The bubbly and melodic voice that accompanies you on the radio show, while getting stuck in a traffic jam on your way to work every early morning. Tuning in MIX FM, Aishah Sinclair brightens up your day with her high energy and entertaining wit on her morning show – MIX Breakfast.
Aside from her profession as a radio announcer and television host, Aishah is also an avid runner and a mother of two daughters. Upon her return from Tokyo, we caught up with the easy-going runner to talk about her life, running journey, and how she achieved her personal best at the rain-sodden 2019 Tokyo Marathon.
Besides pushing her body to the limit and training for months in an effort to run her first World Marathon Major, it’s her humble and low-key demeanor that has won her the respect of the running community. She has also been readying herself for different distances of road and trail races.
Tell us about your running background.
I love and have been running with my dad who is also a runner. My dad picked up running in his 30s, and I picked up running in my 30s after giving birth to my first child. At that time, running for me was more like a weight loss thing.
After that, I took part in Standard Chartered KL Marathon 8 years ago. I ran the 10km race and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the atmosphere and catching up with people. I realized that I was quite okay with my pacing for the first time, it was pretty nice. That was where I started signing up for races and my dad has always been my running buddy.
I did my first half marathon with my dad at Penang Bridge International Marathon and my first full marathon 6 years ago.
Have you always been an active person?
In school, I was already an active person. I took part in running, but shorter distances, like 100m, 200m, and 400m. I have tried running 800m but hated it. Now, I still hate shorter distances, like 5km. I can bear with 10km, but 21km is the perfect distance for me.
Eventually one day, I would love to try an ultra. I know, training for an ultra is quite challenging. Even training for a full marathon is quite a challenge, having to balance kids, work, and training.
What made you decide to run the Tokyo Marathon 2019?
The opportunity came up. Even before that, I have always wanted to run the Tokyo Marathon. With that being the closest World Marathon Major, besides the UK and the US, I have always thought that it’s really awesome to do that. So, when ASICS offered me the opportunity, I definitely wanted to grab it.
However, three months before the Tokyo Marathon, I ran the Fuji-San Marathon (Mount Fuji International Marathon) with my dad. It was a bit close to the race. I felt that I needed a bit more time to recover. As soon as I was done with Fuji-San Marathon, I did a few recovery runs and started picking up training as soon as I could.
Describe your training program for the Tokyo Marathon.
ASICS Global came out with a programme where they got Chevy Rough, who is a performance and mind-focused coach. ASICS is all about ‘Sound, Body, Sound, Mind’. He was assigned to coach 15 to 20 athletes all over the world. He started training me 12 weeks before the Tokyo Marathon.
This is sort of like an experiment ASICS Global has always wanted to do. They want to see a different type of training programme. It is very different from the typical marathon training. Marathon training is about building up the mileage. With Chevy, his approach is slightly different. He made me run three times per week. But I did circuit training, which was 8 times 200m sprint, sometimes 4 times 800m. Over the weekend, I slowly built up for 11km, 15km, to 17km.
With this approach, the body has a lot more time to recover. He wanted to get so much emphasis on body recovery, including 8 hours of sleep as well as enough nutrition every single day.
How do you stay motivated to keep running?
Everything comes from my energy source. Going to work, hitting the gym, taking care of my kids, and training for my marathon, I have to make sure that I am properly taken care of. Sometimes, I am tired, demotivated, and just don’t feel like running. So, there are times when we need to rest. Don’t ever feel bad if you want to take a break. Getting enough sleep didn’t affect my performance when I finally did the marathon.
How do you fit running into your busy schedule?
I run because I love doing it. For me, running is my relaxation time. I don’t run with music. Sometimes, I run with people and we have conversations. Sometimes, it’s just me and my thoughts. When I work in my radio studio, it’s always talking with high energy. So, running is like my meditation. And I love eating, so I run. It’s kind of like a balance.
I race because I am quite competitive. I can’t be the elite runner but I like to push myself, and see how fast I can go. Another reason why I race is because of my kids. I want them to be able to see that, sometimes being a working mom is not easy. My older daughter is starting to show an interest in running, although she hasn’t taken part in many races. And I want my kids to be active in sports. Through sports, they learn about competitiveness, failure, and don’t fear it.
How was your experience in Tokyo?
The weather was horrible. I was actually worried because I was scared that I was underdressed. We all knew that for the few days it was gonna rain. Apparently, the weather broadcast was accurate saying it was gonna rain. And I was like, “I didn’t bring a rain jacket!” Luckily, I managed to get one there in Tokyo. A really light one. So, I wore a long sleeve running shirt, rain jacket, disposable plastic, and the ASICS GEL-Cumulus 20.
However, the hardest parts of the marathon were the two parts – waiting to start and finishing. We all got there really early. There were like 37,000 people. So, I put my bag and then went to the toilet. It was already raining. One and a half hour before the flag-off, I walked to my starting line. It was cold and wet, so I knew it was all mind game to brace myself for this. I was standing in front of my pen, which was J. Imagine, the first pen was A, so J was somewhere at the back. Everybody was standing and cuddling up together.
I kept on moving to warm my body up. Everybody warmed up, stretched, waited, and that’s when the cold came back again. When I stayed within my pent, I just kept on moving. It took us 15 minutes from my pen to the starting line. Finally, we were off. I started running and warming up. Because of the weather, my shoes and socks were wet. It was windy, but the wind helped regulate my temperature. Reaching 2.2km, there were people everywhere. There was music playing, people cheering up and the atmosphere was good.
What were your challenging parts of the marathon?
When I first started running, my goal was to finish within 4 hours 45 minutes. But my personal best was 4 hours 59 minutes. Because when I race, I always pace my dad, and that’s my dad’s pacing. So I wasn’t too sure what my pace and ability were. When I was racing, I didn’t know how fast I was running.
When I saw the 5-hour pacers overtaking me, I was like “No, wait for me.” So I started running faster. When I reached the half marathon, I checked on myself, I was feeling good. I pushed. My pace was around 5 minutes 30 seconds or 5 minutes. I lost the 5-hour pacers, so I looked for the 4 hours 30-minute pacers but didn’t know where they were.
In Tokyo, I couldn’t calculate my pace. I was doing a long loop up, and another long loop down at the last 10km, and that was the hardest. When I saw everyone running back, I was so envious. Eventually, I really felt my hamstrings at the last 5km. I chose to push like crazy at the last 2km.
My husband and Joseph (Marketing Executive of ASICS Malaysia) were there, and they kept shouting at my name. It was nice seeing familiar faces. I could recognize the street, and I knew the finishing line was near. So I finished the race in 4 hours 33 minutes 11 seconds. That was my personal best.
What were your favorite parts of the marathon?
My favorite part was seeing people. There were so many people of different ages. There was a traffic jam at every moment. But there was one point where we saw all the runners running back. For me, I love watching that. The experience was crazy. It was extremely overwhelming and well organized.
At the finishing line, there were actually people who came out to support and offer sweets and drinks. People were yelling and screaming at their friends. For me, it was really moving because this person is pushing himself and doing something which is really challenging. And their friends understand, so they go out and support. It takes a lot of sacrifices to be there to run, and a lot of sacrifices to be there to support their friends.
What do you enjoy the most about running?
I like being alone in my thoughts. I like watching my performance. I am not a high-performance runner but I love seeing the improvement in myself.
As a public figure, how would you encourage people to start running?
I share my stories a lot, on social media. I also share my ups and downs. I think it’s very important for a mom to care for herself. It’s hard going out and getting the miles but when I set myself a goal, it’s not hard. A lot of people messaged me asking about my shoes, my race, and my training. I want to inspire more people to go out to achieve something.
Are you planning to run another World Marathon Major?
I would love to do the London Marathon. London is a place I was born in, and a place I would always want to visit.