There are some women out there who make running look easy. They inspire us with their speed and endurance as they achieve amazing things and complete tough races. Some of them even manage to do all of this with a smile on their faces. Susie Chan is one of these women. Run Mummy Run spoke to her to find out more about how she came to be a runner…..
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Susie Chan, I’m a 40 year old mother of a fourteen year old daughter. I was lucky enough to meet (through running) and marry a wonderful man this year.
How did you get into running?
I got into running accidentally really. My brother was training for a marathon – and wanted me to join him for a half marathon. At first I resisted, but eventually he persuaded me to join him in my local half marathon. I had not trained properly for it really. I found myself worrying like mad at the start line that I would be last. Everyone looked so much fitter than me. I had gym shoes and an underwired bra on. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! As it turned out I didn’t come last. I was towards the back of the field but to finish a half marathon was such a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t believe I had run that far! It was the furthest I had ever run. This was in late 2010.
Have you always been sporty?
At school I liked netball, but I was very average. I don’t think my PE teachers will remember me at all! Then after the usual teenage misbehaving, twenty-something partying, fitness was very low down on my list.
What were your first experiences of running like?
They were very tentative. As a single mum at the time I had no spare time or money to go to a gym or join classes. I would run in my lunch break, not very far or fast. Maybe two miles or so. It was to try to get a bit fitter and keep the diet in check as I was in my mid 30’s by this point. Once I had signed up for the half marathon, I focussed more on my running, trying to build up the distance a bit more each time. A real turning point for me was (after my first marathon) joining a run club. They gave me confidence, I found friends to run with, it was all so encouraging.
How did you discover endurance running?
I was going through a bit of a bad patch and was just beginning to do more races. I read about the Marathon des Sables in a magazine and it seemed like the most exotic mad wonderful thing. It is a 6 day 250km race across the Sahara Desert. You have to carry everything you need to survive the week, with the exception of water, (which is rationed) and a tent. I decided, that if I really REALLY tried I might be able to do it. A lot of people thought I was mad and that it was too much. I entered the race, not thinking I would get a place… I got a place. Panicking, I entered my first ultra marathon, a race around the Isle of Wight. I figured if I couldn’t run round the Isle of Wight in June, I would have no chance in the Sahara. My friend & I entered and it was just superb! From that point I was so very focused on the Marathon des Sables. It helped to have a positive focus and goal. I thought that one race would be the end of it. But it was just the beginning.
What are your greatest achievements?
Running wise I’m very proud of Boston Marathon and finishing a 100 mile non stop race in 22hrs 28 minutes. I try to not get too driven by times and minute miles. I went through a 6 month phase where I completely lost my confidence running, I was comparing myself to other people and became very focused on my pace. It made me miserable and I lost confidence. After a while I realised that no one really cares how fast I’m running, and people are certainly not judging me for it. I went back to basics, forgot all about the minute miles, ran with friends and started enjoying running again. Some of the fondest memories I have had running have been running with friends. Training with friends, fun races, and discovering new places out running. It is a hobby after all!
Why do you think you are so successful at it?
I wouldn’t say I’m successful, I just like doing it and do it a lot! If I tell myself I will do something, then I will. I don’t give up very easily. Running is all in your mind.. positivity and a strong mindset is the best thing to have in a race. If people tell me they don’t think I can do something, or I see doubt in their eyes when explaining a race.. this drives me on!
What tips would you give other runners wanting to get started with longer distances?
Take it easy and enjoy it. Build up mileage slowly, and make it fun. Buddy up with other runners, try out new routes. I discovered all sorts of great trails in my home town via running. Some days it might be hard getting out of the door, but you’ll rarely regret it once the run is done. Running should never be a burden!
How do you balance running and being a mum?
It was tougher when my daughter was younger. I had to squeeze in runs in my lunch break and when she was with her dad. I would incorporate running with my journey to work. Now my daughter is a bit older I can go out more at the weekends. I work full time too, so tend to try to run before and after work. Some days I do both. I do lots of getting up early so I’m back by lunch time at the weekends. Needless to say she is very bored and uninterested in my running!
What does your daughter think of you being an ultra runner?
She’s not at all impressed to be honest. When she was younger she cheered a lot at finish lines, and now it’s just old news to her. I won a recent race she had come to watch. It was a tough race and I was thinking “Lily is watching! I will try to impress her!” and came over the line first lady. She was only vaguely impressed, and then asked what was for lunch. Ha ha! Teenagers!!
Tell us about the MDS and your 100 mile race
I have done both of these races twice now, and both were very different experiences. My first MdS in 2013 was all about the experience and completing the event. It really was a superb experience and I made friends for life there. Via that I became friends with the man who was to become my husband. We went back to the race this year – and my race came together in a way I never imagined! I ended up with the elite field, and it was a real honour racing with such top flight runners! The 100 mile race had a similar format. The first time was all about completing. It was 2014 and I had run London Marathon and Boston Marathon in the two weeks before, and was raising money for Charity. This really kept me going! 100 miles is a long way and it was very daunting. My method was to break the distance into smaller chunks mentally. I broke it down into bite-size amounts – 10 x 10 miles. The second time around was last month and I was much fitter. This time my aim was to complete the race in under 24hrs. It was much tougher for me mentally. I spent many, many miles worrying about not making the sub 24 hours I was targeting. It was agonising. Finally at 88 miles I realised I was going to do it, and the last 12 miles were the easiest ones!
How do you stay motivated?
Races keep me motivated. Always having a goal. I find that training with friends also helps. Meeting up with people gets me out the door and keeps training sessions fun. Sure I get days when I really don’t want to, it’s cold or I’m tired. Some days I realise it’s perfectly OK to not run and better to rest. Other times I will get my trainers on and take it easy, and feel better for having made the effort. The key is to make sure running is enjoyable. OK some speed sessions are very tough, but the good times definitely outweigh the bad times!
Do you do any cross training and what do you find most beneficial?
I go through phases doing different things. I dip in and out of a bootcamp group. This is great for my core and general strengthening. I also enjoy yoga and have been known to swim and cycle a bit too. I probably should do more cross training than I actually do!
How do you avoid injury?
I do hot yoga – it seems whenever I am in a phase of doing it I just don’t get injured. It’s fantastic! I’m a bit lazy with stretching, so this keeps me in check. I also get sports massages and, when I remember, get on the foam roller to work out any leg tightness.
Do you have a super healthy diet?
Alas no. It’s been very liberating to eat whatever I want now I have started running. I no longer order a salad rather than chips. I have to say I’m not super healthy. I just eat what I want. I drink wine some (ok most) evenings. It’s my treat. As I’m no spring chicken I take supplements. Super greens and iron (I have suffered from anaemia which really effects running) Glucosamine and multivitamins to balance it out. I try to eat a bit healthier now and again – as it really does make you feel better!
What’s next for you?
2016 is a busy year for me. I am doing a “Grandslam” of 50 mile races in the UK (4 in the year). I am hoping to get into the New York Marathon, as well as the usual smaller races. I’m taking part in a London to Paris bike ride and I am off to the Peruvian Jungle for the “Jungle Ultra” 250 km of jungle foliage, river crossings and adventure. I’m terrible with creepy crawlies and worrying about this already!
Will you be running on Christmas Day?!
Yes! I’m actually out of the country for the first time ever this Christmas, and will be putting my trainers on!