LIV3LY: Hi Jac, it is an honor to be able to speak with you today! Let's start easy! When did you start running and what made you decide to start?Jacqueline: I was never athletic and used to dislike all forms of sports and running. In 2006, I began running when, against my better judgment, accepted my friends' invitation to go running with them at the Toa Payoh Stadium track. Having not run a single step after my schooldays, I was only able to run 3 laps. However from that moment on, I caught the running bug that eventually sparked off a love for endurance running. The rest, they say, is history.
LIV3LY: What kept you motivated to keep coming back for more?
Jac: Running for me is not just about exercise or getting fit and healthy. It's not just about conquering the miles or the pain of fatigue. It's a journey of self-discovery. I get to know myself, learn about myself, and find out what I'm actually capable of. Running builds my self-confidence, helps me grow as a person, and inspires me to achieve things previously thought impossible. It helps me find out who the real me is, and what I'm made of.
When I look back and consider how far I've come - from one who lacked confidence in my physical self to being a runner, I feel blessed and empowered. I really enjoy the fact that I'm doing something so different, something neither I nor anyone else who knew me eons ago would have imagined me doing. I guess I've surprised myself and the people around me and this is just so exciting, it keeps me coming back for more!
LIV3LY: Congratulations once again on your Boston Qualifier, alongside with a personal best, achieved at the Seoul Marathon last year! How are your preparations so far for the race in April? What do you hope to achieve in the coming years?
Jac: Thank you! I've not done much of a serious preparation for this race but I'm not too concerned or worried. My main priority during this period of time is my pacing duty for the upcoming Sundown Marathon in March. I've been doing some of my longest runs, though at a much slower pace. Anyway, I do not intend to "race" this World Marathon Major. I want to soak in the experience and enjoy every moment of it. I have already travelled so far to get there, so I want to remember every mile, relax and enjoy the journey.
To be honest, I was feeling a little aimless and lost after getting a BQ which gained me an entry into the most prestigious marathon in the world. I needed new challenges, goals, dreams, whatever one calls it. And so the quest to complete the 6 World Marathon Majors became one of my goals. By the end of September this year, I would have completed 4 of them, leaving me with the New York City Marathon and London Marathon. Next on my bucket list is to complete a marathon on all 7 continents of the world. I have just 2 more to go, which are South America and the Antarctica. As C.S. Lewis puts it, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
LIV3LY: Besides running South Korea last year, we noticed that you were one of the finishers in the Pyongyang Marathon held in North Korea, in 2015! What was the experience like, and what made you decide to try it?
Jac: I've always been curious about what life is like in North Korea, one of the world's most secretive societies under communist rule. When the Pyongyang Marathon was finally opened up to tourists in 2014, I had wanted to go. It would be my chance to run the streets of the capital and also to get a glimpse of the country. However, I did not go ahead with my decision as I was affected by what people were telling me.
The following year, the race cancelled foreign participation due to the Ebola related travel restrictions but re-opened at the eleventh hour. This time, I ignored all the negative comments. The only problem was the strict cut-off timing for the full marathon - 4 hours! I have never done a sub-4 hour marathon before and it was a 4-loop course which is mentally challenging! Well, I had the support of my family who encouraged me to" just do it", even if it meant being picked up by the sweeper bus. And so, I took up the challenge and achieved my first sub-4 hours! For once in my lifetime, I felt like an elite runner being cheered by tens of thousands of spectators as I ran for the finish line, into the stadium. It was truly one fantastic experience, something I'll remember forever.
LIV3LY: Completing a 100KM race is no easy feat to the average athlete, let alone an elite one. How many have you completed so far, and what were some of your most memorable experiences among these races?Jac: I'm just an average runner who loves the challenge of tackling the longest of distances. So far, I've completed 24 ultra marathons ranging from 50km to 160km, half of them being both 100km trail and road race. Every race is a learning experience.
At my first overseas race at the TNF100 Thailand 2012 in Amphawa, a pack of dogs charged at me, not once but twice over the course of the race. Luckily, some villagers came to my aid with brooms and bamboo poles. I ran through coconut and banana plantations. It was fun at first, but as night fell, I was alone and it got pretty scary.
In 2013, I attempted the Vibram HK100. It was a huge culture shock to me. It was my first time up in the mountains, out in the open, in the cold and running through the ridges. It was eerily scary as I ran past some tombstones in the dead of night. Mentally weak, I quit when I was just 27km to the finish and I regretted thereafter.
The following year I managed to complete the race, having to run past a monkey-laden territory through a country park. In 2015, I attempted this same race for the third time to challenge myself further. I was surprised when I bettered my timing by more than 6 hours and earned myself a bronze trophy, which is awarded to those who completed the race in less than 24 hours. These experiences have taught me that I'm much stronger than I think. Fear can be overcome. Often, mental barriers are the greatest obstacles to overcome.
LIV3LY: You are a pacer for Team Fatbird in races like the Sundown Marathon. How does pacing work, and what are your reasons for doing?Jac: I'm grateful to be in this role. I count it a privilege, an honor, yet the responsibility is great. I would say a pacer is somewhat like a running buddy who engages the runners as a moving marathon motivator, to help push them to finish the race in a targeted time. Pacing isn't as easy as it looks. A pacer has to stay focused, positive and encouraging at all times to the runners who are running alongside. At the same time, a pacer has to run the entire route at a slower, targeted pace which is tougher to do than to run one's own pace. There's just so much control, holding back, restraints and the pressure to deliver.
I've been a pacer for the past 6 years because I believe that it is in giving that we receive. I love doing what brings me satisfaction and joy. Being a pacer is extremely rewarding. When runners thank me for helping them achieve their goals, it makes me happy. Knowing that they achieve their personal goals because I am willing to sacrifice mine to help makes me feel good.
LIV3LY: To end off this interview, is there any advice or tips you can give to aspiring runners/beginners looking to pick up the sport?Jac: Set goals that stretch you but not unattainable. Having goals give you direction and purpose to channel your effort and turn dreams into reality. Once you've decided to do something, stay focused and never give up. Believe and persevere. Some day you'll discover that there's really nothing you can't do if you put your heart and mind to it. In short, Dream. Believe. Act. Achieve.
Remember that progression is important to training. Avoid increasing the frequency, duration and intensity too fast, too soon. Allow your body enough recovery time. Always listen to your body, have a great deal of caution, common sense and fun! Be patient and you will generally move forward.
LIV3LY: We hope you have been inspired by Jacqueline's willpower and grit! Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is every runner's dream, and going off the unbeaten track is something one doesn't expect someone like Jacqueline to do so; but she did. Join her as she will be pacing the marathon 5 hour group at Sundown Marathon 2017!
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