This is the last of a three-part series on Shape editor Zarelda Marie Goh’s journey to completing her first marathon. The instalment focuses on running motivation and race-day prep.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

This is the last of a three-part series on Shape editor Zarelda Marie Goh’s journey to completing her first marathon. The instalment focuses on running motivation and race-day prep.

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At the point of writing this, I’m more than halfway through my 16-week training plan. I’m feeling excited and nervous that the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon is drawing near. For now, I’ll keep running three times a week and cross-training twice a week, as shared in detail in the February 2017 issue of Shape. (Missed the story? Visit

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from training for a marathon so far is that running is more than just a physical activity. It seems deceivingly easy because of its repetitive nature and low barrier to entry, but I’ll tell you this from personal experience: Doing a group fitness class is way less difficult than long-distance running. You need mental toughness to run. Period.

Out of the three runs I do, long runs are still my weakness, even though the pace is slow. I clock over 20km per long run now, and need to psych myself into completing each. The first 10km to 15km is fine, then it’s an uphill battle. Soreness in the calves and feet would have set in by then, so I have to tell myself: “I… CAN… DO… THIS.”


What helps is breaking down the remaining distance into shorter 3km to 4km blocks. Every time I hit a mark, I take a hydration break and then work towards the next mark till I complete my target distance. Another must-do for me: Start long runs in the early morning – 6am at the very latest, as the heat will add to the fatigue.

Listening to music is motivating too, though this is something I’ve only started recently. I used to run without music, and that has strengthened my mental game. I can do about 15km without plugging in.

Recently, my earphones went dead before I finished a run, but I made it through the rest of it. Sometimes I lip sync to my favourite songs as I run when the going gets tough – tunes by Kanye West, Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus are at the top of my playlist.


That said, there are days when things go wrong. There was one run I couldn’t complete because I hit a mental wall. I was also under a lot of physical stress – my calves and feet felt exceptionally heavy and sore that day. I was overwhelmed with emotion and allowed it to get to me. I started tearing up, and went back home with only 70 per cent of my run done.

This experience taught me how important it is to appreciate the process, and not be too fixated on the end goal. I am goal-oriented, so this is hard. I also made it a point to remind myself that I didn’t run a day in my life prior to this, and that I’ve come a long way already.

My coach, Andrew Cheong of SSTAR. fitness, encouraged me to stay positive and always finish a workout with the mindset of looking forward to the next one. He also suggested that changing up the route or running with a friend could help keep long runs fresh and fun.

Now, the longest run of all is the marathon itself, and that’s when I’ve to be in top form both physically and mentally. This is Andrew’s advice in the days leading up to the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.


“The meal before your race is the most important,” he says. “Since the marathon is in the morning, watch what you eat for dinner the night before. Go for carbs, as they will be your main source of energy. Stick to easily digestible food that are familiar to you. So if you don’t normally eat pasta, don’t look for it just because you’ve heard that’s what runners eat.”


“Get sufficient sleep during race week, but don’t worry if you can’t sleep the night before the marathon,” he adds. “Research has shown that the lack of sleep the night before has little impact on your performance if you had rested well all week.”


“It’s important to know the race route and what to expect,” Andrew advises. “Is it a nett uphill or downhill course? Where are the major hills? Are there many turns, or is it arrow straight? All these will determine your race strategy, what pace to start off and how you will end the race.”


“A pre-race ritual helps to ease the nerves,” he says. “You could lay out all your race-day gear and take a cool flatlay. It makes for a good social media post, and also helps to ensure you didn’t leave anything out.”


“Find out how to get to the race venue and what time you should get there,” he says. “Take into account the weather before the start. If it’s a cold morning, you could be freezing out there. So dress accordingly. [The weather in Los Angeles during the marathon is projected to be between 9 and 20 deg C.] And look out for the portaloos, as you might need them before the race.”