Doting mother, wife, businesswoman and marathon runner. Is there anything this woman can’t do? At 49, Jolene Hong proves that it’s no longer a man’s world—that women can do exactly what men can. Juggling between work, her family and training, this mother of two is out to prove a point that in this era, women are stepping up in the world. Don’t let her small physique startle you, for this Klang-born lady packs a punch.
Where It All Started
Jolene lives for sports. She is the business manager of Athlete’s Circle, a concept store specializing in multi-sport equipment and training, and happens to be one of its founding members. Along with her fellow Athlete’s Circle founders, Jolene molded and shaped the concept store from a SOHO startup to the 2000 plus square feet lot that it is today. The Klangite started off her higher education with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biology from Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College’s twinning program with Campbell University of North Carolina. Upon graduating, she scored her first job in sales for Perkin Elmer, a scientific instruments company, and eventually Siber Hegner, that has now been bought over by the Swiss Market Expansion Services Group known as DieThelmKellerSiberHegner, which would soon pave the road she would be taking later on. She then spent the next ten years developing Select Science, selling scientific instruments.
In 2009, the business woman would then tie the knot between her intrinsic skills for sales and her passion for the tri-sports of running, cycling and swimming. Jolene brought this combo of skills and passion to the table, as she joined forces with the founding team of Athlete’s Circle retailing triathlon gears. Many would wonder how a businesswoman would suddenly have a love for the tri-sports, and to answer, Jolene fell in love with endurance sports back in 2005 when she witnessed for the first time a triathlon in Port Dickson. It then awakened the inner superwoman within her, with the motivation to challenge herself. Since then, she has completed a full triathlon and 16 full marathons! Who says size matters when mind overcomes fear? Two of the full marathons that she participated in were among the 6 World Majors, with the most recent being the Berlin Marathon in 2013.
With such an inspiring tale waiting to be told, Jolene took on the role as a speaker at the 2013 Malaysian Women’s Marathon and even manages the Athlete’s Circle Training team, with the mission to empower and inspire individuals with their passion for sports.
From Rackets to Races
With all of her accomplishments in sports, you would never have guessed that Jolene wasn’t much of a sports person growing up, as parents back in the day were more concerned about their children striving for good results in education rather than how well they performed in sports. Being a good daughter, as much as she wanted to take part in various extra-curricular activities in school, she followed her parents. So with the lack of exposure, she never really got to display much of her athleticism, except for the short stint of playing badminton back in high school.
She proved to be impressive in the sport as she excelled by winning badminton competitions at the inter-district level and went on to play at the interstate division. Though she did not win, the experience would remain a good memory.
Old School Meets New School
Her involvement in running came at a later stage in life. Her motivation to challenge herself led her to make time in between other responsibilities, to try out what it’s like to be a triathlete, and in her favour, she found how well she could perform. With zero experience in running, Jolene saw her progression in the sport through discipline and constant training, working on endurance and seeing speed slowly developing. She learned how to run through endurance training, and once she has covered the distance, speed slowly developed as her body got stronger. From an amateur runner who runs a couple of kilometers and walks the rest of the way to the marathoner that she is today, Jolene has proven that nothing is impossible, regardless of age and gender. Her personal best time taken to complete a 42.195km marathon is 4:41:00, at the Chicago Marathon, and she looks to beat her personal best down to 4 hours—a target she hopes to achieve in preparation for the upcoming Boston Marathon.
Of all the marathons that she has taken part in, the one that she takes pride in was the first marathon she ever ran, which was the Penang Marathon 2007. Taking four months prior to race day, her only wish was that she finishes the race under five hours. Once again, proven to be a strong woman with unquestionable discipline, she met her goal and came in before the 5th hour mark. Her motivation comes in the form of imagining herself crossing the finish line, without even a hint of thinking about giving up. Jolene loves running with music. Pop music of the 80s and 90s is what you will find in her iPod shuffle playlist, but don’t think this mother of two is old school, she knows how to live in the present with her fave modern day artists like Calvin Harris and Kelly Clarkson.
The forefoot runner trains religiously with or without any upcoming events. She makes sure that she runs four times a week, about an hour on weekdays and around two hours on weekends. That’s not all, Jolene does core training as well as upper body training to build up strength so that her body is kept in shape from head to toe. Though she may be physically fit, diet is the furthest thing from her mind. As far as she is concerned, a well-balanced meal means that she doesn’t have to deprive herself of what Malaysia has to offer her belly. She may not have much of a sweet tooth, but give her grapes any day and she will greet you like a friend.
Voice for Women
Kathrine Switzer formed the women empowerment movement called 261 Fearless, and Jolene has become the only Malaysian spokesperson advocating for the same cause.
One of the things that Jolene is most passionate about is women empowerment. She hopes to be an inspiration to the youth of today and women all across the globe, like the person she looks up to, Kathrine Switzer—the first lady who ran an all-male event in the 1967 Boston Marathon. Learning the story of how Kathrine Switzer acted to be the voice for women to come out of their shell and run, Jolene hopes to inspirit confidence among local female runners. Kathrine Switzer formed the women empowerment movement called 261 Fearless, and Jolene has become the only Malaysian spokesperson advocating for the same cause.
Yes, Jolene has accomplished a lot in her life, but it doesn’t mean she is looking to take a break anytime soon. Her New Year’s resolution is to work hard to earn a slot for the world major marathon. She has set her eyes on running the Boston Marathon 2017. She is now busy with preparing herself for a half marathon at the Yoma Yangon Marathon 2016 in Myanmar and a full marathon at Senshu International Marathon 2016 in Osaka, Japan. Looks like you will be seeing more of Jolene on the fast track, come New Year!