Obstacle races are gaining a little more attention especially with the recent Spartan Race Singapore, truly the first of its kind held here. So, what does it take to be an obstacle runner, albeit a woman in her late 30’s who has only started running 3 years ago? Lim Soo Ee, a 39-year-old teacher took part in the recent Spartan Races – one held in Kuala Lumpur and the other in Singapore – and came in 3rd and 2nd respectively in the Elite Women’s Category.
Congratulations for coming in 3rd and 2nd in the Elite Women’s Category of Spartan KL and Spartan Singapore respectively. What do you think of such achievements?
Soo Ee: The achievements came in at a good time. They provide me an awesome platform to share my passion with others – eating well and keeping fit. Most importantly, through everything I have achieved, I hope to inspire more people, especially the ladies who are reading this, to dare to go beyond what they can imagine. You will never know if you never try. On a personal note, the achievements reinforced in me a sense of confidence and groundedness, the two things I thought I lost when the injuries kept revisiting me.
What differences did you find between the races at Spartan Kuala Lumpur and Spartan Singapore?
Soo Ee: The first thing that comes to mind when I talk about Spartan KL is the mud – there was mud literally everywhere from my eyebrows right to my toes (with my socks and shoes totally caked with mud) ! For Spartan Singapore, Singapore is a green city so I sustained mostly cuts and grass.
Some of the obstacles in Spartan KL were also more challenging, e.g. one of the obstacles required us to climb down and out of a very deep and slippery trench filled with muddy water. I could only depend on my strong fingers from judo training to claw myself out. Spartan KL also included a taxing trail run on a few steep slopes in a forest, which I was glad I managed well with frequent trail run training in MacRitchie. Above all, I like the crowd in KL – people were just happy to be soaked and caked in mud. That common goal sort of bonded us, despite borders.
As for Spartan Singapore, the start point was very accessible at Nicoll Highway. In contrast, Spartan KL was less accessible, being held in a rather remote area, so participants had to depend on the transport provided to travel in and out of the venue.
Do you think starting out to take part in races, especially obstacle races, at an older age can be a disadvantage?
Soo Ee: In a way, yes. Recovery from training takes longer; for example, for me, my joints do not function like they used to 20 years ago. Having an accumulation of injuries sustained for the past 20 years doing martial arts does work against me. Whenever I attempt to overcome certain obstacles, I have to be very mindful and careful not to be too gung-ho. I try to prevent unnecessary injuries from happening by seeking ways to strengthen the weaker parts of my body, e.g. the shoulder cuff.
How then has starting out late (at an older age) in racing (road or obstacle) also worked for you?
Soo Ee: Taking part in races helps me to be more in tune with my body, as in I’m now more aware of how and why I feel in a certain way and what different rehab and strengthening that I should adhere to. Besides, staying active all this while makes it easier for me to adjust and cope with any new demands, physical and mental. I learn something new and positive about myself every time I train or race or rehab.
What makes obstacle races more challenging for female athletes?
Soo Ee: Upper body strength and height are two main problems for women as most obstacle races require lifting some form of weight or getting over a very high obstacle (e.g. tyre drag or wall jump in a Spartan Race). We are small framed. I am small framed. We generally have weaker upper body strength compared to men.
If the women want to see how much they can push themselves beyond their limits, start on strength conditioning of the upper body. Alternatively, if they just want to complete the race, they can form teams or do the obstacle races with guy friends, or ask the male participants in the race to lend them a hand to overcome the obstacles, e.g. giving them a lift to climb over a wall. From my experience, guys at races are an awesome helpful bunch and would be more than happy to lend their muscles to help the ladies overcome the obstacles!
Any words for someone who is starting out late in attempting obstacle races?
Soo Ee: Attempt them slow and steady. Work with what you can, and progress gradually. Different strokes for different folks. Different people have different biological systems and may come from different sporting backgrounds, so work with what you are comfortable with and as you gain confidence, add in the difficult bits part by part. If you have previously sustained some form of injuries or are still recovering from it, I think it is better to seek professional help/advice before attempting anything out of your comfort zone.
Interview by chrysruns