Just when you think you're tough enough


Fatin Nabila Goes From Running To Completing IRONMAN Triathlon in 1.5 Years

Fatin Nabila Mohamed Sam, who turns 31 later this year is your go-getter who perseveres and dedicates to be her best version in everything from running to triathlon. Popularly known as ‘Nabs’, this high-achiever is very friendly and humble, especially in leading women in the running community.

Perhaps her ability to adapt and relate to different levels of society comes from her background. She was born in Selangor and raised in Johor and attended boarding schools thereafter. Subsequently, the London School of Economics graduate worked with the National Bank in Kuala Lumpur before moving to a credit risk manager position in a financial institution.

From running to duathlon and triathlon, ToughASIA spoke to Nabs to discover how she keeps the sparks firing.

ToughASIA: How, when and why did you get involved in running?

Fatin Nabila: I started running when I was in high school. Dabbled in a little bit of track and field while playing basketball.

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ToughASIA: Where are your favourite running routes?

Fatin Nabila: I do not have specific running routes per se. However, I generally enjoy running with friends. Hence, I would say, my most favourite route is the one I run during my morning sessions around Hartamas in Kuala Lumpur. This same group of friends, would be complaining every time there is an uphill – and believe me,  there are lots of them – at the same time enjoying them all the same.

ToughASIA: How often do you run and at at what distance on each run?

Fatin Nabila: Prior to MCO, I ran about 60 to 80km a week. Mostly around 10km to 15km per run, except when I did speed and tempo sessions, where it would normally be much shorter.

During MCO however, I run around 30 to 40km a week on a treadmill and cycle on a trainer, which I bought to accommodate to how we train in this new norm.


ToughASIA: What is your proudest achievement in running?

Fatin Nabila: When I achieved my Personal Best (PB) at the Seoul Marathon 2019 at 3 hours 35 mins 50 secs. The hard work I put into it, balancing my training plan with my career, paid off when I exceeded my expectation. Was aiming for 3 hours 45 minutes initially, as that was my second marathon and I had never ran a sub-4 hour marathon before.

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ToughASIA: Which overseas run did you find most memorable?

Fatin Nabila: Seoul Marathon 2019, for sure. All because of the company I had with me – fellow runners from Kyserunkrew running group and Adidas Runners KL. The ambience throughout the race, all the preparations prior to the race itself, the friendships forged with runners all around the world during that trip was a bonus. I still recall the euphoric feeling felt as I crossed the finishing line, knowing that I’ve done my best.

ToughASIA: How long have you been with Adidas Runners KL and what do you like about your role as captain?

Fatin Nabila: I have been the captain for more than 3 years since the inception of Adidas Runners in KL back in September 2017.

I always hold on to the principle “Always a student, occasionally a teacher.”

Through Adidas Runner KL, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of runners from various backgrounds, learning from them along the way, above and beyond things related to running. And as a captain, I have the chance to give back to the society, in that I provide motivation, inspiration and support to those who seek for it through our sessions. And to know that I play a role – how minimal it may be – in their growth as a runner and as a person, is very fulfilling.

I’ve also had the opportunity to represent Asia in the Adidas Global Diversity and Inclusion Advisory committee to address diversity and inclusion issues from the brand’s perspective.

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Lighting up the streets of Kuala Lumpur on a night run with Adidas Runners KL

ToughASIA: We notice that you have been actively pursuing triathlon as well. What inspires or challenges you that keeps the triathlon flame burning?

Fatin Nabila: To a certain extent, my involvement in triathlon was accidental. My friend was selling her bike because she wanted to upgrade hers. Hence, I thought to myself “Why not?” and bought it from her. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Being the competitive person that I am, always that person to want to be the best version of myself in everything I do, I aimed to be an IRONMAN triathlon finisher (3.8km swim, 180km cycle, 42km run) as soon as I bought the bike.

Hence, from that day onwards, I paved myself towards that goal and finally achieved it one and a half years later. My first IRONMAN experience triggered the addiction towards triathlon in general. Nothing beats the taste of exhilaration when completing an IRONMAN race. Hence, my plan to do more of those races.

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ToughASIA: Did the lockdown impose during this MCO (since March 2020) interfere with your running or triathlon plans?

Fatin Nabila: Yes, it did put a dent in my running, triathlon plans and to a certain extent on my motivation to continue on training. However, as days turned to weeks, weeks into months and now more than a year, I’ve learned to adapt myself to the changes. Doing sports including running has always been a channel to release stress for me.

As part of my plan, I created my own stress release corner in my living room by buying my own treadmill and bicycle trainer. Nowadays, I run and cycle just to be healthy and stress free. And of course, as soon as race dates are announced, I will definitely be one of the first to register for them.

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From triathlon newbie to IRONMAN finisher in 1.5 years

ToughASIA: What advice or tips do you have for other runners who want to transition to triathlon?

Fatin Nabila: To answer this question, I would like to quote Master Yoda, one of the best Jedi of all times “Do or do not! There is no try!”

I truly believe that if you want to do something, do it with all your heart. Only then you would appreciate and enjoy the whole journey from the very beginning, without regrets.

It’s never too late to start something new, and why not triathlon?

Photos provided by Fatin Nabila.

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Podium regular at the Powerman Duathlon since 2016.