Sunday, 2 October 2016


Greetings from London.

The house is quiet again with six of the Nordic Walking UK Malaysia team members gone home.
I am here seated in my garden room reminiscing of the Purbeck Marathon Challenge.

                                                 My Race Memories:

This was the first Nordic Walking Marathon and Purbeck 16 organised by NWUK  in conjunction with the Purbeck Nordic Walking Festival 2016.
I was excited about it and brought a team of  seven members to the festival to participate in the half marathon.  It was the race the nordic walkers have been waiting for!

Picture taken on Race Day.Team NWUKMsia, from left: Datin Catherine Lai, Sylvia Gan, Puan Sri Toh Ee Siew, Puan Sri Wendy Ong, Janet Ang, Betty Chia and Datin Amy Ter.                                                        
I have never done a half marathon but in my mind a walking marathon should not be too difficult and I was told the course is so beautiful and stunning , you'll wish they were longer. Well, I was naive and did not expect the course to be tough.

           The 16.5 miler definitely not a flat trail and a pretty tough course overall.

The half marathon took the walkers on a 16.5 miles ( more than half a marathon) adventure past the Heritage Jurassic coast with the sun gleaming on the blue waters, across open countryside, up and down rolling hills, climbing never ending ridges and down stretches of plains.  The route was predominately off road course with several treacherous paths, very challenging indeed for a foreigner who has never walked in that kind of terrain.  I have been cautioned that the trails were uneven, stony and dirt tracks, and some were strewn with cow and sheep's poo. "Ew, it was dreadful having to plant my poles into the poo.

                                       Along the stunning Jurassic coastline.

                                   Up and down the coastal paths.....

                    Stone walls criss crossing the hills and plains of Purbeck

                                                   Challenging but fun !
                              Many gates to climb over and go under at times.

                                        Across meadows and plains....

                                            Uneven clay tracks......
Beautiful scenery but most walkers did not stop to take pictures.  Many photos captured by Marshals, thanks to them.

                                                    Nice day for walking......

Across a wide expanse of farmlands I strode on with my nordic poles from one farmland to the other and had to figure out the way to open the farm gates which were quite tricky.  Some of the gates were locked, so the only solution was to climb over ( gosh I felt like a little girl climbing gates and  I have lost count the number of times I had to climb over the farm gates. I am good at it now and come to think of it , was quite fun) and there was one gate with barb wires and having to go through it.,phew... was pretty risky!

I remembered as soon as I arrived into Dorset three days prior to the marathon that this was going to be an extraordinary experience.....and it wasn't just because of the distance, Dorset is a county of outstanding natural beauty,  a land of contrast and beautiful landscapes and scenery.  It is a county in the middle of South coast of England on the English Channel coast.  The terrain here is lowland in nature, albeit hilly in many parts.   The Purbeck hills are a line of chalk hills.  If you are not from Dorset, this half marathon will bring you past all of the best, most scenic areas of the Isle of Purbeck in a big 16.5 mile loop.  My only regret was not stopping to capture some pictures but I'll make sure to do it when I return next year.

                                       Green green grass of Purbeck ...  

                                                     Rolling hills.......


                                             Corfe Castle in the distance....

On the day of the race, I made my way to join the corral  45 minutes earlier to wait for a briefing.  I looked around in awe at some of the other participants.

                                       All waiting for the moment to start....

    Warming up exercise before the start of the half marathon....

A marathon at this time of the year and at Dorset can pose a challenge if Mother Nature isn't in the mood to cooperate.  Cold temperatures or a blazing weather can present a problem for  many walkers, but it doesn't have to ruin my walking experience as I was prepared with a clothing combo that keeps me warm or cool and most importantly comfortable.
The weather turned out to be superb and perfect for walking.  It was partly cloudy and sunny without a drop of rain.

                                         One for the album before the start....

                      Full of excitement and yes.... I was ready for the challenge.....

I've heard of stories about people being nervous at the beginning of their first marathon, but for some reason, I wasn't.  It may have been because I thought I had enough training and felt confident that I was going to have a great walk or maybe it was the energy, the air at the start line or just me being in awe of walking my first half marathon  and being determined to prove to myself that I could do it or maybe I was too naive to realise what it was really going to be like to nordic walk a half marathon.
But what ever it was, the butterflies that I was expecting to feel in my stomach while waiting for the start just weren't there.
All I felt was a feeling of to do whatever it would take to walk a challenge course all the way to the finish line mixed with excitement at the thought of NordicWalkingUK Malaysia reaching a new milestone!

It was chilly in the morning and I had to bundle up before the start.  I had a windbreaker over my racing kit. I wore a long sleeve moisture wicking base layer ( my favourite Lululemon top) under a  NWUK purple t-shirt,  a pair of Mammut water resistant trousers over  a pair of compression tights, and a lightweight UV hat.  That kept me comfortable from start to finish.    I noticed that many of the locals were only wearing a t-shirt and a pair of trousers and a few were only in shorts.  A good rule of thumb is to wear layers and to dress as if it's warmer than it actually is outside because once you get moving you'll warm up quite a bit and will sweat.  I knew I had to remove my jacket a few minutes before the start.
I saw walkers with names of charities on their shirts, fidgeting with their GPS watches ( oh no, I overlooked to switch on my Garmin watch till an hour later) and talking to each other about their walks in general.

                                                 The half marathoners......

At 9 am the walk was flagged off.  I remembered a few ladies ( including myself) letting out woohoos after stepping on the mat and the walk started.

The first few miles of the marathon were congested with walkers trying to overtake each other and to find a comfortable pace.  It wasn't until mile 5 that things really start to open up.  The walk took us to the Durlston Country Park which was a flat walk and then on tarmac road past the LightHouse until the route meets the coastal path of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site on the English Channel coast.  I enjoyed the most walking along this spectacular stretch of the stunning Jurassic coastline.

                                  The LightHouse along the Jurassic Coastline....

                                                       Simply beautiful.......
                                          Breathtaking scenery along the coast.......
 We were walking high up on the cliff overlooking the blue waters of the English Channel.

The trail after the end of the coastal walk was a tough one.  It was a long uphill continuous ascent.  I had to shorten my stride rather than to slow down the rhythm to avoid cramps.  I popped  in electrolyte tablets to boost my energy and it worked.  However, it was after the hard climb and over a gate that took me to a different direction at the junction.  I was lost by turning to the right instead of left ( no direction marked and to rely on the map when you are rushing for time is no good) to Worth Matravers where I stopped for a drink at the aid station.

                                                    Uphill climb.....

I had to stay on top of my hydration needs in the days and hours before the challenge, as well as during the race itself.  The 'Replace" sports drink was good and I made sure I adhered to the hydration plan during the race and drank at regular intervals to replace lost fluids.

One piece of advice for anyone doing the half marathon next year, it would be not to stress out about your pace too much in the beginning.  Just go with the flow, walk at your pace and try to gain some ground when you can, but save your energy to push yourself harder later in the walk.

One of the best things about this marathon is that the course past through diverse and beautiful Purbeck landscapes of stunning sea views, towering sea cliffs, a thousand year old Corfe Castle and the rolling chalk hills of  Purbeck Downs (Ridges) with footpaths that takes you through many farmlands and meadows.  En-route you will see breathtaking woodland, down land and up on the ridges for panoramic views across the Purbeck plains.

                                                 Ruins of the Corfe Castle......

                         Overlooking the Purbeck plains and the English Channel Coast.

                                       Panoramic view of the plains.....

I had a nordic walking app (GPS based) in my iphone to map out my walks.  It recorded the details including distance, duration, pace, speed, calories burned, route travelled and voice prompting at intervals of  distance covered.  I found it useful.

                               Yes, I remembered crossing this railway track.....

                Happy to have this one picture taken for my album.  Thanks Laura.

             Ample and clear signages will be an added advantage for marathoners.

By the 8th mile, I was thinking to myself this is officially the furthest I've ever walked during my training.  That by itself gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment that helped carry me through the next several miles.  Soreness started to creep in after the 10th miles.  It helped to stop for a brief calf stretch to relieve the tight muscles.

                                  The path was stony and a long up hill....

The sight of farm animals, a horse, sheep and cows brought a smile to my face because I knew I have approached a farmland.

 I didn't care how tired my legs were.... All I wanted was to reach the finish line.  Crossing the long stretch of ridges was like never ending.  While walking I looked back several times to watch out for my team members trailing behind.  I remembered having to make a conscious effort to push myself to keep walking.  The pain in my toes started to set in and I was sweaty but seeing Gill Stewart (the team organiser from NWUK) and her assurance of only one more hill to climb gave me a nice boost.  I had made it that far and this one last hill was the only thing that's between where I was and the finish line, so I pushed myself hard to get over it.

By the time, I saw the group of caravans, at that point I knew that I would be crossing the finish line very soon.
My toes were hurting but I carried on walking.... I wasn't going to stop.  When I arrived at Shore Road ( quite a long stretch) I felt elated and that gave me the final push.

Crossing the finish line tells me " that's a load off my shoulders".  I felt great. The euphoric feeling of  completing the half marathon was exciting and a relief.
I had just done something that I never thought I would have been able to do it but I would have taken a shorter time if there were more signages.  I felt proud of myself.

                                             What an amazing experience!

                        This half marathon medal is solid and it captured the spirit
                                    of nordic walking.

I was presented with a challenge Purbeck 16 medal and a goodie bag.

Then I took some photos  and waited for the safe return of the other team members.

                                            After crossing the finish line....

                 No regrets, we did it!  Will we do it again, hahaha let's see.....

Taking my team on a 12 hours flight to Dorset UK for the half marathon was quite a concern for me.  Days prior the marathon challenge, I felt daunted by the prospect of my members' safety though it was pointed out that participants compete in the race under their own responsibility and they need to make sure they are medically fit and capable of walking the distance.

The weight is now off my shoulders and I am happy I do not have to worry about it.  They crossed the finish line safe and have earned their medals.
Yes, they became ' my stars, my marathoners' on that beautiful Saturday the 17th September 2016.
Bravo, Malaysia Boleh!

I returned to my accomodation to have a shower and changed into some dry clothes before heading back to the hub for the BBQ dinner and post race get together.  I was hungry and was craving for the pork burger.

        Congratulations Mathew Gibbs,  the winner of the First Nordic Walking Full Marathon 2016.

                            Feeling elated for being able to complete the walk.

                                     Amazing nordic walkers... congratulations!

3,162.4 kcal was burned and a total of 44,379 steps taken.
Wow! never have I accomplished such overwhelming results during my time spent in the gym.
This is certainly record breaking!  

I have so many good memories of this Purbeck Challenge that it's hard to list them all out.

The most obvious one was that it was my first nordic walking half marathon.

I walked and planted my poles hard into the ground than I ever had before for over 5 hours ( I applied the  knowledge and technique learnt a day earlier from Marko Kantaneva, the Founder of Nordic Walking.  Thanks Marko! ), experienced some of the greatest highs, pushed myself to keep moving forward through the toughest lows, saw many stunning views that Purbeck has to offer , and I knew the moment I crossed the finish line that for the rest of my life, nobody would ever be able to take away the fact that I am now a Nordic Walking Half Marathoner.

      We had a class with Marko Kantaneva, the Founder of Nordic Walking, a day prior to the Marathon.  The techniques learnt from the World class master was put into practise.

                        Full body warming up guided by Marko Kantaneva.

Even the months leading up to the marathon were memorable.  I recalled reading up on how to prepare the team in all aspects and the dos and don'ts for doing a half marathon.
Plans were made to commence the endurance training 10 to 14 weeks prior the challenge date.

During my training, the furthest that I had walked was 8 miles and that was the furthest I had walked.... but to train the right way for half marathon, you have to mimic at least once a 16 mile walk.
Halfway through my training, I suffered a muscle strain on my right ankle due to stepping into a pothole covered with long grasses. As there wasn't much training possible for a few weeks, not only due to the ankle problem but I had to travel to visit my daughter overseas, I had moderate expectations of my performance in this half marathon.

Despite the exhaustion and soreness along the course there was no time to dwell about it more than there is time to celebrate the achievement.  You just have to keep pushing forward through the dirt road and difficult climb and look forward to what's coming all the way until you cross the finish line.  In life it works that way as well.  You can tackle any obstacle that gets in your way regardless of whether anyone else thinks you can or not.

This Purbeck Half Marathon is the toughest challenge for me but it brings the greatest reward, a self satisfaction and personal achievement.
I am proud to be a marathoner of the inaugural Nordic Walking Half Marathon and I did it on a tough terrain where no such course could possibly be found for training back home in Malaysia.

                                                      Awesome feeling!

Aside from the training and the challenge itself, I've noticed that if you put your heart and soul to do something, you can do it.

I did not finish the walk as fast as I would liked to but I still finished it and in the course of doing so, I learned a lot about myself, and what I am capable of withstanding both physically and mentally which will prepare me for tougher challenges.
Having to push myself hard to make it through the tough course of walking non stop for 16.5 miles gave me the confidence to know that I can deal with things that I might not enjoy working on but they are the ones that I will learn the most from and they are the ones that will open up most opportunities for me.

Right now, the team's success in finishing the PURBECK 16 HALF MARATHON has indeed broken the record for Nordic Walking in Malaysia.

Congratulations to NWUKMsia for not only achieving a very important milestone but has won an accolade as well.

Well done team on your SUCCESS!  Your participation and achievement to complete the 16.5 miles is truly commendable. FEEL PROUD TO SHOW YOUR MEDALS, YOU DESERVE IT!

                              Congratulations and jubilations!

                              Yay, Janet Ang and Sylvia Gan, well done ladies!

I bid you a safe return ,  do share your wonderful story and personal success with pride with your family, relatives and friends.

Thanks to NWUK for the three great days of Purbeck Nordic Walking festival and fun.

  Great job and thanks for the hard work of the organisers and volunteers.  Meet Mike     Rollason(Founder of Exercise Anywhere), Gill Stewart ( Marketing & Business Development) and  Martin Christie ( Master Trainer)

    We had a fabulous weekend in beautiful Dorset.

    Team Msia feels tired but very proud and happy!!

     You went, you walked and you conquered ........... hip hip hooray Team NWUKMsia!

Like many people, I found the mix of camaraderie, excitement and finish line euphoria.
Will I return for the challenge again in 2017?
Well, once the blisters had healed and the memory of painful muscles had subsided, who knows I may sign up for the next marathon, LOL!

I'll always have fond memories of the Purbeck 16 Marathon.  Well,  I can say that I wouldn't have participated in a half marathon if it wasn't for nordic walking.  Feeling awesome to be a Nordic Walker.


                        SEE YOU ON THE PATH     ~


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