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That Mama: Six Star Marathon Runner (and 40-something Mama of Teens) Laura Koh

that mama laura koh six star marathon runner
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This month’s That Mama is Laura Koh, a 46-year-old mother of two and Six Star Marathon Runner who’ll be competing in the upcoming Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon

The 2019 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon is happening on Saturday 30 November, and for the first time ever, it’ll be a nevening race! This has delighted runners and spectators alike, as it means there’ll be cooler temperatures and spectators can cheer on runners at a reasonable time (the race flags off at 6:05pm) rather than having to rise at the crack of dawn! Be sure to keep a lookout for Singaporean mama Laura Koh, a 46-year-old mother of two and “Six Star” marathon runner. What does that mean, exactly? That she’s completed all six of the world’s major marathons (WOW!). Even cooler, Laura only picked up running seven years ago, completing her first major marathon, Tokyo, in 2015. And she only got into running as a means to support her sporty teenage daughters, who excel in soccer and rugby!

We caught up with Laura to learn more about how she balances work with her demanding training schedule, and also got lots of great tips for encouraging kids’ athletic participation and fostering strong relationship with lots of open communication.

Go, Laura, go!

that mama marathon runner laura koh with her two daughters

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
Hi, I’m Laura, a 46-year-old mother of two and a wife to my lovely husband. I stumbled into running in 2012 and by 2018, I have completed all six Abbott World Marathon Majors (AbbottWMM) marathons in London, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo and Boston, and was recognised as a Six Star Finisher – which is something I’m still very overwhelmed by. My two girls Vera and Stefanie, aged 17 and 21, join me for occasional leisure runs over the weekends but one focuses on soccer, and the other plays touch rugby.

Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
I was working in the Advertising industry before I had my first child. I had to move away to the United States after I was married and had my first daughter in the USA.

After my return to Singapore, I worked in a dessert manufacturing company and ran a café, then I had my second child. I moved away again to Australia and came back to Singapore after two years to join the finance industry, before joining Standard Chartered Bank in 2014 and have been here ever since. I work as a Confidential Secretary, providing administrative and clerical support to SCB executives.

How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
With the support of my husband, I was able to still pursue my passion for running in the mornings. The key here is to intentionally set aside family time, but also time for yourself to strike a balance and remain sane. Having a family is more of a blessing than anything else!

laura koh at home with her two daughters

How has having children changed the way you define work?
Most people dread going back to work after having kids, but I really enjoy my work here with the bank because it offers flexibility and promotes work-life balance, which I appreciate as a working mom. I make sure I complete my work within working hours and knock off on time to have dinner with my family, and my boss and colleagues are very supportive of that so I’m very thankful.

What inspired you to start running marathons? Did you play sports earlier in life?
I actually stumbled into this running adrenaline when my daughter broached the idea of doing a triathlon in 2012. I decided to be a supportive mom and train her during the weekends, but got hooked on it instead — whilst she still hasn’t participated in a triathlon yet! I was not a sporty person at all, but fast forward 7 years later, it is crazy to have now clinched the highly-acclaimed Six Star Finisher medal. 

laura koh with her six star major marathon medal

What is the biggest challenge when it comes to training for marathons?
There are many challenges (or should I say sacrifices): waking up early everyday before work is one of them, but the biggest challenge would be trying to train smart and not get injured. Unfortunately, getting injured is quite inevitable when you’re doing high intensity training. I sustained an injury before the Boston Marathon in 2016 and was under-trained and thus struggled to complete the race. It was a tough time for me, and I felt extremely demoralised, but with the support of family and friends, I bounced back in no time.

How have sports brought you closer to your daughters?
My two daughters used to join me for training runs during the weekends. Those times were very precious to me as I recalled sharing experiences in life with them and likewise they started to share with me their own stories. As they grew older, and now have their own sport trainings during the weekends, and we have less time to run together, we still fondly remember funny stories that were shared and laughed about it all over again during our newfound bonding time.

marathon runner laura koh doing a race with her daughter

What tips do you have for your parents to encourage athletic participation for their kids?
When you are trying to look for a new sport for your child, remember the importance of dressing the part! They say when you look good – half the battle is already won! So, if you want to get your child interested in sports, take them out to shop for cool outfits or equipment to kickstart their journey.

What role does goal setting play in your life? What are your future goals with regard to marathon running/triathlons?
Setting a goal helps me to stay focused and disciplined. I’m always looking to achieve my next personal best, be it at work or when I do my runs – basically with everything that I do.

The last time I ran the Singapore Marathon, the heat and the odd timings failed me. This year, because of the new evening race, I hope to hit a sub-4 hour timing because of the cooler weather and also because my family will be awake to support me in the spectator zones!

marathon runner laura koh running the london marathon and her 6-star finisher medal

How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Be disciplined! I have a regular routine where I wake up early every morning to run before work and then at work, I try as much as possible to finish my tasks working hours before having dinner with my family in the evening. I believe in having a work-life balance and I’m blessed to be in an organisation that promotes that as well.

I wish I had more time for…
Rest and scrapbooking! To ensure that my training does not take up family time, I sleep in less and have had to give up my scrapbooking hobby. If only I had more time in a day, life might have been easier!

I always feel saner after….
Definitely after running and spending time with my family! My family and I love to eat, so eating with them always makes my days better. 

What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
I live around Ang Mo Kio and it is conveniently near Bishan Park where I usually do my runs.

What tips do you have for maintaining open communication with teens?
Be a friend to them!
Don’t make every moment a teaching moment. Don’t constantly ask them about school or homework. Always remember to take turns to share funny stories about your life and slowly they will open up!

What are your family’s favourite restaurants in Singapore?
Beauty In The Pot and any place that serves Mala!

that mama laura koh on holiday with her daughters

Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
My favourite spot would have to be Club Med Bintan Island when my kids were younger. There is a variety of activities for the young and old, nice places to chill and unwind. But as they’ve grown – they do enjoy going to Bangkok for SHOPPING!

Read more: Ultimate Guide to Bintan for Families

Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
My husband and I are practically together all the time! We eat together, watch TV together – he’s my soulmate. One thing we’ve always done is go on annual “honeymoon” trips, just the two of us, to celebrate each other’s birthdays.

Favourite date night restaurants?
My favourite spots for a romantic date night would centre around steaks! The Straits Wine Co. and iSteak are both my favourites and they are conveniently located at Serangoon Gardens.

Read more: Best Steak Restaurants in Singapore

Do you have any tips for working mamas in Singapore?
Always be involved in your child’s milestones in life – be it receiving an award from school or a school performance. I try to make sure the whole family is present to support each other on these occasions. Choose to make every decision as a family as well – which school or course to go to etc. We usually have a family debate before we arrive at a decision.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Don’t ever question other people’s parenting methods – every child is different.

laura koh's two daughters

Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women:
Enjoy every moment with your new child! If you want to carry them, just carry them! Disregard all the myths about not holding them all the time because you’re “spoiling” them, because when they are older, you won’t get to do it anymore! Now I have to make ‘appointments’ just to meet them because they are so busy and have a life of their own.

As a mama I wish I was better at…
Cooking for my family! My daughter always asks me to pack “healthy” lunchboxes for her because the healthier options are always so expensive outside, but I don’t think I do a good job at that.

Read more: Healthy Lunchbox Ideas & A 3-week downloadable recipe meal planner

What’s your favourite family ritual?
Eating, for sure! All of us love to eat and it brings the family together every day.

My favourite moment of the day is…
In the morning when I wake up for my usual run! That’s my me-time and it clears my mind for the day ahead.

Read more: A fun running bootcamp for mamas who HATE running

All images courtesy of Laura Koh

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