Going the Ultra Marathon Distance with Jenny Huang
A mother of 2 children, Jenny Huang manages to juggle her time effectively; raising her children, having a job, while finding time to train.
Jenny’s efforts paid off, and she emerged as women’s champion at the Sundown Ultra Marathon 2013, finishing the 100km distance in 10 hours 38 minutes. She was the only female runner to place under 11 hours. More recently, she came in 6th in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore Women’s Marathon Master Category.
Jenny shares with RunSociety why she took up running, and the motivations that drive her to always push farther and faster.
You finished first in the Sundown Ultramarathon 100km. This also happens to be your first time competing for that distance. What was the catalyst that made you decide to try for the ultramarathon distance of 100km?
When I signed up for the Sundown Ultra, I really had no idea what I was getting into other than taking on another challenge. But what inspired me most during my training, which was indeed hard work physically and mentally, was my dad. My dad passed away from cancer three months before I signed up for the race and I felt like I had to honour him by not letting any fear beat me just like he never gave up hope on living.
When did you start training for the 100km distance?
7 months before the race in February.
It takes an incredible amount of determination and time to train and run for a 100km ultramarathon, let alone competing that distance and coming in first place. What were the preparations that you took for such a distance? Were there any differences in training for a marathon?
I had my coach, Steven Chan – who is also my fiancé – help me guide my training. I also had the help of my running group who had done ultras prior to Sundown. I started with baby steps of accumulating weekly mileage. I also had to get the support of my kids to understand the time I would need to complete my training on some nights when I had to go out after their bed time.
Big difference in training: lots of running DAILY, slower paced runs, using recovery day effectively (REST), and lots of time dedicated to training (day and night/ before and after work).
The potential for injuries is also much, much higher. How did you overcome injuries along the way?
As a physiotherapist working at Physio in Motion, I am very lucky I know which muscles or ligaments are hurt. During training and races leading up to the Ultra, I had some microtears of muscles and twisted my ankle. I was able to use kinesio-taping to help reduce strain, continue training without pain, and performed exercises that helped my injury.
You are also the proud mother of 2 children, as well as a professional physiotherapist. How do you manage your time between your career, training and family?
I did and still do lots of running while kids are asleep (5am or 9pm runs), at school and pre/post office hours. (I work part-time.)
Now that you’ve conquered the 100km, what’s next for you?
Another ultra! And the Boston Marathon (registered and accepted) for April 2014.
You were born in Taiwan, raised in the United States, and now you’re based in Singapore. How did your upbringing affect your approach towards running?
Great question! Most of my childhood days were spent in the USA. I grew up in Spring, Texas to be exact. At that time, we kids use to roam the streets running, skating, or cycling until the sun went down. I used to run (chased by fierce dogs) and cycle (chased by mean dogs again) with my neighbourhood friends who were all genetically and physically more blessed than I was (so I never knew I could run fast until these races!)
I am inherently a nerd at heart; I studied lots through high school, university and graduate school and never did much sports. I only found my love for running after my second child as a way to find stress relief. And I do realize that a lot of the foundation for running was laid down when I used to outrun those dogs as a kid!
Jenny Huang’s next race will be the Boston Marathon 2014. We wish her all the best for running and beyond!