As she departed Singapore to participate in for her maiden South East Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur to represent her country for the first time in her life, national marathoner Jasmine Goh was feeling strangely calm.
Said the 38 year old financial planner, “On the way there, I was really excited. I’d been getting a bit stressed about two weeks before the competition, but the week that I was going to depart, I felt calm as everything was done and so I told myself that I would simply enjoy the journey. I have come so far, so there is no more point in getting stressed up over it.”
She added “So then, when I packed my things for the Games, I thought to myself, this is it. It’s like, you get this realisation and it just hit home that I am really doing this – I am really a national athlete and I am going to represent my country.”
Huge party to send her off
At the airport, Jasmine was grateful that there had been a big party sending her off. She said, “It was really nice that all my friends from F1 were there; it was nice to have so many people sending me off.”
In order to prepare herself for the Games, Jasmine had been training with the F1 Runners Team for the past one and a half years and so she had grown quite close to her team mates there as a result.
Honour and national pride
As well, Jasmine had also felt a sense of honour and national pride, travelling together with her fellow national marathoners Rachel See, Mok Ying Ren and Soh Rui Yong. She said, “It was an honour, really, to be standing next to them and knowing that we will be doing this together. We all run our own individual races on race day, but collectively, we are represent Singapore and it was an honour to be part of Team Singapore with them.”
She added, “Before the race though, Rui Yong had his coach there, but he was mostly on his own; he was spending a lot of time strategising, which was great, because he brought the gold home. He was really focused throughout and he was there to kill. But he was quite forthcoming with me, Rachel and Ying Ren and willing to share his thoughts and experiences and he gave us advice, so we did spend some time chit chatting and catching up. But mostly we rested before the race though, which is quite important.”
Tried to think of it like any other race
Despite the fact that it was the biggest race of her life so far, Jasmine tried not to dwell on this especially on the morning of the marathon. She said “I was not really anxious. I just treated this like it was any other race. There was no point in panicking. I did my pre race routine as per any other race in Singapore. I tried not to take part in too much chatter. Instead I stayed focused, did my dynamic warm ups and got myself ready and tried to get down on time for the bus.”
She added, “Yes, you want adrenaline for the race, but I didn’t want it too early because I didn’t want to get hyper and lose focus. We are all seasoned runners after all, and we have been to many races.”
Race strategy to keep close to the leading pack
Jasmine’s original race strategy had been to keep close to the leading pack. She said, “I really wanted to keep close to the leading back but it got increasingly difficult when I got dehydrated, due to the heat and a few other factors.”
She continued, “I have to admit too, that the girls are strong; these ladies are really top runners from the region and I was happy to race with them.”
As a result, she admitted that the race was pretty lonely for her, as she ended up mostly running by herself for a large part of the race.
A Lonely Race
Said Jasmine, “You know, this was the biggest race of my life, but it was pretty lonely too. I really did not see anyone at all. The only times when I saw people was when I overtook the fourth placed lady and then I saw the boys, Rui Yong and (Indonesian marathoner) Agus (Prayogo) lap me one time. But other than that, there were no competitors so it really felt like I was running my own race.”
She added, “So it took a lot of mental strength to stay focused especially when I was running in loops, but what really helped was the supporters near the start and end points. Every time I passed, I could see my own friends and family and other supporters, as well as people from other nationalities, supporting me. It was really humbling that no matter what country you are from, they cheer for everyone. So that was amazing too.”
Spectator Support was amazing
Jasmine also added that a contingent of runners from Singapore had travelled down to Kuala Lumpur to support her at the Games, including a few of her team mates from the F1 Runners Team.
Said Jasmine, “And they were really amazing. They stood there from the start to the finish and they kept cheering for us. I totally understand the feeling because I was a spectator two years ago and when we cheer, we hope that it can transmit some form of energy to the runners to give them what they need to keep pushing. I knew that this was what they were trying to do to me, and I wanted to absorb their cheer and so I told myself I had to press on and could not disappoint.”
In addition, Jasmine’s sisters, Jemaine and Janice, had pre-recorded the voices of her two young daughters, Cherish and Faith, and had played them whenever Jasmine ran past them.
Said Jasmine, “Jemaine took a portable speaker and hung it on her handbag and she literally played it every time I ran past her. My kids’ voices were so shrill and loud. Along the whole road, it was just their voices and it was so touching, just thinking about it brought tears to my eyes. It was also so amazing because I could hear my kids voices even though they were not there. While Jemaine used a speaker, Janice played the recording from her phone but it was so loud, I was embarrassed!”
She added, “I mean, but it was crazy! This is what they did for me; imagine that my kids were screaming at the top of their voices and I was like, yes, mummy heard you, yes mummy knows. I heard it twice because because they were standing at two different ends of the course, at the places when it was very lonely. It was great to have the support.”
During our interview, Jasmine also played the recordings for me. Her daughters’ voices were indeed shrill and loud, and they had played on both her English and Chinese names to come up with really creative and catchy cheers. It had been really touching and meaningful indeed and I could really see how this had inspired Jasmine and given her the energy and motivation to press on when she was tired.
In all of her years of racing too, Jasmine admitted that she had never had this sort of support at a marathon. She said, “I have run so many local races but I have not had this much support from my family and friends. They strategised and they spread out so that I got to see them many times along the route. It was so touching.”
Finished in fourth position
Jasmine eventually finished the marathon in fourth position, in 3 hours 14 minutes 36 seconds. Due to dehydration, she had unfortunately been unable to catch the third placed lady.
Throughout the race, all the ladies had been quite spread out, and according to Jasmine, were roughly about seven to eight minutes apart.
Said Jasmine, “Maybe there might have been someone running across the course to get to the opposite side, but there was nobody at the front and the back of me. It was a big loop and I really didn’t see anyone as I was running. There was a leading pack but besides that, it was just me and Rachel; then I caught the fourth lady and the leading pack had started to break up. It’s different to other marathons in that you are just one of the runners in a crowd and you get pulled along when you run with people; there is someone whom you can latch onto and follow their pace. But this time I really had to pull out everything to stay focused. It was so different.”
Continued Jasmine, “But despite the difficulties, to finish the race though, the tears are really not fake. I think we ran our hearts out for the nation. We all did; we were there to do our best. The better prepared ones finished strong, but I think that we all did as much as we could, to finish the race for our country.”
Her key takeaways
What are some of Jasmine’s key takeaways from her experience? She said, “I have done so many marathons but this was the only marathon where there was no personal glory. It was really just for the nation. You feel as though you have a duty and responsibility to finish strong because you are representing your country. So there is no excuse. But for races such as the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, I am running for personal glory only, so I feel that there is less pressure on me.”
Now that she has completed what she had aspired to do since 2015 and that the SEA Games Marathon is now over, Jasmine admitted that there seemed to be a hole in her life now.
Said Jasmine, “There has been so much news on me wanting to qualify and that I took one and a half years to do so, but suddenly the race is over; it’s as though you have been planning for a trip and you have finally reached the destination. This is it, this is the end. There is a hole now that this journey is over.”
She added, “But when I reflected back after the race, the destination is not so important; as they say, the holiday is nothing without the planning. It is about the journey instead of the destination, and I really relished the journey that I had for the past one and a half years, in terms of the friends I made, the guidance I had from my coach, Lexxus Tan, and of course, the support from my friends and family. They are the unsung heroes. Without them, I would never have come this far. People only see me and the SEA Games, but they do not know how much my friends and family supported me. They need to be recognised, from my friends and family to the people who treated me at the Singapore Sports Institution after training sessions and lead up races, the physiologists and masseurs, and the doctors who kept me in good health, and so on.”
Next Goal in running
What is Jasmine’s next goal in running? She said “Many people would ask me what my goal is now, but I have not thought about what I want to be or my next aspiration. I think that right now, I should slow down and spend time with my family and my kids and just enjoy the journey and focus on the local races.”
Continued Jasmine, “I have Great Eastern Women’s Run and Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon coming up, and I wish to retain both titles. That will be my game plan for now and I hope to do a better timing too at these races. Need to take the time to smell the roses, or rather, smell the jasmine!”
Another SEA Games on the cards?
Is Jasmine hoping to represent Singapore at another SEA Games?
Now that she knows that she can do it, Jasmine feels that if she does choose to make an attempt to qualify for the next Games, the barrier required to qualify is not impossible for her to attain again, come 2019.
She explained, “Come in to think about it, qualifying for the SEA Games last time was like shooting in the dark, thinking, hoping and wishing that it would come true.”
Continued Jasmine, “But now I know that it is possible, as I have now achieved it, I can have some time to slow down and spend time with my kids, whilst thinking about whether I do want to represent Singapore again at the next Games.”