Susie Chan started running in her mid-30s. She was your typical mom, watching TV in her free time when she got into running by accident. She soon went from getting roped into her first half-marathon to enjoying multi-stage ultras.
Susie was on the Tough Girl podcast in 2015. Since then, she’s run the Marathon Des Sables for the fourth time, the New York and Toyko Marathon, and the Jungle Ultra. This strong woman is an empowering voice in the running community and an example of how wonderfully you can change your life by giving yourself a chance.
Do it Because You Want to
A few years into her 30s, Susie was at a low ebb in her life. She was getting through the days with a few bad habits and needed something positive to make a difference. The turnaround point was running a half marathon her brother persuaded her to join.
Susie really didn’t want to do it and was terrified of facing the challenge. But she trained up to 8 miles and made it to the starting line. Looking back, Susie sees just how unprepared she was. But when she made it nine miles into the race, Susie realised she was actually going to finish a half marathon. The feeling was amazing and it lasted for days.
That incredible, positive feeling made Susie think she should do more of this sport. She quickly joined a running club and dove into online communities. Flash forward to today and Susie lives and breathes running. Her life wouldn’t look at all the same if she hadn’t (begrudgingly) taken the first step.
“Don’t be intimidated by what it looks like on the outside,” Susie counselled. “It doesn’t matter if you think you’ll be good at something, it matters if you want to do it. It’s never too late.”
Make Training Work For You
You might be surprised to hear that Susie has only ever done a training plan twice in her running life - once for her first marathon and the next for her first ultra. Susie found that the more she runs, the more she learns about what works for her and what she can fit around her life.
In 2015, Susie worked full time and had a 14-year-old daughter. With a new sport in her life, weekends began to revolve around family and training. A night out is a rare thing for the runner. Fortunately, her friends are similarly-minded. Susie enjoys weekends going out for a race, having lunch with friends after and coming home. Luckily, she says, her social life and hobby overlap.
When training for a big race, Susie fit training into her commute. She’d cycle halfway to London, get on a train, then run the rest of the way to work. Susie added, “It’s a juggling act and it leaves me tired sometimes. When it does, I ease up a bit.” As always, it’s important to listen to your body and relax.
Susie shows us that if you really want to do something, you will find a way to fit it in. No matter how you spend your days, you can find ways to fit in your new passion.
Choose Your Mindset
When you’re getting into a new sport or challenge, developing a positive mindset can mean the difference between giving up and achieving your wildest dreams. “You can train your body as well as you can, but the most important thing is your mind,” Susie noted.
It took Susie a long time to get her mindset to a really strong place. Today, Susie knows she’s going to finish every race. There’s no question about it. In this way, arrogance can be a positive thing that pushes you forward. Susie said you have to believe you’re going to do it and know you can.
Having a positive mindset is key to getting through the ups and downs that come with any distance and any challenge. For Susie, it’s finding something small to uplift yourself like a text of support or a checkpoint to look forward to reaching next.
Susie breaks every race down into chunks to get to the finish line. She never sees running a 100-mile race as 100 miles. She just tells herself she’s running for one day of her life, meeting people, and doing things she enjoys. Giving herself things to look forward to helps her get past any mental blocks.
Join the Community
For Susie’s first ultra, she was running with a friend and that made all the difference. As it started to get very hilly and windy, Susie’s spirits sank. Add on to that the fact that she kept thinking could see the finish line, but found she was wrong. Going on became very difficult and Susie felt like she couldn’t do it. Luckily, her friend had the positivity she needed to keep going.
When getting ready for the Marathon Des Sables, Susie found that other runners participating would be at races around the UK. Here she could ask questions and learn more about getting prepared from people who’d been there before.
The running community has become such a big part of Susie’s life. She always advocates finding a support network revolving around your interests. While social media can be a negative place, Susie finds that the running community is all very encouraging. She gets messages of support she re-reads in the middle of nowhere during a race that help her push past her mental limits. In return, Susie is always there to send a positive message and volunteer.
This is the real secret to changing your life with a new sport. Get involved with like-minded people, even though it may seem scary at first. Creating your own support network will propel you forward through any challenge.
You can follow Susie on Twitter @Susie__Chan. I’m also on twitter @_TOUGH_GIRL. Send us a tweet once you've listened to this episode!
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