Marlina Ibrahim: This Malaysian Running Mum Deserves A Multi-Tasking Medal!
Marlina or Lina likes to think of herself as a typical young Malaysian mum, but she is nothing of the sort! Her life and schedule are literally and figuratively played out on the fast track as the energetic woman manages to set new multi-tasking standards by filling each day to the brim. Does she complain? Never! With a schedule others might find daunting, Lina took time to sit down and talk with us about her life. She calls it ordinary. We call it extraordinary. Prepare to be impressed after reading about her!
RS: Our readers would be interested in knowing how and when you started running. What sparked your interest?
Lina: I grew so bored with going to the gym that I stopped exercising for a year--but I missed feeling fit and healthy. I even bought a treadmill after shopping for an elliptical, but I did not use it any more than I used treadmills when I held my gym membership! That's when a few people suggested I try running instead of boring, repetitive indoor machines. Wow. I was 36 and fell in love with fitness all over again once I started running.
RS: Sounds like you consider yourself a late bloomer, so what was it like to begin a running program at your age? Did it stress you out? Ever feel like giving up and moving on to something else?
Lina: Not really. Before I started running, I consulted my doctors and read a lot because I wanted to make this commitment and not abandon another healthy activity as I did when I quit the gym. My GPs were helpful—they counselled me about potential injuries I could encounter as a runner, even though they do not run themselves! Like most beginners, I sustained a couple of injuries, but I never consider giving up running because it is the best de-stressor in the world, and it gives me such joy and feelings of accomplishment. I should add that I also found support from runners on the Internet who encouraged me to run outdoors—especially in parks.
RS: Have you talked your family members into becoming runners?
Lina: Not all of my family members run, but they are all enormously supportive. They accompany me to races, cheer for me on the sidelines and make sure that nothing gets in the way of my opportunities to compete. They know how precious this time is to me and help in many ways. On the other hand, I did convert my husband, so running has become a family affair for the two of us. My little son cannot wait to get into "the family sport"! Running has brought us much closer—that is what happens when you share a common interest.
RS: How do you juggle all of your roles—mum, wife, employee, runner? It sounds exhausting.
Lina: First, I am not convinced that I do the best job of balancing things, but what counts is that I always try my best. I prioritise my family and my job and manage my training schedule by using time wisely. For example, I run after we have dinner as a family and I put my son to bed on weekdays. On weekends, I run sometimes with my hubby and son, but if they are not in the mood, they do whatever makes them happy. Little adjustments and lots of understanding keep us together as I maintain my training schedule, without inconveniencing them or standing in the way of their interests.
RS: What is the most memorable race you have ever run, and why was it so memorable?
Lina: Oh, gosh! That's a hard question, but if I must pick favourites, I would have to start with my first ever 10k run in September 2011. That race stands out because it was my birthday run—a small event organised by KLIUMC called the Unity Run. I cannot forget my first marathon, sponsored at SCKKM in June 2012, either, and I will always have fond memories of running my first full marathon at the 2013 Malaysia Women Marathon. That one stands out because it is astonishing to see nothing but women on the course—women like me, with busy lives and families. I should add that my first 50K run at Watergate is memorable because it took 16 hours and I will never, ever forget the fortitude it took to stay the course and finish!
RS: What is your training schedule like? As a mum, wife and professional, how do you make time to train?
Lina: Ideally, I would always run four times a week and spend a day cross-training, but as you know, life moves along on its own schedule and finding time to train can disappear into thin air. If things get hectic at work or I have family demands, I am happy to slot in a long run or maybe two during the week as I can arrange them, but I try not to be hard on myself. It is good to have a routine—but it’s also good to know that if I'm not perfect, that's okay, too!
RS: When you race, do you have a specific pre-run ritual that you follow?
Lina: Don't laugh, but like most runners, as soon as I arrive at the track, I search for the location of the public toilets/portable loos. We joke about it, but believe me, this is important. I have a tendency to start a few minutes behind the pack and stick to the back—even when I get to the venue early. I don't think this is a great habit but that's my race until the day I decide to change my running style.
RS: Do you limit the number of races you enter annually? How do you decide which are best for you?
Lina: Truthfully, I always resolve to enter just a few races annually, but I never keep my word once I discover marathons and runs that intrigue me. I've already lined up three in January 2015 alone; a 12k; a 16-hour event and a 21k. I try to be selective. Since I don't train with a group, I keep track of my total mileage and run in events that inflate my totals to maintain a healthy balance. My husband might not agree with what I just said since I ran 16 races in 2014 before November!
RS: Do you undertake a specific workout to keep in shape as you train for running?
Lina: I do. I cross-train by cycling and have a stationary bike at home so I can jump on it when I find time. I know I should be pushing myself to strengthen my core and that will (again) be a New Year's resolution for 2015.
RS: What about running tips? What are your secrets?
Lina: You want me to reveal my secrets? Well—just for your readers. My advice is brief and simple: take care of your family, work hard and don't forget to have fun.
RS: Any other New Year's running resolutions?
Lina: You bet. I'll be running the Sabah Adventure Challenge in April 2015. This three-day race requires me to be in the best shape of my life, so another New Year's resolution is to train smart so that I enjoy the experience and walk away from the finish line injury free and with great memories to share with my family.
How fortunate are Lina's son, husband and family members to have such a dynamic woman in their midst? We were inspired by the time we spent with her and that experience leads us to ask this question of you: Are you an inspiration to the people in your world? Do you show them that your passion for running co-exists beautifully with all aspects of your life? If you have a story to tell about how you multi-task to maintain to your training and running schedule, we'd love to hear it!
If you wish to find out more about Lina, you can check out her blog on which she shares her running experiences.