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My Race of a Lifetime

On running and dealing with loss


By Amanda Griffin Jacob

The year 2016 was a cathartic year for me and 2017 has been much of the same. Grieving over the loss of one of the most significant people in your life requires much time, understanding, and tolerance of yourself. My healing comes in the form of travel, training, and being with my children. These things just make me feel better.

At the beginning of last year I traveled all over the place and then in May I decided to enter a relatively short 15km race on a whim. Prior to that I had only completed a UNICEF 10km run in Hong Kong in 2010, which left me injured. So I had only really been running five km distances for fitness ever since. I had two and a half months train for it. I’m not really sure now why I suddenly decided I wanted to run in a race out of thin air but I just knew I had to do it.

race of a lifetime

I reconnected with Sara Black, fashion photographer, triathlete, and all around inspirational woman. She has been a motivator, supporter, and all around inspiration ever since that day I decided to join that 15km Shape run in Singapore. After I finished that race I signed up for the Standard Chartered half marathon in December of 2016. Sara was the one who planted the seed for me to run a marathon. I’ll never forget that moment when we were shooting and she said, just do it! You’re halfway there anyway! I thought, she’s absolutely right! And I signed up for the Paris Marathon the next week. Last Sunday I just completed 42.2km, which took me four hours and 26 minutes. I’ll take that time for my first marathon!

My groundwork for this marathon was very condensed. I began training for the half marathon in September with a running group in Singapore and the race was in December. I then started my full marathon training in January with Coach Miguel Lopez for the Paris Marathon, which was on April 9. This made my training super intense, as I had to hit my mileage every single week and dedicate a lot of time solely for the purpose of getting equipped to run the marathon. The whole experience has been a wholly challenging and fulfilling mental exercise. I’ve learned that you don’t just need your body to be in tip top running form to be in the game, your mental muscles have to be in excellent shape as well. You have to be committed and inspired, otherwise the long hours and tough physical preparation will get to you. Throughout the process I often trained alone and that was the hardest part of the whole regime. Being alone with your mind while you’re pushing yourself to your limit is not only extremely difficult, it can break you. The last two weeks before the marathon were my waterloo. I wanted to quit the marathon every day. That was my tipping point. Luckily I had my support system who were able to talk me off the ledge (mainly my dear husband David).  I have definitely strengthened my mental acuity but it needs a lot more work.

Runner’s high the author after conquering her first marathon—a 42.2 kilometer run

Runner’s high the author after conquering her first marathon—a 42.2 kilometer run

I think the reason that running races helps me with dealing with the loss of my father is that I can focus on one singular goal while working on myself, both mentally and physically. When I’m running, I think a lot about my Dad and my life, and I fall into an almost meditative state where everything seems to gain clarity.

Before 2016 I had never ever had the desire to run a marathon. It had never appealed to me. In fact I couldn’t imagine how people would want to run 42 km, let alone how they finished it. It is surreal what new roads you find yourself traveling on due to cataclysmic events. It is also remarkable to see what you can accomplish when you want something badly enough. Running a marathon has given me so many gifts. It has allowed me to bond with amazing souls through my training. It has showed me that I can achieve more than I imagined if I just make a commitment to see it through. It has taught me that I need to fall many times because the lessons are always in being able to get back up. It has made me a better version of myself. I believe that this kind of lifestyle benefits you so much because it works on all your areas: mental, spiritual, and physical.

It has been a metamorphic experience and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

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