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7 marathons in 7 days at age 67: Mind over body, and age just a number

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Laura Chia on 18 Feb 2019

The Straits Times

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Singaporean Lau , 67, is oldest woman to finish 7 marathons in 7 continents over 7 days

 

Growing up, property developer Gloria Lau was not a sports enthusiast. She had no sporting background and had never participated in sports activities.

 

But all that changed in 2007 when her doctor warned her that her low bone density could lead to osteoporosis and recommended that she take up running to increase her bone density.

 

She then started running regularly, beginning with 2km runs and increasing the distance over time.

 

After seven months, she took part in her first marathon, the Perth Marathon, and she has not looked back since.

 

On Feb 6, the 67-year-old Singaporean became the oldest woman to complete the prestigious World Marathon Challenge where she ran seven marathons in seven continents in seven days in a time of 50hr 30min 58sec.

 

Briton Susannah Gill clocked 24:19:09 to win the women's title, setting a fastest average marathon record of 3:28:09, almost 30 minutes faster than the previous mark of 3:55:11 set by American Becca Pizzi in 2016.

 

Even though Lau finished last among 36 runners - 23 men and 13 women - with an average time of 7hr 13min per marathon, she is "over the moon" that she finished all the races.

 

"My biggest fear was not finishing. I knew I was going to be last, but it was more important to me that I finished," said Lau, who has run 32 marathons since 2007.

 

To meet the cut-off time of eight hours for each marathon, Lau barely stopped, minimising her toilet breaks and opting to eat bananas and run at the same time.

 

"If you stop to rest, you lose momentum and every minute counted for me," she said.

 

Lau had been training for the World Marathon Challenge since last year, but she signed up only one week before the marathons started on Jan 31 in Antarctica after encouragement from event director Richard Donovan.

 

"It was now or never," said Lau, who had already been running an average of 70km a week.

 

After Antarctica, she ran one marathon a day in Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago and Miami.

 

For the mother of two, the most challenging part was not the sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica or the extreme heat in Cape Town.

 

It was battling fatigue which took its toll on her in the fifth leg in Madrid.

 

"As I finished last (in most of the races), I had very little time for recovery. In Madrid, I struggled to keep awake and was thoroughly exhausted. I couldn't even run straight," she said.

 

"But it all comes down to how mentally tough you are. I splashed water on myself, kept talking and shouting to myself so that I wouldn't fall asleep.

 

"I told myself, 'Look, you don't want to do this again. You'll feel great when this is over. You can do it'."

 

Lau recalled how she was inspired by words of encouragement from the other runners running past her.

 

American Michael Wardian, who won the men's title by completing seven marathons in 20:49:30, even lent Lau his jacket in Madrid when it became extremely cold and windy.

 

Besides the extreme weather conditions, Lau also had to battle pain in her right hip and blisters on both feet.

 

"I didn't think about the pain. When you're running like this, you feel numb to the pain because you think only of finishing," she added.

 

Lau hopes that her own story will encourage people of all ages to take up running.

 

"If I can do it, anyone can do it, too. It's never too late to start. Running is the cheapest form of exercise and it's good for overall health," she said.

 

"People always tell me to be careful and take care of my knees while running but I've never felt better.

 

"Running is very therapeutic and I feel like I'm in my own world."

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

 

 

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