The journey to my first ever running event… in my 40’s

Featuring DOSE Runner Lichoo Tay

I only took up running around 4 years ago, just before I turned 40. Before that I hadn’t run any distance since high school, even though I had tried to keep up my fitness through other types of exercise eg HIIT. Since my youngest child was coming out of nappies, and I was in-between jobs, I thought it was a good time to get fitter and add variety to my workouts. One day I looked online and realised the fitness group that I did HIIT classes with also had a running class, so I decided to give it a go. I remember at the time telling my husband and he looked at me like I had grown 3 heads – he had been a regular runner for years but I had always declined to join him, citing injuries and other excuses!

The first running class I turned up to was an absolute shocker – the “warm-up” run was 3 fast (or so it seemed) laps around the track, with a group of very established and fast runners. We did around 5km in total that morning and I was well and truly the slowest plodder. I was so exhausted I had to take a nap straight after that session – certainly not training that Scarlett would call sustainable! Of course I had my doubts at that point – did I make a mistake putting myself out there at an activity that I always said I hated?! Because I hate quitting in general, I somehow persevered and just kept turning up. I think I just had skin thick enough to not care that I was the slowest, and I looked at it as a personal fitness challenge as opposed to competing with other people.

As a young person growing up in Singapore, exercise (and running) was not prioritized, and since I was never a natural athlete of any form, it was easy to fall into a sedentary norm. Later on in adulthood, I developed injuries (ACL tear) and knee pain, and was basically given bad advice by conservative Asian doctors to avoid “high impact activities like running’, which they said would lead to premature arthritis. Today we know that emerging science has proved that belief wrong – moderate amounts of running actually strengthen and help regenerate cartilage. Anecdotally, I feel the same way – since I’ve become an established runner, my knee pain is gone and knee instability has improved. I have never felt healthier or stronger, and running has done wonders for my stress levels and mental health. I started running more going into COVID because it was really the only opportunity during times of lock-down to leave the house, and I found that it really helped keep my head straight during those isolating times.

I think running has really taught me to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The first 10-15min of a run can sometimes feel physically and mentally daunting, but once you get over that hump and the initial discomfort, you start to find your rhythm and flow – for me, I start to feel almost meditative from about the 3rd km onwards. From Scarlett, I have also learnt about sustainable running, that not every run needs to be an attempt at a PB – sometimes it is fine to slow down, smell the roses, and just enjoy the run without looking at your watch. I find it so much easier to stay motivated and on track when I’m running with company or in a class, so being a part of the inclusive DOSE running community has been very helpful.

I recently participated in my first ever race at the Fremantle Running Festival and achieved a PB for 10km. It was so much more fun that I expected, and Scarlett’s training programme really helped to ensure that I was getting ready in a sustainable fashion –I did not get injured, nor feel burnt out or overstretched. I never thought I’d be running races in my mid-40s but now that I’ve started, I’m excited at what the future brings! I would love to try different races and train for other terrains and possibly even longer distances.