff, mostly with the words "LA Marathon 2017" printed on them.
NO TURNING BACK
On race day, we left at 5am for Dodger Stadium, where the start line was. Thankfully, we didn't have to stand in the cold to wait for the flag-off.
I started running just after 7am and by then, the sun had risen. The air was a cool 14 deg C.
I was expecting to feel anxious since I hadn't trained much since my injury, but instead I was excited and happy. The first 10km or so felt fairly effortless. I had no problems keeping to my pace. I didn't listen to music during the first quarter of the race and plugged in after passing the six-mile (9.65km) mark.
GOOD VIBES ONLY
As I ran, the encouragement from the many supporters made all the difference. And this is putting it mildly.
There was barely a stretch throughout the entire 42.195km without anyone cheering us on, or giving out drinks or snacks like slices of oranges.
Some were even holding out signs with motivational phrases on them. The signs ranged from the fun (Touch Here For Power) to the funny (Run Like Trump Is Grabbing Your [cat emoji]).There were even bands performing.
I also have to mention my husband Sam, who was my pillar of strength throughout this journey. Seeing him along the route motivated me to keep going.
I felt inspired by the other runners too. There were those who were dressed as Elvis Presley, Darth Vader and more.
LIVING IN THE MOMENT
Because of my recent injury, I was listening to my body, taking note of how I was feeling throughout.
I wasn't familiar with the race route so everything I saw was new to me. I was able to appreciate everything in real time. Save for the live Facebook video I did at 19km, I didn't stop to take any photos so I made it a point to look around as I ran past world-famous sights like Hollywood and Rodeo Drive.
I felt almost euphoric, and I know it sounds odd to describe running a marathon that way. Even when my injury flared up halfway through, I kept calm and carried on. I didn't hit the dreaded wall that many told me about.
My biggest challenge came after 30km. There was a steep hill and that was also roughly when stomach cramps set in. (When I later spoke to my coach, he told me that it was probably due to the energy gels. I had used them only during one long practice run so my body wasn't used to them.)
ELATED AT THE FINISH
I crossed the finish line at Santa Monica at 6hr 9min. This is nothing to shout about, considering that Hellen Jepkurgat of Kenya, the winner of the women's division, finished in 2hr 34min.
But we owe it to ourselves to celebrate the little victories in life. I believe that personal growth is so important, and I've learnt so much by getting out of my comfort zone.
Like all "firsts", my first marathon will be an experience I'll always treasure. And yes, I'm planning to do it again in the future, despite being super sore for three days afterwards.
I hadn't run a day in my life before this, and now I can't imagine life without running. Thanks to training for this marathon, this non-runner has now become a runner.
- The writer is the editor of Shape. This article first appeared in www.shape.com.sg