Growing up in the United States, Pamela Kustas had never been a long distance runner when she was young – though she was a sporty girl, and had been involved in other types of physical activities.
Picked up running to help her nephew
She only picked up distance running in 2004, when she had wanted to raise money to help her nephew, who had been diagnosed that year with neuroblastoma (a type of cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue. It most frequently starts from one of the adrenal glands, but can also develop in the neck, chest, abdomen, or spine).
Said Pamela, 48, an Equity Market Specialist (ASEAN Region) at Bloomberg, “I thought, what could I do besides encouraging people to give blood. So I decided to run the Boston Marathon for a charity to raise money.”
She added, “It was the first time I had run, and also asked people for money. My nephew was really appreciative of what I had done for him and his family. But he also gave something to me – I would never have picked up running, and completed a full marathon at the same time, if it had not been for my cousin.”
Today, Pamela’s nephew has fully recovered from his condition and she is thankful that he is “doing great.” But running the Boston Marathon had instilled in Pamela, an addiction for running. She said “I became addicted to marathons; I have run 10 marathons in the United States before moving to Singapore in 2012.”
Continues to engage in her love for running
Living in Singapore now, she continues to engage in her passion for running, taking part in events such as the recent Bloomberg Square Mile Relay, where her team, the “Bloomberg Dream Team”, had emerged as the champion in the Mixed category. Said Pamela, “This was the first time that we had won the Bloomberg Square Mile and it was a nice surprise for us.”
She also took part in the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run in 2013, emerging in sixth position with a time of 48min 15sec. This is also her 10km personal best time.
Other runs that she has taken part in, also included the Safari Zoo Run in 2013 and the SGX Bull Charge Charity Run, where she had set her 5km personal best of under 24 minutes, and came in third place in the process.
Easier to run in cool weather
As she has run in both Singapore and the States, Pamela recounts that the biggest thing she misses about running in the United States is the four seasons though.
She said, “The United States has four seasons and it is easier to run in cooler weather. I am still slow when I run in tropical climates; I have not adapted to the heat yet, even though everyone keeps telling me that I would get used to it. Also too, runners during races in the States are divided into corrals so you have the fast people in front and you can run with people at your pace. That is quite helpful, but many races in Singapore don’t really have that.”
She added, “But the fun thing about Singapore is that they have races at night. It is a cool, unusual and fun way to run.
She also loves the way that the Singapore running community is so welcoming, more so than in the United States. Said Pamela, “I always seem to meet nice, new people and make new friends at running events. People are friendly. I realise that running can be a very positive experience here. It is nice to be outside and doing something healthy and be part of a great running community, that is positive and encouraging.”
Running in different countries
Besides racing in Singapore and the States though, Pamela has run regional races too, such as the Luang Prabang Half Marathon in Laos, where she came 10th with a time of 1hr 52min 41sec.
Said Pamela, “The one thing that I like about running is that I love nature. So running in different countries gives me the chance to explore my surroundings by running. For running, I also just need to pack my sneakers and clothes and off I go. I don’t need a bike or any other equipment.”
Out of all the races she has run at though, Pamela generally likes races that give back to a good cause. She said, “Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is a great run because it gives back to a good cause. The same also goes for events such as the Ground Zero Run and the Race Against Cancer. In fact, there are many races here that give back to the community, which I like.”
Not training as much as she would like
However despite her fast times, Pamela admitted that she has not been training as much as she would have liked, due to her working schedule.
Said Pamela, “I travel a lot for work. If I am traveling, I use the gym treadmill if it is a high traffic area that I am at. My work has made it hard for me to get into a routine; I travel at least for two weeks in a month.”
Her treadmill runs average about five miles (eight kilometres) long.
She added, “Back in Singapore though, I generally run after work or weekends and try to do about 120km per month, so that is about 20 – 30km in a week. I used to have a specific running programme but since I moved here, I can’t say that I do. When I am in Singapore, I run at MacRitchie and do the hills there, but I don’t have a group and I also don’t do speed workouts or track training.”
Every bit of training counts
But Pamela pointed out that for busy working people, every little bit of training counts. She said, “Even if you only have time for a 20-minute run, that is better than not running at all.”
To help to develop a routine, Pamela suggested that it helps to make an appointment with a friend to work out.
She said “Make a commitment so that say, even if you may have a late call at work, you will leave to go to the gym or for your run, and return to work after that to make the call, as you know that someone else is waiting for you. Having a friend or a workout buddy can also help you to encourage each other to put down the work and walk away for say, an hour. That always works for me.”
She added, “I generally work out after work, but I often return to the office after my workouts. It helps to have a gym near the office too.”
Additionally, Pamela recommends that runners change up their routines. She said, “It is good to change the distance and pace, for example, either by doing intervals, or for instance you know that you only have time to run 5km so try and go faster than you have done in the past. If you know the distance is short, push a bit harder.”
She added, “But other times, try and run for longer than you normally would. Let’s say that you usually run 6km, so try and push it up and run 7km instead.”
Do not do too much, too soon
But Pamela strongly recommends runners that when they are building mileage, to not increase their mileage by more than 10 – 15 per cent each week. She said “Give yourself the time. Each week, do not add more than 15 per cent. Some runners try and increase their distance too fast and that promotes injury as the body cannot cope with the training. I have been injured like that before. You need to work your way up to the distance. Allow yourself eight weeks to train for a half marathon and 15 – 16 weeks for a full marathon.”
Cross training is important
She also added that cross training is important as well. Explained Pamela, “Cross training helps you to develop a strong core and that can carry you when you run long distances. I go to the gym where I do pilates, elliptical machine and weights. I also swim but I am not a good swimmer.”
As well she also does yoga regularly to keep her muscles supple and flexible. Said Pamela, “I will always try and come back after my business trips and take a yoga class to stretch as that helps to keep my muscles flexible.”
Besides running and gym work, dragon boating is also another form of cross training that Pamela enjoys. She said, “I do dragon boating regularly though and I am on the American Dragons team. I did not do dragon boating in the United States so that is a fun combination with running for me. Dragon boating also helps to complement running as you need strong core muscles and abs in dragon boating to sit upright.”
However on the flip side, she admitted that her weekly dragon boating sessions have slowed down her running times though. Said Pamela, “I plan to get back to running more. Dragon boating has taken away a little too much from the running.”
Never forget your passion for running
As a whole though, Pamela urges runners to never forget their passion for running.
She said, “Run with your heart. Do not look at your watch all the time and do not forget to enjoy your running. I try and do that, and I have never forgotten why I enjoy running.”