We talk to Marcus Lai, an avid runner and marathoner, about what goes on behind the psyche of a 42KM finisher, and what it takes to get across the finish line. He gives us some insights into his training and also advice for young aspiring marathoners out there.
1.) What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running? Specifically running long distances?
Running has reward me with great stamina. It helps my daily routine from work, runs to completing household chores. Stamina is important for me as it keeps my days energetic, active and alert.
2.) What do you think is the biggest misconception about running long distance in general?
Running can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Slow down and take in the view, it gets easier and you will be able to get a whole lot farther. A lot of new runners run as hard as they can every day. If you slow down a bit you’ll be able to run farther, longer and it will be more fun as it progresses in time.
3.) What motivates a person to run for such a long time – to run 42km?
There are many reasons. Personally for me, it’s the challenge and curiosity of how my body responds to high mileage. I want to see how far I can push my body to break point, without actually breaking, if you get what I mean. True enough there are good and bad days.
4.) Describe the training process for a marathon. How did you prepare both mentally and physically?
Firstly, I will make sure that I’m healthy and ready to take on a marathon I’m interested in signing up for.
For me it takes around 4 months preparation. Starting from probably a 20K long run and gradually increasing it with time, to a longer distance and duration. Throw into the mix Speed Work, Tempo Runs, Cross Trainings and tapering as well.
The preparation and training journey is even harder than the actual race day. Really tough sometimes. But that’s what a marathon is about. It’s like taking an exam paper. Race day is just implementing what has been months of preparation.
5.) What kinds of things do you think about as you run?
My thoughts will be how blessed I am to be able to run every single day and train hard without any problems. I think about those less fortunate and count my blessings everyday.
6.) How do you feel on the day of the big race? Do you have any rituals you perform religiously night before or morning of the race?
It’s just another Sunday morning where I do my long runs or trainings. I don’t have any rituals actually (haha)
I seldom skip or missed my LSD runs routine on Sunday mornings. So, I actually do the exact same thing as any other Sunday. Of course, I have technically corrected or altered my runs many times based on my best comfort. It’s like fine tuning a car’s engine. I work it till I find its optimum performance, then memorize it for race day.
7) Running a 3:45 timing for 42KM is no small feat. Which is the hardest time during the race for you. Why? (specifically The Standard Chartered KL Marathon (SCKLM))
The beginning of any race, is always my hardest. I’ve problems warming up all the time and find my body remains cold for a long time even in the initial stages of running and yes, even in Malaysia’s warm climate! It’s just something I have to accept and deal with it. Lots have said it takes a certain distance like 3K or 5K for the engine to fully function. For me, it can take up to 20km to feel warmed up! Which means to say for me during SCKLM, as soon as I turned into Duke Highway I felt alive. Legs striding, head held high and posture relaxed but in good form. The remaining journey and distance was pure running enjoyment to the finish line!
8) How do you overcome obstacles during the race?
Usually I prepared myself well for a race that I decide to take part in. I have raced distances from 5k up to 42KM. So, I will remind myself that I have been in these situations multiple times during training and approach it calmly. But if I do not perform up to what I expect sometimes in races, it will be a learning lesson, and just chalk it up to experience.
9) How do you recover after a big race?
Rest a day or two, depending on my condition.
Continue with some easy recovery runs and stretches. Recently I have been introduced to some simple Yoga and it has worked wonders for me. In addition, lots of plain water and fruits for good hydration, vitamins, minerals to replenish the exhausted muscles.
10) Your best advice for up and coming marathoners
“Something will always go wrong in a Marathon”.
If you expect to run a full 26.2 miles marathon and have the entire experience go as perfectly as you planned, you are in for a shocker! Murphy’s Law says that if anything can go wrong, it will.. and so goes Race Day. Yes, you should go into race day with expectations and goals, but also with the ability to adapt when things turn sideways. Experience and knowing what to do, when to push through hardship or when to throw in the towel.. well, that’s all chalked up to experience, and also how badly you want that PB/PR. At the end of the day, ask yourself is it worth it? Some will say, live to race another day. Some say bite the bullet and just go for the kill. In the end, it’s entirely up to you!