In recent years, long distance and marathon running have been all the rage with women of all ages and from all walks of life challenging themselves to complete demanding runs. Hey, we’ve even seen some pregnant ladies in action.
So when it seems like every athletic friend is training for a marathon (roughly 42 kilometres) or a triathlon (a multi-stage competition including running, cycling and swimming), the idea of attempting one yourself can be quite tempting. But when you’re a busy mum, the idea of taking the time to train hard can be a daunting one. And yet, it clearly isn’t an impossible task as we learnt when we spoke to Sumiko Tan, who has conquered 10 marathons over the years. The epitome of a Marathon Mum, teacher Sumiko is a new mother to little Noriko and her stunning accolades include her recent win where she came in second in the The Straits Times Run and third in the SHAPE Run 2016, all before her daughter even turned one! How does she do it? Let’s find out.
1. How long have you been participating in marathons?
I started marathon running since the age of 18. It has been almost 13 years.
2. Can you share your running journey with us?
I started off as a runner and swimmer in primary school followed by long distance running during my secondary school and junior college days. I completed my first marathon, the previous Maybank Marathon, in Malaysia when I was 18 years old.
After commencing my Diploma and Degree in Sports Science, I continued to race in mid and long distance races. I also picked up biathlon and triathlon thereafter. I represented Singapore in the Asean University Games in the five and 10 kilometre events and also in the World University Triathlon Championships during my university days. I took an interest in cycling races three years back after meeting a very committed coach who assisted me greatly in terms of improving my cycling standards.
A huge portion of my sports journey focuses on running but two years back, I decided to try out as a triathlete at the Sea Games so I switched my focus to the triathlon. Then came my surprise pregnancy just before the final time trial!
3. Why do you enjoy participating in marathon races?
I love how marathon running not only tests my physical ability but also my mental strength. Training sessions also allow me to unwind, bond and mingle with my friends and teammates. I strongly believe that you can have a balanced lifestyle while pursing a passion for sport.
4. How did you manage to continue running despite being pregnant?
My gynaecologist gave me the green light to continue exercising as my body was already accustomed to the exercise regime. On top of that, my baby was growing healthily.
I participated in some short races during my pregnancy. I trained three times a week consisting of one long run, one tempo run and one interval training. I managed the intervals appropriately and kept the long runs below 15 kilometres so as not to over stress my body. I ran until I was 38 weeks pregnant and and also swam twice weekly throughout my pregnancy until the day I gave birth.
Overall, I managed to achieve this with the support of my husband who is also a fitness fanatic. He was supportive of my exercise regime throughout my pregnancy. He even went to the extent of guiding me through some of my weights workouts too!
5. What was your post-partum workout regime like?
My post-partum workout regime to keep fit includes running three times a week and swimming once a week.
I set aside one weekday to do some interval training with my teammates and we meet up on Sundays for a long run too.
On other weekdays, I travel to and from work either by cycling or running to work. I wake up at 5.30am to start my run or 6am to start my ride to work. The distance from home to work is about 15 kilometres, so it is a very effective way to get my workout done before and after work.
6. How soon after giving birth did you start resume participation in races?
My first race after I gave birth was the Powerman Malaysia Asia Championships held in Putrajaya which took place roughly four months after I gave birth. I raced in the sprint category where I had to run for five kilometres, cycle for 32 before and completing the race with another five kilometre run.
Other races that I took part in after I gave birth include the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, 2XU Compression Run, Performance Series Run 1, Sundown Marathon 10km, Straits Times Run, TRI-Factor Bike, Singapore Aquathlon, Gold Coast Half Marathon and most recently the Shape Run.
7. In your opinion, how can a mum benefit from training for a marathon (or just running in general)?
Running helps mothers feel great about their body during their pregnancy, especially since most mothers are conscious of their weight gain. In fact, exercising helps mums-to-be to relax and sleep better during pregnancy.
Running has also helped me to stay in shape during pregnancy and aided me to lose excess weight after giving birth. In fact, the scale was at 49kg before I gave birth and I weigh 44kg now!
Marathon running also allows us to identify ourselves not only as a mother, but as an individual. A mother’s primary focus is always on her family and children but running is definitely a good way to unwind while keeping fit!