Years ago, I participated in Asia’s largest night race, the Sundown Marathon in Singapore. My motivation was a self-experiment. Can I complete it? The run started well. At kilometer 32 a huge thunderstorm with heavy rain came in the way. The route had brought me close to home, I was running along east coast. It was tempting to stop and just go home, I was drenched, totally wet, tired and exhausted. I saw some runners stopping and looking for shelter, others continued. The race was still on. I completed it; how could I stop when the finishing line was so close? The next morning, I came home, holding the “finisher” shirt proudly in my hands. I ticked it off my bucket list and decided, I will never run a marathon again.
What has changed since then and what happened?
Let me start from the beginning of this whole story. End of July 2019, I relocated back from Hong Kong to Singapore. “If not now, then when”, I decided to take a break in order to travel the world, it was my dream for many years. I departed from Singapore on 1st September 2019. By mid-March 2020 I flew back from the Caribbean to Germany, planning to visit my parents in Germany for a week and continue my travels in Europe. I had plans to go to Africa, Oceania and some other places as well. That week everything changed, the whole world shut down due to Covid-19 and shortly after it was declared a global pandemic. You know that part of the story already.
My original flight back to Singapore in early June was canceled as well as the two other reservations which I had made to go back home. Finally, I had a ticket for end of August. By mid-August, as Covid-19 cases in Germany increased, the regulations changed again and upon arrival in Singapore I had to be quarantined in a hotel for 14 days, doing it at home was not an option any more. I was up for the challenge, what an end to my “year around the world” trip. One year ago, it all looked so different.
Starting 14 days of quarantine
I had created a quarantine countdown calendar. Sitting at my desk I stared at it. It was only day two of fourteen, I was getting itchy. I needed to move and started running in the room back and forth for one hour. It worked better than I thought. I like to be outside, walking and running, this is what I had done for the last months. What could I do now? Sit in the room for 14 days, no way. I would get crazy.
In the evening I shared this with my friend on the phone and she said that people were running marathons during quarantine. Really? I googled it. It was true. The next morning, I woke up and decided to start another self-experiment. Can I do this? When should I start? So many questions in my head. If not now then when and I just did it and started right away.
From the entry door to the window I measured 12 steps, 8 meters. I just went running back and forth for 8 hours, calculating roughly that I could do 5.5 to 6 km per hour. If I run 8 hours it will be a marathon or more. I started at 8.30 am and moved back and forth for 8 hours. It kept me busy for the day. It was not easy, it’s all in your head. I was determined, I just wanted to do it. The scenery didn’t change, I ran past the sofa and bed every few seconds, it was tempting to stop and just continue watching Netflix. The indoor marathon also had advantages. It rained outside heavily during the day; I didn’t get wet. I had a constant temperature of 23 degrees without rain and thunder Questions I was asked.
Why have you done it three times? How did you manage to do it?
The first time I did it as a self-experiment again. Playing the right music on my phone motivated me to continue. By coincidence, 5 minutes before my finishing line at 4.25 pm my parents called from Germany to check how I was doing. I told them that I’m at the end of my first marathon. You can’t imagine the look on their faces: “The daughter is getting crazy already and it’s not even half way through the quarantine” kind-of-look. They accompanied me via WhatsApp video call onto the finishing line, it was very special. The second time, I did it, because I needed to move again. I had recovered. The last time, well, if you can do two, you might as well do three, it’s crazy. During the first marathon I listened to uplifting music. During the other two races I included podcasts and audio-books to make it more interesting.
How about food & drinks? Did you eat anything in between? Did you get any injuries?
Asian noodles for breakfast and I started. I cut my only orange into 8 pieces and had one piece each hour. The breakfast pastry I kept as a treat afterwards. For the second marathon I was better prepared with fruit and food. For the last run, I had all kind of snacks as two days before my friends surprised me with a Quarantine Care Packet. It was excellent timing with healthy marathon snacks inside. In addition to that another friend had delivered freshly home-made brownies which was my treat after completing the last run. Blisters, well unfortunately yes, as I did not prepare well for the occasion and running shoes were left at home. Running with socks or barefoot turned out to be the better eventually.
What kept you motivated?
I’m not even sure what kept me motivated, I guess it’s a mix of self-determination and proving to myself that I can do it. Even in quarantine you can achieve something special, something positive for your health and mind. You can inspire your family and friends by staying strong and making the best out of the circumstances. If I can do it, so can you.
Making the 14 day quarantine a memorable part of my life’s journey through the marathon
Completing this self-experiment and crazy task was really uplifting. It gave me energy. If I can do this, I can achieve many other things, which look very difficult or impossible in the beginning. I did not want to waste this time in quarantine. I wanted to make it memorable and special, a unique part of my life journey. In many ways running these marathons is like looking for a new job. Job hunting is like running an endurance race. Just a food for thought for many of you out there, looking for the next opportunity. Going into further details would be another story altogether, maybe another time.
I would like to leave you with these words. “If not now then when, just do it, don’t give up.”
About the writer:
Anja moved to Singapore from Germany more than 18 years ago. She is happy to be a permanent resident here and calls Singapore home. She worked in Hongkong in the recent years and started a trip around the world in September last year before this adventure was interrupted by Covid-19. She has always loved to run and in recent months, became more active again.