Giving is about making a difference.
Perhaps there is nothing stimulating, seeing athletes attribute victories to people and causes other than themselves. Ultra-runner, Lim Siaw Hua has pushed through those daunting moments in the toughest foot race on earth, raising funds for children to have access to clean water.
Running serves purposes. Running for a cause serves a powerful effect on an athlete’s motivation. While many have said it is almost impossible and physically grueling, Lim finished the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) that took her on a 250KM journey through the Sahara Desert in Southern Morocco over 6 days.
More than just running, Lim has also dedicated her run to raising funds for children to have access to clean water through World Vision Malaysia. Thus, she initiated a fundraising campaign, ‘Conquering Sahara, Run for Water’ and incorporated it as part of MDS in the Sahara Desert.
It is not always easy to make a difference. But Lim has proven, sometimes, it can be.
How did you perform at the race?
I completed the 6-day multistage race in 49 hours and 30 minutes. On the 7th day, I also ran 6.1KM as part of the charity stage. I am glad I managed to enjoy the journey. It’s not about the timing, rather the experience I’ve gained and the friends I’ve made.
How was your preparation, in terms of nutrition, training, and recovery prior to the race?
I started preparing for the race for three months in advance. As part of my preparation, I ran every day, hitting 70 to 100KM a week. I also did some strength training to introduce variety to my training regime and to prepare for the weight, such as my backpack, I had to carry throughout the race. I did not stick to a specific diet while preparing for MDS but have always consumed less meat before participating in any race.
Were you sufficiently prepared?
Although I did weight training, I was, unfortunately, insufficiently prepared for the weight of my backpack coupled with the challenging terrain. As a result, I suffered from sore shoulders during the race
Was the race what you envisioned it to be?
Yes! I learned a lot along the way and I gained new friendships. Past participants have said that those who take part in MDS will come back a totally different person. It feels as though one has lived a lifetime in the short span of a week due to the difficulty of the race, the magnificent landscape, the simple ways of life throughout the race and the sheer magnitude of effort that goes into preparing for the race. The race also pushes one beyond their limits, opening one’s mind to their capabilities as a human being.
How was it compared with other ultra-marathons you participated in before?
It was very different compared to the other ultra-marathons I had participated in before. The main challenge was that it was a self-supported race and we had to carry all our necessities for the week on our back. I also had to strategize and use different running techniques due to the terrain (sand dunes).
How and what did you take in calories or fuel while you’re running for consecutive six days?
Minimum 2000kcal per day is required. Most of my main meals were freeze-dried food. I also consumed recovery proteins after each stage for muscle recovery and to get ready for the next stage of the race.
What advantage did you have over other ultra-runners and vice versa?
I am not a sprinter but my endurance and mental strength kept me going till the finish line.
What was your worst moment during the race? How did you pull through? How did you keep yourself going?
I was wearing flip flops throughout the entire race. On day three, my foot started to crack badly due to the dry weather. I could hardly walk or run, and had to have my foot wrapped by the medical team after I finished each stage.
On day four I had to start pacing myself and could only walk to the finish line. I kept going because I was determined to cross the finish line, not just for myself but for children in need, who deserves to have the basics of life, such as access to clean water.
Can you share with us one of the most memorable experiences that you have encountered during your run?
Walking on a sand dune for 13KM was very memorable for me! I did not expect that walking on a sand dune while carrying an 8.6kg backpack would be so challenging.
Were there any impactful experiences?
One of the female participants was an amputee from the USA. In 1997, her lower left leg was amputated after being involved in a motorcycle accident. She walked with a limp and her right leg was red with blisters and peeling skin.
Although she fell a few times, she never gave up. Instead, she got back up and kept going. Her determination and perseverance are inspiring.
What was the highlight from the run?
In the day when the sun shone brightly, the sand glowed like a golden sea. It is something I have never experienced before and it is a sight to behold.
How were you feeling mentally during and after the run?
Day four was a long day because we had to conquer 76KM and I wanted to give up due to the condition of my foot but I convinced myself to push on and complete the course as I was nearing the end of the race. I tried to tag along with the other participants at night and maintain my pace. After I completed the race, I was overjoyed. I am glad I did not choose to give up.
Can you describe your physical condition during and after the race?
I did not feel particularly tired both during and after the race. I credit this to my pre-race training. I only suffered from some sore shoulders due to the lack of weight training.
You mentioned previously that weight training was the main focus for this run. Now that you’ve run the race, what other kinds of training is crucial for this run, besides weight training?
Back-to-back training – run continuously for 3 days, covering at least 10KM a day. Push yourself to run a longer distance during the weekends.
As a working mother and ultra-runner, what is your advice for other working mothers just coming into the sport?
As a full-time working mother, time management is very important. Give yourself 1 – 2 hours to run or do some work out before or after taking care of your family matters.
Was the Marathon Des Sables the hardest marathon that you’ve run? What’s next?
I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest ultra-marathon I’ve run, but the experience I’ve gained is very different compared to the other ultra-marathons. For the rest of the year, I’ve got two races planned – TorDret in September and Al Mamoom Ultra Marathon in December.
What is your hope for the future of ultra-running?
I hope more people will come to enjoy ultra-running. As for myself, I will be doing more multi-stage ultra-marathon instead of non-stop single stage ultra-marathon.
Tell us more about the fundraising campaign you initiated.
I decided to initiate a fundraising campaign as part of my participation in the MDS because I wanted to make it a meaningful experience for me. But more than just running or raising funds, it is a continuous effort in collaboration with World Vision to raise awareness among our fellow Malaysians on the issues vulnerable children in the poorest areas of the world are facing.
The funds raised are important, but I believe advocating for these vulnerable children are equally important. If you’d like to contribute to my campaign, you can still do so at https://www.worldvision.com.my/siaw-hua-conquering-sahara
If you were given the opportunity again, would you be interested in taking part in charity again?
Of course, I will. It is always good to help those who are in need. You can also continue to join me in my efforts to give children in need a chance at a better future by sponsoring a child with World Vision.