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Wendy Chan Shares The Mental Torture of London Marathon Virtual Race

The Virtual London Marathon 2020 was a unique event. Participants paid to participate, and would receive actual bibs, and medals and tees upon completing the race over a weekend. It was so popular that the race was sold out in under 24 hours!

ToughASIA got in touch with 43-year-old Wendy Chan Su Ching, who was lucky enough to snag a slot. Born in Petaling Jaya but a Klang Valley girl at heart, Wendy works for a government agency.

According to Wendy, she runs “to clear my head, unspool the tangles that build up and reclaim some peace and joy I may have lost over the days. I only started running in 2017 after I had a midlife fitness crisis and caught the running bug!”

The Selangor-born runs 4 to 5 times a week, with short runs of 5-7km during weekdays and a mid-to-long distance run of 15-20km over the weekend. Hartamas, Bukit Tunku, Saujana, around my Taman and the lake in Putrajaya are among her favourite routes.

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ToughASIA: What inspired you to participate in this London Marathon virtual race?

Wendy: To be very honest, I was ‘coerced’ (more of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out actually!) to sign up for the race by my running group. One of them wanted to do a full marathon before hitting a certain age. The actual London Marathon medal and Finisher T-shirt were also strong incentives.

ToughASIA: Did you sign up for the live event London Marathon originally?

Wendy: I balloted for this event but was unsuccessful. They say the odds of winning the ballot is akin to winning the lottery!

ToughASIA: Did you plan out how you were going to run this race?

Wendy: The race organisers allowed us to run the 26.2 miles (42.195km) not as one continuous run as long as it was completed before 2359hrs British Standard Time on 4 Oct. Although I was tempted to break up the run into two legs – that is, run 21 km first then run the remaining 21km later – deep down I knew that I would only be cheating myself in claiming I ran a full marathon.

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ToughASIA: What route or venue did you choose for this race?

Wendy: Two potential routes were considered locally – Putrajaya and Saujana Subang – both relatively flat. We started at 5.30pm as it was cooler to run in the evening.

ToughASIA: How did you plan your ‘water and refuel stations’ and did you have any support during this race?

Wendy: We decided on the Saujana Subang route as it was an 8km loop. Therefore, we placed the water and refuelling station just outside the hotel parking entrance so we could have a 4km water station.

Our supporters were mainly husbands, sons, daughters of my running group and even our other running friends and my running coach. One of my running group member who did not sign up for the race, was our pacer. If not for her pacing me for the last four kilometres, I do not think I would have been able to finish the race within five hours.

ToughASIA: We saw that you had some friends also running this race together. What is the story behind it?

Wendy: I met my ‘crazy’ group at a run class, The Running Plan, back in 2018. Also, my running sifu whom I became friends with after asking him to take my photos after the 2018 Malaysia Women Marathon race, has been my biggest supporter, helping me throughout my running journey thus far.

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ToughASIA: Are there any proud achievements or moments which you experienced during this race?

Wendy: I was thrilled when my running mate told me I was on track to finish the race below five hours. I did not have a lot of expectations for this race as I was then recovering from a minor surgery I had in April and only seriously trained for five weeks prior to the race. I also walked the last kilometre of my friend’s run with her so she could finish it with someone.


ToughASIA: What was the toughest part of this race?

Wendy: Most of the time, I was running alone and I had to dig deep into the mental vault. I guess being in long labour for my two kids and working insane hours at my first job kind of mentally prepared me for this!

ToughASIA: Did you plan a ‘finish line’?

Wendy: The finish line was at our water and refuelling station. We did have a Start and Finish London Marathon banner that we used to take photos before and at the end of the race.

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ToughASIA: How do you find completing a marathon in a real life race, compared to a virtual race?

Wendy: I have done a couple of virtual races but not at the marathon distance. Running a marathon is already tough, doing it virtually for the first time is twice as hard!

The hardest part of the race is not the physical aspect but rather the mental torture your mind goes through past the 30km mark when the REAL marathon starts.

I consider this virtual marathon equivalent to the marathon race in real life, since I ran it one shot and treated it like a real race. So, very happy all my marathons thus far have been under 5 hours.

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ToughASIA: What went through your mind during the race?

Wendy: There were times I felt like giving up and many times I asked myself whether there were better ways to spend my time! Nonetheless, I constantly reminded myself that pain is temporary and quitting lasts forever.

Our running buddies are lucky to have completed this virtual race before the start of Selangor’s CMCO this week!