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At an age when most women tend to take it slow, a grandmother is busy running marathons. Tengku Sofiah Aishah is impressed
I HAVE always had deep admiration for long distance runners but my admiration was brought to a whole new level when I met Teresa Goh, a grandmother of two who has run 29 marathons in the past decade.
“I started with morning walks on my doctor’s advice to improve my health. I had no intention to run, but after I joined the Pacesetters Athletic Club Malaysia, I discovered that I really enjoyed the adrenaline rush of running,” says Goh.
At 71, she puts me to shame with her fitness and energy. Being the oldest woman in the club has not discouraged her from going further.
“I joined my first half marathon after six months of running and a full marathon the following year. It was a very emotional moment for me when I crossed the finish line,” says Goh, who has never missed a local marathon since.
She also left her mark on the international stage by coming in third during the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon 2006 (women above 65 category) and the Laguna Phuket International Marathon 2007 (women above 60 category).
“One thing about this country is that it is hot for runs, and this can be demoralising for some,” says Goh who has run marathons in Australia, China, New Zealand and Indonesia, to name a few.
EYE ON FINISH LINE
On average, Goh runs three marathons a year with her best time recorded at 5 hours 8 minutes at the Walt Disney World Marathon in the United States in 2005. Medals and timing, however, are not her goals.
“For me, time is not of the essence. I am happy to just complete the race. That feeling, when you cross the finish line, is my prize. Not many women my age are able to do that,” she says.
Indeed, not just women her age. I do not even know any woman my age who has completed a full marathon, except professional runners.
Goh is not biting off more than she can chew as she has always been active in extreme sports. “I’ve been on top of Mount Kinabalu three times and explored the Annapurna trail and the Kaala Patthar in Nepal,” says Goh, who sometimes goes trekking on Nuang Hill. She also joins her neighbourhood tai chi sessions in the morning.
Sharing her experience on running, Goh says the first step is the hardest. “Running has to be taken up slowly with consistent training. We cannot overdo it,” she adds.
“Running is a passion. It requires a strong mental state, a lot of willpower and endurance,” she adds.
Goh prefers to run outside than on the treadmill because that is the natural track for marathons. She prefers to run in the morning when the body is at its freshest.
“It is good to start your day with physical activity in the morning. You will feel energised and be more positive throughout the day,” says the mother of two boys.
Starting her day as early as 5am, the veteran runner runs 6km to 10km on weekdays and 15km to 20km on Sundays, which is more than the total distance I have run in the past few months.
“Running is a natural instinct. It is there inside us but we need to do strengthening exercises,” says Goh, comparing our body to a car engine that will decline in performance if it is kept in the garage.
“To exercise our mind, we must first exercise our body.”
While some people may find strength in music, Goh does not encourage wearing headphones while running anymore than she does barefoot running.
“I think we need to be aware of our surroundings especially when we are running on the main road and shoes are important to protect our feet from splinters or shattered glass. We don’t know what we are stepping on.”
Observing that there are more older people in the running club than younger ones, Goh believes that we should encourage the young generation to take up a sport, be it running or others.
“Perhaps the seniors have more time because we are not working but younger ones should try to make time for a good sweat-out session. Instead of a stroll in the park, go for brisk walks, they are better for your cardiac health.”
She is an inspiration for a healthy and active life. “It is not about how long you live, but how healthy your life is,” says Goh.
It is never too late or too early to start training your lungs. “The important thing is to follow your own pace and always stop for water,” she says. “All we need are determination and a good pair of shoes.”
Celebrating her 10th running anniversary this year, the iron lady will be running her 30th marathon at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2012 this Sunday. I, on the other hand, have only registered for the 10km “cruise” category.
“I never expected to come this far. I would have been happy with just one marathon,” she says.
I shall now add full marathon to my bucket list. I am young and healthy. Frankly, I have no excuse.