Interviews

Poon Zi Li and Rachel See: Singapore’s Power Running Couple is Heading to Boston!

by On Nov 18, 2014
Poon Zi Li and Rachel See: Singapore's Power Running Couple is Heading to Boston!

Zi Li pretty much defines the term "healthy living". Not just an accomplished runner, the secondary school Physical Education teacher enjoys dragon boating and is also known as the "chin up king", performing 41 chin ups at the Army Half Marathon earlier this year!

His wife Rachel See is a dedicated civil servant who originally took up running as a way to de-stress after work. Their combined love of running led to Zi Li and Rachel breaking their personal bests of 3hr 5min 42sec and 3hr 9min 1sec respectively at this year's Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

Successfully juggling their careers and running, Zi Li and Rachel are also parents to 2 beautiful daughters. The very picture-perfect image of a fit and active married couple, we're sure many people are asking, "Just how do they do it?"

We talk to the dynamic duo and find out!

RS: When did you both pick up running?

Poon Zi Li (ZL): I have always loved running, but was heavily involved in dragon boat until 2007. I started to run a bit more after I got married, it was definitely a more convenient form of exercise. Our first home was also situated in Bukit Merah and there were so many interesting places to run such as Mt Faber, the Boat Quay area, Labrador Park, Southern Ridges and more.

Rachel: I picked up running mostly after I started working, as I tend to sleep better after exercise and it's also a good way to de-stress after work. I started training and taking part in races mostly from 2007 onwards.

RS: There are really lots of interesting places to run in Singapore! What are your favourite spots to run?

ZL & Rachel: We have shifted to Potong Pasir, and a few favourite routes in the vicinity include the Mount Vernon area, the National Sports Hub area at Kallang, Macritchie Reservoir and Upper Pierce Reservoir. Occasionally, we run all the way to Mount Faber and back, just to visit our previous training area too.

RS: Do you have children? How old are they?

ZL and Rachel: We have 2 girls, Charlotte is coming to 5 years old and Clara is 20 months old.

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RS: Are they as active as Mummy and Daddy?

ZL and Rachel (laughing): Oh of course! It's definitely more tiring playing with them than training!

Poon Zi Li and Rachel See: Singapore's Power Running Couple is Heading to Boston!

Family photo with their lovely daughters. Left: Clara, 2 years old; Charlotte, 5 years old. Photo courtesy of Poon and Rachel.

RS: What's your favourite method of training solo?

ZL: I just like to exercise in general, so my typical week will include 1 weight-lifting session, 1 long-distance kayaking and running session (I try to maintain my paddling fitness for ad hoc dragon boat races), a 10km set on the rowing machine (also for maintaining paddling related fitness) with chin ups and push ups after and 1 long run that's normally 21km. I'll only push a longer distance when we approach a marathon.

The remaining 3 days would be either runs of 10k to 15k, depending on time, followed by my chin up regime… I love to do chin ups.

Rachel: He's a chin up king, he did 41 chin ups at the AHM challenge! For myself, I just love to run at my own time, own target. I run around 3 times on weekdays, mostly 8-12km before going to work, and then a LSD session (long, slow distance) of about 21km during the weekend.

RS: 41 chin ups, a true chin up king! Tell us a little about your chin up regime!

ZL: I try to complete a total of 100 chin ups, push ups or dips and sit ups after I complete a run. This is done in 4 sets (20 chin ups, 25 push ups or dips, 6 narrow grip pull ups, 25 sit ups), in immediate succession with no rest in between. A very time effective way as this only takes a total of 10 minutes.

RS: Do both of you train together?

ZL: We seldom get to run together as we need to take turns to look after the girls, but there are days when my mother helps us and we get to run together.

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For running, we both do not really have any special training other than long runs and having more intense sessions when we feel like it.

RS: Finding the energy to raise children, working, and train is challenging. How do both of you find the time?

ZL: I think those 3 things are all my passions and I see it as a cyclical effect in sustaining each other. For example, when I have a tough working day, I always tell myself I can run it off later and after a good workout, I get to see my precious 3 ladies!

After that and a good night's sleep, I'll be recharged and ready for another day at work. It also helps that my occupation is sports-related and something that I like very much.

Rachel (laughing): It's really hard for me! But I am blessed to have a good mother-in-law who helps readily and it's only because of that, we get to go races and have our occasional little dates knowing that the kids are in good hands. We are really lucky to have strong family support from both sides

RS: Rachel, was it easy to get back into running after having a child? How did you ease back into running?

Rachel: Quite easy for me as I was running and brisk walking throughout my pregnancy. In fact, I got faster after each baby! I used to puke or have bad stomach upsets after each marathon, but this somehow disappeared after my second child-birth.

RS: And if an expectant mother still wants to maintain her fitness, what advice would you offer?

Rachel: Depending on each expectant mother, but generally it is good to go for slow walks as this will also make the delivery process easier.

Rachel snapped the 1st prize at the recent Newton Challenge 2014.

Rachel snapped the 1st prize at the recent Newton Challenge 2014.

RS: Are there any running milestones that you are most proud of?

ZL: Achieving a BQ (Boston Marathon qualifying time) at my recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon (it's technically a BQ because I will be 35 next year). Another milestone I'm proud of was when I did a 1 hour and 28 minutes half marathon recently. Running a marathon in 3 hour 22 minutes while dressed as Captain America was also a pleasant surprise for me last year!

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Rachel: My running milestone would be my Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 personal best of 3 hours 09 minutes and 1 second. I never thought I could be anywhere near that timing! Now that Zi Li has qualified, we are finally going our dream race, the Boston Marathon in 2015!

RS: Tell us an unforgettable memory from running that you'd like to share.

ZL: Apart from races where I got my personal bests, I will never forget my first marathon when I did 5 hours 15 minutes. I was cramping very badly! Back then, Rachel still didn't pick up running yet, so she said I looked ridiculously tired and asked me how come I ran so slowly!

Rachel: Too many and looking forward to more!

RS: Every successful runner has a personal mantra or philosophy when it comes to running. Tell us about yours.

ZL: "A happy run is a good run."
Rachel: "Run while you still can."

RS: Do you train with a regular group?

ZL and Rachel: We used to run with the Punggol Runners, and we would say that this group of runners really got us interested in running. We will try to return and join them when possible. We also ran a while with the SAFRA Mount Faber runners. There are really many fast runners there!

RS: If you had a chance to chat with any runner in the world, who would it be and why?

ZL and Rachel: Yuki Kawauchi the "citizen runner" from Japan! We actually caught a glimpse of him during the Gold Coast Airport Marathon this year. Needless to say he was way ahead of us!

He managed a third place finish, but that was because he fell down early in the race. We have heard of his amazing feats despite working a full-time 9 to 5 job. He really gives hope to runners like us!

Poon Zi Li and Rachel See: Singapore's Power Running Couple is Heading to Boston!

The couple taking a selfie before the start of The Straits Times Run at the Hub 2014.

Congratulations Zi Li and Rachel for qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2015! All the best in their future running adventures!

Jonathan was a stereotypical couch potato a few years ago. He finally took the courage to take his health into his own hands, and now enjoys lengthy runs by East Coast Park.

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Singapore
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