Test Of Endurance

An injury forced Zarelda Marie Goh to change her strategy for her first full marathon. Here are the highs and lows of the race.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

An injury forced Zarelda Marie Goh to change her strategy for her first full marathon. Here are the highs and lows of the race.

My Reading Room

A month before the skechers performance Los angeles marathon on march 19, i was diagnosed with a mild tendon injury. (tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone.) 

During the course of treatment, i learnt that the overpronation in my flat feet was a contributing factor. i had experienced 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. so thankful for that. 

Adapting To Injury

Despite the setbacks, I pushed on. I could not run but I could do water-based training.

After all, that’s what now-retired long- distance runner paula Radcliffe did when she suffered from a stress fracture in her left leg in 2008. The world-record holder in the women’s marathon was told she couldn’t compete in the Beijing olympics – and yet she did and came in 23rd. 

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 has zero impact on the joints. 

Under the guidance of swimming coach Rachel Wee, I did hour-long pool sessions that comprised mainly of exercises that simulated running. 

When the doctor gave me the green light to get back to jogging, I did several relatively pain-free jogs of 5km to 7km, and continued with the water-based training. 

Long runs were out of the question, and frankly, they felt like a distant memory. 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, and my target finish time was between 6 hours and 6 hours 15 minutes, barring any unforeseen circumstances. 

Pre-race Excitement

I got to Los angeles several days early to acclimatise, but the truth is I was jet-lagged the entire time. 

What got my spirits up was meeting the rest of the Vip runners. skechers performance hosted over 60 from 35 countries to race the marathon. I was the only representative from singapore. 

I got to hang out with some of them and it was fun hearing about their training journeys. The day before the marathon, we went to the expo to collect our race bib and shop for official race merchandise, like cool kicks and limited edition apparel. 

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, but instead I was excited and happy.

The first 10km felt fairly effortless and I kept to my pace. I didn’t listen to music during the first quarter and plugged in after passing the six-mile marker.

My Reading Room

Good Vibes Only

As i ran, the encouragement from the supporters made all the difference. and this is putting it mildly. There was barely a stretch throughout the entire 42km without people cheering us on, or giving out drinks or snacks like slices of oranges.

Some were even holding out signs with motivational phrases on them. They ranged from the fun (Like Touch Here For Power) to the funny (Like Run Like Trump Is Grabbing Your).

There was an entertainment programme planned by the marathon organisers, and of course there were designated aid stations. But I’m talking about supporters who willingly came out of their homes to support the participants of the skechers performance marathon. They didn’t need to be there, but they were.

Talking about support, I have to mention my husband, Sam, who flew to L.A. with me. He has been my pillar of strength in this journey. He waited for me at mile 13, and seeing him motivated me to keep on going. 

I felt inspired by the other runners, too. Some were dressed in character – think elvis presley, Darth Vader and more. 

Then there were those who were wheelchair-bound but super-determined to finish strong. There were little ones, older folks, and people of all shapes and sizes. It was a lovely sight to see people from all walks of life at the marathon. 

I honestly felt moved by the outpouring of good vibes. It was a total love fest!

My Reading Room

Living In The Moment

What I appreciate about the whole experience was that I was able to really be present, not live in the past or the future. 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. 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 as I ran. 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 never hit the dreaded wall that many told me about.

My biggest challenge came after 30km. There was a steep hill and it was hot, hot, hot. It was between 20 and 22 deg C by then. That’s also roughly when stomach cramps set in. (When I spoke to my coach later, he told me it was probably due to the energy gels. I had only used them during one long run, so my body wasn’t used to them.)

Despite the cramps, I kept on going. I coped with the pain by taking a few extra 30-second walk breaks from then till the finish line. I kept quite closely to my pace. 

Elated At The Finish

I crossed the finish line at 6 hours 9 minutes. Well, this is nothing to shout about, given that hellen Jepkurgat of Kenya, the first woman to complete the marathon, finished at 2 hours 34 minutes.

But I was proud of myself and how far I’d come. An important lesson I gleaned while I was training is that we owe it to ourselves to celebrate the little victories in life. I’ve learnt so much by getting out of my comfort zone.

Like all “firsts”, my first marathon will be one I’ll always treasure. I’m planning to do it again, despite being sore for three days after. The pain is real, especially in the quads.

I didn’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!

Photos Skechers